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Visitors’ Perception Based Authenticity in Tourism Development Project: A Case Study of Xietang Old Street in Suzhou, China

Cheng, Wen

Within the in-depth development of culture-historical block tourism and the involvement of new capital, a new type of culture-historical block tourism has flourished in time. Unlike the traditional culture-historical blocks, these emerging culture-historical blocks are usually archaized blocks. There have been some debates about the relationship between these kinds of archaized blocks and tourism authenticity. It is evident that due to the characteristics of this kind of archaized culture-historical blocks, they lack authenticity. However, whether the authenticity could be perceived by the local residents or tourists still needs to be argued.

In this paper, it examined visitors’ perception of authenticity at Xietang Old Street, an archaized project in Suzhou, China. The construction of many historical heritage sites raised the issue about authenticity in tourism. However, visitors’ perceptions towards authenticity in this site continues to be mostly unknown. The study applied questionnaires and interviews to collect data from February 2019 to March 2019 at Xietang Old Street. Visitors were asked to rate the authenticity of many aspects of Xietang Old Street on a Likert-scale and to provide basic socioeconomic information, motivations, and loyalty & satisfaction grade. Moreover, this paper studied the relationship among visitors’ motivation, authenticity perception, and visitors’ loyalty & satisfaction at Xietang Old Street. Based on both the qualitative and quantitative information, the study evaluates the Xietang Old Street as whether it is a successful commercial / tourism / authentic culture-historical site respectively.

The research defined the project as a successful commercial project in Suzhou. However, it cannot be regarded as a successful tourism project and authentic culture-historical site. All the site was reconstructed, and the authentic elements are hardly seen within the site. Although the visitors can perceive authenticity through the site, they are all based on the physical setting. It cannot be called an authentic culture-historical site, while it is successful among these archaized projects in China. The primary reason for this project is the full respect for the original site and original appearance. Since the old Xietang town was demolished, we should look upon it positively: without this project, the history or even the name of Xietang will be forgotten by the future generation forever. It is a good start point and there are lots of space improving this project. We can believe that Xietang Old Street can be more authentic in the future.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 28, 2019
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