chapter  1
6 Pages

Introduction: Urban Tourism in China

WithMimi Li Bihu Wu

Cities have been among the most significant of all tourist destinations since urbanization began (Edwards, Griffin, & Hayllar, 2008). City areas are distinctive and complex places characterized by four commonly accepted qualities: a high density of physical structures, people, and functions; social and cultural heterogeneity; economic multifunctionalism; and a physical centrality within regional and interurban networks (Pearce, 2001). Present-day tourism occupies substantial amounts of space within urban destinations via tourist-historic urban cores, museums of all kinds, urban waterfronts, theme parks, and specialized precincts (Edwards, et al., 2008). A city may have different roles as a gateway, a tourist source, or a destination. The

appeal of cities lies in the variety of things to do and see in a reasonably compact, interesting and attractive environment (Karski, 1990). Significant numbers of tourists visit urban areas for a primary purpose other than to go on vacation: the large populations in cities naturally attract visiting friends and relatives; the easy accessibility and large stock of accommodation and other support facilities appeal to the business and meeting, incentive travel, convention, and exhibition (MICE) markets; the well-educated and senior travelers may appreciate the heritage and historical sites on offer in cities; and young people are attracted by the excitement or urban environment, along with entertainment, nightlife, and sporting events (Edwards, et al., 2008). Given that visitors are normally drawn to a city by the completeness of its urban ambience, the demand for urban tourism is multidimensional and frequently multipurpose in nature (Ehrlich & Dreier, 1999). Until the 1980s, studies on urban tourism were fragmented and not recognized as

contributions to a distinct field (Edwards, et al., 2008). An upsurge in interest in urban tourism was sparked by Ashworth’s work, in which he stated that “the failure to consider tourism as a specifically urban activity imposes a serious constraint that cannot fail to impede the development of tourism as a subject of serious study” (Ashworth, 1989: 33). In his pioneer work, Ashworth (1989) outlined four extant approaches to analyzing urban tourism: 1) the facility approach, which focuses on the spatial analysis of the location of tourism attractions, facilities, infrastructure, and zones; 2) the ecological approach, which focuses on the structure and morphology of urban areas and features the identification of functional zones or districts, such as central business districts (CBDs); 3) the user approach, in which a marketing perspective is adopted to focus on tourists; and 4) the policy approach, which is concerned with a range of policy issues, including infrastructure provision and destination marketing (Ashworth, 1989). A significant amount of research has been published since Ashworth’s groundbreak-

ing work. The literature covers topics such as heritage conservation (e.g., Chang, Milne, Fallon, & Pohlmann, 1996), urban planning and governance (e.g., Albalate & Bel, 2009), the regeneration of inner cities and waterfronts (e.g., Gospodini, 2001), the sustainability of urban tourism (e.g., Savage, Huang, & Chang, 2004), and urban tourist behavior (e.g., Suh & Gartner, 2004). Studies in these areas have largely focused on two types of cities: de-industrialized cities such as those found in many parts of the U.S. and the U.K. (e.g., Bramwell, 1997; Judd, 1995) and heritage cities, most of which are in Europe (e.g., Caffyn & Lutz, 1999; Chang, et al., 1996). Later in a study that sought to address the research gap in urban tourism, Edwards, Griffin, and Hayllar (2008) developed a research agenda for urban tourism using Delphi studies and focus

groups in academia and the tourism industry. Their study identified the top issues that were most highly valued by both groups, including the tourist experience and behavioral issues, the impact of tourism on urban areas, destination development and management, and spatial relationship issues. Despite academic efforts in this area, the complexity of urban tourism has

undoubtedly delayed the research carried out, and the tourism and urban studies literatures scarcely overlap. One of the major research gaps is that, with few exceptions, the existing literature has been limited to studies on Western cities. With histories of hundreds of years, the Western cities analyzed in these studies generally have a wellestablished urban configuration and fabric, but have suffered at some stage from economic decline, environmental decay, community dereliction, growing unemployment, and/or a deteriorating image, especially after World War II. Many of these studies have shown that tourism serves to foster new economic opportunities that result in a restructuring of post-industrialization cities and revitalize heritage cities. However, the prior literature has ignored Asian cities, in which the booming tourism industry of recent decades has represented a developmental opportunity rather than a route to revitalization.