West Meets East for 2008 Olympics

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The 2008 Olympics present both opportunity and challenge for hosting nation China, namely in the area of tourism, says Brent Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“China, like much of East Asia, remains very foreign to most Westerners, especially from the United States,” he says. “Visitors to its larger cities, such as Beijing, are usually impressed by what they’d not expected to see.”

Those unexpected sights, Smith says, include modern-designed office towers, high-rise apartment buildings, and fashionably dressed young people. “Similar in ways to Rome, Beijing offers a nice mix of the oldest and newest,” he added.

The question remains, however, whether Beijing will draw the number of tourists that prior Olympic host cities have drawn or will concerns about air quality pose a problem.

“Officials have addressed the air pollution issue by ordering a halt to construction and trying to reduce auto traffic. In addition, athletes, especially outdoor athletes, will be provided with masks.”

According to Smith, China knows it has to make a good first impression in other areas also.

“They’ve addressed the stereotypically poor service issue by educating businesses on how to greet and interact with tourists, even publishing guidelines on Western culture, such as personal space preferences and ‘don’t ask topics,’” he said.

Smith can be reached by e-mail at bsmith@sju.edu, by phone at 610-660-3448, or by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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