Traditional cultural values and government policy influence how Chinese backpackers use technology while travelling, according to new research by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The study looked at how independent Chinese tourists use the internet during their trips abroad and found strong social influences on their digital behaviour. These result from their embedded culture, social circles, and the trust placed in word-of-mouth review platforms.
Researchers found that backpackers enjoy receiving comments and complements on their social media posts, and the process of editing and posting photos. Interacting with comments is an essential element of their trip.
They also highly value digital word-of-mouth recommendations when travelling abroad, making good use of their familiar review platforms, as well as popular ones not available in China. This requires them to learn to use new technologies more commonly used outside their home country.
The findings also show that Chinese travellers rely hugely on digital technologies such as Ali Pay and WeChat Pay for mobile payments.
The independent travel phenomenon is becoming increasingly important in China both domestically and internationally. Chinese travellers are known as tech-savvy and the study's lead author, UEA's Dr Brad McKenna--who worked with colleagues at the University of Greenwich, and University of Jyvaskyla in Finland--said 'Collective' and 'Confucius' values of Chinese culture play a major role in their IT use.
"From a collectivistic culture, the relationship between generations is very close. In addition, for the past 30 years the Chinese one-child policy has had enormous social impacts, such that the new generation has become the core of the family," said Dr McKenna, a lecturer in information systems at UEA's Norwich Business School.
"This has led to a strong usage of social media when travelling, so that families can keep in contact. It has been suggested that the use of social media when travelling has developed into the issue of surveillance through IT. Chinese independent travellers are expected to have a constant virtual presence to appease their families' worries and feel obligated to maintain connectedness with them."
The Chinese concept of guanxi, which requires them to be continuously connected, also influences the way independent travellers use technology. The 'social glue' function of the technology allows them to maintain the high level of connectedness when...