The Real Effectiveness of VR: the tourism and cultural organization managers' point of view
Keywords:Virtual reality, 360-degree, Immersive experience, Swiss tourism, Destination marketing organizations
Abstract: Virtual reality (VR) has become an important field of academic research investigation, firstly and obviously in relation to its technological aspects. Then, as a marketing tool for promotion and communication purposes. In this context, researchers have mainly focused on analyzing the behavior and appreciation of tourists with respect to this new technology. This article proposes an alternative approach, focusing on the company’s decision-makers, mainly tourism and cultural organizations, who use this technology. This approach seeks to understand how and why VR is integrated into a company's strategy. Methodology: Firstly, we did a literature review and studied a systematic collection of virtual tour offers in Switzerland, which led to the analysis of characteristics of these virtual reality offers. These characteristics consider the different virtual reality systems according to the level of immersion, interactivity, and presence, which made it possible to construct a classification of virtual tour offers in Switzerland. Secondly, a qualitative method was used to conduct twelve semi-structured interviews with companies offering virtual tours of Swiss regions, in order to understand the managerial vision of VR usage and to deepen understanding of the various applications of virtual reality in the context of Swiss tourism. Findings: The analysis revealed that there is a distinction between the different virtual reality systems used in the Swiss tourism sector. Research has shown that non-immersive 360° videos as a marketing tool are no longer of great benefit to tourist destinations. Conversely, immersive virtual tours for promotional purposes at trade fairs and with travel partners are still of interest however are no longer considered a competitive advantage. It is the integration of VR into the in-situ tourism experience which has received a more enthusiastic response but creating fears among tourism stakeholders. Originality/Value: The main argument of this article is that it analyzes the use of VR tools from the point of view of managers of cultural and tourist institutions, and not from the point of view of customers. Furthermore, the article proposes a new structural classification of VR projects in Switzerland and offers practical implications for tourism and cultural organizations, as well as new directions for future studies.
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