Residents’ perceptions towards tourism : a social representations’ perspective and the Hong Kong experience
Chan, Ah Heung Elaine
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Almost 80% of tourists in Hong Kong are from Mainland China, and they have brought substantial negative impacts on the local community. Residents have staged several protests where they urged tourists to return to China. However, for the long-term sustainability of tourism, tourists must be welcomed, and tourism must be supported by residents. Investigating the community’s perceptions and concerns towards the impacts brought about by tourism and its development in Hong Kong is appropriate. The research objectives are to examine residents’ perceptions of tourism impacts and the manner in which these perceptions influence their support or opposition for tourism development in Hong Kong. Various factors such as sub-ethnic identity, community attachment, proximity to tourism areas, overall life satisfaction, demographic variables, knowledge of tourism and trust in government are investigated to identify their role and importance in shaping residents’ perceptions towards tourism. This research also seeks to identify the perceptions of different interviewee groups based on their composition and characteristics. Furthermore, social representations theory is used to examine why and how residents develop such perceptions and how three sources of information (i.e. direct experience with tourists or tourism impacts, social interaction and media influence) affect the formation of residents’ representations about tourism. Adopting a qualitative approach, ten in-depth and two focus groups interviews were conducted. Participants who identified their sub-ethnic identity as Hongkongers perceived tourism more negatively than Chinese in HK. Economic dependency on tourism also resulted in higher overall life satisfaction which was associated with a higher degree of trust in government and further lead to more positive perceptions of tourism impacts and support for tourism. Age and educational level were negatively associated with positive perceptions of tourism impacts. This research has provided both theoretical and practical implications for academia and the hospitality and travel industry as well as for government to formulate appropriate destination marketing strategies, develop a tourism master plan and implement measures to address and mitigate the negative impacts associated from tourism development so as to achieve a mutually beneficial ‘win-win’ situation for host residents and tourists. This is pivotal to the success and sustainable development of tourism in HK.