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Visitor Management Models (2)

Visitor Management Models (2)
We have been discussing the impacts of tourism and their management in a cultural view. What I mean by that is I try to provide concepts of ideas which are widely relevant. We have to recognize that people of different cultures are looking for different experiences and interpret those experiences in different ways. So, it’s worthwhile to comment on culture and its role in tourism experiences and interpretation of impacts. First of all, people of different cultures have different degrees of tolerance to crowding. I live in one of the largest countries in the world, Canada, with population of only 35 million, that not much bigger than one of the largest cities in China.
As a result, people in Canada do not have a high tolerance of crowding. They expect recreation spaces to be uncrowded. They expect to have a lot of space for themselves. In contrast, in a country like China, there is a great tolerance of crowding. In eastern China, you are very rarely alone. There are always other people there. And so, the notion of capacity limits the acceptable change, and so on may need to be modified because there would be interpreted rather differently, because of the cultural context in which they are being used. For example, the composition of tourism groups varies from place to place.
In China, still many people travel on organized tours, in large groups, they travel with families, often extended families. And as a result, they have different experiences from the person travelling alone or with a friend. These things will change overtime. I suspect that the group composition will become close to that experienced in the west over the years as Chinese people become more experienced travelers. But from now, the importance of travelling as groups is more important in Asia, and that influences the nature of impacts that occur. There are also differences in understanding of human in environment relationships. In the western world, people often see themselves as been separated from nature. There are humans and nature, they are separated domains.
In the case of Asia, often humans are viewed as a part of nature.
We can see some of the effects of this, for example through treatment of mountains. In Asia, particular in China, we often find temples built on the top of mountains. We often see mountains having great cultural as significance as well as natural significance. In the West, particularly in north America, less so in Europe, where there are monasteries are so on the top of the mountains. But in north America, you would seldom find a building on top of a mountain. They are managed for natures. So, there are simply examples of differences between human and environment relationships, which are reflected in the landscape and in the kinds of relationships with the environment that tourists expect.
The notion of authenticity is widely discussed in the tourism literature, and we cannot go into that in great depth here. But it reflects a kind of experience that people are seeking as tourists. What is authentic, or a genuine, or a true experience.
In the West, people expect the place to be the authentic place, to be built up a regional material, and expect if it is restored to be using to traditional craftsman ship. In the East, there is much more tolerance for change. Provided the place is right place, and regional materials may not be acquired its importance. So, authenticity of the experiences is treated rather differently in the West than it is in the East.
As mentioned earlier, there are much greater tolerance for hardening of sites in the East rather than in the West.
Final item I want to mention briefly under cultureis interpretation. Interpretation, simply means the stories that are told to visitor, and how they are told. Different visitors from different backgrounds would be interested in different things and would want different stories. For example, in China, if you visit a cave, you would likely get a cultural interpretation. You would be told that the features in the cave are very similar to famous gods or local stories, or local famous people. Maybe some of the features would be painted, maybe there would be music in the cave. Maybe they would refer to classical stories of China, such as Journey to the West. In Canada, for example, those kinds of stories would not be told.
You would probably get a scientific interpretation which would relate to geological processes, levels of water and how this change over years, A rate of deposit of calcium which for stalagmites, which grow in the caves. So, it’s a scientific interpretation. One is not right, or wrong, there are different ways of doing things according to different cultures and different expectations. Similarly, the stories that told on sites will depend on who are the winners and losers at heritage sites. Usually it’s the winner who tells stories about battles, not the losers, and so the stories that we tell are selective. But they are important in allowing tourists to get relevant experiences.
The stories that we tell are also important opportunities for us to introduce tourists. What is special about the site and what should be protected. And therefore, interpretation is an important management tool in influencing what people do and how long they stay. Although, I spend a lot of time in these presentations talking about academic research, studies of science of impacts, studies of perceptions of impacts and relevant management concepts. Not all studies lead immediately to management and policy changes.
It is just one form of input into planning and management decisions. Because management decisions are influenced by more than simply studies done by academics and consultancies. And there are local priorities, political issues, financial implications, and the list is very long. So, one should not expect studies automatically and immediately to lead to management revolutions. This is true both of China and Canada, and other parts of the world. For example, I did the study for a zoo in Toronto and presented my findings with discussion of visitors in the kinds of experiences they had. One thing captured the committee’s attention, that was turnaround time. How long it takes for a tourist to go to the zoo, to return.
In fact, it took longer than they hoped because many people thought that once they are being to the zoo, they see the zoo and there was no need to return. So, suddenly the committee began to talk about turnaround time, something they never thought about before. How could they get visitors to come back to the zoo more frequently? By having more young animals, by having different plays and so on. So, all of the recommendations that are made concerning tourism management at the zoo, that was one thing that capture the attention, turnaround time. It doesn’t mean that all of my other references are wasted, it means that you cannot expect all of your recommendations to be implemented easily and quickly.
It means that the studies are just one input into a complex decision-making system.
I finish my material at this point. And in the last section, I would try to summaries some of the key points that I made in my lectures.

In this section, Professor Geoffrey Wall will tell us the factors that will affect the visitor management model.

Have you ever experienced some cultural differences in tourism?

Would you like to share your thoughts on this in the comments section below?

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Tourism Policy and Planning

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