The role of tourism in regional development : a case study of Yunnan China
Tourism in China has been experiencing rapid growth since 1978 with aggressive implementation of a more liberal economic policy and opening up to the outside world, patricularly in the underdeveloped western region of China. Although tourism growth is a significant factor in China's continuing economic prosperity, which has been advocated by numerous scholars and international organisations, the role of tourism in regional development is still up for debate. The widening gaps between urban and rural areas, and the imbalance in development between the eastern region and western region in China, are continuing concerns. This study seeks to contribute empirically to this debate by exploring the role of tourism development in the regional development strategy in China. This study intends to capture evidence of tourism development in Yunnan Province, situated in Southwest China by assessing the establishment of tourism as a major industry for regional development and identifying the influence of tourism development on the process of regional development and modernisation. The case study as a methodological approach has been implemented for this purpose. The author undertook systematic reviews of reports, archival records and journals from a wide variety of sources on Yunnan tourism development. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with local government officials, enterprises managers and academicians in Yunnan Province. Tourism in Yunnan has been recognised as a pillar industry for its rich tourism resources and regional conditions providing a comparative advantage in relation to development. This study addresses the guidance role of local government and the formulation of special policies at the regional level for supporting tourism as a pillar industry. This evidence primarily suggests that tourism can play a stimulating and enhancing role in underdeveloped areas where development is needed as part of the process of modernisation. This study concludes by supporting the contention that tourism has made a substantial contribution to development in Yunnan.