Resilience Assessment and the Diagnosis of Obstacles at Ancient Capital Tourism Sites

  • WANG Yingjie ,
  • JIAO Shanshan , * ,
  • ZHU Xiaoyue
  • College of Tourism and Exhibition, Henan University of Economics and Law, Zhengzhou 450046, China
*JIAO Shanshan, E-mail:

Received date: 2023-05-09

  Accepted date: 2023-08-30

  Online published: 2023-12-27

Supported by

The Henan Province Philosophy and Social Science Planning Project(2018CJJ069)

The Henan University of Finance and Economics and Law School-level Project([2021] 16)


Based on the theory of resilience, this study utilized the panel data of the four major ancient capital tourist sites in Henan Province from 2009 to 2022 to construct a resilience evaluation index system that includes economic resilience, social resilience, cultural resilience, and ecological resilience. Then, with the help of the entropy-weighted TOPSIS method and an obstacle-degree model, the resilience levels of the ancient capital tourist sites in 2009‒2022 were measured and the factors that act as obstacles were identified. The findings can be summarized in terms of Comprehensive Resilience, Subsystem Resilience and Factors Acting as Barriers. (1) Comprehensive resilience:This study reveals disparities in the development of overall resilience in ancient city tourist destinations. Zhengzhou emerges as the leader with the highest overall resilience score of 0.577, followed by Luoyang. In contrast, Kaifeng and Anyang exhibit relatively lower levels of resilience development. (2) Subsystem resilience:Zhengzhou consistently maintains a relatively high level of resilience with minor fluctuations, while Luoyang occupies a mid-range position and exhibits a stable developmental trajectory. Conversely, Kaifeng and Anyang have consistently operated at lower resilience levels, and are characterized by slower developmental progress. (3) Factors acting as barriers:Distinct subsystem indicators exert varying degrees of influence as barriers for resilience within the ancient city tourist destinations, referred to as the “barrier degree”. Economic resilience consistently maintains the highest barrier degree among the subsystems, while social resilience and cultural resilience demonstrate relatively similar barrier degrees. In contrast, ecological resilience exhibits the lowest barrier degree. The factors that obstruct the enhancement of resilience in ancient city tourist destinations exhibit remarkable consistency, with minimal annual fluctuations. Notably, the total tourist growth rate stands out as the primary impediment that constrains resilience development, and it consistently demonstrates a high barrier degree.

Cite this article

WANG Yingjie , JIAO Shanshan , ZHU Xiaoyue . Resilience Assessment and the Diagnosis of Obstacles at Ancient Capital Tourism Sites[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2024 , 15(1) : 77 -89 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2024.01.007

1 Introduction

The tourism industry has emerged as one of the most robust and largest sectors driving global economic development, as well as being one of the most labor-intensive industries that directly or indirectly generates extensive employment and economic growth worldwide (Sharma et al., 2021). Ancient city tourism destinations, as unique representations blending historical and cultural heritage with numerous modern tourism elements, possess profound cultural significance and scarce tourist resources, so they offer a distinct appeal to visitors. In the midst of competitive trends towards commercialization, mass tourism, and the homogenization of tourist destinations, the advantages of ancient city tourism stand out. During the process of intensive tourism development and the influx of a large number of tourists, the ancient city tourism industry has experienced rapid growth but also faced various disruptions and challenges. For example, environmental degradation, prominent conflicts between residents and tourists, and exceeding ecological thresholds through tourism activities have all been issues. Furthermore, the recognition of the rightful status and value of ancient city tourism is often lacking, as is guidance on how to preserve the cultural essence and heritage that shape the souls of ancient city tourism destinations. Some ancient city tourism destinations have vague positioning, and an insufficient emphasis on their cultural advantages, so their tourism development potential remains untapped. Along with the inherent vulnerability of the tourism industry, risks associated with environmental uncertainties have led to a slowdown in tourism development. This situation has been exacerbated by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused the global tourism industry to enter a prolonged period of stagnation, so it is increasingly challenging to achieve high-quality tourism development which has led to a reversal in the progress of sustainable development. However, research has shown that the tourism industry often has the capacity to rebound rapidly and even turn crises into opportunities (Pascariu et al., 2021). In today’s highly competitive tourism landscape, adapting to the broader trend of cultural and tourism integration, formulating ancient city tourism development strategies that are closely tied to cultural heritage, and enhancing the resilience, adaptability, and transformation capabilities of ancient city destinations in the face of internal and external disruptions are of paramount importance. Rapidly transforming these challenges into opportunities holds great practical significance for deepening the development of the tourism industries in those destinations.

2 Literature review

Currently, research on ancient city tourism is scarce, with the existing literature primarily focusing on aspects such as the study of cultural heritage within ancient cities (Liu et al., 2015), tourism resource planning and development (Kuang, 2014), and research on tourism competitiveness (Liang et al., 2014). Each of these studies tends to adopt a single, static perspective driven by practical applications, often overlooking the systemic, dynamic, and intrinsic aspects of the development process of ancient city tourism destinations. Addressing the inherent vulnerability of the tourism industry at its core, some scholars have attempted to explore the concept of destination resilience to enhance a destination’s capacity to resist and adapt to external disturbances (He et al., 2022). The concept of “resilience” was originally introduced into the field of ecology by Holling in 1973, forming the basis of the understanding of ecological resilience (Holling, 1973). Walker et al. (2004) described resilience as a complex concept that characterizes a system’s ability to absorb disturbances and reorganize while changing to maintain basic feedback, as well as the same functions, characteristics, and structure. Since the mid-1990s, the concept of resilience has gradually gained acceptance and, with the advancement of global environmental change and sustainable development principles, it has been extended into the realm of tourism, opening new avenues for the academic study of complex tourism systems (Espiner et al., 2017). To achieve sustainable tourism development, both domestic and international scholars have conducted extensive research on destination resilience, with a focus on defining the conceptual framework of destination resilience (Yu et al., 2014; Shao and Xu, 2015), constructing measurement indicators for destination resilience, and quantitative assessment (Wang et al., 2015; Zhan and Gai, 2018; Bai et al., 2019). Research on the essence of destination resilience primarily emphasizes describing the components of resilience in tourism destinations, as well as highlighting their adaptability, recovery capabilities, sustainability, and the relationships and interactions between systems. Buultjens et al. (2017) asserted that destination resilience in tourism refers to the industry’s ability to effectively respond to disasters and internal crises in order to maintain sector stability while ensuring “the flexibility and diversity required for innovation and further development”. The main research areas have primarily centered on regions heavily affected by natural disasters and environmental changes, such as coastal tourist cities (Zhan and Gai, 2018) and ecotourism destinations (Wang et al., 2015). With the development of culture and tourism integration, the innovative development model of tourism combined with culture known as “tourism + culture”, has become mainstream. Ancient city tourism destinations are a unique category of tourist destinations that have attracted numerous visitors thanks to their rich cultural heritage, profound historical heritage, and distinct regional characteristics. Research on the resilience of ancient city tourism destinations has emerged as a new research direction. Based on a review and summary of research related to ancient city tourism destinations and resilience, we define the resilience of ancient city tourism destinations as their capacity to resist external and internal disturbances and adapt to transformation during the tourism development process.
As an important birthplace of Chinese civilization, Henan boasts four of the eight ancient capitals recognized by the China Ancient Capital Society in 2004:Zhengzhou, Luoyang, Kaifeng, and Anyang. Unlike natural scenic areas, ancient capitals possess non-renewable historical and cultural resources, which are also tourist resources. The cultural essence behind cultural relics and heritage is an indispensable measure of potential for the development of such human-oriented tourist destinations. However, the construction of the current resilience indicator system has overlooked the cultural dimension. Ancient city tourist destinations are complex systems that primarily attract visitors with their cultural tourism resources. Previous resilience research may not be applicable to cultural tourism. In the current context of the integration of culture and tourism, maximizing the core advantages of cultural ancient cities and promoting the sustained and healthy development of ancient city tourist destinations is of paramount significance. In light of the above considerations, this study takes the four culturally rich ancient cities in Henan Province, namely Luoyang, Kaifeng, Anyang, and Zhengzhou, as the case study areas. Based on panel data from 2009 to 2022, a resilience evaluation indicator system for ancient city tourist destinations was constructed from the social, economic, ecological, and cultural perspectives. Then the entropy-weighted TOPSIS evaluation model was applied to calculate the resilience of Henan’s ancient city tourist destinations and analyze their spatiotemporal evolution. Finally, an obstacle-degree model was employed to calculate and analyze the factors acting as obstacles to resilience and their degrees of obstruction for the four ancient city tourist destinations in Henan Province. The aim of this study is to broaden the perspective of resilience research in tourist destinations and provide a reference for the high-quality development of ancient city tourism destinations.

3 Study area, research methods, and data sources

3.1 Study area

Henan Province is situated in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River. As one of the cradles of ancient Chinese civilization, Henan boasts a profound and rich historical and cultural heritage. Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan, has been the capital of five different dynasties, namely the Xia, Shang, Guan, Zheng, and Han dynasties. It is renowned for being the site of the first dynasty in Chinese history with documented written records, marking the pioneering phase of urban planning and construction in China. In 2004, the Chinese Ancient Capital Society recognized Zhengzhou as the eighth major ancient capital. Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in Henan, holds the distinction of being the eastern starting point of the Silk Road and the central hub of the Sui and Tang Grand Canal. Historically, Luoyang has served as the capital for a multitude of dynasties, making it the earliest established capital with the greatest number of dynastic changes and the longest historical continuity among the ancient Chinese capitals. It stands as one of the most renowned and uncontested major ancient capitals. Kaifeng is another prefecture-level city in Henan, and it is often referred to as the “City of Ten Dynasties” or the “City of Seven Capitals”. It is unique as the only city in the world with an unaltered central axis throughout its history. Since the mid-Ming Dynasty, Kaifeng has been recognized as one of the “Four Major Ancient Capitals”, alongside Luoyang. Anyang is another prefecture-level city in Henan, which is renowned as the “City of Seven Capitals” and the birthplace of the oracle bone script. It is considered China’s earliest ancient capital with documented texts and archaeological evidence. In 1988, the Chinese Ancient Capital Society officially certified Anyang as the seventh major ancient capital in China.
This study focuses on the four major ancient capitals in Henan Province:Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, Luoyang, and Anyang. The data sources for this research primarily include the Henan Statistical Yearbooks from 2009 to 2022, statistical reports released by the municipal governments of Luoyang, Kaifeng, Anyang, and Zhengzhou covering the period from 2009 to 2022, as well as the “China Urban Statistical Yearbook” (2008‒2022). Missing data were supplemented using linear interpolation methods.

3.2 Indicator system construction and data sources

3.2.1 Indicator system construction

Ancient city tourist destinations primarily rely on historical and cultural resources for tourism development and value enhancement. This gives rise to cultural elements that interact and become intertwined with the social, ecological, and economic subsystems. Therefore, the resilience of ancient city tourist destinations should incorporate a “cultural subsystem” in addition to the existing mainstream resilience measurement framework, which comprises the social, economic, and ecological elements. The cultural subsystem emphasizes cultural significance and contemporary value, drawing from the indicator systems previously developed by scholars (Li, 2022; Ma et al., 2023). It comprehensively considers aspects such as the quantity of cultural heritage, cultural vitality, and public cultural participation.
Given this context, this study constructed the resilience indicator framework for ancient city tourist destinations based on the interaction of the four subsystems:social, economic, ecological, and cultural. Drawing from the inherent meaning of resilience in the text and building upon existing research outcomes (Zhan and Gai, 2018; Li et al., 2022), and considering the specific circumstances of Luoyang, Kaifeng, Anyang, and Zhengzhou, we adhered to the principles of scientific rigor, systematic validity, operability, and data availability in constructing the indicator system. We selected factors that influence tourism development and endogenous factors within the system to assess the vulnerability and coping capacities of ancient cities, resulting in a resilience assessment indicator system structured around four major dimensions:social, economic, ecological, and cultural (Table 1).
Table 1 Index system for measuring the resilience of ancient capital tourism sites
Target layer System layer Weight Indicator layer Unit Indicator meaning (Nature) Weight Property
The level of resilience of the ancient capital tourist place Economic resilience 0.4970 Growth rate of total tourism revenue (A1) % Tourism economic growth capacity 0.1496 +
Per capita disposable income of urban residents (A2) yuan Per capita payment capacity 0.0108 +
Total visitor growth rate (A3) % Tourism attractiveness 0.1777 +
GDP per capita (A4) yuan Economic strength 0.0193 +
Foreign direct investment amount (A5) 108 USD Degree of openness to the outside world 0.0558 +
Commodity retail price index (A6) System consumption level 0.0110
Total retail sales of consumer goods (A7) 104 yuan Economic spending power 0.0531 +
Share of primary sector in GDP (A8) % Economic output is strongly influenced by natural factors 0.0197
0.1812 Urbanization rate (B1) % Tourism market potential 0.0051 +
Number of students in school (B2) 104 person Systematic learning ability 0.0211 +
Number of beds in medical and health institutions (B3) Medical and health conditions 0.0317 +
Natural population growth rate (B4) % Natural population growth 0.0489
Share of science expenditure in fiscal expenditure (B5) % Science and technology investment efforts 0.0266 +
Share of education spending in fiscal spending (B6) % Education support efforts 0.0031 +
Share of social security and
employment in fiscal spending (B7)
% Social security capability 0.0062 +
Unemployment rate (B8) % Social stability 0.0385
Cultural resilience
Number of scenic spots of grade 4A and above (C1) Richness of cultural tourism resources 0.0361 +
Number of national-level intangible cultural heritage projects (C2) Cultural resource endowment potential 0.0035 +
National key cultural relics protection unit (C3) Heritage resources protection efforts 0.0289 +
Investment in fixed assets (C4) 108 yuan Investment intensity of the cultural industry 0.0462 +
Attendance at performances by
performing arts organizations (C5)
103 person Public cultural participation 0.0250 +
Cultural exhibitions (C6) freq Cultural liveliness 0.0293 +
Ecological resilience
Greening coverage of built-up areas (D1) % Degree in urban greening construction 0.0010 +
Urban domestic sewage treatment rate (D2) % Sewage treatment rate strength 0.0004 +
Proportion of days with good air
quality (D3)
% Air quality changes due to tourism disturbance 0.0091 +
Population density (D4) Person km-2 Land pressure due to tourism disturbance 0.0155
Harmless disposal rate of domestic waste (D5) % Solid waste disposal efforts 0.0049 +
Industrial wastewater discharge (D6) 104 t Ecological stress caused by wastewater 0.0142
Afforestation area (D7) 103 ha Artificial maintenance of ecosystem strength 0.0466 +
Arable land area (D8) 103 ha Ecological stress due to farming 0.0611

3.2.2 Data sources

This study primarily utilized data from the 2009‒2022 Henan Provincial Statistical Yearbook, as well as the Statistical Yearbook and National Economic Development Statistical Bulletin (2009‒2022) published by the governments of Luoyang, Kaifeng, Anyang, and Zhengzhou prefectures, and the China City Statistical Yearbook (2008‒2022). In cases where data were unavailable, linear interpolation was used to supplement the missing information.

3.3 Methodology

3.3.1 Entropy-TOPSIS model

The Entropy-weighted TOPSIS (Technique for Order of Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution) method is an improved comprehensive evaluation approach that builds upon the traditional TOPSIS evaluation method. This method employs the entropy weight method to determine the weights of evaluation indicators, which significantly reduces the subjectivity associated with subjective weighting. It comprehensively considers the information provided by each indicator to determine their respective weights (Xie and Wang, 2022). Subsequently, following the TOPSIS method, the technique of approximating the ideal solution is used to calculate proximity, thereby establishing the ranking of the evaluated objects (Hwang and Yoon, 1981). The core concept of TOPSIS is to define the distance between the optimal and worst solutions to a decision problem, and ultimately assess the merits and demerits of various solutions based on their relative proximity to the ideal solution. The determination of weights is a crucial step in the TOPSIS method, and the information entropy method effectively eliminates the influence of subjective factors. In the comprehensive assessment of resilience in ancient city tourist destinations, considering the complexity of evaluating multidimensional indicators and the prevalence of subjective elements in traditional methods such as weighted averages and expert-assigned weights, the entropy-weighted TOPSIS method was chosen as the comprehensive evaluation approach for this study. This choice aimed to objectively evaluate the resilience development of ancient city tourist destinations and examine their resilience development over time.
The system resilience level was determined by the entropy-weighted-TOPSIS evaluation model in the following seven steps.
Step 1:Data normalization process.
The evaluation of the resilience of ancient city tourist destinations involves both positive and negative indicators. A higher value for a positive indicator indicates a higher level of resilience in the ancient city tourist destination, while a lower value for a negative indicator also signifies a higher level of resilience. To ensure the comparability of the indicator data, standardization without dimensions was applied to both positive and negative indicators, resulting in values that range between 0 and 1. The formulas for the standardization calculations are as follows:
Positive indicators:
${{{x}'}_{ij}}=\frac{{{x}_{ij}}-\min {{x}_{ij}}}{\max {{x}_{ij}}-\min {{x}_{ij}}}$
Negative indicators:
${{{x}'}_{ij}}=\frac{\max {{x}_{ij}}-{{x}_{ij}}}{\max {{x}_{ij}}-\min {{x}_{ij}}}$
where, ${{x}_{ij}}$ represents the original values of the evaluation indicators for the i-th city and the j-th indicator; while ${{{x}'}_{ij}}$ denotes the standardized values; and $\max {{x}_{ij}}$ and $\min {{x}_{ij}}$ refer to the maximum and minimum values of the specific indicators for each region, respectively.
Step 2:Calculate the information entropy.
${{e}_{j}}=-k\sum\limits_{i=1}^{m}{{{p}_{ij}}\ln {{p}_{ij}}}$
where, m stands for m evaluated cities, ${{p}_{ij}}=x_{ij}^{'}/\sum\limits_{i=1}^{m}{x_{ij}^{'}}$ and $k=1/\ln m$, ${{p}_{ij}}$ represents the weight of the j-th indicator for the i-th city in the evaluation.
Step 3:Determine the weight ${{W}_{j}}$ for the j-th indicator.
Step 4:Construct a weighted decision matrix V.
$V={{W}_{j}}\times {{{x}'}_{ij}}$
Step 5:To establish the positive and negative ideal solutions for the indicators, we defined ${{V}^{+}}$ as the best solution among all alternatives, which is referred to as the positive ideal solution, and ${{V}^{-}}$ as the least desirable solution, also known as the negative ideal solution.
${{V}^{+}}=\left\{ \max {{V}_{ij}}\left| i=1,2,\cdots,m \right. \right\}$
${{V}^{-}}=\left\{ \min {{V}_{ij}}\left| i=1,2,\cdots,m \right. \right\}$
Step 6:Compute the Euclidean distances. Let $D_{i}^{+}$ and $D_{i}^{-}$represent the distances of each evaluation region’s vector to the positive and negative ideal solutions, respectively.
Step 7:Determine the relative closeness between the evaluation object and the optimal scheme.
The range of values for ${{C}_{i}}$ is between 0 and 1, with higher values of ${{C}_{i}}$ indicating a higher overall evaluation.

3.3.2 Barrier degree model

The degree to which each factor acts as a barrier for resilience can be described as the “barrier degree”. The barrier degree of each index factor was assessed with the aid of the barrier degree model to assess the multidimensional evaluation index of the resilience of each ancient capital tourism place and its complicated influence on the future growth of the ancient capital tourism place. This serves as a platform for the resilience construction of ancient capital tourist sites in the future and can be used to investigate which barriers have a greater impact on the resilience development of ancient capital tourist regions (Wang and Niu, 2022).
The calculation formula is as follows.
${{F}_{j}}=\frac{{{W}_{j}}{{{{x}'}}_{ij}}}{\sum\limits_{j=1}^{n}{{{W}_{j}}{{{{x}'}}_{ij}}\times 100\%}}$
where Fj is the j-th indicator’s degree of acting as a barrier to resilience in the historic capital’s tourism destination. The jth indicator’s weight is denoted by Wj, its standardized value is ${{{x}'}_{ij}}$, and n is the total number of indicators.
Equations (1) to (11) were used to calculate the resilience of the four ancient capitals in Henan Province from 2009 to 2022. The results are provided in Table 2 as resilience values for the four ancient capital tourism attractions.
Table 2 The resilience levels of subsystems in ancient capital tourist destinations from 2009 to 2022
Resilience system City 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 Mean value
Economic resilience Luoyang 0.475 0.473 0.448 0.471 0.484 0.486 0.475 0.465 0.463 0.467 0.481 0.487 0.362 0.516 0.477
Kaifeng 0.167 0.018 0.101 0.152 0.116 0.157 0.110 0.163 0.134 0.174 0.158 0.070 0.293 0.075 0.126
Anyang 0.172 0.217 0.225 0.156 0.190 0.141 0.184 0.176 0.192 0.144 0.164 0.130 0.372 0.123 0.170
Zhengzhou 0.870 0.868 0.859 0.917 0.879 0.913 0.852 0.846 0.855 0.895 0.873 1.000 0.638 0.914 0.885
Luoyang 0.531 0.430 0.451 0.398 0.340 0.370 0.367 0.378 0.400 0.452 0.444 0.425 0.443 0.357 0.413
Kaifeng 0.341 0.333 0.236 0.234 0.284 0.367 0.368 0.304 0.370 0.384 0.351 0.328 0.406 0.397 0.336
Anyang 0.327 0.257 0.387 0.353 0.390 0.368 0.346 0.394 0.382 0.377 0.348 0.356 0.336 0.254 0.348
Zhengzhou 0.645 0.783 0.674 0.653 0.653 0.631 0.647 0.645 0.647 0.625 0.644 0.653 0.653 0.636 0.656
Luoyang 0.530 0.567 0.492 0.490 0.499 0.488 0.494 0.504 0.603 0.638 0.727 0.732 0.776 0.801 0.596
Kaifeng 0.421 0.383 0.326 0.317 0.300 0.295 0.291 0.277 0.324 0.278 0.282 0.282 0.283 0.286 0.310
Anyang 0.298 0.345 0.388 0.239 0.228 0.207 0.173 0.164 0.211 0.209 0.240 0.136 0.109 0.113 0.219
Zhengzhou 0.603 0.571 0.605 0.607 0.633 0.652 0.652 0.652 0.667 0.647 0.659 0.573 0.555 0.590 0.619
Ecological resilience Luoyang 0.286 0.308 0.283 0.342 0.341 0.335 0.336 0.288 0.183 0.214 0.228 0.279 0.523 0.351 0.295
Kaifeng 0.391 0.379 0.376 0.339 0.325 0.312 0.311 0.302 0.327 0.351 0.289 0.259 0.318 0.265 0.323
Anyang 0.242 0.278 0.237 0.210 0.203 0.229 0.251 0.262 0.236 0.220 0.231 0.218 0.220 0.250 0.246
Zhengzhou 0.773 0.743 0.777 0.699 0.670 0.664 0.662 0.711 0.817 0.786 0.844 0.781 0.429 0.649 0.730

4 Results

4.1 Subsystem resilience assessment results of ancient capital tourist destinations

The resilience values of the four subsystems in each of the four ancient tourist sites in Henan Province are as shown in Table 2.

4.1.1 Economic resilience analysis

Economic resilience forms the bedrock of resilience in ancient city tourist destinations. As tourism consumption patterns transition towards higher quality and more upscale experiences, the trend towards quality-oriented and mid-to- high-end tourism demand has become increasingly evident. Urban tourism development can no longer rely solely on factors such as tourism resources and products. Travelers now have higher expectations for infrastructure, public services, and ecological environmental features. Typically, economically developed cities exhibit higher levels of social culture, infrastructure, public services, transportation systems, and environmental quality, so they are better at meeting the current demands of tourists. Economic development has become a crucial factor supporting tourism industry growth and attracting tourists. Therefore, the development of the tourism industry needs to be more integrated into the urban economic development system. Additionally, economic strength plays a vital role in bolstering the tourism industry’s resilience when facing risks, enhancing the industry’s ability to withstand adversity.
There are significant disparities in the construction of economic resilience among the ancient city tourist destinations (Table 2, Fig. 1). Zhengzhou consistently maintains a relatively high level of economic resilience with minor fluctuations. Luoyang’s economic resilience is at a moderate level, but it exhibits a positive development trend, ultimately achieving overall stability and growth. On the other hand, both Kaifeng and Anyang have long been characterized by low economic resilience, with Kaifeng’s economic resilience showing relatively significant fluctuations. As the provincial capital of Henan Province and a national transportation hub, Zhengzhou’s economic development is vibrant and exhibits robust vitality. Its industries are diversifying under stable development, which mitigates the economic fluctuations and risks associated with tourism development. Foreign direct investment, the growth of the tourism industry, and the immense consumer potential of residents have generated substantial economic benefits, greatly enhancing Zhengzhou’s economic resilience. Luoyang has also vigorously developed its tourism industry, while its sensitivity to economic fluctuations should be recognized.
Fig. 1 The trends of subsystem resilience in each of the four ancient city tourism sites
By leading industrial transformation and upgrading through innovation-driven approaches, Luoyang has reduced its regional economic reliance on tourism and has used economic development to drive the growth of its tourism industry, leading to steady economic resilience. Kaifeng and Anyang, due to their relatively homogeneous economic development structures, have higher degrees of dependence on the tourism industry. Kaifeng, leveraging its cultural and transportation advantages, has made substantial efforts to develop its tourism industry, and considers it to be an essential component of its economic development. However, as tourism is a highly sensitive industry with significant external influences, Kaifeng’s economic resilience has not displayed significant growth and exhibits relatively substantial fluctuations. In the case of Anyang, despite its rich cultural heritage as an ancient capital, tourism development has been slow, and there has been limited synergy between tourism and economic development. Insufficient investment in tourism development has resulted in consistently low economic resilience in Anyang.

4.1.2 Social resilience analysis

Social resilience serves as a cornerstone for the development of ancient city tourist destinations, as tourism development requires a favorable social environment. The primary goal of urban tourism development is to enhance the overall quality of life. Therefore, an attractive urban tourist destination includes factors such as a clean and aesthetically pleasing urban environment, a safe and stable security environment, and a leisurely and relaxed atmosphere, which are all significant attractions for tourists.
Overall, the social resilience of ancient city tourist destinations demonstrates a stable development pattern (Table 2). Among them, Zhengzhou exhibits a relatively high level of social resilience, while Luoyang, Kaifeng, and Anyang do not have particularly pronounced advantages in terms of social resilience. As the provincial capital of Henan Province, Zhengzhou has experienced rapid urbanization in recent years, with an urbanization rate as high as 73%. It boasts a well-developed social infrastructure, strong learning capabilities, and a robust governmental response to social risks. The local government continues to enhance urban social governance capabilities and has recently launched the “Three-Zero” Safe Creation Information Platform, which horizontally integrates information platforms for various working groups, including public security, petition handling, and emergency response systems. This platform ensures full coverage and real-time control of relevant data while conducting routine conflict resolution and safety hazard inspections. This approach has fostered a collaborative governance model and further strengthened the social order construction in Zhengzhou. In recent years, Luoyang has experienced rapid tourism industry growth, leading to continuous improvements in the supporting facilities and increased levels of urban infrastructure construction. However, this development has also brought significant changes to the local employment environment. Nevertheless, certain shortcomings have become increasingly evident due to insufficient urban planning in some areas, leading to urban expansion, overcrowding, and a lack of uniformity and aesthetics in the urban architecture. Additionally, the shortages of social services and public cultural facilities limit the cultural and leisure choices of residents, making it challenging to access essential social services. Narrow roads and heavy traffic flows negatively impact residents’ commuting efficiency, while social conflicts remain relatively prominent. Both Kaifeng and Anyang exhibit weak innovation-driven capabilities and relatively sluggish urban development. City management is relatively chaotic, resulting in their poor urban environments and unsightly urban appearances. Moreover, despite their population growth, social security levels have not kept pace, leading to relatively high urban unemployment rates. Therefore, the stability of the social environment is low, and there are no significant growth trends in social development.

4.1.3 Cultural resilience analysis

Cultural resilience serves as the soul of ancient city tourist destinations, with historical relics embodying cultural significance and contemporary value, and providing the driving force for the development of tourism in ancient cities. Cultural resilience is determined not only by the quantity of cultural heritage and resources but, more importantly, by how the culture is revitalized and integrated into the urban historical and cultural elements in diverse forms. It involves keeping cultural heritage authentic while allowing it to come to life in various ways, thereby releasing cultural creativity, and becoming a modern cultural symbol that is embraced and cherished by the public.
Among the four cities, Luoyang and Zhengzhou have taken the lead in cultural resilience, although Zhengzhou’s cultural resilience has stagnated in recent years and even exhibited a slightly declining trend. Kaifeng and Anyang have experienced continuous negative growth in cultural resilience, reflecting a state of sluggish development. Luoyang is dedicated to building itself into an international cultural and tourist city, so it is deeply exploring its cultural resources and revitalizing its urban fabric. By leveraging its unique advantages as an ancient capital, Luoyang has harnessed the power of cultural heritage to promote the endogenous sustainable development of the city (Zhang and Wu, 2021). Amid the backdrop of the transition to an experience-based economy and the integration of culture and tourism, Luoyang has continually driven the transformation and development of its cultural and tourism industry. It is exploring immersive formats, such as the “Yellow River culture”, “Shengshi Sui and Tang”, “Funiu Mountain and Water”, “Peony”, and “industrial heritage”, creating a series of high-quality immersive experiential projects that endow cultural heritage with contemporary value. Luoyang is actively exploring new paths for the integration of culture and tourism, extending cultural tourism beyond traditional boundaries, and becoming a core attraction for the tourists visiting Luoyang. By fully tapping into its rich historical and cultural resources and implementing the concept of culture-driven tourism and tourism-promoting culture, Luoyang has provided robust cultural support for its modernization. In recent years, Zhengzhou has been seeking a path for cultural expansion in the economic mainstream. This effort has promoted the transformation and upgrading of the cultural industry, facilitating the deep integration of culture and tourism, and placing significant emphasis on the preservation, inheritance, and utilization of Yellow River culture. However, due to the initial lack of attention and rational planning, many historical relics have been damaged during the urbanization process. Zhengzhou has struggled to define its role in cultural tourism development and it lacks distinctive cultural symbols. The city lacks a strong intellectual property (IP) foundation and has failed to establish unique cultural landmarks, resulting in limited promotional effects. As a result, Zhengzhou’s cultural resilience has stagnated and even exhibited a slightly declining trend. Despite possessing abundant cultural and tourist resources, Kaifeng lags significantly behind Zhengzhou and Luoyang in terms of tourism development. This is partly due to Kaifeng’s inadequate awareness of the importance of promotion. High-quality cultural content not only needs to be embedded in tangible historical relics, exhibitions, and celebrations, but it also relies on continuous social construction and sustained promotion to permeate social spaces in the form of intangible spiritual or value expressions. Unfortunately, Kaifeng’s cultural tourism promotion lacks distinctiveness, emotional resonance, and long-term effectiveness (Liao and Zhang, 2023). Furthermore, Kaifeng’s inadequate exploration of its cultural tourism potential, homogeneous tourist attractions, insufficient tourism service facilities, weak brand awareness, and significant seasonal disparities in tourist numbers, all contribute to the weakening of its cultural resilience. Similarly, Anyang is a cultural ancient capital that has struggled to invigorate its cultural tourism, while the “Zheng-Bian-Luo” regional development policy has led to mutual promotion and complementary advantages among the other three major ancient capitals, resulting in a virtuous cycle of tourism development. However, Anyang remains stuck in the stage of ticket-driven tourism, with a limited range of tourism income sources. The associated industries have gradually contracted, and the tourism industry’s ability to drive sustainable development is insufficient. Anyang’s cultural tourism lacks distinctiveness, and the management experience is not sufficiently professional. The incomplete development of characteristic attractions and failure to highlight the cultural heritage and deep connotations have allowed the city’s cultural resilience to remain in a state of continuous decline.

4.1.4 Ecological resilience analysis

The ecological carrying capacity represents an ecological threshold that determines the sustainable state of a tourist destination and significantly influences the continuous and healthy development of the tourism industry in ancient city tourist destinations. Urban tourism development is often accompanied by a substantial influx of tourists, leading to increased environmental pollution. Some tourist destinations prioritize short-term benefits, resulting in a lack of consistency between land use and construction planning, extensive land use in scenic areas, and a low intensity of land utilization. This exacerbates the conflicts between people and the environment in the region. The unregulated development of tourism has irreversible destructive impacts on the ecological environment. When tourism development and activities exceed the ecological carrying capacity threshold, the ecological environment cannot continuously support further tourism development, making sustainable tourism development difficult to achieve.
The overall ecological resilience of the four ancient city tourist destinations has shown a minor declining trend (Table 2). In comparing the four, Zhengzhou leads in ecological resilience, while the development trends in ecological resilience in Kaifeng, Luoyang, and Anyang are relatively stable, although they still lag significantly behind Zhengzhou. Zhengzhou’s tertiary industry has gradually surpassed the secondary industry, marking an important stage in industrial transformation and upgrading. Zhengzhou has gradually abandoned high-energy, high-emission, and highly polluting industries from the past, and now attaches great importance to environmental governance, emphasizing environmental protection. The city’s ecological system possesses self-regulation mechanisms, with the ability to recover and self-purify to some extent after damage. The development of urban tourism has not led to significant ecological environmental degradation in Zhengzhou. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic when economic and tourism activities were relatively stagnated, Zhengzhou’s ecological resilience experienced a minor rebound. Therefore, Zhengzhou consistently maintains a leading position in ecological resilience. The impacts of tourism development on urban ecology are relatively minor in Kaifeng, Luoyang, and Anyang. To adapt to the rapid growth of the tourism industry, the local governments in these cities have continually strengthened their environmental protection and governance efforts. They are committed to building an environment with perpetually green mountains and flowing waters, and have integrated environmental protection with economic and social development to enhance the quality of people’s living environment and their sense of happiness. Simultaneously, it is essential to establish mechanisms for the synergy between tourism and ecology, strengthen the research on environmental thresholds, early warning, and regulation, and improve the application of big data (Han et al., 2022). Even when there is a massive increase in the number of tourists in a short period, cities can scientifically respond in order to maintain the necessary order. Such efforts will help to reduce the gap with Zhengzhou and enhance ecological resilience.

4.2 Comprehensive resilience assessment results of the ancient capital tourist destinations

Table 3 and Fig. 2 show the variations in resilience development among the four cities. Zhengzhou exhibits the highest overall resilience level with a calculated resilience index of 0.577, followed by Luoyang, while Kaifeng and Anyang demonstrate comparatively lower levels of resilience. This pattern reflects Zhengzhou’s favorable tourism development trends, strong capacity to withstand risks, and adaptability, all of which align with its transformation and upgrading from scale expansion to quality enhancement in tourism construction.
Table 3 Resilience values of the four ancient capitals in Henan Province
Resilience system City 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 Mean value
Composite resilience Luoyang 0.433 0.243 0.050 0.449 0.441 0.658 0.383 0.382 0.307 0.323 0.532 0.402 0.446 0.516 0.398
Kaifeng 0.424 0.155 0.034 0.313 0.253 0.610 0.313 0.623 0.405 0.550 0.673 0.235 0.692 0.158 0.388
Anyang 0.223 0.651 0.050 0.170 0.257 0.112 0.538 0.499 0.512 0.385 0.167 0.212 0.632 0.161 0.326
Zhengzhou 0.746 0.415 0.097 0.735 0.661 0.657 0.661 0.379 0.568 0.655 0.814 0.805 0.313 0.768 0.577
Fig. 2 The trends of comprehensive resilience in the four ancient capitals
In terms of trends, Zhengzhou maintains a consistently high and fluctuating level of resilience over the long term, with a noticeable decline during the pandemic. The pronounced fluctuation in resilience during the pandemic can be attributed to the severe impact of the pandemic on tourism development, resulting in a low resilience index of 0.313. Compared to the other three cities, Zhengzhou faced a less optimistic tourism development outlook during the pandemic, with adverse tourism effects severely impeding its resilience-building efforts. Luoyang’s resilience development displays a combination of long-term trends and short-term fluctuations, reflecting a positive development trajectory overall. Kaifeng and Anyang exhibit “V”-shaped trends in resilience development. The stable development of Luoyang’s resilience can be attributed to the continuous exploration of its cultural charm and deep integration of tourism and culture. Elements such as the “Tang Dynasty Night Banquet” and the “Hanfu Economy” have gained popularity, and “Luoyang elements” frequently appear in national planning. Luoyang’s inclusion in the key tourism city construction list of the “14th Five-Year Plan” for tourism development reflects its model of integrated cultural tourism development, providing robust support for resilience-building and sustained high-quality tourism development. Kaifeng initially maintained a relatively high level of resilience development, although the pandemic caused a significant decline in resilience development. After the pandemic, compared to Zhengzhou’s strong tourism recovery and Luoyang’s frequent integration of culture and tourism, Kaifeng’s tourism development showed limited signs of recovery, indicating a lag in resilience-building and weaker recovery capabilities. Anyang’s resilience development has been slow, consistently lagging behind the other three cities. Notably, it experienced a significant surge in resilience development during the pandemic. This anomaly can be attributed to Zhengzhou’s substantial decline in resilience during the pandemic, creating the perception of a sharp increase in resilience levels in Anyang by comparison. After the pandemic, Zhengzhou, Luoyang, and Kaifeng gradually resumed their tourism development, with resilience development levels surpassing their previous states. In contrast, in the context of the rapidly evolving tourism demand market, Anyang has not yet found a suitable path for its own cultural and tourism development. It has struggled to introduce experiential, high-quality, and personalized cultural and tourism products, leading to limited stimulation of cultural consumption and, ultimately, hampering resilience development and tourism industry growth.

4.3 Analysis of factors acting as barriers

This study used Formula (8) to analyze the factors obstructing the resilience of Henan’s ancient capital tourist destinations, in order to identify the factors that impede their resilience. The analyses of factors acting as obstacles and their degrees of obstruction were conducted on both the system layer and the indicator layer, with each factor’s degree of obstruction on the indicator layer ranked in order. The top three main obstacles were selected to explore the primary internal sources for improving the resilience level of Henan’s ancient capital tourist destinations. This analysis utilized the data from 2010 to 2022.
The obstructive impacts of sub-system-level indicators on the resilience of ancient capital tourist destinations vary (Fig. 3). Economic resilience consistently maintains a high level of obstructive influence across all subsystems. This aligns with the earlier conclusion that economic resilience serves as the foundation of resilience in ancient capital tourism, acting as a cornerstone for the high-quality development of the tourism industry. Social resilience and cultural resilience exhibit relatively similar levels of obstructiveness, while ecological resilience has the lowest obstructiveness in comparison. Overall during 2010-2022, the obstacles to improving the resilience of the four prefecture-level cities in Henan Province were the same (Table 4), and there was little variation in each year. During this period, the number of books in public libraries (C5) became the primary obstacle to improving the resilience of the four prefecture-level cities in Henan Province, but its degree of obstruction did not show a clear downward trend.
Fig. 3 The trends in the degree to which guideline level indicators act as barriers
Table 4 Degrees of influence of the main barriers in the indicator layer
City 2010 2012
Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5 Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5
Luoyang A3(0.172) A1(0.153) D8(0.019) A5(0.061) C1(0.036) A3(0.182) A1(0.155) D8(0.070) A7(0.056) C1(0.033)
Kaifeng A3(0.175) A1(0.145) A5(0.061) D8(0.059) C3(0.030) A3(0.174) A1(0.148) A5(0.060) D8(0.060) C3(0.030)
Anyang A3(0.170) D8(0.074) A5(0.072) A7(0.068) C4(0.058) A3(0.177) A1(0.153) D8(0.062) C4(0.048) C1(0.037)
Zhengzhou A3(0.183) A1(0.147) A5(0.056) A7(0.054) C4(0.049) A3(0.190) A1(0.159) B4(0.054) A7(0.051) C4(0.046)
City 2014 2016
Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5 Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5
Luoyang A3(0.190) A1(0.148) D8(0.071) A7(0.055) C5(0.026) A3(0.187) A1(0.155) D8(0.069) B4(0.055) C6(0.030)
Kaifeng A3(0.175) A1(0.150) D8(0.060) A5(0.060) C1(0.036) A3(0.177) A1(0.130) D8(0.062) A5(0.061) C1(0.037)
Anyang A3(0.194) A1(0.160) D8(0.061) A5(0.058) C4(0.046) A3(0.171) A1(0.151) D8(0.063) A5(0.060) C4(0.047)
Zhengzhou A3(0.197) A1(0.169) B4(0.056) D7(0.052) C1(0.037) A3(0.210) A1(0.176) B4(0.058) D7(0.055) C1(0.036)
City 2018 2020
Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5 Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5
Luoyang A3(0.196) A1(0.163) D8(0.071) A7(0.051) C6(0.0238) A3(0.248) A1(0.201) D8(0.065) A7(0.046) C1(0.023)
Kaifeng A3(0.176) A1(0.145) D8(0.062) A5(0.061) C1(0.037) A3(0.227) A1(0.199) D8(0.055) A5(0.052) C4(0.041)
Anyang A3(0.179) A1(0.151) D8(0.063) A5(0.060) C1(0.037) A3(0.243) A1(0.185) D8(0.055) A5(0.052) C1(0.032)
Zhengzhou A3(0.199) A1(0.169) B4(0.062) D7(0.056) C6(0.035) A3(0.236) A1(0.192) B4(0.050) D7(0.047) C1(0.033)
2021 2022
Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5 Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4 Factor 5
Luoyang A3(0.179) A1(0.173) D8(0.079) A7(0.054) C1(0.028) A3(0.256) A1(0.162) D8(0.069) A7(0.048) C1(0.024)
Kaifeng A1(0.130) A3(0.098) D8(0.074) A5(0.070) C4(0.055) A3(0.229) A1(0.206) D8(0.055) A5(0.052) C1(0.032)
Anyang A1(0.141) A3(0.108) A5(0.068) D8(0.066) C1(0.042) A3(0.239) A1(0.188) D8(0.054) A5(0.052) C6(0.028)
Zhengzhou A3(0.232) A1(0.190) D7(0.055) B4(0.047) C6(0.036) A1(0.202) A3(0.200) D7(0.057) B4(0.046) C6(0.037)

Note:Only the top 5 factors acting as barriers are listed.

From an overall perspective (Table 4), the obstacles to enhancing resilience in ancient capital tourist destinations remain relatively consistent and show little annual variation. The total tourist growth rate (A3) stands out as the primary obstacle constraining resilience development, consistently exhibiting a high level of obstructiveness. Regarding the individual prefecture-level cities (Table 4), the main obstacles to resilience development in Luoyang are the total tourist growth rate (A3), total tourism revenue growth rate (A1), arable land area (D8), total retail sales of social consumer goods (A7), and the number of 4A-grade and above scenic spots (C1). This indicates that resilience development in Luoyang is constrained by factors related to tourist quality, cultural resource richness, and economic consumption capacity, and it also highlights ecological development as a weak link in enhancing resilience. In the case of Kaifeng, the main obstacles to resilience development are the total tourist growth rate (A3), total tourism revenue growth rate (A1), arable land area (D8), foreign direct investment (A5), and cultural exhibitions (C6). This list suggests that resilience development in Kaifeng is primarily constrained by cultural promotion and urban economic development capabilities, so efforts should focus on these areas to enhance resilience. Similarly, resilience development in Anyang faces constraints mainly related to culture and economics, as in Kaifeng. In the case of Zhengzhou, the primary obstacles are the total tourist growth rate (A3), total tourism revenue growth rate (A1), afforested area (D7), and cultural exhibitions (C6). As the provincial capital of Henan Province and one of the four ancient capitals, Zhengzhou faces several challenges due to its advanced urban development, population density, and the number of tourists it attracts. Therefore, while developing cultural tourism, Zhengzhou should also prioritize ecological environmental protection and enhance its ecological resilience to serve as a safeguard for the development of cultural tourism in the city. Overall, these findings suggest that while promoting and propagating local culture, Luoyang, Kaifeng, and Anyang should also focus on enhancing their urban economic capabilities, optimizing and upgrading their industrial structures, and gradually reducing their economic dependence on the tourism sector. Meanwhile, Zhengzhou should pay attention to ecological environmental protection while developing cultural tourism, strengthen its urban ecological construction, and elevate its ecological resilience level to provide an ecological barrier for the further development of urban cultural tourism.

5 Discussion and conclusions

5.1 Discussion

Based on the resilience measurement system proposed by Holladay et al. and considering the practical situation of ancient capital tourist destinations, this study introduces the cultural resilience system. It created a resilience analysis framework for ancient capital tourist destinations, which includes four dimensions:economic, social, ecological, and cultural. This framework was used to explore the obstacles faced during the process of continuous high-quality tourism development, thereby expanding the research perspective on the development of ancient capital tourist destinations. Due to the complexity and dynamic nature of resilience theory, the quantitative assessment of resilience in ancient capital tourist destinations is still in its early stages. Therefore, the resilience assessment indicator system developed in this study still needs further exploration and refinement. Additionally, due to constraints related to the availability and measurability of data for the resilience system of ancient capital tourist destinations, it was not possible to determine the adaptive cycle stages and the changes in resilience levels of the cities. Future research can incorporate qualitative research methods to uncover the absolute dynamic evolutionary process and patterns of resilience. This study found that ecological resilience and cultural resilience are the two major weak links in the construction of resilience in ancient capital tourist destinations. Both of these factors play crucial roles in highlighting the charm of ancient capital tourist destinations and have significant limitations for achieving the goals of integrated cultural and tourism development. Therefore, the top priorities for ancient capital tourist destinations are to protect their natural ecological environment and historical cultural heritage, provide a sustainable development environment, promote the deep integration of culture and tourism, and shape the enduring cultural core of the ancient capital tourist destinations.

5.2 Conclusions

This study used the entropy-weighted TOPSIS evaluation model and the obstacle-degree model to study the spatiotemporal evolution and factors acting as obstacles to the resilience of Henan’s ancient capital tourist destinations from 2009 to 2022. Three main conclusions could be drawn.
(1) From the perspective of system resilience, there are differences in the overall resilience construction of ancient capital tourist destinations. Zhengzhou exhibits the highest overall resilience level, followed by Luoyang, while Kaifeng and Anyang have relatively lower levels of resilience construction. In terms of trend analysis, Zhengzhou has consistently maintained a relatively high level with minor fluctuations, while Luoyang shows a moderate level with a relatively stable development trend, and Kaifeng and Anyang have remained at lower levels for an extended period with slower development.
(2) The analysis of degrees of obstruction reveals the responsiveness of the obstacles to resilience to changes in various system-level indicators. Economic resilience consistently ranks highest among all system obstacles, with little difference between social resilience and cultural resilience. In contrast, ecological resilience exhibits the lowest degree of obstruction.
(3) The obstacles hindering the improvement of resilience in ancient capital tourist destinations are generally consistent and show minimal annual variations. The total tourist growth rate (A3) emerged as the primary obstacle restricting resilience construction, with consistently high degrees of obstruction. Kaifeng and Anyang share similar factors as the major obstacles, indicating that they face similar obstacles in the development of their tourism industries. In comparison to Luoyang, the afforestation area (D7) and cultural performances (C6) are two other major obstacles affecting Zhengzhou’s resilience construction. Zhengzhou not only focuses on economic development but also emphasizes the exploration of culture and the protection of the ecological environment. It delves deep into its cultural heritage, which endows it with contemporary value and forms its unique tourism brand. Simultaneously, ecological environmental protection should not be overlooked, and promoting the coordinated development of the tourism economy and the ecological environment leads to a virtuous cycle.
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