Knowledge Main Headline

The power of nostalgia

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Mainland Chinese now living in Macao should be seen as a tourist segment with unique needs when they go on leave to their respective home areas, says a study from an IFT scholar. As this visitor segment is very familiar with the destination, tourism operators are advised to tailor sophisticated services and products for such clients, focusing on authenticity in tourism offerings relating to heritage, adds the research.

The study was conducted by IFT scholar Dr. Io Man U. The results were featured in her academic paper titled “Exploring the impact of past memories on tourist experiences of homeland visit: The case of the Chinese immigrants in Macao”, published in the Journal of Vacation Marketing.

“Homeland visitors should be treated as a single market segment due to their special tourist experiences and connection [with the destination],” Dr. Io wrote. She added: “Emigrants have a higher level of familiarity with and a deeper emotional attachment to their homeland than foreign… tourists, and emigrants’ deep emotional attachment to their homeland facilitates them to gain a memorable tourist experience and satisfaction with their homeland visit.”

The IFT scholar noted that a visit either to friends or relatives is traditionally considered as the major motive for home area visits by migrants. Hence, this tourism consumer group is often put under the heading ‘visiting friends and relatives’ (VFR). However, studies have shown that “recollecting memories and connecting with their homeland could be important motives for a homeland visit” by migrants, Dr. Io stated.

Her study results were based on questionnaires answered by 500 Mainland Chinese living in Macao for at least a year at the time of the research. More than 77 percent of respondents reported visiting their home area at least once during the previous 12 months. Approximately 36 percent of respondents reported having stayed for at least 6 days on their most recent visit to their home area.

The majority of the Macao population – approximately 46.2 percent or around 255,000 people – was born in Mainland China, according to the results of the city’s 2011 census. Fewer than 41 percent were born in Macao.

Happy days

The IFT scholar suggested destination managers make use of her research findings in order more effectively to attract Chinese migrants to go home for a holiday. She said: “The findings suggested that the more often respondents used… memories related to their homeland in their everyday life, the more positive tourist experiences they had; thus, destination managers should attract Chinese emigrants to come home for vacation by stimulating their need for… nostalgic feelings and [for] reliving their… life in their homeland.”

Dr. Io added: “Moreover, destination managers may introduce the traditional culture or customs of the place to homeland visitors and remind them of their original cultural identity and emotional bond with their homeland.”

The researcher however noted that this type of visitor could be especially demanding due to their high level of familiarity with the destination. “Destination managers should be aware that a good sense of authenticity in the heritage offerings is important, as [such] visitors are familiar with their homeland, and thus they may have sophisticated requirements for tourist services and heritage offerings,” she said. “Also, authenticity is important for tourists’ satisfaction with their heritage consumption and understanding of place identity.”

The study findings suggested that respondents enjoyed tourist experiences related to their past life and related to reviewing the changes that have occurred in their personal life and home area. As suggested by Dr. Io, this too could be a piece of useful information for tourism operators: “Destination managers may develop a tourism programme to help homeland visitors to understand the past, present and future of their homeland and enhance their emotional bond with their homeland by introducing the traditional sites and culture as their own heritage as well as the changes in the place over the past years.”

Dr. Io noted that tourism in Macao could also benefit from the fact Chinese migrants living in the city return to their home area for holidays. “These Chinese immigrants can be an important source for spreading positive words about Macao,” she said.

More info

Dr. Io Man U, Ph.D. holder, is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT). Dr. Io is certified as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Specialist Guide Trainer. She teaches subjects related to hospitality, heritage tourism and consumer behaviour. Her research interests include tourist experience and behaviour in the area of cultural tourism.

Io Man U: “Exploring the impact of past memories on tourist experiences of homeland visit: The case of the Chinese immigrants in Macao”, Journal of Vacation Marketing. Volume 21, Issue 2, pages 191-204, 2015.

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