Changing roles of tour guides: From “agent to serve” to “agent of change”

Lianping Ren, Cora Un In Wong, Caiwei Ma, Yanping Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The guided tour industry has undergone drastic changes in China along with the socio-economic, demographic, and technological developments of the past decades, leading to new demands on the tour guide profession. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the changes. Yet little is known regarding how the tour guides’ roles have evolved. This study aims to fill this gap through exploring new roles and services undertaken by tour guides, drawing on qualitative data (in-depth interviews) from both tour guides’ and tourists’ recent guided tour experience in China. The findings demonstrate a continuum of roles of the guides, ranging from “the serving roles” to being “the ones who facilitate changes.” Five main driving forces were identified, namely: the tourists’ customization needs, demographic change, rapid ICT development, increased special interests, and the pandemic and tourists’ favor in remote destinations. Instead of expecting serving roles only, the Chinese tourists now welcome roles that can foster positive changes, reflecting Chinese tourists’ motivational shift to having eudaimonic experience through traveling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-74
Number of pages20
JournalTourist Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Chinese tourists
  • agent of change
  • guided tours
  • package tour
  • roles
  • tour guides


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