2020-2021 Colloquium Series
The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to present
Who Am I and Who Should I Be? -
The Issues of Constructing a Tourism Destination Identity of the Northern Mariana Islands
Yunzi Zhang, Assistant Professor
Buusiness and Hospitality Management, Northern Marianas College
Friday, February 26, 4PM-6PM
Hosted on Zoom [click here]
As an integral part of the world tourism landscape, pacific tourism is often understood as a combination of beach, palm tree and "exotic" dance. Tourism research around the Pacific islands tends to characterize the region as a whole, in particular focusing on Hawaii due to its comparatively large economy and population. But because Pacific island nations embody unique heritage and history, it is critical to examine each on how tourism development is intertwined with its respective local reality.
This research centers around how the tourism identity and attributes of Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) have been constructed differently in recent decades. Because of its colonization by Spain, Germany and Japan and current affiliation with the U.S., the complication of its historical and political identities makes it a persisting challenge for the indigenous islanders to encapsulate a unified identity of the NMI for different inbound tourist groups, mainly from China, Japan and Korea. Due to their tangled history, the three tourist groups have distinct expectations and imaginations of what the NMI resembles and has to offer.
The preliminary findings of the research consist of three perspectives. First, the difficulty of building a unified destination identity of the NMI is rooted in the absence of a strong indigenous culture that should have led the tourism development in the region. Strategic identity-building based on the indigenous knowledge is yet considered a priority for locals. Second, the current destination marketing campaign creates a divisive image of the NMI, but has achieved substantial economic success. It raises the question of whether a uniformed identity of a destination is always necessary when the dynamics of the market has already changed. Lastly, the tourism development of the NMI and the greater S.W. Pacific may be positioned in the on-going regional geopolitical changes. With China's growing influence over international tourism, it is becoming difficult for the NMI to tell a true and strong "American story" to the Chinese tourists.
Yunzi Zhang joined the faculty of the Northern Marianas College in the Commonwealth of the NMI in 2017, after receiving a PhD in hospitality & tourism management from Purdue University in Indiana, US. Yunzi's research interests include history / politics and tourism, Chinese outbound tourism, and qualitative research methodology. Her book chapter Quality Experiences of China's Family Tourists in the United States was recognized as an Outstanding Author Contribution in the 2019 Emerald Literati Awards. Yunzi holds a master's degree in hospitality management from Cornell University and a B.B.A. from George Washington University.