Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Effect of Face Concerns on University Students' Leisure Travel: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Effect of Face Concerns on University Students' Leisure Travel: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Article excerpt

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"A person needs face (Lian) like a tree needs bark (...)"

- Traditional Chinese saying

Tourism has become one of the most dynamic sectors of the Chinese economy. For example, in 2008, 1.7 billion domestic trips accounted for 875 billion RMB (129 billion USD), while 46 million Chinese tourists traveled internationally, an increase of 11.9% from 2007 (National Tourism Administration of the People's Republic of China, 2009). Moreover, the latter number is expected to double, with the WTO (cited in Li, Harrill, Uysal, Burnett, & Zhan, 2010) estimating there will be 100 million outbound Chinese tourists by 2020. Not surprisingly, given the current and future size of this market, American (U.S. Travel Association, 2008) and Canadian (Canadian Tourism Commission, 2009) tourism authorities have become increasingly interested in attracting Chinese tourists.

Of the various types of tourism that exist, youth (i.e., people between 16 and 29 years old) travel, and more specifically young university students' travel, is of particular interest in this paper. Youth and student travel has grown tremendously in China, Canada, the United States, and other countries (e.g., Cao, 2006; Heung & Leong, 2006; Richards & Wilson, 2003). However, despite the large and growing numbers of young people traveling - as well as the large and growing number of studies examining these travelers' characteristics (e.g., Abdel-Ghaffar, 1992; Hobson & Josiam, 1992; Kak-Yom & Jogaratnan, 2002; Li & Bao, 2000; Pastor, 1991; Schönhammer, 1992; Schott, 2004; Xu, Morgan, & Song, 2009), we did not uncover any studies that examined how Chinese university students might be similar to or different from Canadian students on a leisure trip. To explore these potential similarities and differences we adopt an important Chinese concept called "face concern" and utilize a cross-cultural comparative approach.

Literature Review

Face Concern in Chinese Culture

Gilbert and Tsao (2000) claimed that the best way to understand Chinese people's interpersonal behaviors was to first understand their face concerns. Face in Chinese culture has two components: Miami, which involves externalized social image; and Lian, which involves an internalized moral notion (Hu, 2004). These two components, consisting of respect for self and others, help explain different situations related to face. Lian restricts behavior against moral standards intrinsically, whereas Miami is the reputation earned from society. Ho (1976) argued that Miami is limited to the social situation in which a person is interacting; that is, it exists in the group that a person belongs to and is a relationship that derives from non-personal factors. Thus, Lian and Mianzi have specific meanings in a specific context. Furthermore, Lian and Miami may explain the true nature of Chinese communication, Chinese culture, and even Chinese social and cultural changes (Jia, 2001).

Research suggests that Chinese consumers who have high "face consciousness" also possess high social needs in regard to consumption. Face consciousness is the "desire to enhance, to maintain, and to avoid losing face in relation to significant others in social activities" (Bao, Zhou, & Su, 2003, p. 736-737). This implies that face concerns (i.e., face saving, losing, or enhancing) could motivate tourists to consume a travel product. Such social needs make consumers pay more attention to the extrinsic rather than the intrinsic attributes of a product because of their desire to express certain images, positions, or feelings toward group members (BeIk, 1988). For example, Miami plays an important role in East and Southeast Asian (e.g., Mainland China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) societies' luxury product consumption. Wong and Ahuvia (1998) explained that when East and Southeast Asians consume a product, they may not only consider its intrinsic value but its social value as well. …

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