Framing tourist motivations through the lenses of Confucianism

Xiaoxiao Fu, Purdue University


Studies to date of Chinese tourists as new consumers in the travel marketplace have been largely framed in the context of Western theories. The purpose of the study was to investigate the motivations of Chinese tourists through the study of the major life domains of Confucianism, which are self, family, social life, society, and nature. The analysis of these life domains, in conjunction with the synthesis of extensive motivation theories, guided the inquiry. A rigorous, iterative scale development process involving several stages of refinement and validation was followed. As a result, nine dimensions of Chinese tourist motivations were uncovered. They are family togetherness, harmony with nature, relationship/guanxi, face/mianzi, self-development, material fulfillment, escape and retreat, children's learning, and exploration and discovery. The study succeeded in achieving the three study objectives of 1) discovering motivational factors of Chinese tourists through the analysis and applications of key Confucian principles; 2) developing a measurement instrument for Chinese tourist motivations; and 3) identifying and interpreting the uniqueness of Chinese tourist motivations. The findings bear theoretical contributions. It represents a first attempt to introduce a fresh and unique perspective to the understanding of Chinese consumers in the travel marketplace, to the study of motivations of tourists from countries with Confucian traditions, and to the academic field of tourist behavior in general. The measurement scale developed from the study is timely and practical as an increasing number of destinations and businesses vie for the booming and enormously potential Chinese market. The knowledge of tourist motivations is a critical linkage in understanding the totality of their consumption behavior. Such knowledge is especially valuable as Chinese tourists are becoming more and more sophisticated and segmented. While Confucianism, as a time-honored cultural heritage, serves as a useful framework for understanding Chinese tourist motivations, it by no means explains all the peculiarities in Chinese tourist behavior. Many Confucian beliefs, while recognized as important needs to fulfill, are challenged in the actual manifestation of Chinese tourist behavior. As the global tourism industry continues to thrive with the surge of Chinese tourists, the academic community is presented with an opportunity and responsibility to advance the knowledge on the unique Chineseness of this market. Understanding Chinese tourist motivations through the lenses of Confucianism is the first creative endeavor and yet an invitation to explore new frontiers of scholarly inquiries which include, but are not limited to, the linkage between motivation and other behavioral dimensions.




Lehto, Purdue University.

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