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Author: Frédérique Guyader


Department: Anthropology

Institution: IRSEA

Title: Stability and Change in a Tourism Policiy: The Case of Lijang (Yunnan, China)

Situated in the north-west of the oriental province of Yunnan, the city of Lijiang lies on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. The economy of the county was traditionally based on agriculture until the mid-1990s  when tourism began to develop and eventually become the county's main industry. Registered on the UNESCO world heritage list, the old town of Lijiang has grown exponentially with the tourism industry. From 1997 to 2007, the number of visitors to the Old City rose from 1 233 200 to 4 600 000 and the income generated by tourism also increased significantly from 17.47 billion yuan to 46.29 billion yuan (Unesco Mission ICOMOS, 2008).

The growth of tourism in Lijiang has taken place in the context of the governmental policies concerning national minorities and the development of cultural tourism (Sofield, 1999). This tourism being overwhelmingly domestic, the tourist attractions are aimed at the Han, who represent more than 90 % of the visitors. These attractions correspond both to the image of primitive, backward people which the national minorities have and to the representation of the Naxi as romantic people.

Lijiang tourism is "ethnic" tourism in which groups come to discover the local culture. Over the last two years, the city's tourist policies have changed slightly; the local government wants to make Lijiang " the city for the « petits bourgeois »on holiday ". We therefore see more and more small groups of tourists, consisting of families or friends who have come to take a break from their stressful life.

The image of the city, considered as the Venice of Asia, and that of the Naxi, is behind the arrival of these new groups of tourists. In the same way, the media and the current use of blogs by Chinese tourists anchor and perpetuate this imaginary. The local government and tourism industry actors re-use these images for tourist purposes, particularly by staging new performances. However, the arrival of a new type of tourist who behaves differently involves changes in expectations. Those who come with family or friends confront a reality which does not correspond to the imaginary created by the media, so forming a new image of the city and a new relationship to authenticity.

Author Bio:

Frédérique Guyader Doctorante en anthropologie rattachée au laboratoire IRSEA (Université de Provence Aix-Marseille I), Frédérique Guyader consacre l'intégralité de ses travaux à l'influence du tourisme de Lijiang (Yunnan, Chine) . Son travail de terrain s'articule autour de la recomposition du social et de la politique culturelle de cette région. Elle est par ailleurs membre du bureau de l'association française des anthropologues et du CA de l'AFEA.

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