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Integrated development of culture and tourism pursues harmony through differences

SONG RUI | 2019-01-18
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Since China established the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in April 2018 based on the merging of two old organs—the Ministry of Culture and the National Tourism Administration—the integrated development of culture and tourism has become a popular topic of discussion.

However, opinions diverge as to how to understand and deal with the relationship between culture and tourism, and in what way the integrated development between the two can be well fostered. Covering a wide range of content, their integrated development, in my opinion, should focus on balancing four significant relationships. 

The first is the relationship between commonality and individuality. Both in the narrow and broad sense, culture and tourism are two major technical fields with great significance. In reality, the two do intersect with each other in many respects but do not entirely equate with each other. They share much in common but have their own features. Therefore, the working guideline needs to follow what the Ministry of Culture and Tourism explicitly proposes: integrate with each other as much as possible, foster tourism through culture and strengthen culture by means of tourism.

For cultural and tourism authorities at all levels, they should not only overcome the old pattern of thinking but also avoid over-simplified thinking. The two should not mutually replace each other in disaccord with the law. It is necessary to seek truth from facts in combination with the actual needs in order to gradually make clear which sectors of the two are suitable for integration and which sectors should be developed independently. The aim is to pursue harmony through differences.

The second is the relationship between a public undertaking and industry. Culture and tourism carry traits of both a public undertaking and industry. But culture is more a public undertaking with a relatively low level of industrialization, while tourism is more an industry with relatively low public undertaking features.

Therefore, for tourism to become more of a public undertaking, single economy-oriented value and growth supremacism should be rejected. Instead, it needs to stress more its social functions in satisfying people’s aspirations for a better life, creating jobs, improving people’s well-being, protecting the ecological environment and underpinning the nation’s diplomacy. In addition, tourism should also emphasize the government’s responsibility for ensuring citizens can have vacations and enjoy their right to tourism on their time off.

For culture to strengthen its industrialization, the issues of evoking the vitality of the cultural market includes the fact that the cultural enterprises in China are too scattered and relatively weak, with an incomplete industrial chain and not-so-smooth financing channels.

In seeking the integrated development of culture and tourism, it should be made clear as to which facilities and affairs purely bear the trait of public welfare so that they can be classified into the category of public undertakings, and those that are purely marketized should be identified so that they can be categorized as industry.

The third is the relationship between government and market. Both the guidance from the government and the underpinning from the market are indispensable for integration. While the latter plays the role of the invisible hand, allocating resources, the former is conducive to perfecting market rules and creating favorable conditions for competition. Particularly, it is important for the government to perform the functions of fostering equal access to public services and ensuring different social groups’ cultural and tourism rights.

The last is the relationship between tourists and residents. Both the local public cultural resources and commercial cultural activities, apart from meeting the needs of local people, are attractive to the tourists that come from afar. However, it is possible that the local residents and external tourists, though being interactive in sharing resources and facilities as well as in participating in some activities together, have conflicts with each other.

Therefore, to ensure sound integration between culture and tourism, the interests and demands of local residents should be respected to ensure their higher living quality. In addition, the local distinctive culture and resources as well as refined services should be made accessible for tourists.


This article was edited and translated from China Culture Daily. Song Rui is director of the Tourism Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

​(edited by BAI LE)