Understanding the small tourism business owner in historical towns : the change of attitude with destination evolution

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Understanding the small tourism business owner in historical towns : the change of attitude with destination evolution


Author: Wang, Sha
Title: Understanding the small tourism business owner in historical towns : the change of attitude with destination evolution
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2015
Subject: Tourism -- Management.
Hospitality industry -- Management.
Small business -- Management.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Hotel and Tourism Management
Pages: xviii, 332 pages : illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2829682
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/8316
Abstract: Tourism offers opportunities for an easy entry into a number of business types, usually small or micro in size, that specifically appeal to both sole proprietors and families.Interest in these businesses often relates more to lifestyle, locational, and leisure preferences than to the desire for profit or security (Ateljevic & Doorne, 2000; Getz & Carlsen, 2000). A few researchers have classified small tourism business owners from the motivation perspective. For example, Shaw (2003) proposed a bifurcated approach by drawing a distinction between business-and lifestyle-oriented business owners.However, a systematic comparison between lifestyle-and business-oriented businesses is lacking, and the vital influence of motives and dynamics on business and entrepreneurship in tourism and hospitality has been downplayed or ignored (Getz & Carlsen, 2005). Small tourism businesses have existed for many years in various destinations, particularly in several historical/cultural heritage towns. For example, township destinations in China are highly popular. With tourism development in historical towns, such destinations have undergone several changes in the economic, physical, and social aspects. To date, a significantly limited literature has directly related destination evolution to small tourism firms and investigated the development process of such businesses from a dynamic perspective; this gap is addressed by the present study. Therefore, the main purpose of this research is to provide insights into what may happen to small tourism business owners' attitudes toward owning small tourism businesses over time as a destination evolves.As an exploratory research, a qualitative approach was applied in this study. The Old Town of Lijiang, a popular and representative historical town in China, was chosen as the study area, and the guest house was selected as the research target. Qualitative data were obtained from in-depth interviews with the guest house owners and the collection of secondary data.Content analysis driven by analytic procedures grounded on theory, which include open,axial, and selective coding, was conducted to analyze the in-depth interview data involving 46 informants. Based on these data, the present study identifies four patterns of the change (or maintaining) of owners' attitudes in conducting business over time as destinations evolve. These patterns are change of attitude from lifestyle orientation to business orientation, maintaining of attitude of lifestyle orientation, change in attitude from business orientation to lifestyle orientation, and maintaining of attitude of business orientation. The factors influencing the change (or maintaining) in attitudes under each pattern are also explored.
The present study also discusses the theoretical framework that has emerged from the data on this study{160}s association with the existing relevant theories. Six elements and four propositions from the discussion become the foundation for the theoretical framework describing the mechanisms that shape the change in attitude toward conducting small businesses over time in tourist destinations. The six elements involve the factors influencing the change in attitude, which can be divided into two themes, namely, personal factors and environmental facilitators. Three sets of personal factors are determined to lead owners directly to change their attitudes in doing business in tourism. These factors are owners' situated cognition (toward their own lives, the business industry, and the external living environment), ego intrinsic needs, and demographic factors over time (i.e., age and family status). Aside from the three sets of personal factors, another three sets of environmental facilitators are found to be effective in the change over time of small tourism owners' attitudes toward owning a business as a destination evolves. The sets of environmental facilitators are change in place (i.e., alterations in the physical, economic, social, and cultural aspects), change in tourists (i.e., the increasing number of tourist arrivals, alterations of tourist types, and changes in tourists' needs), and change in the business industry in the destination (i.e., the full, upgrading, and increasing cost of guest houses). These environmental facilitators directly affect owners' situated cognition and intrinsic needs, which lead to the change in owners' attitudes toward doing business indirectly. Four propositions are also discussed, namely, the dynamic perspective of understanding the small tourism business owner's attitude toward doing business,environmental facilitators, personal factors, and the process that shapes the change in attitude toward owning a small tourism business over time as a destination evolves.The results of this study indicate that the small tourism business owner's attitude toward conducting a business should be viewed as a dynamic perspective, which is an outcome of the interactive process of environmental facilitators and personal responses. As an exploratory research, this study provides an extensive and profound understanding of small tourism business owners' attitudes toward doing business over time as a destination evolves theoretically. This study also offers practical implications in the areas of small tourism business, particularly the guest house industry, and destination planning and management of Chinese historical towns.

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