Open Access
Bae, So Young
Graduate Program:
Recreation, Park and Tourism Management
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 01, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Garry Chick, Thesis Advisor
  • culture brokers
  • Jeju Island
  • taxi tour guides
  • local tour guides
Tour guides are an example of culture brokers who play a significant role in mediating two different cultural groups (Brown, 1992; Cole, 2008; Jennings & Weiler, 2006). Local tour guides who originally come from the tourism destination are especially important as culture brokers because they mediate the relationship between tourists and local residents and interpret socio-cultural situations. There are several reasons why a study of local tour guides as culture brokers should be conducted. Despite their importance as mediators in tourists’ experiences (Chambers, 1997), tour guides as culture brokers have not been empirically studied. In addition, tour guides have been considered a “largely homogeneous group” in most studies, while, in fact, there are various types of tour guides whose roles may differ (Cole, 2008, p. 119). The purpose of this study is to probe the importance of the roles of local tour guides as culture brokers, particularly taxi tour guides (TTGs) on Jeju Island, Korea. A qualitative approach via phenomenological analysis was utilized to answer research questions about the perception of the TTGs’ roles, cultural experiences or culture-brokering, and TTGs’ local background along with the observed roles of TTGs as culture brokers. By approaching the research questions from the perspectives of tourists and TTGs, this study deals with a taxi tour phenomenon with vivid and in-depth description. Open-ended, in-depth, semi-structured interviews and participant observation were conducted through two separate trips to Jeju Island, Korea in June 2010. Fifteen taxi tour guides, fifteen tourists, and one local individual (i.e., the manager of one of the biggest Jeju Island online travel communities) were recruited via purposeful sampling. Extensive field notes and transcriptions were analyzed using the qualitative data analysis software NVivo© version 8.0. To clearly understand the detailed meanings and nuances of the data, they were transcribed and initially analyzed in Korean first. Later they were translated in English. The results indicated that tourists’ travel experiences were heavily influenced by taxi tour guides and, at the same time, taxi tour guides were aware of the significance of their roles with varying degrees of pride. In terms of culture-brokering or culture experiences, the most satisfying factor out of tourists’ experience was explanation or interpretation by TTGs. TTGs also considered their explanation of Jeju culture as the key difference from other types of trips such as rental cars or package trips. In particular, tourists felt that TTGs from Jeju Island provide the best explanation of Jeju culture, which makes TTGs’ background very important. However, not all the TTGs agreed that their background was a competitive edge. While looking at tourists and TTGs’ perceptions of several factors, some constraints (e.g., irrational fare system) were found that hinder TTGs from working as culture brokers properly and TTGs’ attitudes against these (i.e., pathfinders vs. free riders) were described as well. Overall, the study findings led to specific descriptions of the roles of TTGs on Jeju Island. Implications and future research directions are discussed.