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Journal of China Tourism Research

For a Special Issue on

New Paradigms in Tour Guiding: Leading Chinese Tourists in the Post-modern Era

Abstract deadline
31 August 2024

Manuscript deadline
28 February 2025

Cover image - Journal of China Tourism Research

Special Issue Editor(s)

Cora Un In Wong, Macao Polytechnic University, Macao SAR, China
[email protected]

Lianping Ren (Eve), Macao University of Tourism, Macao SAR, China
[email protected]

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New Paradigms in Tour Guiding: Leading Chinese Tourists in the Post-modern Era

The tour guide profession is a significant contributor to shaping tourist experience and is thus widely researched. According to the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations, a professional tour guide is defined as a person, who holds an area-specific qualification sanctioned by the local authority, who guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of a place. The seminal work of Cohen has laid a good foundation for understanding the work performed by tour guides, in particular their roles and functions, including being instrumental such as acting as pathfinder and interpreter, being interactionary, taking the intermediary and mediator roles, being communicative, performing as an animator and being a leader in the social dimension. A large number of tour guiding studies have been produced since then.

Guiding service is important in China to both its domestic and international tourists. China was reported as the largest source of outbound tourism in the world. According to the report provided by UNWTO, “China, U.S.A. and Germany remained the world’s top source markets towards the end of the pandemic in 2022”. By 2030, it is expected that 365 million Chinese tourists will travel abroad and this will constitute a huge demand on tour guiding services. However, the number of tour guides in China has shrunk. Before Covid-19, there were about 120,000 guides in China serving both the domestic and outbound Chinese tourists. The unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic reduced the number of tour guides in China to 94,332. The drastic decline in the number of tour guides in China has become an issue in the post-Covid era. This challenge can be at least partially accounted for by the drastic changes that the tour guiding industry has been undergoing.

First, the advancements in economy, infrastructure, technology, etc. has changed the journey/distance from the service suppliers to tourists. New technology has in a significant way empowered the tourists in their destinations. The internet can provide all destination and attraction related information and knowledge. Destination marketers have further facilitated tourists’ self-served tours by supplying all sorts of services in social media platforms. Many attractions nowadays provide electronic tour guiding, which allows visitation at the individual tourist’s pace and in their language. Google map or other directional app technology can provide itineraries and directions. Therefore, how technology is facilitating and re-shaping the tour guide’s profession is worthy of discussion.

Second, the tourists are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are displaying an increasing diversity of behavior in engaging in tourism activities. They are no longer satisfied with listening to the superficial presentation of a place, since they can obtain all the information by touching their mobile phone screens. Tourists tend to collect internet information more than they listen to the tour guides’ overview. In addition, tourists’ motivational shifts are on-going and increasing. In particular, tourists are interested in undertaking special forms of tourism for enriching their wellbeing, meaning of life and travel experiences.

Although the Chinese tourism sector has started to recover, many tourists do not join large tour groups as much as they did in the past. There is an increase in the popularity of private tours, small and self-organized tours, as well as other niche tours. New forms of tourism themes such as sustainability, community focus, heritage and nostalgia, as well as rural life have become the new travel interests. This has posed challenges to the tour guides, as they need to overhaul their skill sets, adjust their mind-set, as well as update their service patterns. A recent publication on the changing guide roles has cast some initial light on the new continuum of guide roles, but more in-depth explorations are called for to understand the changing tour guiding paradigms. In particular, how the tour guides can best serve the tourists in the years to come becomes an intriguing question to be explored and discussed.

There are other associated issues. Tour guide as an occupation is now perceived differently. Some members of the profession treat their occupation as a gig job, while others think of it as a career offering the prospect of prosperity. Some recent publications reported how the stereotypical image of the tour guide has further intensified the stigmatization of the guiding profession, making the profession even more unappealing. News reports that the travel companies and local authorities in Hangzhou publicized their intention to spend a million RMB/year to recruit qualified tour guides. By understanding the important role of tour guides to a destination branding, some directors of local authorities who oversee tourism development of their territories even act as “social media celebrity guides” to arouse tourists’ interest and link them to their destinations via videos and live streaming at Xiaohongshu and Douyin. Other reports have similarly highlighted the importance of guides’ roles and challenge of having quality tour guides in China. These actions show that Chinese tour guides are important not only to the domestic market, but also to worldwide tourism. Hence, tour guiding as an occupation, as well as the effective management and retention of a strong tour guiding work force, are among the most urgent topics to be discussed.

Given the above consideration, we would like to invite empirical, conceptual and review papers on, but not limited to, the following topics seen in the Chinese context:

  • New ways of value co-creation in the guiding process
  • The creative role of tour guiding
  • Tour guiding in the new era - experience design
  • Changing demands from tourists - What do the tourists expect from tour guides in the post-modern era?
  • The impacts of internet-celebrity tour guides on destination branding
  • Tour guides’ occupational wellbeing
  • Visioning new guiding theories by examining the applicability of the existing ones in the context of post-modern and post-Covid era and beyond
  • Tour guiding in special interest tourism
  • Tour guides’ roles in guiding study travel groups
  • The impact of Generative AI, AR and VR technology, and smart technology on tour guides’ job performance
  • Technology-empowered tour guiding
  • Customization of travel plans - What do the tour guides do?
  • Guiding senior groups - What guide’s attributes matter most?
  • Strategies in nurturing and maintaining a sustainable tour guide work force
  • Environmental sustainability and the tour guide’s roles
  • Chinese tourists in overseas destinations - What do they expect from their tour guides?
  • Do the younger generations still need tour guides?

Submission Instructions

  • Interested scholars please submit your extended abstract to Dr. Cora Un In Wong at [email protected] and/or Professor Lianping Ren (Eve) at [email protected] (2-A4 pages including references) by August 31st, 2024.
  • Notifications of invited papers will be sent to corresponding authors by September 30th, 2024.
  • Full-length articles are expected to be submitted by February 28th, 2025. During the submission process, please state clearly that your submission is intended for publication consideration in the special issue “New Paradigms in Tour Guiding: Leading Chinese Tourists in the Post-modern Era”.
  • For any inquires, please email the guest editors directly.

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