Chinese international students travelling with friends: Group decision-making and disagreement prevention
This thesis investigates the group decision-making process of Chinese international students travelling with friends in New Zealand. Focusing on groups of friends, a neglected decision-making unit, it explores models of group decision-making and disagreement prevention and resolution strategies of Chinese international students making travel-related decisions. Qualitative research method governed by the interpretive paradigm was adopted. Sixteen Chinese international students from Victoria University of Wellington were interviewed. They were from eleven travel groups and had experience of independent leisure travel in non-family groups in New Zealand. Given that Chinese independent visitor market to New Zealand keeps growing, and Chinese international students have been referred as “China's first wave of independent travellers” (King & Gardiner, 2015), this study adds knowledge to the understanding of the travel behaviours and decision-making process of this market travelling in New Zealand. Tourism attractions were the most discussed travel-related decision during the group decision-making process, followed by decisions on travel activities, food and restaurants, accommodation and transportation. Three group decision-making models were identified: leadership, division of work, and shared decision-making. Leadership includes three roles of leaders, namely the travel initiator who has the initial idea for the trip and who gets potential members together, the main plan-provider who is responsible for collecting travel information and travel tips to make the whole travel plan and arrange travel schedules, and the main decision-maker who makes the final decision in the travel group. The former two roles are with less dominance, while the latter is with higher dominance in the decision-making process. The division of work model refers to dividing the tasks (e.g. organising accommodation or transport) within the travel group and includes two roles: the plan-provider who is responsible for making the plan for the allocated task, and the decision-maker who made the decision on the allocated task. In the shared decision-making model, the group members make the travel-related decisions collectively by discussion and voting. Most travel groups were found to use multiple group decision-making models conjointly, with a few groups only using the shared decision-making model. Overall, the most used models were shared decision-making and leadership. Most travel group who adopted the leadership model tended to then use either shared decision-making model or the division of work model depending on the level of dominance of group leader. Most interviewees indicated that there was lack of disagreement during the group decision-making process. Thus the research focus has shifted from the disagreement resolution to the disagreement prevention. Five disagreement prevention strategies and one influencing factor were identified: travelling with like-minded people, adequate preparation, empathy and mutual understanding, tolerance, compensation and external factors. If disagreements occurred, one or more of tight strategies were adopted by the interviewees to resolve them, namely making concessions, discussing and voting, looking for alternatives, persuasion, toleration, splitting up, accommodating and delaying. Implications and recommendation for industries and future studies are discussed.