Tourism studies have continued to expand at an unprecedented pace in the last few decades. However, travel in sociological theories is still treated as a predominant economic phenomenon, and tourism remains to be seen as a business or an industry. This thesis is the first step in overcoming the theoretical impasse by proposing a relational model that integrates a politico-economy and culture-symbolic approach in investigating tourism. It suggests that the development of a tourist destination is the function of shifting and evolving global and regional nexus. For this reason, the key to understand how tourism is developed and transformed in a destination lies not only within the socio-cultural dynamics of the destination, but also the ever-changing configuration of global-local relationships. In turn, such shifting global-local constellations are the main forces that give rise to the emergence of varying tourist gaze that plays a most significant role
in directing and transforming a destination both in terms of its space and place identity, and ultimately the face of its tourism industry.
In illustrating the model. Hong Kong is selected as a case study for this thesis. Specifically, the thesis proposes that the rise of Hong Kong to become a prominent destination in international tourism has been embedded in broader global and regional socio-political forces. These forces produced not only varying forms of tourist imagination and gaze of the place, but also subsequent features that defined the mode of operation and characteristics of tourism in the territory. Six periods of tourism development in Hong Kong are examined:
1. Imperial expansion of the British Empire (1841 to 1939);
2. The formation of the Cold War (1945 to 1957);
3. The climax of American hegemony (1958 to 1969);
4. The economic takeoff of East Asia (1970 to 1983);
re-emergence of China in the Pacific region (1984 to 1996);
6. The Asian economic crisis and intensification of intercity competition (1997 and beyond).