PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2014, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (9): 1279-1288.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2014.09.014

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles    

Influence of decentralization on spatially uneven development of tourism destinations

Hu YU1,2,3(), Tian CHEN1, Kaiyong WANG1(), Fubiao ZHU3,4, Xiyue ZHANG1,3   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4. Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS, Chengdu 610041, China
  • Online:2014-09-25 Published:2014-09-25


Decentralization is the main cause of differences in tourism policy, public infrastructure development, tourism investment and so on, which have aggravated the spatial unevenness of tourism development in China. Since the reform and opening up from the late 1970s, services previously provided by the national government was replaced by those provided by different public sectors in the local governments as well as private and voluntary organizations, increased the spatial diffusion of authority and diversity of network structure and patterns. There has been a large number of empirical studies on the spatial unevenness of tourism development. However, these studies mainly attribute causes of such development to urban development factors, such as tourism resource endowment, location in transportation network and infrastructure. Discussions of these problems did not address root causes of the spatially uneven development. Empirical search for a direct relationship between institution and tourism growth remains inconclusive. The objective of this paper is to examine the spatially uneven development of tourism destinations in China in the market-oriented reform process. Existing research shows that spatially uneven development of tourism destinations was aggravated by decentralization, which leads to differences in tourism policy and investment and the provision of public goods and services, and a profound analytical framework is needed for further empirical studies. This paper reviewed relevant studies on the links between decentralization and development of tourism, spatial influences of decentralization on tourism, and put forward a theoretical framework of resort spatial optimization based on a political economy analysis. We define four types of stakeholders under the decentralization framework-the central and local governments, capital enterprises, non-profit organizations, and local communities-and discuss the spatially uneven development as a result of the power distribution of tourism destinations comprised of the four stakeholder groups identified above. Future research should take the relationships among three stakeholders-the government, investors, and community residents-as a starting point, and reveal existing problems in the following four areas: the decentralization of authority of regional tourism organizations, institutional and technical supports of community participation, restructuring of industrial space, and the political role of rural tourism development, and to realize the sustainable development of tourism destinations. It is worth noting that decentralization in China has been a huge system engineering endeavor. This paper simply analyzes the spatially uneven development of tourism destinations caused by unequal network relationships among the main stakeholders, without dealing with many details that should be taken into consideration in further in-depth study.

Key words: decentralization, tourism destination, spatial disequilibrium, China

CLC Number: 

  • F590.1