Perceived personal development benefits from backpacking: A cross-cultural comparison
Tourism Culture & Communication
Cognizant Communication Corporation
School of Business and Law
This study aims to examine the cross-cultural differences of perceived backpacker personal development between Chinese and Western backpackers. Backpacker personal development has been found to be an effective form of personal development in addition to the formal education system. Although the literature shows backpacking is a culturally driven travel phenomenon, little research has been done to examine the cross-cultural differences in association to backpacking. Comparing 230 Chinese backpackers with 246 Western backpackers traveling in China, the study found that Western backpackers rated four out of the five backpacker personal development dimensions consistently higher than their Chinese counterparts. These dimensions are capability, skill, worldview, and self-consciousness. However, the two cultural groups did not differ in emotion as a backpacker personal development dimension. The differences can be explained by stages of industry development of backpacking in and outside China, Chinese social and economic development, in addition to the cultural determination. The study demonstrated that Chinese backpackers are a culturally different traveler market, comparing to Western backpackers. The special features and culturally informed characteristics of Chinese backpacking will not only enrich the worldwide backpacking travel phenomena, but also enhance the general knowledge of tourism from a cross-cultural perspective. This study contributes to the literature by advancing the understanding of tourist learning and personal development through backpacking experiences. Based on the study findings it is recommended that governments and industry organizations should designate supportive policies and favorable industry protocols to encourage young generations to seek personal development through backpacking.