Department of Geography and Resource Management (GRM), The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Research Collaborations

Investigating international university students as hosts for Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) travel through perspectives a comparative study between Hong Kong and Innsbruck

Prof. CHAN Chung Shing (Johnson)



Prof. Pikkemaat, Birgit, University of Innsbruck

Project period:

1 July 2018 – 30 Jun 2020

Funding source:

Direct Grant, CUHK Research Committee Funding

Funded amount:



Visiting-friends-and-relatives (VFR) travel has been becoming an important form of tourism but difficult in marketing and academically under researched. More studies have gradually shifted from visitor to host perspective in VFR research as a tourist segment and a social mobility phenomenon. Studentification in many cities also provides a growing source of such tourism activities and development, especially when different types and origins of international students have had a hybrid role of temporal residents and VFR hosts. This paper responds to the call for deeper understanding in VFR host characteristics and cultural influences on host experience. Through a questionnaire-based survey (131 Chinese and 103 non-Chinese respondents) and 26 in-depth interviews with sampled international students in Hong Kong, this study compares and examines VFR hosts from three dimensions: (1) host experience, (2) friends-relatives and host-guest discrepancies, and (3) post-hosting perceptual changes in the destination. Statistical applications and content analysis identify several areas of cultural differences in the experiences and behaviour between Chinese and non-Chinese student hosts. First, some behavioural and visit characteristics of VFR visitors are determined by specific hosting actions. Second, internal feelings and external environments shape positively and negatively the host experience, their perceived host-guest interactions and post-hosting changes in the destination. Third, based on the connections of nodes of references in the interviews, some independent determinants (host characteristics, accommodation and expenses) affect each of the abovementioned three dimensions separately, while some multi-functional factors (information accessibility, tourism resources and visitor characteristics) tend to transform all the three dimensions. The research findings suggest that the DMOs of destinations should target at VFR hosts strategically through their culture-specific functions of ambassadors and information gatekeepers. Both internal perception and external product offerings of the destination should be well planned to contribute positively to host-guest experiences simultaneously.