Tropical Geography ›› 2021, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (6): 1246-1257.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003410

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Food Symbol Economy in Tourist Destination: The Making of Local Symbol and Path Dependence

Yuting Wang(), Honggang Xu(), Lifen Lao   

  1. School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510631, China
  • Received:2020-12-28 Revised:2021-03-05 Online:2021-11-05 Published:2021-11-16
  • Contact: Honggang Xu;


Food symbols with local characteristics are part of the image of a tourist destination, and tourism catering based on local food is one of the important economic activities of such destinations. This study analyzed the formation of the food symbol economy in tourism destinations through the story of Yangshuo beer fish. As a food product with a short history in Yangshuo, beer fish has grown out of nothing and from less to more, and it has gradually evolved into a food symbol of Yangshuo. This study used in-depth interviews, observation, and second-hand data methods to collect data, and analyzed the data through thematic analysis, process analysis, and feedback analysis methods to explore the formation mechanism of Yangshuo's beer fish food symbol economy. It finds that the reason for the food symbol economy is not only the marketing of local characteristics but also the path dependence of product agglomeration. From the perspective of product characteristics, the image of the beer fish aligns with Yangshuo's location on the banks of the Li Jiang River; further, fish is a food that suits local conditions. Additionally, Yangshuo West Street's pub culture is famous, in line with the image of Yangshuo. From the perspective of food production, local materials, high profits, and simple cooking procedures, beer fish cuisine can be produced on a large scale and at a low cost. The barriers to entry for the beer fish catering market are low with strong profit drivers; consequently, new catering companies choose beer fish as the main product. From the perspective of food consumption, the taste of beer fish has local characteristics and is accepted by the public, thus meeting the symbolic and supportive dietary needs of tourists. The recommendations of the government, residents, and other stakeholders further strengthen the image of beer fish. The agglomeration of the services industry can result in the consumption of such products among tourists and generate cumulative appeal, thereby reducing the marketing costs of enterprises. Lower cost and higher sales make the production of beer fish a positive feedback mechanism and lock-in. However, the popular trend of consuming beer fish in the Yangshuo tourist catering market results in an extrusion effect on other catering products. The entry of new products requires high promotion costs, which makes it difficult for other catering products to replace beer fish. This study contributes to the literature in the following ways: 1) combining the path dependence theory to abstract the formation mechanism of tourism destination food symbol economy, it indicates the product characteristics as a tourism destination food symbol based on the market characteristics of tourism catering and the psychological characteristics of consumers. It is an in-depth exploration based on the literature on the production and consumption of tourist food, which has guiding significance for the practice and sustainable development of food in tourist destinations. 2) Since food is a daily necessity, not only the symbolic attributes but also the satisfaction of the consumer's supportive experience should be considered. This research shows the characteristics of tourism catering as a special symbol economy, which is a supplement and specific exploration of the research of symbol and space economies.

Key words: Symbol economy, local food symbol, tourism destination, path dependence, beer fish of Yangshuo

CLC Number: 

  • F592.7