Guanxi or weak ties? Exploring Chinese diaspora tourists’ engagements in social capital building

Tingting Elle LI*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Most of existing studies assume that diaspora tourism can facilitate the tourists to reconnect socially to their ancestral home. Yet, how and why diaspora tourists engage in social capital building during their home return trips is still uncertain. Whether they feel socially connected and which groups they are more likely to build connections with are unknown. This study explores the ways in which diaspora tourists foster and sustain social capital by focusing on the case of Chinese immigrants and descendants. Based on 39 in-depth interviews with Chinese home return travellers, four scenarios of how they engage in transnational social capital building are identified. The findings suggest that how a diaspora tourist constructs social capital is influenced by the individual’s place and collective identity, values and perceptions he/she holds, obligations, and personal interests. Migrants in each scenario devote to building different types of social capital with ties of varied strength and depth, suggesting that the effects of diaspora tourism in facilitating the construction of social capital are different. This study advances our understanding of the social functions of diasporic return, and provides practical implications for destination managers who want to better understand the motives and social needs of home return travellers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1036
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Issues in Tourism
Issue number8
Early online date12 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Chinese migrants
  • diasporic return
  • identity
  • Social capital
  • weak ties
  • ‘guanxi’


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