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A Study on the Sustainable Development of Historic District Landscapes Based on Place Attachment among Tourists: A Case Study of Taiping Old Street, Taiwan

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Historic districts should be sustainably developed by preserving historic architectural landscapes and developing tourism. Researchers have found that attachment to a place positively influences pro-tourism and pro-environment behaviors among tourists, indicating that exploring the landscape planning of historic districts from the perspective of place attachment is a noteworthy topic of sustainability. However, there are few studies on how historic district landscapes ignite tourists’ place attachment. Using a historical district named Taiping Old Street in Taiwan as an example, we investigated the association between tourists’ landscape evaluation and place attachment in historic districts. This study mainly adopted questionnaire surveys and used partial least squares structural (PLS) equation modeling for survey data analysis. (1) The study identified three dimensions of tourists’ landscape evaluation of historic districts: visual preference, cultural heritage value, and authenticity. (2) The stimulus–organism–response (SOR) model was combined with the studies by previous scholars and a conceptual model put forward for the relationship between tourists’ landscape evaluation, destination image, and place attachment. (3) The model was verified, and we found that (i) tourists’ landscape evaluation in terms of cultural heritage values and authenticity had significant positive effects on destination image; (ii) tourists’ visual preference, evaluation of authenticity, and destination image had significant positive effects on place attachment; and (iii) tourists’ destination image influenced the impact of authenticity and cultural heritage values on place attachment. This study provides both theoretical references for the formation process of place attachment from a landscape perspective and suggestions for landscape planning in the sustainable development of historic districts of a similar type.
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Citation: Zhu, X.; Chiou, S.-C. A
Study on the Sustainable
Development of Historic District
Landscapes Based on Place
Attachment among Tourists: A Case
Study of Taiping Old Street, Taiwan.
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755. https://
doi.org/10.3390/su141811755
Academic Editors: Ning (Chris) Chen
and Colin Michael Hall
Received: 6 August 2022
Accepted: 13 September 2022
Published: 19 September 2022
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sustainability
Article
A Study on the Sustainable Development of Historic District
Landscapes Based on Place Attachment among Tourists: A Case
Study of Taiping Old Street, Taiwan
Xiaoyang Zhu 1, 2, * and Shang-Chia Chiou 1
1Graduate School of Design, National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Yunlin 64002, Taiwan
2School of Arts and Design, Sanming University, Sanming 365004, China
*Correspondence: zhuxiaoyang2021@gmail.com
Abstract:
Historic districts should be sustainably developed by preserving historic architectural
landscapes and developing tourism. Researchers have found that attachment to a place positively
influences pro-tourism and pro-environment behaviors among tourists, indicating that exploring the
landscape planning of historic districts from the perspective of place attachment is a noteworthy topic
of sustainability. However, there are few studies on how historic district landscapes ignite tourists’
place attachment. Using a historical district named Taiping Old Street in Taiwan as an example, we
investigated the association between tourists’ landscape evaluation and place attachment in historic
districts. This study mainly adopted questionnaire surveys and used partial least squares structural
(PLS) equation modeling for survey data analysis. (1) The study identified three dimensions of
tourists’ landscape evaluation of historic districts: visual preference, cultural heritage value, and
authenticity. (2) The stimulus–organism–response (SOR) model was combined with the studies
by previous scholars and a conceptual model put forward for the relationship between tourists’
landscape evaluation, destination image, and place attachment. (3) The model was verified, and we
found that (i) tourists’ landscape evaluation in terms of cultural heritage values and authenticity
had significant positive effects on destination image; (ii) tourists’ visual preference, evaluation
of authenticity, and destination image had significant positive effects on place attachment; and
(iii) tourists’ destination image influenced the impact of authenticity and cultural heritage values on
place attachment. This study provides both theoretical references for the formation process of place
attachment from a landscape perspective and suggestions for landscape planning in the sustainable
development of historic districts of a similar type.
Keywords:
sustainability; landscapes; historic districts; place attachment; destination image; visual
preference; cultural heritage value; authenticity; stimulus–organism–response (SOR) model
1. Introduction
1.1. Research Background and Motivation
In Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030
Agenda, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
proposed making “cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”
by strengthening “efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural her-
itage” with detailed rules [
1
]. Historic districts are part of the cultural heritage of a city, and
protecting historic architectural landscapes can lead to sustainable urban features [
2
]. As
indicated by the International Congresses of Modern Architecture in the Athens Charter in
1933, “all the buildings and blocks of historical values shall be properly preserved without
damage.” By definition, sustainable development should strive to protect the environment
and develop the economy [
3
]. Therefore, historic districts should be sustainably developed
with a focus on landscape protection and economic growth. In the research on the sustain-
able development of historic districts, on the one hand, scholars have discussed preserving
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755. https://doi.org/10.3390/su141811755 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 2 of 25
and restoring historic districts, i.e., planning historic districts, from the perspective of the
landscape [
4
6
], and on the other hand, they have discussed the economic development
of historic districts from the perspectives of cultural heritage tourism and the commercial
value of reconstructing old buildings [
7
,
8
]. Planning and development are the focus of
tourism geographers [
9
], and a tourism-based orientation is one method of fostering the
sustainable development of historic districts [
10
]. Tourism plays an important role in
the pursuit of Goal 8 (inclusive and sustainable economic growth) of the SDGs [
11
], and
sustainability in the context of tourism aims to strike a balance between the economic, envi-
ronmental, and social needs of all stakeholders [
12
]. Tourists are important stakeholders in
sustainable tourism [
13
]. Therefore, the landscape planning of historic districts from the
perspective of tourists is a sustainability topic worthy of attention.
In 2011, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the Recommendation on the Historic
Urban Landscape. The Historic Urban Landscape approach shifts the emphasis from
monumental architecture to the conservation of urban values that undergird the life of
the city [
14
], which means that the sustainable development of the landscapes of historic
districts not only entails the preservation of old buildings but should also focus on the needs
of modern people. As for modern people, the landscapes of historic districts have cultural
heritage tourism value, and making the landscapes of historic districts appealing to tourists
is conducive to the sustainable development of such districts. When a tourist likes a place,
it leads to a positive emotional connection between the tourist and the place, which is called
place attachment [
15
17
]. Features in older places are more likely to cause place attachment
than features in new ones [
18
], and tourists tend to have place attachment to historic
districts [
19
], which indicates that place attachment is worth focusing on for historic districts.
As a positive emotion between people and place, the place attachment of both local residents
and tourists could have positive effects on their friendly behaviors toward the place. Place
attachment has been found to have positive effects on the community citizenship behavior
and the online word-of-mouth behavior of the residents [
20
22
] and positively influences
the environmentally responsible behavior, local satisfaction, and destination loyalty of the
tourist; the tourist’s intentions to recommend the tourism destination; and the tourist’s
willingness to revisit the destination [
17
,
23
25
]. These studies indicate that place attachment
could have positive effects on pro-environmental and pro-tourism behaviors, stimulating
the sustainable development of the place in terms of environmental protection and the
progress of the tourism economy. Thus, from the point of view of sustainable development,
it is worth having a discussion on the place attachment of tourists to historic districts.
A large number of researchers have used place attachment as an independent or
mediating variable in studies to probe into its impact on tourists’ behavioral intentions [
17
],
while there have been few investigations into the formative factors of place attachment.
Lewicka [
26
] indicated that there are few studies on the theoretical dimensions of envi-
ronmental aesthetics in the predictors of place attachment. As landscape features [
27
]
and environmental satisfaction [
28
] can impact place attachment, the development of at-
tachment to a place in a tourist may be related to landscape elements to a certain extent.
However, little research is available on how landscape stimulus functions in tourists’ place
attachment. To explore whether the stimulation of the landscape can trigger people’s
attachment to that place, we conducted field surveys and interviews with local residents
and tourists in a historic district called Taiping Old Street. We found that, compared to local
residents, tourists are more sensitive to landscape perception, especially in environmental
aesthetics. Tourists’ image cognition toward a city is based on the natural and cultural
landscape, while that of local residents is determined by their degree of familiarity with
the city, which is mainly relevant to daily life [
29
]. It is the degree of familiarity that may
lessen people’s degree of interest in the surrounding visual landscape [
30
]. Therefore, it
is appropriate to take tourists who have high landscape sensitivity as the research object
in this study, which is designed to explore how to initiate place attachment via landscape
stimulus. Considering the current research gap and the significance of landscape planning
and tourists’ place attachment in the sustainable development of historic districts from
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 3 of 25
the perspective of tourism, the goal of our research is to investigate how stimulating the
landscape of a historic district encourages tourists to become attached to that place.
1.2. Research Purpose
The purpose of this research is to explore from the perspective of landscapes the
process of tourists getting attached to historic districts, the aim being to provide a reference
for the design of sustainable historic district landscapes. To achieve the research purpose,
we need to answer the following two questions: (1) What aspects do tourists consider
when evaluating the landscape of historic districts? (2) What is the association between
landscape evaluation by tourists and their attachment to historic districts? In an effort to
find a solution to the issues under study, we put forward two research objectives:
(1) To identify the dimensions of tourists evaluations of the landscapes of historic districts.
(2) To establish a model of the correlation between tourists’ landscape evaluations and
attachment to a place.
For the first research objective, we primarily referred to a theoretical framework for
landscape planning and evaluation [
31
] and other studies concerning landscape theory [
32
]
and identified the dimensions of tourists’ evaluation of the landscapes of historic districts
in the context of the features of the research setting, including visual preference, cultural
heritage value, and authenticity. For the second research objective, we referred to the
stimulus–organism–response (SOR) model proposed by Mehrabian and Russell [
33
] and
the SOR model modified by Belk [
34
]. We hold the view that the landscape of a historic
district can be regarded as the environmental stimulus (S) of the site for tourists; destination
image refers to tourists’ mental images of the site and can be taken as a kind of emotional
and cognitive expression of the organism (O); and place attachment can be taken as tourists’
psychological response (R) toward the site. Combining pertinent literature, we then de-
signed a conceptual model of the association between tourists’ landscape evaluation and
destination image, as well as place attachment.
We hold the view that investigating how tourists get attached to a historic district due
to its landscape stimulus, that is, exploring the correlation between tourists’ landscape
evaluation of a historic district and their place attachment, would provide suggestions
for local tourism and landscape planners to sustainably develop that historic district. In
addition to theoretical discussion, an empirical study of specific cases is also essential
to realize the research purpose. We took a historical district named Taiping Old Street
in Taiwan as an example for survey research. The reason for selecting this case and its
representativeness will be elaborated on in the next section.
1.3. Research Site and Scope
This study explores from the perspective of landscapes the process of tourists getting
attached to historic districts. As tourists’ landscape evaluation of historic districts and
their place attachment are concerned with the specific site that they visit, and currently
there is a lack of research on how tourists get attached to a historic district on the basis
of its landscape stimulus, we decided to select a typical historic district as the site of the
case study. Therefore, we chose Taiping Old Street, located in Douliu City, Yunlin County,
Taiwan (shown in Figure 1). In Chinese, the direct translation of the term “l
ˇ
aoji
¯
e” is “old
street” and it is used to refer to old streets or blocks within cities or settlements, it can refer
to a single street or a cluster of buildings in a neighborhood [
35
], indicating that the term
“old street” can refer to “historic district.” According to Article 3 of Chapter 1 of the Cultural
Heritage Preservation Act (as amended in 2016 by Taiwan), historic districts belong to
the category of “groups of buildings,” meaning that the landscapes in historic districts
are focused on the architectural environment. With an overall length of about 600 m,
Taiping Old Street used to be the most prosperous commercial street in the city before the
1970s [
36
]. Over 80 buildings are mostly Baroque architectures in Taiping Old Street, where
the buildings are mainly used for small retailing businesses [
36
,
37
]. The buildings (shown
in Figure 2) on this street present features from different historical periods, beginning
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 4 of 25
in 1908, with diverse styles, including Chinese southern-Fujian-style buildings, Japan’s
traditional–western mashup-style buildings (influenced by European Baroque architecture),
as well as the local Fude Palace (a temple for worshiping the local God of the Land in
Chinese Taoism) [
36
]. In the wake of urban development and the establishment of new
business areas, this old commercial street is no longer the commercial center for local
residents [
38
]. Nevertheless, buildings on Taiping Old Street are of significant historical
cultural and artistic value, which has drawn great attention from local government and
residents and is recognized as valuable local cultural heritage [37,38].
Sustainability 2022, 14, x FOR PEER REVIEW 4 of 26
Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (as amended in 2016 by Taiwan), historic districts be-
long to the category of groups of buildings, meaning that the landscapes in historic dis-
tricts are focused on the architectural environment. With an overall length of about 600
m, Taiping Old Street used to be the most prosperous commercial street in the city before
the 1970s [36]. Over 80 buildings are mostly Baroque architectures in Taiping Old Street,
where the buildings are mainly used for small retailing businesses [36,37]. The buildings
(shown in Figure 2) on this street present features from different historical periods, begin-
ning in 1908, with diverse styles, including Chinese southern-Fujian-style buildings, Ja-
pan’s traditionalwestern mashup-style buildings (influenced by European Baroque ar-
chitecture), as well as the local Fude Palace (a temple for worshiping the local God of the
Land in Chinese Taoism) [36]. In the wake of urban development and the establishment
of new business areas, this old commercial street is no longer the commercial center for
local residents [38]. Nevertheless, buildings on Taiping Old Street are of significant his-
torical cultural and artistic value, which has drawn great attention from local government
and residents and is recognized as valuable local cultural heritage [37,38].
Choosing Taiping Old Street as the research site is relevant in terms of the sustainable
development of historic districts. Taiping Old Street is an old commercial street with a
declining commercial role in local businesses under urban development. However, vari-
ous old buildings on the street have tourism value as a cultural heritage. We hold the view
that investigating touristslandscape evaluation of the historic district and determining
specific types of landscapes that can ignite tourists’ place attachment could provide a ref-
erence for the sustainable development of historic districts from the perspective of land-
scape planning. Taiping Old Street can be regarded as a typical historic district rich in old
building resources with commerciality. This study on Taiping Old Street mainly focuses
on the old architectural environment on both sides of Taiping Road that tourists visit,
excluding the internal environments of the buildings.
Figure 1. The location of Taiping Old Street.
Figure 1. The location of Taiping Old Street.
Choosing Taiping Old Street as the research site is relevant in terms of the sustainable
development of historic districts. Taiping Old Street is an old commercial street with a
declining commercial role in local businesses under urban development. However, various
old buildings on the street have tourism value as a cultural heritage. We hold the view
that investigating tourists’ landscape evaluation of the historic district and determining
specific types of landscapes that can ignite tourists’ place attachment could provide a
reference for the sustainable development of historic districts from the perspective of
landscape planning. Taiping Old Street can be regarded as a typical historic district rich
in old building resources with commerciality. This study on Taiping Old Street mainly
focuses on the old architectural environment on both sides of Taiping Road that tourists
visit, excluding the internal environments of the buildings.
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 5 of 25
Sustainability 2022, 14, x FOR PEER REVIEW 5 of 26
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
(e) (f)
Figure 2. Building landscape of Taiping Old Street. (a,b) Street houses. (c) Baroque-style street
houses with traditional Chinese patterns. (d) Street houses integrated with Roman pillars and tra-
ditional Chinese couplets. (e) Fude Palace (a temple for worshiping the local God of the Land). (f)
Street house in Japanese style.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Dimensions of Tourists’ Landscape Evaluation
As landscapes can describe a wide range of features, including physical entities, liv-
ing spaces, and socialcultural constructs [39], and since buildings can reflect features of
urban landscapes [5,40], this study considers historic districts as a type of urban land-
scape. Landscapes can be evaluated in different dimensions. Terkenli [31] established a
theoretical framework for landscape planning and evaluation and supported its rational-
ity via a case study. This framework has been verified and cited by later scholars and
adopted in research on historic urban landscapes, cultural heritage landscapes, and land-
scape theories [39,41,42]. According to the framework [31], landscapes can be divided into
three interwoven elements: a visual aspect (form), a cognitive aspect (meaning), and an
Figure 2.
Building landscape of Taiping Old Street. (
a
,
b
) Street houses. (
c
) Baroque-style street houses
with traditional Chinese patterns. (
d
) Street houses integrated with Roman pillars and traditional
Chinese couplets. (
e
) Fude Palace (a temple for worshiping the local God of the Land). (
f
) Street
house in Japanese style.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Dimensions of Tourists’ Landscape Evaluation
As landscapes can describe a wide range of features, including physical entities, living
spaces, and social–cultural constructs [
39
], and since buildings can reflect features of ur-
ban landscapes [
5
,
40
], this study considers historic districts as a type of urban landscape.
Landscapes can be evaluated in different dimensions. Terkenli [
31
] established a theoret-
ical framework for landscape planning and evaluation and supported its rationality via
a case study. This framework has been verified and cited by later scholars and adopted
in research on historic urban landscapes, cultural heritage landscapes, and landscape the-
ories [
39
,
41
,
42
]. According to the framework [
31
], landscapes can be divided into three
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 6 of 25
interwoven elements: a visual aspect (form), a cognitive aspect (meaning), and an expe-
riential aspect (functions, processes, and human experiences). Other relevant landscape
theories adopt structures similar to those of Terkenli’s three dimensions [
31
]. For instance,
Tuan [
43
] took the view that landscapes should be analyzed from visual and perceptual
aspects, which stand for the visual aspect and the cognitive and experiential aspects of
Terkenli’s framework, respectively. Xia and Chiou [
32
] put forward that the landscape of
cultural heritage sites comprises an external material basis, an internal physical sense, and
the core of culture, which can be seen as the visual, experiential, and cognitive aspects of
Terkenli’s framework, respectively. Therefore, this study mainly refers to Terkenli’s frame-
work [
31
] and proposes that landscape evaluation by tourists includes visual, cognitive,
and experiential aspects.
Regarding historic districts, landscape evaluation by tourists has visual, cognitive, and
experiential dimensions. We hold the opinion that, first, the visual preference of tourists
corresponds to the visual aspect (form). As the visible landscape is the most direct and
available landscape information source, visual perception is the most important method
by which tourists perceive an urban landscape [
44
], and whether they prefer or like a
visual landscape is the most important aspect on the basis of which they evaluate a historic
district landscape. Second, tourists’ evaluations concerning the cultural heritage value of
the old street landscape correspond to the cognitive aspect (meaning). The historic districts
reflect the history and culture of a city, and cultural heritage resources are the main features
of historic district tourism [
45
]. Meanwhile, tourists’ cognition of the cultural heritage
value of the historic district landscape is an important aspect of their evaluation of the
historic district landscape. Third, tourists’ evaluation of authenticity corresponds to the
experiential aspect (functions, processes, and human experiences). The historic districts are
of cultural heritage value, and the authenticity of cultural heritage tourism is of interest
to tourists [
46
,
47
] and is experienced by the tourists themselves in historic districts. Thus,
this study proposes the dimensions of tourists’ landscape evaluations regarding historic
districts, as shown in Figure 3.
Sustainability 2022, 14, x FOR PEER REVIEW 6 of 26
experiential aspect (functions, processes, and human experiences). Other relevant land-
scape theories adopt structures similar to those of Terkenli’s three dimensions [31]. For
instance, Tuan [43] took the view that landscapes should be analyzed from visual and
perceptual aspects, which stand for the visual aspect and the cognitive and experiential
aspects of Terkenli’s framework, respectively. Xia and Chiou [32] put forward that the
landscape of cultural heritage sites comprises an external material basis, an internal phys-
ical sense, and the core of culture, which can be seen as the visual, experiential, and cog-
nitive aspects of Terkenli’s framework, respectively. Therefore, this study mainly refers to
Terkenli’s framework [31] and proposes that landscape evaluation by tourists includes
visual, cognitive, and experiential aspects.
Regarding historic districts, landscape evaluation by tourists has visual, cognitive,
and experiential dimensions. We hold the opinion that, first, the visual preference of tour-
ists corresponds to the visual aspect (form). As the visible landscape is the most direct and
available landscape information source, visual perception is the most important method
by which tourists perceive an urban landscape [44], and whether they prefer or like a vis-
ual landscape is the most important aspect on the basis of which they evaluate a historic
district landscape. Second, tourists’ evaluations concerning the cultural heritage value of
the old street landscape correspond to the cognitive aspect (meaning). The historic dis-
tricts reflect the history and culture of a city, and cultural heritage resources are the main
features of historic district tourism [45]. Meanwhile, tourists’ cognition of the cultural her-
itage value of the historic district landscape is an important aspect of their evaluation of
the historic district landscape. Third, tourists’ evaluation of authenticity corresponds to
the experiential aspect (functions, processes, and human experiences). The historic dis-
tricts are of cultural heritage value, and the authenticity of cultural heritage tourism is of
interest to tourists [46,47] and is experienced by the tourists themselves in historic dis-
tricts. Thus, this study proposes the dimensions of tourists’ landscape evaluations regard-
ing historic districts, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Dimensions of tourists’ landscape evaluation. Note: Revised from Terkenli [31].
2.1.1. Visual Preference
On the basis of information processing theory, humans process the information they
receive rather than merely responding to stimuli. People form visual references after pro-
cessing different pieces of visual information [48]. Kaplan and Kaplan [49] divided the
means by which people process environmental information into four kinds: immediate
understanding, immediate exploration, inferred understanding, and inferred exploration.
These four means correspond to four visual information factors that can predict environ-
mental preferences, coherence, complexity, legibility, and mystery, referred to as the pref-
erence matrix (shown in Table 1). Coherence means that the elements in a scene are
Figure 3. Dimensions of tourists’ landscape evaluation. Note: Revised from Terkenli [31].
2.1.1. Visual Preference
On the basis of information processing theory, humans process the information they
receive rather than merely responding to stimuli. People form visual references after pro-
cessing different pieces of visual information [
48
]. Kaplan and Kaplan [
49
] divided the
means by which people process environmental information into four kinds: immediate
understanding, immediate exploration, inferred understanding, and inferred exploration.
These four means correspond to four visual information factors that can predict envi-
ronmental preferences, coherence, complexity, legibility, and mystery, referred to as the
preference matrix (shown in Table 1). Coherence means that the elements in a scene are uni-
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 7 of 25
form or well-organized. Complexity means a great quantity of elements. Legibility means
that the information can be easily identified (i.e., via distinctive elements or way finding).
Mystery refers to the accessibility of the information [
49
52
]. Recent scholars have not
only adopted the preference matrix in research on the natural environment but have also
verified that the factors of the preference matrix can be used to predict the environmental
preference of people in built environments [
51
,
53
,
54
]. As the four factors of the preference
matrix are visual properties [
51
], they are adopted in this study to predict tourists’ visual
preferences with regard to historic districts. Additionally, coherence, complexity, legibility,
and mystery can be adopted as independent variables to predict people’s environmental
preferences [
53
]. This study defines visual preference as a formative variable and takes
these four factors (coherence, complexity, legibility, and mystery) to predict tourists’ visual
preferences with regard to historic districts.
Table 1. The preference matrix.
Understanding Exploration
Immediate Coherence Complexity
Inferred/Predicted Legibility Mystery
Source: Kaplan and Kaplan [49].
2.1.2. Cultural Heritage Value
According to Article 1 of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, groups of buildings
may have historical, artistic, or scientific value [
55
]. A historic district with character-
istic groups of buildings can also have historical, artistic, or scientific value. However,
UNESCO’s definition of groups of buildings involves evaluation criteria for the cultural
heritage values that differ from those aspects perceived by tourists. Scientific values need
to be assessed with specialized knowledge and are, therefore, not applicable to tourists. In
contrast, historic and artistic values are accessible to tourists. The artistic value of a historic
district is mainly reflected in the architectural art of the groups of buildings, while tourists’
perceptions of the artistic value of the cultural heritage of a historic district are usually
reflective of its aesthetic aspects [39,5659]. Historical value is also of great significance to
cultural heritage tourism [
39
,
60
,
61
]. Studies have shown that cultural heritage tourism not
only has aesthetic and historical value but is also closely associated with social value [
61
,
62
].
Therefore, this study measured tourists’ cognition of the cultural heritage value of historic
districts according to three aspects: aesthetic value, social value, and historical value.
2.1.3. Authenticity
At the Nara Conference on Authenticity, authenticity was defined as “genuine, origi-
nal, honest, and holy” in relation to the World Heritage Convention [
63
]. Expectations of
an authentic experience have been shown to motivate tourists’ visits to cultural heritage
destinations [
64
]. In the field of tourism, authenticity has typically been divided into
three types: object-based authenticity, existential authenticity, and constructive authentic-
ity [
65
]. Object-based authenticity is an objective judgment concerning a physical location
and/or structure. Existential authenticity focuses on human feelings and experiences that
result from object-based authenticity [
46
,
64
,
65
]. Constructive authenticity refers to the
theoretical discussion of authenticity [
58
]. Kolar and Zabkar [
46
] defined authenticity as
the authenticity tourists experience at scenic spots, including the perceived object-based
authenticity and existential authenticity of relevant activities. This view has also been
referenced and verified by other studies on cultural heritage tourism [
64
,
66
,
67
]. This study
regards tourists’ experienced authenticity during their visits to the historic district as the
true and original culture and history of the place and classifies their experienced authen-
ticity into object-based authenticity at a substance level and existential authenticity at an
activity level.
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 8 of 25
On the basis of the literature, this study examines tourists’ landscape evaluations
of the historic district according to three dimensions: visual preference, cultural heritage
value, and authenticity.
2.2. Place Attachment
A “place” is a space to which people give value and significance [
15
]. Tuan [
68
]
proposed that a sentimental or emotional link exists between individuals and a specific
place; this link gradually turns into a deep-rooted attachment. This is place attachment and
has been regarded as a bond or identification with a place [
69
] or as an individual emotional
and affective bond to a specific place [
70
,
71
]. There are some differences in the definitions of
place attachment given by scholars, but the consensus is that place attachment is a positive
emotional linkage between people and a place [
17
,
70
,
71
]. Due to the abstract concept of
place attachment, researchers have divided the measurements of place attachment into
several dimensions. Many tourism researchers have supported the views of Williams and
Vaske [
72
], who divided place attachment into two dimensions: place dependence and
place identity [
17
]. Place dependence involves dependence on the resources of a place
and is manifested as a functional attachment, whereas place identity reflects an emotional
or symbolic attachment with abstract and symbolic meanings [
23
,
73
]. This study defines
tourists’ place attachment as the attachment between tourists and the visited site. By
adopting the view of Williams and Vaske [
72
], this study classifies place attachment into
two aspects for measurement. One is place dependence, that is, a personal attachment to
the place’s function for need gratification. The other is place identity, that is, a personal
attachment concerning the emotional connection with or symbolism of the place.
2.3. Destination Image
The destination image is the tourists’ mental image of a tourism destination, defined
as the integration of their beliefs, thoughts, and impressions regarding a tourism destina-
tion [
74
76
]. The key to defining a destination image is interpreting the image. Researchers
equate the image with perception [
74
] and memory [
77
]. It thus appears that the destination
image is the interpretation and feeling of the tourists themselves regarding the environ-
mental information of the place they visit, which includes not only the cognition of the
environmental information of the destination but also the tourists’ own emotions toward
the destination. Researchers in the tourism field have indicated that tourists’ destination
image includes perception/cognition and emotional evaluation [
76
,
78
]. Concerning the
measurement of the destination image, Baloglu and McCleary [
78
] divided the destination
image into two dimensions, cognitive image and affective image, which were cited and
verified by later scholars [
76
,
79
]. The cognitive image of a location includes the sum of
people’s attitudes toward the location and its features, while the affective image involves
the place evaluation upon travel demand [
78
,
80
]. This study defines a destination image as
a mental impression of the place visited and divides it into cognitive image and affective
image. The cognitive image is the mental impression formed at a substantial level, whereas
the affective image is abstract and emotional.
3. Research Design
3.1. The Hypotheses and the Conceptual Model
As has been mentioned in the above literature review, place attachment is regarded as
a bond or identification with a place [
69
], and such a bond is related to the surrounding
environment [
68
,
70
,
71
]. However, place attachment is a complex emotion that is not
necessarily a direct reaction stimulated by people’s landscape information. We believe
that in the process from tourists’ perception of the landscape environment of the historic
district to the formation of place attachment, the human brain processes the relevant
landscape information. As the destination image is the tourists’ mental image [
74
76
,
81
],
it can be the mind impression that tourists form after their brain processes the landscape
information of the destination. Therefore, when analyzing the formation process of tourists’
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 9 of 25
place attachment to the historic district, it is necessary to analyze the relationship between
tourists’ landscape evaluation, destination image, and place attachment.
3.1.1. The Effect of Tourists’ Landscape Evaluation on Destination Image
We divided tourists’ landscape evaluation into three dimensions, visual preference,
cultural heritage value, and authenticity, and the effect of tourists’ landscape evaluation on
the destination image will be discussed in line with these three aspects.
First, despite a lack of research on the relationship between tourists’ visual preferences
and destination images, scholars have probed into the functions of visual landscapes in the
local image of a place. For example, Harun et al. [
82
] studied a royal town in Malaysia and
discovered that landscape elements have abundant cultural and architectural significance
and play a significant role in a town’s image. Vela et al. [
83
] performed a meta-analysis
of the relevant literature and found that visual landscapes are the key element of local
brand images.
Second, scholars have proven that cultural heritage is a critical tourism resource
and has positive effects on attractive image shaping. For example, Szubert et al. [
84
]
compared four destinations in Poland and suggested the vital role of cultural heritage
in attractive image shaping; Harun, Fairuz, and Nordin [
82
] analyzed the role of urban
heritage in determining the image of a royal town; and Viti´c- ´
Cetkovi´c et al. [
85
] indicated
that cultural heritage is an important aspect of a tourist destination that should be protected
and developed to attract tourists.
Third, some studies have indicated that authenticity plays a positive role in the tourist
experience and has great significance for the image of tourist destinations. For example,
Seyfi et al. [
86
] proposed that authenticity is one of the key factors affecting cultural
tourist experiences in a destination. Lee, Lin, Choe, and Li [
47
] verified the significance
of authenticity in the tourism experience through the case of Sanfang Qixiang in Fuzhou,
China. Sang [
87
] analyzed the significance of authenticity in local culture with regard to
local brand image creation in rural tourism in Tibet.
On the basis of the literature, the following hypotheses were proposed for historic districts:
H1. Tourists’ visual preference has a significantly positive effect on their destination image.
H2.
Tourists’ evaluation of cultural heritage values has a significantly positive effect on their
destination image.
H3.
Tourists’ evaluation of authenticity has a significantly positive effect on their destination image.
3.1.2. The Effect of Tourists’ Landscape Evaluation on Place Attachment
Next, we will discuss the effect of tourists’ landscape evaluation on place attachment
in terms of three aspects: visual preference, cultural heritage value, and authenticity.
First, despite the lack of research on the effect of tourists’ visual preference on place
attachment, scholars have found a correlation between environment and place attachment.
For instance, on the basis of cases in rural and urban areas in China, Chen, Hall, Yu, and
Qian [
28
] proved the effect of residents’ environmental satisfaction on place attachment.
García-Martín et al. [
88
] found a relationship between people’s perception of multiple
landscape values and place attachment. Zhang et al. [
89
] found that the “architecture”
and the “indicative symbol” among environmental visual elements predict people’s place
attachment; as visual perception is the most important means by which tourists perceive a
city [
44
], we hold the view that there is a connection between tourists’ visual preferences
and their place attachment.
Second, researchers have demonstrated that some authenticity-related concepts can
influence place attachment or sense of place. For instance, in a survey of two nature-based
tourism destinations in Australia, Jiang et al. [
90
] found a positive and significant effect of
existential authenticity on place attachment. On investigating two Chinese World Heritage
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 10 of 25
sites, Yi et al. [
91
] found that tourists’ perceived authenticity can be an antecedent to place
attachment. On the basis of a case study of Sichuan, China, Cong et al. [
92
] found that
humanistic authenticity is the major promoting factor by which potential tourists form
place attachment.
Third, there are few studies on the relationship between tourists’ perception of the
cultural heritage value of a place and place attachment. As we know, most research related
to cultural heritage tourism looks into tourist experiences at places of cultural heritage or
explores the function of cultural heritage resources. For instance, Buonincontri et al. [
93
] put
forward that visitors’ experience at heritage sites has a positive effect on place attachment,
and Cicalò[
94
] proposed that cultural heritage constitutes a fundamental resource for
place image in smaller towns. These studies all take cultural heritage as a resource but
do not discuss tourists’ perceptions of cultural heritage value. Although some scholars
have discussed the relationship between the cultural value of intangible cultural heritage
perceived by tourists and place attachment [
95
], they did not consider the cultural heritage
value of physical landscapes. We believe that it is difficult for tourists to directly perceive
the cultural heritage value from the physical landscape of a historic district; that is, they
cannot form place attachment directly from the perception of the cultural heritage value of
the historic district. Therefore, this study does not discuss the relationship between tourists’
evaluation of the cultural heritage value and place attachment.
On the basis of the literature, the following hypotheses were proposed for historic districts:
H4. Tourists’ visual preference has a significantly positive effect on their place attachment.
H5.
Tourists’ evaluation of authenticity has a significantly positive effect on their place attachment.
3.1.3. The Effect of the Destination Image on Place Attachment
As the destination image is the tourists’ mental image of a tourism destination [
74
,
76
]
and place attachment refers to the emotional bond to a specific place [
70
,
71
], both these
concepts are concerned with the place and emotions. The relationship between destination
image and place attachment has been an issue of concern in academic circles. For instance,
after a study of residents and tourists in two cities in Sweden, Strandberg et al. [
96
]
found that an affective destination image could affect positive public praise via place
attachment. After investigating tourists in hotels in Mauritius, Prayag, and Ryan [
97
] found
that destination image and place attachment are antecedents of tourist loyalty and that the
former would affect the latter. On the basis of the investigation data of tourists in Antalya,
Tasci et al. [
98
] suggested that destination image affects place attachment in a place-oriented
concept. Therefore, the following hypothesis was proposed for historic districts:
H6. Tourists’ destination image has a significantly positive effect on their place attachment.
3.1.4. The Formation of Place Attachment from a Landscape Perspective
According to information-processing theory, tourists process received information
in the brain rather than just reacting to a stimulus. The destination image is the tourists’
mental image [
74
76
,
81
] and is the result of a stimulating factor [
78
], indicating that people
process the stimulating factor from the landscape and form certain mental impressions. Ac-
cording to research findings, destination image influences tourists’ place attachment
[96,98].
Tourists’ destination image may influence the impact of landscape evaluation on place
attachment. According to the stimulus–organism–response (SOR) model, different environ-
mental elements can function as stimuli (stimulus), which would be processed by human
(organism) emotion and cognition and lead to mental, attitudinal, or behavioral response
(response) [
33
]. Further dividing the environmental stimulus into situation and object
variables, Belk [
34
] modified the SOR model and took the situation and the object as the
stimulus, which would give rise to a behavior response in humans (organism) after they
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 11 of 25
have processed the information. On the basis of the views of Mehrabian and Russell [
33
]
and Belk [
34
], we hold that the landscape of historic districts is a stimulus, the destination
image is a kind of mental image formed by tourists as an organism, and place attachment
is a response to the human–place emotional link. The landscape stimulus can be divided
into two types, a situation stimulus and an object stimulus. The visual landscape can be
taken as the object stimulus, while both authenticity and cultural heritage values can be
taken as the situation stimulus, as the latter two are formed only after tourists’ experience
of and cognition of the site. According to information-processing theory, the SOR model,
and previously proposed hypotheses, we predict that tourists’ destination image plays
a mediating role in the association between landscape evaluation and place attachment.
Therefore, the following hypotheses were proposed for historic districts:
H7.
Tourists’ destination image performs a mediating role in the influence of visual preference on
place attachment.
H8.
Tourists’ destination image performs a mediating role in the influence of authenticity on
place attachment.
H9.
Tourists’ destination image performs a mediating role in the influence of cultural heritage
values on place attachment.
On the basis of the literature, we proposed the research structure shown in Figure 4.
Sustainability 2022, 14, x FOR PEER REVIEW 11 of 26
human (organism) emotion and cognition and lead to mental, attitudinal, or behavioral
response (response) [33]. Further dividing the environmental stimulus into situation and
object variables, Belk [34] modified the SOR model and took the situation and the object
as the stimulus, which would give rise to a behavior response in humans (organism) after
they have processed the information. On the basis of the views of Mehrabian and Russell
[33] and Belk [34], we hold that the landscape of historic districts is a stimulus, the desti-
nation image is a kind of mental image formed by tourists as an organism, and place at-
tachment is a response to the humanplace emotional link. The landscape stimulus can be
divided into two types, a situation stimulus and an object stimulus. The visual landscape
can be taken as the object stimulus, while both authenticity and cultural heritage values
can be taken as the situation stimulus, as the latter two are formed only after tourists’
experience of and cognition of the site. According to information-processing theory, the
SOR model, and previously proposed hypotheses, we predict that tourists’ destination
image plays a mediating role in the association between landscape evaluation and place
attachment. Therefore, the following hypotheses were proposed for historic districts:
H7. Tourists’ destination image performs a mediating role in the influence of visual preference on
place attachment.
H8. Tourists’ destination image performs a mediating role in the influence of authenticity on place
attachment.
H9. Tourists’ destination image performs a mediating role in the influence of cultural heritage
values on place attachment.
On the basis of the literature, we proposed the research structure shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Concept structure of the research. Note: The concept structure is inspired by the stimu-
lus–organism–response model.
3.2. Research Method and Process
The study used a questionnaire survey divided into two stages. The first stage in-
volved analyzing the research setting and the literature, which provided the research hy-
potheses and the conceptual structure. The second stage involved preparing the
Figure 4.
Concept structure of the research. Note: The concept structure is inspired by the stimulus–
organism–response model.
3.2. Research Method and Process
The study used a questionnaire survey divided into two stages. The first stage involved
analyzing the research setting and the literature, which provided the research hypotheses
and the conceptual structure. The second stage involved preparing the questionnaire for
the survey, obtaining the survey data, and performing a statistical analysis using Smart
PLS 3.3.3 software(created by SmartPLS GmbH, Oststeinbek, Germany). The reason we
adopted the partial least squares (PLS) structural equation model was its adaptability to
the formative variables, as the variable of visual preference is a formative variable in this
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 12 of 25
study. After conducting our two-stage research, we verified our hypotheses in the research
structure and, on the basis of our results, suggested landscape designs for historic districts
from the perspective of tourists’ place attachment.
3.3. Measurement Scales
The questionnaire consisted of two sections: the first included items for the research
constructs, and the second collected demographic information.
The first part focused on the constructs in the conceptual model, including visual
preference, cultural heritage value, authenticity, destination image, and place attachment.
The items in the sub-construct “affective image” of destination image adopted the semantic
difference scale, while the other items adopted a 7-point Likert scale. The items used
previous scholars’ research as a reference, and with the help of two translation experts, we
translated the English scale to achieve idiomatic expressions in Taiwanese and modified
them according to the characteristics of the study area. Once we had prepared the ques-
tionnaire, five experts from related fields were invited to assess the items, and the Delphi
method was adopted to validate the content. After three rounds of modifications, the most
appropriate items for the constructs were determined. Then, to determine the validity of
the questionnaire and ensure that it was understandable, three tourists who had been to
Taiping Old Street were selected. In the pilot test stage, 50 questionnaires were distributed,
and 40 valid responses were collected. SPSS 26 software(created by IBM Corporation, New
York, NY, USA) was used to analyze the pretested results and identify Cronbach’s alpha
and Pearson’s correlation coefficient. Three items with Cronbach’s alpha values of less
than 0.6 were deleted. After the pilot study, we conducted a formal questionnaire. Table 2
presents the constructs and sources of measures in the first part of the questionnaire.
Table 2. Construct and sources of measures.
Construct Sub-Construct Sources
Visual preference (VP)
Coherence (COH) Kaplan and Kaplan [49];
Herzog and Kropscott [50];
Li and Liang [52]
Complexity (COM)
Legibility (LEG)
Mystery (MYS)
Cultural heritage value (CHV)
Aesthetic value (AES) Yen [99];
Mascari, Mautone, Moltedo, and Salonia [57];
Stephenson [39]
Social value (SOC)
Historical value (HIS)
Authenticity (AUT) Object-based authenticity (OBJ) Kolar and Zabkar [46];
Bryce, Curran, O’Gorman, and Taheri [64]
Existential authenticity (EXI)
Destination image (DI) Cognitive image (COG) Prayag and Ryan [97];
Russell and Pratt [80]
Affective image (AFF)
Place attachment (PA)
Place dependence (DEP) Williams and Vaske [72];
Bricker and Kerstetter [100];
Tasci, Uslu, Stylidis, and Woosnam [98]
Place identity (IDE)
The second part of the questionnaire collected information on demographic variables,
including gender, age, education level, current residence, and occupation.
The questionnaire items and descriptive statistics can be viewed in the Supplementary
Materials section at the end of this article.
4. Results
We adopted questionnaires for data collection and used Smart PLS 3.3.3 software
to verify the research model and analyze the influence relationships between the latent
variables. To test the model, the report is divided into a measurement model and a structural
model. First, the measurement model evaluates the reliability and validity of the research
constructs. Then, the structural model tests the research hypotheses, including their path
coefficients, mediation effects, etc. [101].
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 13 of 25
4.1. Data Collection and Sample Characteristics
Due to the COVID-19 Omicron pandemic in Taiwan during the formal questionnaire
survey stage, we adopted an online survey format in place of paper surveys. The ques-
tionnaire was given to Meta Survey Marketing Research Co., Ltd., which located in Taipei,
Taiwan, and had the largest sample size in Taiwan, for questionnaire data collection. The
survey company used its official LINE account to distribute the survey to the Taiwanese
public from March 31 to April 11, 2022. The respondents were rewarded with LINE points.
During the questionnaire’s collection stage, to ensure that individuals did not answer the
questionnaire multiple times, it was ensured that each Internet protocol address could be
used to answer the questionnaire only once. We also set up sample screening questions to
ensure that the respondents were Taiwanese tourists who had been to Taiping Old Street. A
total of 500 questionnaire responses were received, of which 403 were valid. On the grounds
of the population size of Taiwan, the sample size of this study exceeds the statistically
recommended 384 (when the confidence level is 95%, the confidence interval is 5). Of the
403 participants, 46.2% (n= 186) were male and 53.8% (n= 217) were female. Those aged
between 20 and 49 were the largest group, and their occupational categories, educational
levels, and current residences were widely distributed. The sample thus achieved good
representativeness. Table 3displays the demographic information.
Table 3. Demographic information of participants (n= 403).
Percentage (%) Percentage (%)
Gender
Male 46.2
Educational level
Primary school or below 0.5
Female 53.8 Junior high school 8.2
Senior high school (vocational) 24.6
University (junior college) 50.6
Master’s degree or above 16.1
Age
20–29 28.5
Occupation
Full-time student 7.4
30–39 32.3 Government functionary 6.5
40–49 28.8 Education/Training personnel 7.9
50–59 7.9 Marketing/Sales/Service/
PR practitioner 24.8
Above 60 2.5 Management staff 19.1
Production personnel 5.0
Design/Art personnel 6.5
Others 22.8
Number of visits
0
Current residence
Taiping Road area, Douliu City
1~5 89.5 Non-Taiping Road area in
Douliu City 12.7
6~10 6.5 Non-Douliu City, Yunlin County 17.6
11 and above 4.0
Non-Yunlin County Area, Taiwan
69.7
Non-Taiwan Area
4.2. Measurement Model
According to the recommendations of previous researchers [
101
,
102
], the measurement
model should exhibit internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha > 0.7), item reliability of
reflective indicators (outer loadings > 0.7), formative indicator weights (outer weights > 0.2
and significance at the 95% confidence level), composite reliability (>0.8), and discriminant
validity. The Fornell–Larcker criterion has often been used to estimate discriminate validity
using the square root of the average variance extracted (AVE) to compare the correlation
of constructs.
In the measurement models, the construct of a visual landscape is a formative variable,
while the other constructs are reflective variables. As is shown in Table 4, the outer loadings
of the items were all more than 0.7, the outer weights of the items were all more than
0.2, and all reached the 95% significance level; t > |1.96| and p< 0.05. The data met the
recommendations of previous researchers [
101
,
102
]. The data indicated that all items had
item reliability, and both reflective and formative constructs corresponded consistently
with the conceptual model in the study.
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 14 of 25
Table 4. Outer loadings, outer weights, and significance test.
Construct Item Outer
Loadings
Outer
Weights
Standard
Deviation
T
Statistics
p
Values
Visual preference
Coherence 0.253 0.024 10.444 0.000
Complexity 0.339 0.015 22.549 0.000
Legibility 0.332 0.017 19.148 0.000
Mystery 0.387 0.014 27.529 0.000
Coherence
(COH)
COH-1 0.849 0.019 45.224 0.000
COH-2 0.821 0.031 26.543 0.000
COH-3 0.700 0.046 15.227 0.000
Complexity
(COM)
COM-1 0.810 0.028 28.679 0.000
COM-2 0.712 0.032 22.114 0.000
COM-4 0.850 0.015 57.568 0.000
Legibility
(LEG)
LEG-1 0.765 0.035 21.885 0.000
LEG-2 0.869 0.015 58.639 0.000
LEG-3 0.836 0.018 46.800 0.000
LEG-4 0.783 0.022 35.892 0.000
Mystery
(MYS)
MYS-1 0.810 0.025 33.023 0.000
MYS-2 0.891 0.013 66.187 0.000
MYS-3 0.772 0.024 31.860 0.000
MYS-4 0.852 0.019 45.908 0.000
MYS-5 0.838 0.018 47.490 0.000
Cultural heritage value
Aesthetic value 0.918 0.011 82.906 0.000
Social value 0.917 0.011 79.980 0.000
Historical value 0.911 0.013 69.966 0.000
Aesthetic value
(AES)
AES-1 0.810 0.025 32.786 0.000
AES-2 0.831 0.021 40.085 0.000
AES-3 0.835 0.021 39.817 0.000
AES-4 0.787 0.025 31.846 0.000
AES-5 0.794 0.031 25.869 0.000
Social value
(SOC)
SOC-1 0.760 0.031 24.738 0.000
SOC-2 0.716 0.033 21.819 0.000
SOC-3 0.839 0.022 38.544 0.000
SOC-4 0.848 0.020 42.612 0.000
SOC-5 0.790 0.027 29.729 0.000
Historical value
(HIS)
HIS-1 0.851 0.024 35.161 0.000
HIS-2 0.884 0.015 59.298 0.000
HIS-3 0.850 0.019 45.531 0.000
HIS-4 0.733 0.033 22.385 0.000
HIS-5 0.812 0.022 36.545 0.000
Authenticity Object-based
authenticity 0.956 0.005 181.953 0.000
Existential
authenticity 0.956 0.005 177.018 0.000
Object-based authenticity
(OBJ)
OBJ-1 0.832 0.027 31.149 0.000
OBJ-2 0.861 0.018 48.068 0.000
OBJ-3 0.863 0.017 49.996 0.000
OBJ-4 0.833 0.018 45.620 0.000
Existential authenticity
(EXI)
EXI-1 0.768 0.027 28.295 0.000
EXI-2 0.822 0.021 38.824 0.000
EXI-3 0.843 0.019 44.925 0.000
EXI-4 0.857 0.018 47.835 0.000
EXI-5 0.795 0.024 33.259 0.000
EXI-6 0.802 0.027 29.794 0.000
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 15 of 25
Table 4. Cont.
Construct Item Outer
Loadings
Outer
Weights
Standard
Deviation
T
Statistics
p
Values
Destination image Cognitive image 0.928 0.009 104.897 0.000
Affective image 0.925 0.010 96.523 0.000
Cognitive image
(COG)
COG-1 0.831 0.021 39.518 0.000
COG-2 0.878 0.014 60.698 0.000
COG-3 0.825 0.019 42.449 0.000
COG-4 0.793 0.030 26.791 0.000
Affective image
(AFF)
AFF-1 0.864 0.016 54.466 0.000
AFF-2 0.829 0.021 40.055 0.000
AFF-3 0.844 0.017 48.335 0.000
AFF-4 0.809 0.024 33.994 0.000
Place attachment
Place dependence
0.955 0.005 187.405 0.000
Place identity 0.957 0.005 208.423 0.000
Place dependence
(DEP)
DEP-1 0.754 0.026 29.242 0.000
DEP-2 0.816 0.020 40.843 0.000
DEP-3 0.891 0.012 74.724 0.000
DEP-4 0.907 0.009 97.378 0.000
DEP-5 0.844 0.017 48.772 0.000
Place identity
(IDE)
IDE-1 0.842 0.015 56.207 0.000
IDE-2 0.830 0.022 37.843 0.000
IDE-3 0.820 0.021 38.973 0.000
IDE-4 0.889 0.012 75.811 0.000
IDE-5 0.876 0.016 55.450 0.000
Note: Bootstrapping was conducted 5000 times.
As shown in Table 5, the reliability and convergent validity of the research constructs
meet the recommendations of previous researchers [
101
,
102
]. All Cronbach’s alpha values
were more than 0.7, all composite reliability values were more than 0.8, and all average
variance extracted (AVE) values were more than 0.6. These results show that all the
constructs in this study had good reliability and convergent validity. The method used
for evaluating discriminant validity was the Fornell–Larcker method, which compares
the square root of the AVE with the correlation of the constructs. The square root of the
AVE was greater than the correlation (Table 6), which means that the model had good
discriminant validity.
Table 5. Reliability and convergent validity.
Construct Cronbach’s
Alpha
Composite
Reliability
Average Variance
Extracted (AVE)
Coherence 0.716 0.835 0.629
Complexity 0.703 0.835 0.629
Legibility 0.830 0.887 0.663
Mystery 0.889 0.919 0.694
Cultural heritage value 0.903 0.939 0.838
Aesthetic value 0.870 0.906 0.659
Social value 0.851 0.893 0.627
Historical value 0.884 0.915 0.685
Authenticity 0.906 0.955 0.914
Object-based authenticity 0.869 0.911 0.718
Existential authenticity 0.899 0.922 0.664
Destination image 0.835 0.924 0.858
Cognitive image 0.852 0.900 0.693
Affective image 0.857 0.903 0.701
Place attachment 0.905 0.955 0.914
Place dependence 0.898 0.925 0.713
Place identity 0.905 0.930 0.726
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 16 of 25
Table 6. Fornell–Larcker criterion.
Authenticity Cultural Heritage Value Place Attachment Destination Image Visual
Preference
Authenticity 0.956
Cultural heritage value 0.818 0.915
Place attachment 0.694 0.564 0.956
Destination image 0.856 0.782 0.690 0.926
Visual preference 0.700 0.729 0.654 0.666 1.000
Note: The elements in bold are the square roots of the AVE; the off-triangle elements are Pearson’s correlations of
the constructs.
4.3. Structure Model
After evaluating the measurement model, a structural model analysis was performed
to determine whether any of the hypotheses were valid. The first evaluation criterion
for partial least squares (PLS) structural equation modeling was the explainable variance
(R
2
) of the endogenous latent variables. R
2
is an index of the size of the total variance, as
explained by exogenous variables. A value of R
2
below 0.19 has a weak explanatory ability,
values more than or equal to 0.33 have moderate explanatory ability, and values more than
or equal to 0.67 are substantially influential [
101
]. The next step was to test whether the
path coefficients, including the positive and negative directions, met the assumptions and
their strengths. Chin [
101
] recommended a value of more than 0.2 and significance at the
95% confidence level.
In this study, the PLS analysis provided standardized estimates; a significance test
using a resampling technique (bootstrapping method) was performed with replacements.
As per the path analysis in Figure 5, the R
2
of the destination image was 0.755, and the R
2
of
the place attachment was 0.558, indicating that the explainable variance of the endogenous
latent variables had above moderate explanatory ability.
Sustainability 2022, 14, x FOR PEER REVIEW 17 of 26
significant, which means that visual preference has a significant positive effect on the des-
tination image.
Figure 5. The path coefficients and R 2 of the structural model. Note: VP = visual preference, CHV =
cultural heritage value, AUT = authenticity, DI = destination image, PA = place attachment, COH =
coherence, COM = complexity, LEG = legibility, MYS = mystery, AES = aesthetic value, SOC = social
value, HIS = historical value, OBJ = object-based authenticity, EXI = existential authenticity, DEP =
place dependence, and IDE = place identity. The “+” symbol in the figure means that this figure
hides the items of the questionnaire.
Table 7. Significance of path coefficients.
Dependent
Variables
Independent
Variables
Original Sample
(O)
Standard
Deviation T Statistics p
Values R2
Destination image Visual preference 0.065 0.061 1.057 0.291
0.755
Cultural heritage value 0.218 0.059 3.700 0.000
Authenticity 0.632 0.071 8.911 0.000
Place attachment Visual preference 0.291 0.060 4.881 0.000
0.558
Authenticity 0.245 0.081 3.009 0.003
Destination image 0.287 0.076 3.794 0.000
In the PLS analysis, if the relationship between the latent variables can be completed
through another latent variable, this effect is called an indirect or mediating effect. In this
study, the mediation effect test was performed, and the significance was estimated using
a bootstrap procedure that was resampled 5000 times. Table 8 lists the paths of the model
mediation effects. The mediation effect of visual preferencedestination imageplace at-
tachment was 0.019 (b = 0.019, t = 0.882, and p > 0.05) and the confidence interval contained
0, indicating that a mediation effect did not exist. The mediation effect of authentic-
itydestination imageplace attachment was 0.181 (t = 3.638 and p < 0.001) and the con-
fidence interval did not contain 0, indicating that a mediating effect existed. The mediation
effect of cultural heritage valuedestination imageplace attachment was 0.062 (t = 2.708
and p < 0.05) and the confidence interval did not contain 0, indicating that a mediating
effect existed.
Figure 5.
The path coefficients and R
2
of the structural model. Note: VP = visual preference,
CHV = cultural heritage value, AUT = authenticity, DI = destination image, PA = place attachment,
COH = coherence, COM = complexity, LEG = legibility, MYS = mystery, AES = aesthetic value,
SOC = social value, HIS = historical value, OBJ = object-based authenticity, EXI = existential authen-
ticity, DEP = place dependence, and IDE = place identity. The “+” symbol in the figure means that
this figure hides the items of the questionnaire.
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 17 of 25
The next step was to test whether the path coefficients met the assumptions. As
shown in Table 7, with the exception of visual preference
destination image (path
coefficient value = 0.065; pvalue = 0.291), which was non-significant, all other paths were
significant, which means that visual preference has a significant positive effect on the
destination image.
Table 7. Significance of path coefficients.
Dependent
Variables
Independent
Variables
Original Sample
(O)
Standard
Deviation T Statistics p
Values R2
Destination image Visual preference 0.065 0.061 1.057 0.291
0.755
Cultural heritage value 0.218 0.059 3.700 0.000
Authenticity 0.632 0.071 8.911 0.000
Place attachment Visual preference 0.291 0.060 4.881 0.000
0.558
Authenticity 0.245 0.081 3.009 0.003
Destination image 0.287 0.076 3.794 0.000
In the PLS analysis, if the relationship between the latent variables can be completed
through another latent variable, this effect is called an indirect or mediating effect. In this
study, the mediation effect test was performed, and the significance was estimated using a
bootstrap procedure that was resampled 5000 times. Table 8lists the paths of the model
mediation effects. The mediation effect of visual preference
destination image
place
attachment was 0.019 (b = 0.019, t = 0.882, and p> 0.05) and the confidence interval
contained 0, indicating that a mediation effect did not exist. The mediation effect of
authenticity
destination image
place attachment was 0.181 (t = 3.638 and p< 0.001)
and the confidence interval did not contain 0, indicating that a mediating effect existed.
The mediation effect of cultural heritage value
destination image
place attachment was
0.062 (t = 2.708 and p< 0.05) and the confidence interval did not contain 0, indicating that a
mediating effect existed.
Table 8. Mediation effect.
Path of Mediation Mediation
Effect
Standard
Deviation
T
Value
p
Value
Lower
Bound
Upper
Bound
Visual Preference Destination Image Place Attachment 0.019 0.021 0.882 0.378 0.012 0.066
Authenticity Destination Image Place Attachment 0.181 0.050 3.638 0.000 0.096 0.288
Cultural Heritage Value Destination Image
Place Attachment 0.062 0.023 2.708 0.007 0.024 0.113
Note: Bootstrapping was conducted 5000 times.
As shown in Table 9, the path coefficient, the mediation effect of the structure model,
and the significance test support H2, H3, H4, H5, H6, H8, and H9 but not H1 and H7. We
found the following: (1) Tourists’ landscape evaluation in terms of cultural heritage value
and authenticity had significant positive effects on the destination image. (2) Tourists’ visual
preference, evaluation of authenticity, and destination image had significant positive effects
on place attachment. (3) Tourists’ destination image influenced the impact of authenticity
and cultural heritage value on place attachment.
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 18 of 25
Table 9. The results of the hypotheses.
Hypotheses Path
Coefficients
Mediation
Effect
T
Value Result
H1: Visual Preference Destination Image 0.065 1.057 Not Supported
H2: Cultural Heritage Value Destination Image 0.218 3.700 *** Supported
H3: Authenticity Destination Image 0.632 8.911 *** Supported
H4: Visual Preference Place Attachment 0.291 4.881 *** Supported
H5: Authenticity Place Attachment 0.245 3.009 ** Supported
H6: Destination Image Place Attachment 0.287 3.794 *** Supported
H7: Visual Preference Destination Image Place Attachment 0.019 0.882 Not Supported
H8: Authenticity Destination Image Place Attachment 0.181 3.638 *** Supported
H9: Cultural Heritage Value
Destination Image
Place Attachment
0.062 2.708 ** Supported
Note: Bootstrapping was conducted 5000 times. ** p< 0.01, and *** p< 0.001.
5. Discussion
We analyzed the research results in line with the research objectives and probed into
the findings, combining the previous literature and site features. First, regarding the
dimensions of tourists’ evaluation of historic district landscapes and measurement model
data of different dimensions, we discussed the types of historic district landscapes favored
by tourists. Second, regarding the model of the relationship between tourists’ landscape
evaluation, place attachment, and the data of the structural model, we discussed the
formation process of tourists’ place attachment on the basis of landscape stimuli of historic
districts. These discussions would provide a reference for the sustainable development of
the landscapes in the historic districts of the type represented by this study case.
5.1. The Dimensions of Tourists’ Landscape Evaluation
We put forward that tourists’ landscape evaluation of historic districts are divided
into three dimensions: visual preference, cultural heritage value, and authenticity. Visual
preference is a formative construct, and cultural heritage value and authenticity are reflec-
tive constructs. The measurement model data indicate that all the items had item reliability,
and both reflective and formative constructs corresponded consistently with the conceptual
model in the study.
We proposed four factors that can predict the visual preference of historic districts:
coherence, complexity, legibility, and mystery. According to the values of the outer weights
and the significance level, we demonstrated that the factors in Kaplan and Kaplan’s pref-
erence matrix [
51
] are formative factors of visual preference, providing a reference for
predicting the visual preference of historic districts. Among the four formative factors,
coherence featured the lowest outer weight, at 0.253, and mystery featured the highest,
at 0.387. This shows that in this research setting, tourists have the lowest preference for
visual landscape feature coherence and the highest preference for visual landscape feature
mystery. We believe that this result is related to the features of the research setting and
Taiwan’s culture. First, Taiping Old Street has a variety of architectural styles, which
results in a lack of consistency in the street landscape. Nevertheless, Taiwan is a region
featuring diverse cultures, and the varying architectural styles are accepted by Taiwanese
people and can be seen as a feature that appeals to Taiwanese respondents. Second, the
old buildings in this research setting have a variety of decorative patterns, which often
have corresponding symbolic meanings. For example, one old building is decorated with
the pattern of a magpie standing on the branch of a plum blossom, which means “very
happy.” The magpie is a symbol of happiness, while “plum blossom” is homonymous with
the word “eyebrow.” This is a traditional auspicious Chinese pattern symbolizing joy and
good luck. The information symbolized by these patterns needs inferred exploration to
understand, which is a visual formation representing mystery. We hold the opinion that
among the four formative factors of tourists’ visual preference, the lowest preference for
coherence and the highest preference for mystery reflect an acceptance of diversified style
groups of old buildings in historic districts.
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 19 of 25
On the basis of the literature and an area analysis, we proposed three factors to measure
the cultural heritage value of historic districts: aesthetic value, social value, and historical
value. According to the values of the outer loadings, reliability and convergent validity, and
significance level tests, we demonstrated that the three factors reflect the cultural heritage
value of historic districts. All three factors had high outer loading values, with aesthetic
value having the highest. This indicates that tourists’ perceptions of the cultural heritage
value in a historic district mainly reflect its aesthetic value. In terms of the measurements
of authenticity, this study mainly used the scale of Kolar and Zabkar [
46
] for reference
and verified its rationality. Two factors were used to measure the authenticity of historic
districts: object-based authenticity and existential authenticity. According to the values of
the outer loadings, both had the same high value, indicating that both the material and
human aspects of historic district landscapes are important for the authenticity experienced
by tourists. In our view, among the factors pertaining to tourists’ evaluation of cultural
heritage values, aesthetic value features the highest outer loading value, representing the
most significant cultural heritage tourism value of historic districts with rich building
recourses. Among the factors of tourists’ evaluation of authenticity, both object-based
authenticity and existential authenticity feature high outer loading values, representing the
importance of both material and humanistic aspects in the experience design of the historic
district landscape.
5.2. The Model of the Relationship between Tourists’ Landscape Evaluation and Place Attachment
Through the results of our structured model, we discussed the association between
tourists’ landscape evaluation (visual landscape, cultural heritage value, and authenticity)
and destination image and place attachment. We discussed the results of the structure
model in terms of destination image, the forming process of place attachment, and the
mediating effect of destination image.
(1) The R
2
of the destination image was 0.755. Thus, H2 (cultural heritage value
destination image) and H3 (authenticity
destination image) were supported, denoting
that tourists perceptions of a place’s cultural heritage value and experiential authenticity
were formative factors for the destination image. These results are consistent with former
researchers’ findings that cultural heritage is a critical tourism resource and has positive
effects on destination image [
84
,
85
]. Authenticity played a positive role in the image of
tourist destinations [
47
]. However, the result of H1 (visual preference
destination image)
was not supported, and although the path coefficients of visual preference
destination
image were positive, the value was not significant. This result regarding H1 is inconsistent
with the view of previous scholars [
82
,
83
], who found that the visual landscape is important
to the building of a local image. We believe that the reason for this result is related to the
environmental features of the research objective. The visual landscape investigation in
this study mainly focuses on the buildings around the old street. Taiping Old Street is a
naturally formed historic commercial street with bicycles, automotive traffic, and so on,
as well as food stands and restaurants. This means that the visual approach is not the
only perceptual approach for tourists; auditory and olfactory sensations could also have
played a role. As a result, in terms of historic districts with buildings of commerciality, the
visual aesthetics of landscape do not have a significant influence on tourists’ destination
image. Tourists’ cognition of cultural heritage values and authenticity experiences should
be highlighted in the creation of the destination image of historic districts.
(2) The R
2
of place attachment was 0.558, indicating that visual preference, desti-
nation image, and authenticity had above-average explanatory power for place attach-
ment. The path analysis showed that H4 (visual preference
place attachment), H5
(authenticity place attachment)
, and H6 (destination image
place attachment) were
supported, indicating that the formative factors of place attachment include tourists’ visual
preference, evaluation of authenticity, and destination image. These results are consistent
with those of previous research regarding the correlation between the environment and
place attachment [
89
], authenticity being an antecedent to place attachment [
91
], and the
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 20 of 25
effect of destination image on place attachment [
97
,
98
]. Accordingly, in terms of historic
districts rich in old building resources with commerciality, tourists’ place attachment should
be developed taking into account landscape visual design, authenticity experience design,
and destination image.
(3) The values of the mediating effect show that H7 (visual preference
destination
image
place attachment) was not supported, while H8 (authenticity
destination
image
place attachment) and H9 (cultural heritage value
destination image
place
attachment) were supported. We believe that the reason H7 was not supported might be
related to the formation process of visual preference. In this study, visual preference was
related to the formative variables of the preference matrix of Kaplan and Kaplan [
49
]. The
four indicators (coherence, complexity, legibility, and mystery) that form visual preference
are the visual representation features after the visual information is processed by four
means: immediate understanding, immediate exploration, inferred understanding, and
inferred exploration. This means that the tourists processed the visual landscape infor-
mation in their brains during the formation of the visual preference. According to the
results of H1, H4, and H7, rather than the destination image, tourists’ visual preference can
directly influence place attachment. We can employ the stimulus–organism–response (SOR)
model to find that coherence, complexity, legibility, and mystery represent four different
kinds of visual information stimulation (S). Place attachment is the response (R) to the
emotional bond between people and the place, while visual preference can be taken as the
expression of the processing of visual information by the tourists (taking tourists as the
organism). The results of H8 and H9 were supported, which can also be understood using
SOR theory. To explain the process of tourists getting attached to a place, we can take the
tourists’ cognitive cultural heritage values and experienced authenticity as the information
stimulation (S) perceived by the tourists in a place, place attachment as the response (R) to
the emotional bond between people and the place, and destination image as the mental
image formed by the tourists (taking tourists as the organism). Therefore, we believe that
in historic districts with rich building resources, the large amount of visual environment
landscape information received by tourists is a kind of material stimulus that can lead
to the formation of visual preference, thus igniting place attachment. However, tourists’
cognitive cultural heritage values and experience authenticity are based on situational
stimuli and ignite place attachment via destination image.
6. Suggestions and Conclusions
6.1. Suggestions for the Sustainable Development of the Historic District Landscape
The research purpose of this study was to explore how the landscape stimulus of his-
toric districts ignites tourists’ place attachment. This study mainly put forward suggestions
for the sustainable development of historic district landscapes, aiming at the landscape
variables that can directly influence place attachment, including the dimensions of land-
scapes that should be focused on and the landscapes that should be primarily protected or
renovated. These suggestions are suitable for historic districts rich in old building resources
with commerciality. Such suggestions will serve as a reference for planning historic district
landscapes and building landscapes that foster place attachment among tourists, thus
promoting the sustainable development of the historic district landscape.
(1) H4 (visual preference
place attachment) was supported, indicating that when
planning the landscapes of historic districts of a similar type, we should consider protecting
and renovating historic district landscapes in compliance with the outer weight values
of the four factors of visual preference in this study. The outer weight values show that
the preference of tourists in terms of the visual information features of the historic district
landscapes from the highest to the lowest are mystery, complexity, legibility, and coherence.
Regarding mystery, we suggest that the details of carved patterns on old buildings be
mainly displayed on paper brochures, tourism websites, display boards of the scenic spots,
and other carriers, and the symbolic meanings of such patterns be noted in simple words
so as to increase the mystery of the visual information of the landscape and attract tourists
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 21 of 25
to explore the information on the old buildings when visiting. Regarding complexity, we
should preserve the primary form and color diversity of old street buildings, especially the
form and color of original building elevations with diverse styles. Regarding legibility, we
suggest that merchants who own shops in the historic districts design shop signs and logos
that combine the different styles of the old buildings where they are located to improve
the legibility of different buildings and shops in the groups of buildings in old streets.
Regarding coherence, we suggest that the visual styles of commercial shops in historic
districts be kept consistent with the old buildings where such shops are located to the
greatest extent possible, but we do not recommend a unified style for shop signs or color
modifications for buildings for consistent visual styling.
(2) H5 (authenticity
place attachment) was supported, indicating that, for historic
districts of a similar type, we should consider the authenticity of landscapes when building
historic district landscapes with an eye to tourists’ place attachment. The outer loadings
of both object-based authenticity and existential authenticity had the same high value,
indicating that we should ensure the authenticity of the historic district landscape in both
material and human respects. Thus, we suggest preserving the architectural form and
original lifestyle by taking measures such as preventing damage to original buildings when
renovating stores, enriching the presentation of old buildings and local display boards in
shops, and preserving and organizing traditional cultural events so tourists can experience
the culture and history of the historic district.
6.2. Conclusions
The purpose of this study was to provide a reference for the design of sustainable
historic district landscapes by exploring the formation process of tourists’ place attachment
to historic districts from the perspective of landscapes, identifying the dimensions of
tourists’ evaluation of the landscapes of historic districts, and establishing a model of the
correlation between tourists’ landscape evaluation and place attachment.
The theoretical values of the study can be divided into two aspects. First, based on
the literature and features of historic districts, the study put forward three dimensions of
landscape evaluation of historic districts, i.e., visual preference, cultural heritage values,
and authenticity, and the corresponding measurement standards. As indicated by the
results of the measurement model, these three dimensions have correlation and discrimi-
nation validity. This study provides a theoretical reference for dimension measurement
for landscape evaluation of historic districts. Second, this study established a model of
the correlation between tourists’ landscape evaluation and place attachment. The overall
framework of this research model refers to the modified SOR model by Belk [
34
], adopting
the model, which was originally used in the field of consumption environment, in the
tourism environment of historic districts. In line with PLS structural equation model data
validation, this model verifies our hypothesis that tourists’ cognitive cultural heritage
values and experience authenticity are based on the situational stimulus, which needs
to ignite place attachment via the destination image. The research model demonstrates
how the landscape stimulus of historic districts ignites place attachment among tourists,
providing a theoretical reference for the forming process of place attachment.
The practical value of the study lies in the reference it provides for the sustainable
landscape planning of historic districts of a similar type. The study site could be regarded
as a typical historic district rich in old building resources with commerciality. Thanks to
the coverage of multiple regions in Taiwan and several age groups in the questionnaire
samples, the sample size is statistically convincing and ensures that the research findings
herein can be applied to historic districts of a similar type. The data results of different
variables and factors of the measurement model and the structural model reflect the specific
aspects based on which the landscapes of historic districts of a similar type could be
planned to ignite place attachment among tourists. For instance, from the discussion of
what kind of historic district landscapes tourists favor, it is clear that among the visual
preference variables, tourists have the highest preference for mystery, which has to do with
Sustainability 2022,14, 11755 22 of 25
the diverse style of groups of old buildings in the historic district. The discussion of what
kind of landscape stimulus could ignite place attachment among tourists indicates that
tourists’ visual landscape preference, authenticity experience, and destination image could
ignite place attachment among them. It has to do with the rich old building resources
and commerciality in the historic district. Therefore, on the basis of the results, this study
recommends the sustainable development of historic districts by focusing on (protecting or
renovating) landscape dimensions.
This study has some limitations. Future studies may arrange for extension or supple-
mentation as a solution to our current limitations. First, we took a historic district case that
is rich in old building resources with commerciality. The findings and recommendations are
applicable to this type of historic district. In future research, we will consider conducting
comparative studies of historic districts in multiple cities or selecting other types of historic
districts as the research object. Second, this is a cross-sectional study with a time limitation.
Similar research across a longer time span would be useful. Third, tourists’ perception
of the environment does not include only visual elements. We believe that sound and
taste are also important environmental factors in commercial streets in historic districts. In
future research on the landscapes of historic districts, in addition to visual stimuli, we will
consider other perceptions of tourists regarding landscapes.
Supplementary Materials:
The questionnaire items are available at: https://www.mdpi.com/
article/10.3390/su141811755/s1, and descriptive statistics can be viewed at https://docs.google.com/
document/d/1U4sozYnwNWyxrhYWPY201W0MwAI8Cp4V/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=1073981890
83360125473&rtpof=true&sd=true (accessed on 5 August 2022).
Author Contributions:
X.Z. contributed to the conceptual design of the study, data collection, draft-
ing of the article, and final approval; S.-C.C. contributed to the conceptual design of the study,
supervision of the progress, and final approval. All authors have read and agreed to the published
version of the manuscript.
Funding:
This research is supported by the following funds: 2021 Social Science Foundation of Fujian
Province (Grant No. FJ2021C108); 2021 Education and Scientific Research Project for Young and
Middle-aged Teachers of Fujian Province (Grant No. JAS21318); 2021 Philosophy and Social Science
Planning Project of Anhui Province (Grant No. AHSKQ2021D135); 2021 Social Science Planning
Project of Sanming City (Grant No. 21026).
Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Data Availability Statement: Not applicable.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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