Local people’s attitudes to tourism and tourists

A question was asked of residents about the reasons they visit West Lake. Only three local people (4.3%) came to West Lake for educational reasons, while 11 (15.9%) nominated cultural reasons. The majority of responses from local people (55 local people or 79.8%) considered they use West Lake as their‘city park,’a place for leisure.Those leisure activities include enjoying nature or aesthetic pleasure (22 local people or 31.8%), taking physical exercise (e.g. walking, playingTaiji and square dance — ten local people or 14.5%), strolling in the site from work (seven local people or 10.1%), nominating leisure (not specifying what kind of leisure activities - seven local people or 10.1%), reading (six local people or 8.7%) and to see a specific exhibition (three local people or 4.3%). Examples of local people’s responses include:

I usually read in |tll |>jcMW Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Winding Garden. I remembered the time when I was not married when I passed through this place, it is interesting.

(WL004, female, over 65, local)

I come here for some fresh air. It is a nice place for reading; I usually read English here. When I get tired, it is interesting to watch visitors walk around.

(WL006, male, 18—24, local)

I come here because I want to have some fresh air and enjoy the view. When I was over pressured, sometimes, I would come to West Lake in order to release my pressure.You know, West Lake is a touristic attraction, however, it has been seen as a city park from Hangzhou citizens [perspective]. Although we know everything about the culture of West Lake, and we are very proud of the Lake, we come to West Lake just like taking a walk in our own garden, for recreation.

(WL069, male, 25-34, local)

WL069 simply nominated different leisure reasons they came to visit West Lake. However, their responses reflect their sense of belonging, which elicited a strong sense of pride. WL006 noted that the performances of tourists constituted his sense of place. WL004s sense of nostalgia was linked to her memories. The above responses demonstrated that senses of pride, nostalgia and belonging were very frequently elicited during the leisure process from local people. Local peoples sense of pride is important, and is tied to their positive attitudes to mass tourists. This will be illustrated below.

Due to a large number of tourists coming to West Lake, particularly on public holidays, it is necessary to examine to what extent mass tourists influenced local peoples leisure activities. A question was posed to them: ‘do tourists have any impact on your daily life?’ (Table 4.3). Twelve respondents (24.9%) did not think tourists have any impact on their daily life. The majority of local people (54.2%) were willing for tourists to come to West Lake. This included 31.2 % who considered tourists brought economic gain, and 23% of local people nominated tourists brought cultural gain such as enhanced nationalism, local identity and sense of pride, and they were happy to communicate with tourists. In terms of the economic gain, local people considered tourism and tourists to have raised funding that supported positive changes to their sites.Those changes include improvement to water quality, an enlarged lake area, and the creation of a new touristic area such as Xixi National Wetland Park and Jiang Yangfan Park, along with other infrastructural improvements (see Chapter 3, p. 95—98).

More importantly, there were cultural gains from tourism at the site. Local people mentioned that mass tourists come to the site which they were proud of. Some of them were proud of their cultural, historical and physical setting. Some of them were just simply proud to be a citizen of Hangzhou, a city receiving worldwide recognition; some of them hoped people could inherit and innovate intangible cultures such as the Longjin tea culture, silk skills and routines from the Southern Song Dynasty. Finally, some of them were proud of the new developments in the city.

Table 4.3 Do tourists have any impact on your daily life? (N=40)

Local people (%)

Yes, but doesn’t matter. Mass tourists bring economic growth - positive 31.2 No impact 24.9

Yes, represent local identity/proud/nationalism - positive 16.7

Yes, crowded weekend and public holiday- negative 10.4

Yes, happy to communicate with tourists - positive 6.3

Yes, bad traffic conditions - negative 6.3

Yes, mass tourists bring the increased price of food or housing 4.2

estates - negative

Total 100.0

Some residents mentioned the negative effects that tourism has.This included increased prices for food or housing (4.2%), bad traffic conditions (6.3%) and crowding during weekends and public holidays (10.4%).The management literature has emphasised the pollution and physical damage to sites that tourism can cause and notes that these impacts can erode local heritage values (Harrison 1994; Swarbrooke 1995; Hall and McArthur 1998; Leask and Yeoman 1999; McKercher and du Cros 2002; Pedersen 2002). This research shows that, although local people at West Lake listed those negative impacts, which are not something that can be ignored, the majority of them nonetheless considered the benefits that tourists contributed to the site carried more weight than the negative impacts. They knew how to minimise those negative impacts. For instance, WL005 and WL058 mentioned that mass tourists had influenced their daily life, particularly during public holidays. However, they did not hate or curse mass tourists; rather they chose to leave the touristic places to the tourists and went to other places instead. The sense of pride that tourists brought to local people has influenced local peoples attitudes and performances:

Mass tourists come to our site, which means that Hangzhou is the best place in China. Everyone has the right to appreciate the culture and nature of West Lake. When they are visiting our site, I am always happy to tell them the stories and about the public transport systems of Hangzhou during their visiting. During the public holiday, we have left the touristic places to tourists. However, we know where to go around West Lake to avoid mass tourists, places such asYuquan, Huapu and the botanical gardens which are not far from here.

(WL005, female, over 65, local)

As a Hangzhou citizen, I do not come to the touristic sites at West Lake during holiday seasons. We want to let tourists enjoy West Lake. I think most Hangzhou citizen have done the same thing as me. You know, there are 36 ‘West Lakes’ in China, but our lake is no doubt the most famous one.

(WL058, male, over 65, local)

Some local people want tourists to know about the general stories of Hangzhou, such as the White Snake story, and stories ofYue Fei,Yu Qian and Sun Dongpo etc. Some local people wanted tourists to explore some hidden stories, such as the histories of the Republic period that were ignored or excluded from the Communist harmony discourse. Many local people wanted tourists to be present at the physical sites and feel the poetic or romantic sense ofWest Lake:

After their visiting, if tourists say to me ‘Hangzhou is gorgeous,’ I will be very happy and proud of that. Actually, many tourists told to me that

‘Well, I want to buy an apartment and settle down around West Lake,’ or ‘Hangzhou is so beautiful.’At that time, I am heartfelt proud of my city. When some tourists came to ask me ‘which places are worth visiting,’ I always told them ‘everywhere around West Lake.’ If you come to West Lake during wintertime, you would understand what Lingering Snow on Broken Bridge means; if you arrive at spring, you would see the Colourful Flower West Lake, and many couples sitting around the Lake. There are also many activities in the evening around West Lake, tourists and local people were dancing together sometimes. All local people and tourists are happy.

(WL076, female, 55-64, local)

WL076 nominated her sense of pride elicited by tourists who take their time to feel the Ten Poetically Named Scenic Places of West Lake, such as Lingering Snow on Broken Bridge. Indeed, the interview reveals that both local people and tourists can feel the poetic meaning ofWest Lake. In addition, the research also shows that tourism had changed the industry structure for local people who lived around West Lake from traditional agriculture to a service industry. These changes facilitated local people’s sense of local identities:

Hangzhou has become an international city because of tourism. Our tea farmers around West Lake used to live upon the traditional farm industry, however, most of us run restaurants and hostels instead. Therefore, we have more spare time to research traditional tea culture. Tourism has not only brought better living quality' but also has enlightened us to explore and develop our traditional culture. Tourists coming to our village can be influenced by' the tea culture or other cultures of Hangzhou. This is a virtuous circle.

(WL097, female, 25-34, local)

Overall, the survey at the West Lake shows that the majority of local people thought that tourists had brought positive changes, not only' the economic benefit or cultural gain as identified above but also a sense of bonding between tourists and local people. As WL051 (female, 18—24, local) states, tourists and tourism ‘brought cultural diversity and vividness to the city.’ The majority of local people I interviewed were explicitly aware that Hangzhou is an ‘international touristic city,’ are proud of this title and considered tourists to be significant for the identity of Hangzhou city. From the tourists’ perspective, the level of engagement with a sense of contentment seems to appear when tourists feel they have made a connection with local people. For instance:

What I am interested in is the traditional songs from local people. I liked to sit aside West Lake and listened for hours. Their songs represent the characteristics of Hangzhou city.

(WL028, male, 18-24, tourist)

I was impressed by the local people of Hangzhou.They are very kind and give me the feeling that they truly welcome tourists to visit.

(WL078, female, 18-24, tourist)

I was very much enjoying the moment we were boating on the lake. A local was boating for us and told us about history, culture and stories of West Lake during the trip. He is such a good person, and he told us it is his honour to interpret the stories ofWest Lake and Hangzhou. I have learned about interesting stories and people from West Lake from his interpretation, including the stories ofSu Xiaoxiao and Dao Ji monk.

(WL083, female, 25-34, tourist)

Compared to my hometown, Suzhou, Hangzhou is a city where the modern has merged into a traditional setting. The most memorable thing is local people, and they are so kind to me. For example, when we planned to set off, a retired lady came to tell us the best way of visiting. I appreciated this.

(WL118, male, 18-24, tourist)

The above examples reflect how the interactions between tourists and local people elicited a positive social connection between individual tourists and local people, which had a positive and active impact on the interpretation of West Lake (WL083), the city (WL028) or the daily lives of residents (WL118). The study shows the set of interactions or bonding that occur between local people and tourists at West Lake. Local people wanted tourists to ‘feel’ or experience their sites, and they hoped that the tourists’ could invoke a sense of belonging or feeling for the site and engage in communication with local people. In return, tourists enjoyed communicating or connecting with local people as well. There is a strong sense of contentment that emerged when tourists feel they had made a connection with local people.

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