Understanding Chinese tourist experience of the Māori villages in New Zealand
Māori cultural tourism in New Zealand has been traditionally developed to cater to the interests of Western tourists, who had been the major patrons of the New Zealand tourism business long before the emergence of Chinese tourists in the country. It has been argued that Western tourist experience of Māori cultural tourism is concerned with “top-down” exoticism under Western modernity, and Western tourists are seeking authenticity in the traditional pre-European Māori culture. However, such understanding is problematic when dealing with Chinese tourists who have distinctive values. In particular, how Chinese tourists experience Māori cultural tourism is still unknown to the wider tourism community. In order to understand Chinese tourist experience, the author used Māori villages in Rotorua as research context. Chinese tourists who have visited Māori villages in New Zealand were interviewed; online reviews written by Chinese tourists were examined. Through analysing the interview and online review data with Critical Discourse Analysis, this research has systematically unpacked Chinese tourists’ Māori cultural tourism experience and examined how such experience is linked to the social practices in China. This research reveals that Chinese tourists’ visits to Māori villages are mainly influenced by popular Chinese celebrities, other Chinese tourists, and the prevailing tourism discourses. The tourist experience of visiting Māori villages is mainly concerned with “neutral” and “bottom-up” exoticism, object-related authenticity, and existential authenticity. Such experience is also closely linked to the historical and contemporary social practices in China, including the development stage of Chinese outbound tourism, cultural tourism practices in China, and the upward looking mentality of Chinese people. Because the majority of Chinese tourists are visiting New Zealand for the first time, a Māori villages is a tourist attraction they have never experienced before. Therefore, the experience is mainly concerned with “neutral” exoticism, object-related authenticity, and existential authenticity. Due to Chinese people’s upward-looking mentality, their experience with some aspects of the Māori village is “bottom-up” exoticism. This research contributes to the authenticity literature in tourism by revealing a non-Western tourist experience of cultural tourism that challenges the dominant Western-centric “top-down” exoticism. In practice, the findings of the research can help New Zealand tourism operators to better understand Chinese tourists. E.g. what kind of tourist attractions are Chinese tourists looking for in New Zealand under the current stage of Chinese outbound travel? What kind of tourist activities are most appealing to Chinese tourists at this stage? Through such understanding, more effective and culturally-engaging communication can be established.
Advisor: Tucker, Hazel; Cheng, Mingming
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Tourism
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Chinese outbound tourists; Māori village; Māori cultural tourism; authenticity
Research Type: Thesis