Virtual Reality in Tourism: Is it ‘Real’ Enough?

Marion Rauscher


Virtual Reality Technology is increasingly becoming popular in the tourism sector. So far, the most researched application is the marketing of destinations. In contrast, the technology has also been mentioned as a means to limit or reduce the number of tourists at a specific sight or destination. In this respect vr is considered as a substitute for the actual trip. This paper addresses this issue by looking at the possibility to apply vr-technology to transfer the real-life experience into the digital world. In a qualitative research framework, visitor behaviour and experience are investigated when encountering vr sights in order to better understand items driving technology adoption. Structured content analysis is applied for data analysis where coding follows an adjusted Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology model. For interpretation purposes a pure qualitative framework was chosen. We find that enjoyment is an important driver for vr technology acceptance, whereas facilitating conditions and outcome expectations seem to be obstacles for it. Perceived usefulness is evaluated controversially. While the technology is not acknowledged as a substitute for a regular holiday trip, especially for travellers who take pleasure in active holidays or appreciate social interaction, it was recognised as an alternative for special occasions such as brief getaways from everyday life or short city trips. Overall, when appropriately implemented the technology might not only be useful to decrease visitor concentration in touristic hotspots or to decrease negative aspects associated with frequent travel but could further be applied to sites where visitors do not engage physically because sites are too distant, expensive, inhospitable, unsafe or fragile.

Keywords: virtual reality, tourism, travel substitute, technology adoption, utaut

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