Stakeholder Contradictions and Win-win Strategies for Tourism along the Ancient Tea Horse Road in the South of Yunnan based on Game Analysis

  • WANG Yan ,
  • XIE Hongzhong , *
  • Yunnan University of Finance and Economics, Kunming 650221, China
*, XIE Hongzhong, E-mail:

Received date: 2019-12-30

  Accepted date: 2020-02-25

  Online published: 2020-09-30

Supported by

The Key Projects of Philosophy and Social Science Research Base in Yunnan Province(JD2019ZD03)

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of People’s Republic of China(WMYC20181-083)


With the emergence of the concept of cultural routes, researchers have increasingly turned their attention to the sustainable development of tourism along cultural routes. The needs for community participation and the ongoing provision of benefits of stakeholders are characteristics of cultural routes. Therefore, the importance of cooperative relations and systematic development among stakeholders in tourism activities along cultural routes has become a subject of interest. This paper selects local government, tourism enterprises and local community residents, all of which play a key role in the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route in the south of Yunnan, as the main stakeholders. We use game theory to construct a model to trace interactions between local government and tourism enterprises, between tourism enterprises and community residents, and between local government and community residents. The paper then analyzes the different interests of the three parties and key factors that influence them in the game process. This provided a certain scientific basis for the win-win decisions regarding tourism development made by the three parties. Our results show that the final decision choices of the three parties depend on the initial payoff matrix of the game, and the influence of key parameters. When making decisions about tourism, the government should respect the wishes of local residents, strengthen protections of local traditions, manage the unreasonable behavior of tourism enterprises as they develop tourism, and develop appropriate penalties for violations of regulations. When tourism enterprises carry out tourism development, they should let community residents take the initiative and fully participate in tourism activities, and be sure that income from tourism is fed back to local residents, to ensure that tourism is mutually beneficial. The study shows that conflicts among the three parties originated mainly from differences in interests, but that the three parties also shared common interests. With a goal of coordinating interests, we can establish relevant mechanisms, follow the principle of interest realization, attach importance to supervision and management, strengthen community participation and decision-making, and realize win-win results for the three parties.

Cite this article

WANG Yan , XIE Hongzhong . Stakeholder Contradictions and Win-win Strategies for Tourism along the Ancient Tea Horse Road in the South of Yunnan based on Game Analysis[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2020 , 11(5) : 531 -538 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2020.05.011

1 Introduction

Each cultural route is unique, meaning that many stakeholders are involved in the development and management of tourism. Each stakeholder determines or influences the development of tourism along cultural routes to a certain extent (Wang, 2008). Stakeholders in cultural routes have different resource endowments, interest appeals and methods of realizing their interests (Wang and Huang, 2013). In fact, the process of tourism development and management along a cultural route is an interest-based game process and a pursuit designed to balance interests among various stakeholders. Therefore, this paper studies the contradictions, game behaviors and strategy choices of three kinds of stakeholders in cultural routes from the perspective of game theory. The three types of stakeholders are local governments, tourism enterprises and local community residents. We hope to identify ways to better coordinate the interest relationships among the stakeholders in cultural route tourism and promote development of win-win situations for all stakeholders.
The study of game theory began with the publication in 2004 of the Theory of Games and Economic Behavior co-authored by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern (John von Neumann and Oskar, 2004). The “Nash equilibrium” introduced by John Forbes Nash, Jr. in the 1950s examined the internal relationship between game theory and game equilibrium, and this laid a foundation for the subsequent study of game theory. The research and application of game theory in tourism by foreign scholars mainly includes analyses of interest subjects. For example, Sautter and Leisen (2002) developed a basic map of stakeholders, including information on eight stakeholders related to tourism planning. Using this map as a beginning point, Ryan (2002) expanded the scope of stakeholders and analyze 12 types pf stakeholders involved in tourism economic organizations. Regarding the study of the distribution of benefits in the game process, Cohen believes that independent providers of tourism goods or service can obtain more benefits in the tourism economy than other game participants (Cohen, 2001). Fisun Yuksel used a semi-open survey method to investigate the question of how benefits from the development of the tourism industry in Pamokkale, Turkey, should be distributed, and proposed a plan for the distribution of benefits, and believe that the proportion of the interests of the local villagers in the ancient town should be increased (Fisun et al., 1999).
The earliest application of game theory to the field of tourism in China was Wu Changwen’s study in 1997 (Wu, 1997). This study explored the game countermeasures of various rational decision-making subjects involved in tourism development, including government, tourism enterprises, local residents, and tourists, and to explore in planning management. The research and application of game theory in the field of tourism in China focuses mainly on analyses of games involving governments, tourism enterprises and local residents. For example, Huang (2008) analyzed contradictions between the protection and development of rural tourism, and the behavior of local residents, tourism enterprises and the government, and finally put forward suggestions to promote the harmonious coexistence of protection and development of rural tourism. Zhang (2007) analyzed the game behaviors among stakeholders in Qingshui in the later period.
Few scholars have taken into consideration the concept of interest subjects when studying the development of tourism along cultural routes. Taking tourism interest subject in the cultural route as a whole, the study of its game relationship and win-win strategy is even rarer (Aas, 2005). The authors of this study believe that cultural routes and tourism development support and promote each other, the two are inseparable. Studying the game relationship among the tourism interest subjects on the cultural route is of practical significance for the sustainable development of tourism on the cultural route.

2 Definition of the core interests of tourism along the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route in the south of Yunnan

2.1 Definition of interests

It is precisely because different tourist destinations bring together different groups of interest subjects that the definition of the tourism interest subject along the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route in the south of Yunnan needs to be examined. This can be done by combining the theory of interest subjects with their own understanding. For example, Waldbrook defines local communities, tourists, government agencies, media organizations, volunteer agencies, and experts as the stakeholders in sustainable tourism (Loyd, 2001). Tan Hongyang defines the core interests of ecotourism in nature reserves as local communities, tourists, government departments, ecotourism investors, ecotourism core enterprises, and nature reserve management agencies (Tan and Zhu, 2007). Questionnaires and field surveys, based on a combination of stakeholder theory and actual local conditions, were used to develop a map of stakeholder groups for the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route.
We see in Fig. 1 that the main stakeholders involved in the process of tourism development along the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route include local community residents, tourists, tourism enterprises, governments, media organizations, scenic area administrative agencies and tourism bureaus, and residents around the scenic spot. The attitudes and behaviors of these interest subjects have important effects on the development of the tourism.
Fig. 1 Tourism interest subjects of the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route in the south of Yunnan

2.2 Definition of core interests

This paper looks at the groups, organizations and individuals that have a direct interest in the development of tourism along the Ancient Tea Horse Road in southern Yunnan. Unequal interests on either side can have a negative impact on the development and operation of tourism along the route, and this is the core interest subject of tourism. First of all, stakeholder maps for many tourism systems show tourism enterprises and local residents as core stakeholders; there is a consensus that these two groups are key stakeholders. Secondly, the responsibility of the local government is to promote the development and protection of local tourism resources. Based on the actual situation with respect to tourism development along the Ancient Tea Horse Road, the core interest subjects are local residents, enterprises, and the government. The relationships among these three types of core interest subjects and their interest demands have a direct impact on the development of tourism along the cultural route (as shown in Fig. 2).
Fig. 2 Core stakeholders and their relationships

3 Analysis of the subjects of tourism interests along the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route in the south of Yunnan

3.1 Analysis of stakeholders

3.1.1 Governments
The government agencies and personnel involved with the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route mainly include the heads of the cities and district governments along the route as well as leaders of relevant government units and institutions, such as the director of the Ximeng Culture, Radio, Film and Television Tourism Bureau.
In-depth interviews with government along the route revealed that, although many governments do not directly participate in the development of hiking tourism on the ancient road, they have the right to approve and supervise the development of cultural route tourism and are responsible for formulating relevant policies to promote the development of tourism along ancient road. They have the responsibility to safeguard the interests of local residents, coordinate the interests of various stakeholders, and ensure the steady and orderly development of tourism on the route. At the same time, because local government is, itself, a core stakeholder in tourism along the Ancient Tea Horse Road; government has its own interest demands. These are to maximize social and public welfare, and to maximize the individual interests of government personnel.
3.1.2 Tourism enterprises
The enterprises along the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route include enterprises that provide food services, accommodations, and travel, retail and entertainment services, as well as tourism-related entities that have become established along the cultural route, such as the Taetea Group, the Bolian Group, and the Jinkongque Tourism Company.
Tourism enterprises are the pillars of development for the tourism economy along the Ancient Tea Horse Road in southern Yunnan. They have the right to operate and manage tourism development, bring economic benefits to the routes, and are one of the sources of fiscal revenue for local governments. Tourism companies directly affect the development of the local tourism industry, and their interests are usually to maximize the company's revenue stream. However, in the process of maximizing profits, the development and protection of local tourism resources, the level of benefits available to local community residents, and the supervision and cooperation of the local government are all affected.
3.1.3 Communities and residents
The communities and residents along the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route refer to the residents living in various areas, such as Jingmaishan Tea Garden, Lao Dabao, and Mnegjinglai, along the route that are involved in and affected by tourism activities.
Local residents occupy a relatively important position in the development of tourism; they constitute an important part of the human resources and define the social environment. The resources that existed before development of the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route began are the material basis on which local residents depend. Local residents are inseparable from the Ancient Tea Horse Road. The development of tourism along the Ancient Tea Horse Road creates many job opportunities, but it also imposes certain limits on the production and life of local residents.
To promote the sustainable development of tourism, more and more voices call for communities to actively participate in the development of tourism activities, and encourage the empowerment of communities to ensure that they have the right to make decisions and speak. The interests of residents of local communities are mainly in the areas of decision-making and benefit distribution for tourism. Only when local communities and the general public actively cooperate and have the right to speak and make decisions about tourism development, while also receiving a reasonable and fair distribution of benefits, can they enthusiastically promote the healthy development of local tourism.

3.2 Analysis of contradictions in the game relationship

3.2.1 The game relationship and contradictions between governments and community residents
(1) Contradiction analysis. In order to promote local economic development, local governments may undertake tourism development activities, including the acquisition of land and employment of local residents develop tourism. Governments also formulate and implement tourism-related policies and plans, resulting in changes in the lives, living conditions and environment of residents. During this process, residents must be willing to change their living habits and accept the contradiction of having tourists in their midst. Local residents may make suggestions for local tourism development and they can support or obstruct the development of local tourism, in response to the behavior of other stakeholders.
(2) Game relationship. The government may choose to develop or not develop tourism, while community residents may choose to support or not support tourism development. When contradictions arise, enterprises may choose to negotiate or enforce it, and residents may choose to obey or resist (as shown in Fig. 3).
Fig. 3 Game relationship between local government and residents
A: Revenue from other activities carried out by the local government, not including tourism development activities
B: The local government's revenue from tourism development
C1: The income when local community residents icoordinating with government
C2: Loss of government revenue that occurs when local community residents do not cooperate with government activities
D: When residents do not support a government activity, the government and the community residents negotiate the situation with respect to the residents’ income.
D1: The impact on the income of residents when the residents do not support a government activity and the government negotiates with the community residents
D2: The losses incurred by the government when the residents do not support a government activity and the government forces development
E1: The benefits that accrue to residents for successful cooperation with the government after an enforcement action
E2: The losses incurred by the government when the government takes enforcement action residents resist
(3) Game results. When tourism development can bring more benefits, governments opt to develop tourism activities. The decision of community residents to cooperate or resist depends mainly on the benefits they can obtain and the cost they must pay to get those benefits. In this game, local governments and community residents have very different statuses. Community residents are generally in a weak position because the cost of boycotting the government is high. In the end, their only real choice is to cooperate with the government's development policy.
3.2.2 Game relationship and contradiction between governments and tourism enterprises
(1) Contradiction analysis. The game between government and tourism enterprises is visible mainly in the level of market supervision. The government’s function makes its interest claims show a strong public welfare. It is necessary to supervise the development of tourism and the operations of tourism management enterprises and take action quickly to stop unreasonable or illegal behaviors such as excessive development. Tourism enterprises always seek to maximize their own benefits. They reduce costs to increase profits, may over-exploit resources, and neglect the interests of community residents. The activities of enterprises can result in a decline in total social welfare (Jin, 2012).
(2) Game relationship. When tourism enterprises engage in tourism development and offer tourism experiences to tourists, they may choose to develop rationally, pay taxes to the government, and assume certain social responsibilities. However, some tourism enterprises over-develop, ignore the interests of the residents, and create unreasonable problems for relevant government officials in order to obtain improper economic benefits. The government must choose whether to supervise and rectify these enterprises (Table 1).
A1: Income from reasonable development and operations
A2: Income from unreasonable development and operations
A3: The cost of rectification; the cost of supervision and rectification affects the frequency of government supervision and rectification activities
A4: Penalties for tourism enterprises that the government discovers using non-scientific management methods
A5: Income obtained by the government after the supervision and rectification, and economic income and social income
(3) Game results. For the government, if rectification costs (A3) are high enough, the intensity of the government's rectification efforts will be low. If the government's income after rectification is greater (A5) than the cost of rectification (A3), the government’s willingness to make corrections will be strong. For tourism enterprises, if the income from unreasonable development is greater than the income from reasonable development and operation, the enterprise will engage in non-scientific management behaviors. However, if measures to penalize enterprises are taken into account, and A2-A4<A1, development is not cooperative. If income minus the penalty amount results in less income than an enterprise can expect from reasonable operations, the enterprise will choose to operate legally.
Table 1 Game relationship between local governments and tourism enterprises
Enterprises Governments
Supervision and rectification No supervision and rectification
Legal operation (A2-A4, -A3+A5) (A2, 0)
Illegal operation (A1, -A3) (A1, 0)
3.2.3 Game relationship and contradictions between community residents and tourism enterprises
(1) Contradiction analysis. As part of the development of tourism, to attract tourism businesses to settle in the area, governments transfer management rights to tourism enterprises providing a wide range of services, from food and beverage services and accommodations to travel, retail sales and entertainment services. Tourism enterprises rely on their economic, human resources and technological advantages to occupy a dominant position in the market for tourism services, and may neglect the living and work needs of local communities. The attitude of community residents towards tourists will affect the quality of tourist experience, local economic benefits and evaluation. It is possible that local communities become rivals of enterprises, for example, in the provision of accommodations and in other ways.
(2) Game relationship. In the process of providing tourism services, enterprises can choose whether to compensate community residents for their use of tourism resources, and whether to share benefits with community residents. Community residents can choose to accept the business behavior of tourism enterprises or interfere with it (Table 2).
Table 2 Game relationship between residents and tourism enterprises
Residents Enterprises
Share benefits with residents Do not share benefits with residents
Support (A1, B1) (A1-A2, B1+A2)
Against (A1+B2, B1-B2) (-A2, -B2)
A1: Income obtained by residents when the community supports tourism enterprises
B1: Income obtained by tourism enterprises when community residents support tourism enterprises
A2: Residents in the community support tourism enterprises, but incur losses when tourism enterprises do not share profits with residents
B2: Loss of tourism enterprises when community residents interfere with tourism enterprises
(3) Game results. In this game, the income of tourism enterprises and local residents depends not only on their own strategic choices, but is also influenced by the strategic choices of the other party. Different strategic choices made by the two sides will affect their respective interests, and the ultimate goal is to make the best strategic choice. The benefits that community residents can obtain by supporting tourism enterprises are A1, A1-A2 and those they can obtain from interfering are A1+B2, -A2. The benefits that tourism enterprises choose to share benefits with residents and not to share benefits with residents are B1, B1+A2 and B1-B2, -B2. If a resident chooses to support a tourism enterprise, but the tourism enterprise does not share the income with the resident, the tourism enterprise can obtain additional income A2, but the resident suffers a loss -A2; Similarly, the tourism enterprise shares the income with the resident, but the resident interferes with the tourism operation Behavior, residents can get an additional income of B2, but the tourism enterprise loses -B2.Similarly, tourism enterprises share the income with residents, while residents interfere with tourism management and the development of tourism enterprises. Residents can get extra income (B2), while tourism enterprises lose (-B2).

4 Suggestions for win-win strategies

4.1 The establishment of appropriate mechanisms

To begin with, cooperation mechanisms are needed. When tourism development is underway in a particular locality, there is a division of labor and responsibilities for local government, enterprises and community residents, and the three parties cooperate with each other. For example, the government is responsible for planning in the area, the repair of roads, and the overall control of tourism development. Enterprises are responsible for the admission of tourists, the reception of tour groups and must care for the area on a daily basis. Communities and residents participate in the decision-making processes of the government and enterprises, engage in production and business activities, and sell tourist souvenirs. Repaired house and foundations are owned by local residents, and the government stipulates that residents are not allowed to rent houses to outsiders for profit, thus maintaining the character of the village as a whole.
Second, education mechanisms are needed. Community managers and planners need to provide residents, visitors, enterprises and other stakeholders with educational information. They should also organize programs (such as seminars) to raise public and political awareness.
Third, interest expression mechanisms are needed. Three- way interest channels are needed so that the three key stakeholders can express their legitimate interests and make demands in a timely manner through institutionalized channels. Such channels help to promote communication and consultation among the various interest parties.

4.2 The essentials of realizing interests

First, continuous coordination is needed. Whether the issue is tourism development, the method of development to be employed, the use of resources or the distribution of income, relevant stakeholders should always coordinate and be cognizant of the need for fairness.
Second, the transfer of interests is needed. During the process of coordinating interest relations, if each party is only concerned with its own self-interest and ignores the interests of others, the process is not mutually beneficial and overall interest growth is limited.
Appropriate transfer of interests should be implemented, and the pursuit of other interests should be taken into account when pursuing the maximization of personal interests. While the government has the responsibility of coordination and management supervision, enterprises should fulfill their social responsibilities while operating tourism services. Community residents have the responsibility of coordinating and promoting the development of local tourism.
Third, a combination of equilibrium and disequilibrium is needed. The principle of equilibrium refers to the realization of the interests of all stakeholders to the greatest extent possible within a context of social tolerance, while avoiding unnecessary disputes and vicious competition. The principle of disequilibrium refers to the difference of interests among various stakeholders on the basis of fairness. Only when there are differences of interests can there be motivation to compete. Benign competition is conducive to promoting overall development and maintaining lasting vitality. The relationship between equilibrium and disequilibrium shows the unity of opposites. Equilibrium is not the same as equality, nor is it equal to the invariability of interest relations. A certain difference in interests is conducive to the lack of self-awareness of stakeholders, and healthy competition is conducive to promoting sustainable development and the interest growth of rural tourism.

4.3 Supervision and management

The supervision and management of the behaviors of various stakeholders can standardize the development of tourism, guide various stakeholders to increase economic benefits in the process of engaging in tourism activities in a legal and compliant manner, and can effectively avoid conflicts caused by self-serving behaviors. We can strengthen supervision by involving third-party regulatory agencies and formulating industry regulations and articles of association, so as to improve the awareness interest subjects have of the need for self-discipline. In view of the food service, accommodations, and travel, shopping, entertainment and other types of services offered along cultural routes, appropriate management committees, such as the Home Stay Management Committee and the Food and Beverage Management Committee, can be formed to realize management supervision in specific fields.

4.4 Community participation

Community participation is crucial to sustainable development and cooperation along cultural routes. This participation is characterized by partnership and cooperation among multi-stakeholder groups. There is widespread agreement that the actual degree of community participation represents a meaningful standard for evaluating the sustainability of tourism. Community participation can make the distribution of benefits and costs more effective and fair, and more importantly, it can help to change the process of people's self-development and knowledge sharing. It is important to promote the process of people’s self-development and knowledge sharing.
Several factors determine the degree of community participation: first, how stakeholder groups cooperate with each other (passive participation or active participation that seeks to identify common points and reconcile differences); second, the extent of community participation in strategic decision-making; third, the extent to which communities share interests and responsibilities; and fourth, how power is distributed among interest groups in the decision-making process.

5 Conclusions

The cultural route is taken as the research focus of this paper, with the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route in the south of Yunnan serving as a case study. Among the many stakeholders influencing the development of tourism, the three key groups are local governments, tourism enterprises and local community residents. These key stakeholders are chosen as responsible subjects for analysis from the perspective of game theory. A game model is constructed to discuss the different interest appeals of the stakeholders and the key factors that contribute to finding win-win solutions. The main research conclusions of this article are as follows:
First, for different tourist destinations, different groups of stakeholders are involved. After analyzing the unique characteristics of the Ancient Tea Horse Road cultural route, and taking into consideration the theory of interest subjects, we can see from the development of tourism along this cultural route in southern Yunnan that stakeholders include local residents, tourists, tourism business enterprises, local governments, media organizations, scenic spot administrative agencies, tourism administration departments, people living around scenic spots and other groups. The core stakeholders along this cultural route include local residents, tourism business enterprises, and local governments.
Second, after analyzing the claims of the core stakeholders, we found that the government's interests include two items: first, the maximization of social and public welfare; and second, the maximization of the personal interests of government personnel. The interests of tourism companies can generally be summed up as a desire to maximize enterprise profits. However, in the process of maximizing huge returns, enterprises can also affect the development and protection of local tourism resources, the benefits local residents receive, and the supervision and cooperation of local governments. Community residents have interest demands mainly in the areas of tourism decision-making and interest distribution.
Third, our analysis of contradictions revealed that, first, there are the contradiction between local governments and local residents. These contradictions focus mainly on whether the government chooses to carry out tourism development, whether the government tries to force compliance or negotiates in the event of a conflict, and on whether residents respond to conflicts by complying or resisting. The second group of contradictions are those between local governments and tourism enterprises. These focus mainly on the level of market supervision enterprises are subjected to, and whether their operations are legal. Finally, we examined contradictions between tourism enterprises and local residents. These focus mainly on whether enterprises share revenue with residents and whether residents offer support in return.
Fourth, our research led us to conclude that the final decision-making choice of the three stakeholders depended on the influence of the game's initial payment matrix and key parameters. When making tourism decisions, the government should respect the wishes of local residents and strengthen protections of local traditions. Government should manage and supervise any unreasonable tourism development activities of tourism enterprises, and take appropriate measures to penalize enterprises that do not comply with regulations. Tourism enterprises should allow community residents to actively and fully participate in tourism activities as part of the tourism development process. Some income from tourism should be fed back to residents so that a win-win mechanism can be formed. Although there are differences in interest appeals between subjects, there are also common interests. It is possible to establish relevant mechanisms that coordinate interests, follow the principle of interest realization, attach importance to supervision and management, strengthen community participation and decision-making, and achieve a win-win solution for all three parties.
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