Atmospheric Rural Community and Tourists' Experience: China's Rural Tourism and Seniors' Quality of Life
The increasing percentage of aged populations in many parts of the world is an issue of global attention and significance. China is no exception and faced with a pressing challenge to find solutions for improving seniors’ quality of life. Extending the extant knowledge on the relationship between tourism and health, the current study posits that rural tourism, as a growing and popular form of leisure in China, can enhance the quality of life for both senior tourists and senior locals and proposes the concept of atmospheric community for rural tourism. This study develops the concept by investigating the elements of an atmospheric community for rural tourism that these two groups of seniors value and by examining the quality of life features they expect from rural tourism. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 senior tourists in Lanzhou City, China, and 13 senior locals in Wushan County, China, regarding their perceptions of atmospheric community for rural tourism and quality of life. Snowball sampling method was applied in the collection of the textual data. A thematic analysis was adopted to identify, analyze, and report categories in the data. Direct observation was employed as the supplementary method to corroborate the findings and strengthen the reliability and validity of this study. The findings of this study reveal that the two senior groups shared similar ideas of what constitutes an atmospheric community for rural tourism. Five common elements were identified. They are tangible attractions, intangible attractions, interaction, rusticity, and infrastructure. The significance of these elements varied between the two groups, though. The study also found that both senior tourists and senior locals considered health, income, children’s lives, and personal hobbies as features of their quality of life. However, only senior locals emphasized the importance of personal interactions in quality of life. Based on the senior tourists’ and senior locals’ wishes concerning rural tourism and quality of life, this study presents two recommendations that can help meet the groups’ expectations for China’s rural tourism development. The first recommendation is to strengthen governmental support in finance, promotion, and advertising, as well as supervision and regulation. The second is to develop integrated approach between rural tourism and distinctive local traditions, representative local industries, and desired features of tourist and local seniors’ quality of life, respectively. The concept of atmospheric community for rural tourism presented in this study recognizes the quality of life issues for both senior tourists and senior locals and emphasizes the interactions between these two groups. Their expectations for a good quality of life can be satisfied through developing such atmospheric rural communities that are characterized by the five elements of tangible attractions, intangible attractions, interaction, rusticity, and infrastructure. This study included both senior tourists and senior locals in one research design to examine their quality of life in rural tourism; and it pioneered the concept of atmospheric community for rural tourism in tourism literature. Conducted in the Chinese context, however, the findings from the study should be considered unique in interpreting their implications.
Cai, Purdue University.
Gerontology|Social studies education|Recreation
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