Because of its ability to harbor social values, norms, and beliefs, heritage has always been utilized as an ideological vehicle. One prominent example of politicizing heritage is Chinese red tourism, comprised of state-promoted tours to revolutionary memorial sites. It is expected to generate political, economic, and social benefits, particularly to reinforce the legitimate leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Statistics show that dramatic market growth in red tourism has occurred over the past decade. Yet it is still heavily driven by the government and thus whether long-term sustainability can be achieved is still questionable.
This dissertation explores the dynamics of red tourism from the perspective of a meaning-making process, where tourism discourses circulate among the processes of production, transmission, and consumption. The results reveal that higher-level government primarily assumes the leading role, whereas local government is largely excluded from strategy making processes and primarily responsible for implementation and operation. Some dissonance exists between higher and lower-level governments in their goals and involvement in red tourism development. Second, intermediaries are not altruistic and attempt to maximize their own benefits. While site interpreters may provide officially authorized narratives, their primary focus is hosting higher-up administrative visitors. On the contrary, tour guides are more customer-oriented, which may lead to officially undesirable interpretations. Third, driven by multiple motives, tourists have increasingly diverse attitudes towards red heritage and participate in various political and non-political activities. A considerable degree of congruence was found between tourists' participation, motivation, memories, and perception. Quantitative results indicate that the majority of tourists have learned about the political significance and/or content of red heritage, and developed more positive attitudes towards, and support for, the CCP and the government, to a certain extent.
This dissertation contributes to current research by adopting a systematic and emic perspective to explore the dynamics of red tourism. Several conceptual frameworks were developed inductively to describe the meaning-making process. Mixed methods were used to learn about tourists' consumption and perceptions of red heritage. Implications regarding enhancing the effectiveness of the meaning-making process, limitations of the study, and potential directions for future research are also discussed.