Tropical Geography ›› 2021, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (6): 1325-1337.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003407

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Rurality and Rural Tourism Attraction: Element Structure Identification and Cognitive Mechanism Analysis Based on Tourists' Perception

Mingjie Wang1(), Kai Meng1(), Shize Zhang2, Wenjie Li3, Jiaxin Tang1, Chenlu Wang1   

  1. 1.College of Tourism, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, China
    2.Center for Chinese Urbanization Studies of Soochow University, Suzhou 215021, China
    3.College of Art, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH3 9DF, the United Kingdom
  • Received:2021-07-20 Revised:2021-09-06 Online:2021-11-05 Published:2021-11-16
  • Contact: Kai Meng;


With the development of the economy and the improvement in quality of life, the need for leisure tourism is increasing. Rural tourism, which can fulfil people's need to stay away from the city and pursue leisure, has been favored in recent years. From the perspective of tourists and the market, it is precisely owing to the unique characteristics of rural areas, formally called rurality, that people's psychological needs for rural tourism are met. Many scholars at home and abroad believe that rurality, which differs from the city lifestyle, and originated in the countryside, is the core attraction of rural tourism. However, most studies on rurality are concentrated in the field of geography, and relevant scholars have attempted to set up a scale to evaluate rurality or use social semiotics to interpret the connotation of rurality. However, extant research is still unable to identify the elements and structure of rurality from the perspective of tourists' perception, failing to show tourists' cognitive logic in the rural tourism experience or reflect the relationship between rurality and rural tourism attraction. To solve these problems, this study utilizes the qualitative research method combining visitor employed photography with semi-structured interviews, based on the five sensory perceptual systems proposed by Gibson (including the visual, auditory, tactile, taste-smell, and basic orienting systems). A total of 202 rural pictures and corresponding interview texts provided by 20 interviewees were coded to identify the elements and structure of rurality and illustrate the cognitive mechanism of rural tourism attraction from the perspective of tourists' perception. The main conclusions are summarized as follows. (1) First, as per tourists' perception, the rurality structure contains 234 elements and 42 categories, and further summarized into two core dimensions: basic rurality and implanted rurality. (2) Second, in the process of rural tourism, tourists rank rurality elements according to their attractiveness intensity, showing the "core-marginal" perception characteristic of their personal subjective level. Notably, the boundary between core rurality and marginal rurality is blurred, and the possibility of mutual conversion exists. (3) Third, the cognitive mechanism of rural tourism attraction from the perspective of tourists' perception follows the logical development of "Perceptual system—Rurality elements—Rurality landscape—Rural tourism attraction." Under the guidance of these logical clues, the study finds that although rural tourism attraction can be based on a basic landscape, it is also a composite structure, composed of basic, implanted, and integrative landscapes. The core attraction is mostly exerted by the integrative landscape. Overall, the study reveals the elements and structure of rurality from the perspective of tourists' perceptions in the tourism context and analyzes the cognitive mechanism of rural tourism attraction. The research expands and enriches the study of rurality, especially in the field of tourism. Moreover, it plays a guiding role in the development of rural tourism destinations and suggests that rural tourism developers take active steps to create integrative landscapes for tourists.

Key words: rurality, rural tourism attraction, tourist perception, element structure, cognitive mechanism

CLC Number: 

  • F327