Livelihood resilience in tourism communities: the role of human agency

Fangfang Chen, Honggang Xu, Alan August Lew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Tourism development in rural China today brings both opportunities and challenges for local communities. To thrive or even adapt in this new and rapidly changing environment, communities need to be resilient in order to maintain successful livelihoods. This paper examines the core issue in this dynamic coping process. After a substantial literature review, an Agency-based Livelihood Resilience Framework is developed and used to examine two communities in rural China. The role of agency in shaping community resilience is specifically emphasized in this framework. Face-to-face interviews and participatory observation methodologies were adopted in the case studies in order to identify changes caused by external investment, villagers’ actions to deal with the changes, and the social structures behind these actions. We found that the two villages demonstrated different levels of resilience, and that this can be explained by differences in individual agency. However, both villages failed to transform into a system which can thrive in the new environment due to a lack of collective agency. Agency, especially collective agency, is vital for structural change in communities, but it was limited by certain context-specific factors in the two cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)606-624
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020


  • China
  • Livelihood
  • agency
  • resilience
  • tourism investment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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