JSS  Vol.9 No.4 , April 2021
Interests-Based Local Experience Tourism: A New Tourism Product Design in China
Abstract: Travel pattern is changing to seek authenticity, and the emerging of sharing economy provides a significant opportunity for meeting the demand for an authentic tourism experience. Therefore a dire to new tourism product development has increasingly become more pressing. To develop a new authentic tourism product, this study aims to explore the significant characteristics of authentic travel activities to meet the demand of tourists. The qualitative method was employed to interview 30 interviewees from China to investigate what perceive authentic tourism activities do they think, based on their memorable, authentic travel and ideal travel. The result showed the product should be an integration of authenticity, local community and sharing economy. This study is useful for the DMO to how to create city experiences that benefit both residents and visitors.

1. Introduction

British tourism company Thomas Cook, as one of the largest and oldest tour operators in the world, went bankrupt Monday, 23 September 2019. The New York Times (2019) concludes the reason that its package tour business model was successful for 178 years, but as consumer demand changed and moved online, the company did not. UNWTO (2019) revealed the international tourism highlights to emphasise the travel change to consumer live like a local, quest for authenticity and transformation. Another trend is the development of technology. Disruptive technologies have ripple effects across the tourism industry and lead to new opportunities for ordinary residents to participate in the tourism value chain. What is broadly known is the sharing economy (World Bank, 2018). The sharing economy rises at a high rate. According to the World Bank (2018), the total value of transaction on the P2P accommodation economy to be $75 billion, and it will reach $139 billion by 2020. In China, the sharing economy keeps a high speed of growth, with 30% per year. According to the report released by Sharing Economy Research Center of the State Information Center, in 2017, the market turnover reached $763.5 billion, growing 47.2% from the previous year. More than 700 million people were involved in the sharing economy, an increase of 10 million over 2016 (Chinadaily, 2018). A dire to new tourism product has become more pressing.

In the field of academic, Hassanien et al. (2010) conclude new products in the hospitality industry are new product lines, additions to existing product lines, or improvements to existing products. Ram et al. (2016) explore how the tourist’s perceptions of authenticity develop in the process of travelling. Paulauskaite et al. (2017) study the relationship between the perceived authenticity of the local experience and its significance when tourists purchasing accommodation in the context of sharing economy and furthermore propose three elements of authenticity for Airbnb accommodation product. However, this study just focuses on the accommodation product and does not link the product development. Therefore, in the context of sharing economy, how to develop the new authentic tourism product has not been clear. As such, this study aims to explore the significant characteristics of authentic travel activities.

In order to reach the aim, this study firstly reviews the relative literature in Section 2 and then introduces the study method in Section 3. Section 4 conducts the discussion and finally concludes the result of the discussion in Section 5.

2. Literature Review

2.1. The Tourism Product

2.1.1. Product

Kotler et al. (2017) defines a product as anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use, or consumption that might satisfy a want or need, which includes physical objects, services, persons, places, organisation, and ideas. Kotler et al. (2018) develops three levels or components of a product: core, tangible and augmented. Core product means the fulfilment of the consumer’s primary need, which is the main driver for the product purchase. A tangible product is the physical benefits offered, such as packaging, quality, features, design, and brand name. The third component is augmented products, which means the elements that differentiate them from competitors through the inclusion of perceived added value. This value consists of the speed of service, payment options, after-sales service and so on. It is the augmented aspects of the product that can enable it to gain an advantage over competitor offerings. Similarly, tourism products have three levels.

2.1.2. The Tourism Product

The tourism product is structured with five elements. Smith (1994) defines the tourism product as the facilitation of travel and activity of individuals away from their usual home environment. There are five elements comprising the tourism product (Table 1): the physical plant, service, hospitality, freedom of choice and involvement. There is an order from the core, the physical plant to the shell involvement, which is correlated with declining direct management control, increasing the consumer involvement, increasing intangibility, and decreasing potential for empirical measurement. The success of a tourism product in meeting the needs of tourists is determined by how well each element is designed and integrated with the others and whether it is a synergistic interaction among all the components.

The structure of the tourism product is a result of the complex tourism production process. Table 2 lists the process of tourism products, which starts from the primary input of resource, raw materials, and other components, such as construction materials, fuel and so on. These are then transferred into the intermediate inputs or tourism facilities. Intermediate inputs contain attractions such as national parks, museums, galleries, historical sites, as well as tourism supports and facilitators (hotel, restaurants, gift shops, and so on). The intermediate inputs are then further refined through managerial expertise, technical services, scheduling, and packaging into intermediate outs. The intermediate outs are the services associated with the tourism industry, such as commercial accommodation, tour services, food services, and festivals. These services are just potential commodity because of the lack of tourists participants. Tourists refine these services, then form the final output-personal experience, which characterises intangible and highly valued experiences such as recreation, business, and social contacts (Smith, 1994).

Two features of tourism products are generated during this process. First, value-added. Second, the consumer is an integral part of the production process.

The physical plant element is incorporated into the generic product at the primary input and intermediate input phases. In the stages of intermediate input and intermediate output, the service and hospitality are integrated. Further, the final process of production, freedom of choice and involvement transform the intermediate outputs into the experiences of the final output phase.

According to Kotler et al. (2017), the levels of tourism products can be identified in Figure 1.

Sum of above, imaginative and successful product needs a clear understanding of the nature of the tourism product. However, as the elements of tourism product, especial freedom of choice and involvement are a close relation to the tourists’ experience, the tourism product development is needed to meet the variance of the tourist needs and wants.

2.2. The Tourism Product Development

2.2.1. New Product

Product development is any good, service or idea that someone perceives as a

Table 1. Five elements of the tourism product, source from Smith (1994).

Table 2. The tourism production process, source from Smith (1994).

Figure 1. The levels of a tourism product. Accelerated by author, source from Simth (1994) and Kotler et al. (2017).

novel or new (Kotler et al., 2002) or the act of creating a new product or process (Crawford, 1994). Many definitions of product development focus on the word “new”, based on the definitions of Kotler & Armstrong (2004), Keengan et al. (1995), and Cooper (1993), Hassanien et al. (2010) concludes new products in the hospitality industry are new product lines (new products that allow a company to enter an established market for the first time); additions to existing product lines (new products that supplement a company’s established product lines) or improvements to existing products (new products that provide increased performance or greater perceived value and replaced existing products) (Table 3).

2.2.2. New Product Development Process

Hassanien et al. (2010) follow the Booz, Allen, & Hamilton (1982) model of new product development (Table 4) as follows.

In the tourism industry, the changing market, especially the consumer’s needs, tastes and wants, is an important information source for new product development (Hassanien et al., 2010). The company can develop new product according to the consumers’ feedback, especially dissatisfactions.

2.3. Trends and Changes in Travel Patterns

2.3.1. Travel Trends

UNWTO (2019) highlights that travel changes to live like a local and require authenticity and transformation. Travellers are increasingly demanding an authentic and experiential-oriented opportunity with meaningful social interactions with local people, which drives them to travel more often, stay longer, and participate in more activities (Tussyadiah & Pesonen, 2016).

2.3.2. Authenticity

Authenticity links to something real or genuine experience, which is a critical consumer sensibility (Pine & Gilmore, 2008). Tourism scholars define authenticity as existential authenticity (Wang, 1999), essentialism (the authenticity reflects a true image of the past) and constructivism perspectives (a subject to contemporary inputs and influences) (Chhabra, 2008). However, this discussion has been considered a sociological concern rather than a managerial issue.

Table 3. The kinds of new product, source from Hassanien et al. (2010).

Table 4. The model of the new product process. Source from Hassanien et al. (2010).

Kolar and Zabkar’s (2010) develop a consumer-based model of authenticity comprised of object-based authenticity and existential authenticity. Object-based authenticity is a desire to visit and see original sites and artefacts and purchase souvenirs. Experience, knowledge and enjoyment are generated in genuine objects, arts and crafts. Existential authenticity is an interest in escaping everyday life and mass tourism, getting in touch with the true self, self-actualisation. During this process, a sense of enjoyment and escape, experience of the true self in the context of a foreign place, time and culture are generated. Furthermore, object-based authenticity has a positive impact on existential authenticity. However, cultural motivation positively affects both types of authenticity. Authenticity is the enjoyment of tourists and the tourists’ perception of “how genuine are their experiences”. It is often considered as an important driver, value, motive or interest.

According to Ram et al. (2016), authenticity is comprised of objective authenticity (based on trustworthy, original, first hand, true in substance), symbolic authenticity (determined by tourists, being subjective, negotiable and contextual. It contains exceptional authenticity and referential authenticity. Exceptional authenticity refers to what “people tend to perceive as authentic that is done exceptionally well, executed individually and extraordinarily by someone demonstrating human care. Not unfeelingly or disingenuously performed.” Referential authentic refers to some other context, drawing inspiration from human history, and tapping into our shared memories and longings, rather than derivative or trivial), and existential authenticity (philosophical discussion of self in context and a reflection of how true one is to oneself balancing two parts one’s, rational and emotional) (Figure 2).

Furthermore, in the era of sharing economy, authenticity has become a core feature in tourism (Paulauskaite et al., 2017).

2.4. Sharing Economy

2.4.1. Generating of Sharing Economy

Sharing economy is often considered to link to Web 2.0, which changes the model of value production and the distribution of resource. Web 2.0 reduces the

Figure 2. The components of authenticity. Source from Ram et al. (2016).

transaction cost; on the one hand, hand it allows the trust is established between the host and the guest (Gretzel, 2015; Guttentag, 2015). Airbnb is part of a larger rise in the sharing of tourism (Guttentag, 2015). Airbnb was born in 2007 as an online platform, which describes itself as one of the world’s largest marketplaces for unique, authentic places to stay and things to do, offering over 7 million accommodations and 40,000 handcrafted activities, all powered by local hosts (Airbnb, 2019). According to Airbnb (2019), Airbnb has more than 500 million guests in 2019, with over 5 million lists in 191 counties and regions. Recently, Airbnb allows local people to monetise their interests, speciality and passions on the platform.

2.4.2. Sharing and Tourism in China

China’s sharing economy keeps a high speed of growth, with 30% per year. According to the report released by Sharing Economy Research Center of the State Information Center, in 2017, the market turnover reached $763.5 billion, growing 47.2% from the previous year. More than 700 million people were involved in the sharing economy, an increase of 10 million over 2016 (Chinadaily, 2018).

China’s tourism continued to grow at a rapid speed in 2018. According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China (2019), the domestic tourists reached 5.54 billion, up 10.76% year-on-year, which brought the domestic revenue $764 billion, an increase of 12.3% over 2017. The inbound tourist arrivals reached 141.2 million, which contributed to the inbound tourism revenue of $127.1 billion, up 3.0% from the previous year. Figure 3 shows the development of sharing economy and tourism in China.

3. Methodology

In order to develop new tourism product to meet the tourist’ need for an authentic experience, the qualitative method was employed to deeper understand what the consumers want and need. This is because a qualitative approach may obtain rich and detailed information for the consumers. Moreover, following

Figure 3. The development of sharing economy and tourism in China, source from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China (2019).

Altinay and Paraskevas (2008), a maximum variation sampling technique was conducted to collect data from Chinese consumers with very different characteristics and backgrounds, such as age, employment, education level, etc. These informants travelling to three different types of destinations: Hangzhou city, Pingyao ancient city and Jiuzhaigou Valley in China were invited to interview. The sampling process terminated when data saturation was reached. Finally, 30 Chinese consumers were chosen randomly to conduct the interview.

Data was collected using open-ended interview questions that participants were asked to answer. The open-end questions contained in the following:

· Did you experience a memorable and authentic trip? How about it?

· What is your ideal travel?

The data is analysed by NVivo 11.

4. Data Analysis and Discussion

4.1. Objective Authenticity Is Linked to Memorable and Authentic Travel

Objective authenticity is a natural or genuine experience, a critical consumer sensibility (Pine & Gilmore, 2008). It emphasises original and genuine sites and artefacts verified by exports (Ram et al., 2016). Furthermore, tourists largely hope to enter into the local community, taste local food, wander around the local neighbourhood, communicate with local people friendly, know about local culture, walk through the local market, and live like local people. Interviewee A mentioned her memorable travel as follows:

“It not only gave me an opportunity to taste and explore many products that I would normally never taste (or dare taste), which all to my great surprise were wonderful discoveries but more importantly, it gave me an insight into Lao food that stayed with me for my entire stay.”

Interviewee A had an opportunity to deeper know and experience local food culture and obtained great wonderful discoveries. They visited local bars and sampled numerous ingredients and snacks as they walked through the market. The specific handicraft such as Mehndi in India, original architecture and real snacks involve tourists into local lives like local people.

Another significant character for authenticity is in the company of local people. This allows tourists to integrate into the destination quickly and creates a sense of security and belonging. An interview talked about the local people like a tour guide “Robin (local people) was friendly and welcoming it felt like we immediately had a friend in the city”. However, a sense of belonging has been identified as a widespread motivation for travel (Bideci & Albayrak, 2016). Further, because of the guidance from local people, tourists can find and experience indigenous life, as interviewee W said,

“The views and drinks at each of the bars we visited were stunning, and we wouldn’t have found them on our own.”

The participant of local people in tourism provides an opportunity for tourists to live like local people.

Tourist activity shows the obvious theme in line with tourists’ interest. Interview A is a food lover, so she participated the food tourism. During this activity, tourists walk through the local morning market, learn the sort of local food and original dishes, learn about local fruits, vegetables, herbs and so on, sample ingredients and snacks and end with local dishes. Interview B is interesting in luxury. Therefore, he chooses the “#UnAmigoenLaHabana” activity, visited three luxury rooftops with Havana’s best views, then visited each bar to share an excellent Cuban cocktail in a convertible car.

4.2. Symbolic Authenticity

Symbolic authenticity consists of two levels of authenticity, exceptional authenticity and referential authenticity (Ram et al., 2016). Exceptional authenticity refers to what “people tend to perceive as authentic that is done exceptionally well, executed individually and extraordinarily by someone demonstrating human care. Not unfeelingly or disingenuously performed.” Referential authentic refers to some other context, drawing inspiration from human history and tapping into our shared memories and longings, rather than derivative or trivial. Symbolic authenticity depends on tourists’ perception and links to the quality of tourism product and freedom of choice. The interviewees had high ratings for the quality of tourist activities they attended to. These commons are associated with a unique, stunning, exotic, amazing, great surprise to wonderful discoveries, insight, knowledge, and learn a lot. According to the survey, two characteristics can be found. The first is the features of tourists’ activities host. The vital feature is the specialist and is knowledge. Interviewee A talked about Somsack (the host) was an executive chief,

“Chef Somsack is a really one of a kind. He’s passionate and knowledgeable about what he’s doing” Somsack will explain in-depth how the discovery of the food came about. And slowly he’ll introduce to the sort of food that a very small number of restaurants serve and actually are original Laotian dishes. He’ll also explain an array of local fruits, vegetables and herbs and how they are used in various dishes.”

Finally, “It not only gave me an opportunity to taste and explore many products that I would normally never taste (or dare taste)which all to my great surprise were wonderful discoveries but more importantly it gave me an insight in Lao food that stayed with me for my entire stay. Learning about the “chemistry” in preparing food how different ingredients act differently according to how they are prepared and combined was an eyeopener,as was the fact that some ingredients are only added for flavour,others for taste etc. To this should be added that the entire experience was very personal and with great stories told.

Other features are friendly, welcoming, flexible, interesting, hospitality and so on.

The second characteristic is “Slow”. Interviewees considered their ideal travel is “walk slowly”, “watch slowly”, and “feeling slow”. They can choose the tourist activities depending on their willingness. Meng and Choi (2016) propose that slow tourism is a pathway to authenticity. Other characteristics mentioned by interviewees contain small scale group (sometimes 3 - 4 people).

4.3. Existential Authenticity

Existential authenticity refers to the philosophical discussion of self in context and a reflection of how true one is to oneself, balancing two parts one’s, rational and emotional. Interviewee C mentioned,

“The journey thus recovers its universal dimension of exploration and discovery not only of new places and cultures but also of one’s own individuality, one’s own needs, one’s most authentic needs.”

Sum of above, elements of authentic tourism products can be considered (Figure 4).

4.4. Sharing Economy

Paulauskaite et al. (2017) propose a conceptual model of the nexus of authenticity, tourism experiences and sharing economy (Airbnb). This concept recognises the Airbnb travelling experience has at least two stages, at the guest’s origin and within the destination. At the point of origin, the guests engage in Airbnb tourism

Figure 4. Elements of an authentic tourism product. Referring to Kolar and Zabkar (2010).

experience community with the host. The guests can share other tourists’ experience, obtain others’ recommendation, communicate with the host and book the product. After that, it is suggested that the main interactions are among the guest, host, and local community within the destination. In this study, all three interviewees participant in tourism activities through online platforms.

Therefore, based on the data analysis, the model of net tourism authenticity product would be proposed in Figure 5. Firstly, the product is hosted by local people who are specialists, knowledgeable and passion. The local people come from the local community. Secondly, authenticity is the core of the product, which engages tourists within the local community, experience indigenous culture, art, architecture and so on. These activities are tailored based on tourists’ interests, which make tourists obtain unique feeling, knowledge and stimuli philosophical discussion of self. Thirdly, the product is shared and promoted on an online platform such as Airbnb, through which the hosts and guests participant in the digital community and interact with each other. Therefore we can name the product as interests-based local experience tourism.

5. Conclusion

This study aims to develop a new tourism product. Based on the interview with 30 tourists, this study develops a new tourism product model, namely one kind of activities, which is hosted by local people, focuses on authenticity and integrates into sharing economy. This study has an implication for DMO to create city experiences that benefit both residents and visitors. This product develops

Figure 5. The model of interests-based local experience tourism. Referring to Paulauskaite et al. (2017).

tourism experiences and products that promote residents and visitors’ engagement and push art and culture initiatives to provide fresh perspectives on the city and expand visitation to new areas (UNWTO, 2018).

In the absence of agreement on a clear definition of the concept of authenticity (Paulauskaite et al., 2017), some inherently subjective nature of this issue remains the discourse of the elements of authentic tourism experience. It needs to continue the research of the nature of authenticity, including limiting its domain and encompassing the spectrum of its key dimensions.

Another limitation relates to the research context of Chinese tourist destinations. Caution should be suggested when it comes to generalising the results to different tourists settings. In this case, there is merely evidence to enable us to understand whether tourists have a similar authentic experience in other types of settings, such as rural, religious, sports and others settings. Further research should pain attentions to these research contexts.

Cite this paper: Song, Q. and Feng, W. (2021) Interests-Based Local Experience Tourism: A New Tourism Product Design in China. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 9, 413-426. doi: 10.4236/jss.2021.94030.

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