Destination development in China: towards an effective model of explanation

Chaozhi Zhang, Honggen Xiao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


This paper addresses the dynamics of the evolution of a nature-based destination in China. Based on longitudinal studies in Zhangjiajie (Hunan Province), it focuses on the roles of institutions in tourism development in China, demonstrating the centrality of institutions and governments in fostering destination development through policy orientations, attracting investments and regulations in their capacity as producers, protectors and promoters of desired processes of change. It describes a five-stage development process from Exploration, through Starting and via Fluctuation and Acceleration to the current stage of Transition leading towards a Destination seeking Better Service Quality. The study, by incorporating institutions as a driving force, develops an RICI model (Resource, Institution, Capital and Innovation) accounting for destination development in China. The key role of policies implemented by local governments and the roles of institutions are critical in the process of its development, especially in the earlier stages, contrasting with many western countries, where the private sector and central government tend to dominate. The paper notes the role of inter-institution rivalries, and the impact of those rivalries on sustainable development. It is suggested that the proposed model could be empirically verified and tested in other cultural or regional destination development contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-233
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014


  • China
  • destination development
  • evolution model
  • RICI model
  • Zhangjiajie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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