PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (1): 101-110.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.01.009

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Review of tourist destination research in the perspective of evolutionary economic geography

Zhengyuan ZHAO1(), Zhigao LIU2,3,*()   

  1. 1. School of Humanities, Southeast University, Nanjing 211189, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. School of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2018-05-09 Revised:2018-12-05 Online:2019-01-28 Published:2019-01-22
  • Contact: Zhigao LIU;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 41471113 and 41530751;Social Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province, No. 17GLC004;Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, No. 3213007207;Special Foundation of Strategic High Technologies of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. XDA19040403.


Because of the diversity and complexity of tourist destination, its research is often cross-disciplinary, covering geography, economics, management, sociology, and so on. Tourism area life cycle, tourism industry cluster, and tourist destination management and governance have been concerned by economic geographers. Evolutionary economic geography (EEG) stresses historical processes and spatial heterogeneity and relies on three main conceptual foundations: path dependence, complexity theory, and generalized Darwinism. In recent years, tourism scholars have found EEG a useful paradigm with studies focusing on tourism area development, tourist destination management or governance, local tourism industry, and tourism stakeholders in creating new paths. These studies have shown the usefulness of a path dependence (and path creation), complexity theory, and generalized Darwinism approach in tourism research. Furthermore, several studies offer comprehensive overviews relating EEG to both cultural political economy and behavioral research approaches in tourism studies that include structural and process perspectives. China's tourist destination development and change are different from those of the West. With its socialist market economy model, public ownership co-exists with the private sector. The Chinese government still engages in the macro-management of the national economy, operating and controlling strategic industries and regulating certain prices. It also applies a top-down governance model in tourist destination management. In this article, we discussed the Chinese characteristics in tourist destination system, and suggested two directions in future tourism studies in China: linking the perspective of EEG with political economy and institutional economy can provide macro policy analysis for China's tourism studies, and thus contribute to the transformation and upgrading of tourism public service system; taking the perspective of multi-scale coupling at the meso- and micro-scales and multiple stakeholder analysis can help explore diverse stakeholder participation, and thus contribute to the sustainable development of tourism destination in China. With this background, China provides a fascinating environment to explore diversified tourism research methods; and the fact that tourism is a relatively new development area provides the potential to explore how the bureaucratic mechanisms are responding to the need for policy changes.

Key words: tourist destination, evolutionary economic geography, path dependence, complexity theory