I work on the dynamic interface between tourism and urban governance. My research has focused largely on the rapidly-growing Chinese and Asian tourist segment and their associated home and destination cities and societies. This interest emerged from my time in Macao and China where I taught in a Macao tourism college and served as a consultant on cultural heritage for UNESCO. During my time in the Netherlands, I had also built on my existing research to lead and conduct research into the heritage and urban tourism of Amsterdam and had made in-roads into the nascent but vibrant field of ‘carceral geography’. I seek to build on these foundations to investigate the workings of power in nascent but potentially fast-growing Chinese tourism in in two key locations on and off the routes of the belt-road initiative aimed at attracting an anticipated ‘wave’ of new Chinese tourists and their implications of these for understandings of culture and heritage.
Tourism, Theming and Urbanisation of Chinese Cities
In the last 5 years, I maintained a focus on tourism and urban governance by researching domestic tourism within mainland China with an emphasis on theme park construction and operation and their role within China’s urbanisation and urban life. In particular, I have drawn on recent works in themed spaces and theming to look at how cultural motifs and ideals operate to shape both the experiences and the physical environments of contemporary Chinese societies.
Dark Tourism and Carceral Geographies
While based in the Netherlands, I leveraged on my then proximity to historically-rich European sites by leading and managing a research project to study the heritage landscape and urban tourism of Amsterdam. This project is centred on the historic Lloyd Hotel which had variously been a transhipment hotel, Jewish refugee camp, prison and boutique hotel and the project had successfully generated 4 journal articles and a Routledge book chapter. I have also begun work on former refugee camp sites in Singapore and Indonesia and am writing up the manuscripts.
The Heritage of Singapore Tourism Attractions
I am also keen to develop the idea of a heritage of tourism places.
To this, I have embarked on a journey to recount and document the tourism attractions of Singapore's past.
Culture, Power and Tourism Landscapes
My research has focused on the interactions between tourism, culture and urban governance, paying attention to the ways in which modern rationalities and urban ideals and expectations shape the ways in which tourism places and peoples are governed. This begun with my early bachelor on the interplay between Orientalism, film-making and tourism in Thailand and Master’s thesis work on the ways in which old and new urban ideals shape and complicate Singapore citizens’ adventure tourism practices and travels through workings of power and ‘governmentality’. Building on my PhD work on tourism knowledge production and tour guiding in Macao and my work-based relocation to Macao from Singapore, my early research has focused on tourism within the internally-autonomous Chinese territory of Macao. In this early research, I investigated the ways in which modern rationalities embedded in UNESCO-endorsed doctrines interact with Beijing-sanctioned pan-Pearl River Delta urban policies, corporate and capitalistic concerns and local politics in Macao’s World Heritage and urban tourism.
The Next Steps: Chinese Travels in the ‘Belt-Road’ Era
The next steps of my research will focus on investigating Chinese travels in the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macao (the very first destination for Chinese outbound tourism) and the Laotian town of Luang Prabang. Adopting a multi-sited ethnographic research framework, this study will shed light on both the new and old social and cultural tensions in the conduct, development and experience of Chinese outbound tourism and contribute to understandings of how the ‘belt-road’ initiative may impact upon new and old destinations.