Avoiding the Tourist Trap
Sustainability in tourism was the original focus of work undertaken by Dr Kate Ji in 2018.
More than 12% of the city’s economy relies on attracting visitors, and congestion is a major problem. But, since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, her research has taken on a new urgency, as she explains:
Over the last few years, we’d produced research showingthat to reduce city centre congestion - meaning traffic and overcrowding at themajor sights - economic interests needed to be aligned with the political agenda and tourism funding. Since the pandemic overcrowding has become an even morepressing concern. For a city like Oxford to continue to benefit from tourism,it needs to understand how to manage issues of overcrowding – not least forpublic health reasons – and how to disperse tourists, develop ‘staycations’ and promote new attractions.
With funding from the British Academy, Kate Ji is exploring the driving forces in Chinese tourism to Oxford (the seventh most visited city in the UK). The research investigates why Chinese package travel itineraries are largely identical.
The cliché of Chinese tourists disembarking from buses for short visits to photograph well-known sights is based on a shocking reality – the itineraries of travel companies are largely the same because only a few players are informing the choices.
By interviewing senior managers at major travel agencies in China, and UK ground tour operators, Kate has identified the ‘vendor structure’ whereby only a small number of travel agencies develop packages - and resell them to thousands of other travel agencies. The vendor structure is driven by factors including cost limitation and minimal local knowledge by those planning tours. But Kate’s research shows there is visitor demand for different and diversified packages, and that new factors, including, COVID-19, can reshape the way the city is enjoyed by foreign visitors for decades.
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