TROPICAL GEOGRAPHY ›› 2018, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (5): 717-725.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003071

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Western Tourists’ Sense of Place on Shopping Malls: A Case Study of the Tianyi Plaza in Ningbo City

CHEN Xiao1,CHEN Wanxin2   

  1. (1.Shenzhen Polytechnic,Shenzhen 518055,China;2.Business School,University of Technology Sydney,Sydney 2007,Australia)
  • Online:2018-09-05 Published:2018-09-05


Shopping malls in a city are broadly conceptualized as placelessness. According to Relph’s definition of placelessness, places with the attribute of placelessness are not supposed to be attractive to tourists. Shopping malls, however, are one of the main tourism attractions, which are appealing to international tourists. This comes to our research question, that is, how do shopping malls attract international tourists? Even though extensive researches have been conducted on how historic sites and natural landscapes attracting western tourists, the studies on shopping malls are limited. This study takes a shopping mall in Ningbo, China, as a case and collects data through questionnaires and interviews. The findings are: 1) even though shopping malls are characterized by placelessness, it is proved that they are one of the major tourist destinations for western tourists. Western tourists go there for the reason that it is a place for quality assurance. The idea of shopping malls is imported from western society and western tourists are familiar with this consumption place and perceive it as quality guarantee for shopping. 2) Shopping malls embody the authenticity of local residents’ consumption behavior. Shopping malls are considered as a daily consumption place for local residents and have become a part of local residents’ daily life. Western tourists are attracted by the local lifestyle, which is embedded in shopping experience. The contemporary lifestyle of local residents is considered as parts of the development history of China and this lifestyle is appealing to western tourists. 3) The rapid development of China is unique around the world. The attribute of high-speed development becomes the attractiveness for western tourists and this attribute is embodied in shopping malls. On one hand, western tourists are impressed by the modern building, atmosphere, environment and brands when they are entering shopping malls. On the other hand, the shopping malls are located near traditional street blocks. The modern shopping malls and traditional street blocks create a unique landscape. From western tourists’ eyes, this landscape is a mixture of the present and the past of the development of China. Western tourists feel like experiencing the past and the present at the same time. This contrast makes shopping malls even attracting.

Key words: tourists&rsquo, sense of place, shopping mall, placelessness, the Ningbo Tianyi Plaza