Digitalization and sustainability: virtual reality tourism in a post pandemic world
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 2022. 10.1080/09669582.2022.2029870Sammendrag
The government-imposed COVID-19 pandemic control measures brought the tourism sector to a complete halt. However, virtual reality (VR) tourism offered people a way to escape the isolation. Media reports and research have noted heightened activity in VR tourism, which has been touted as “alternative tourism” and “eco-tourism”. However, scholars have yet to determine whether this shift is temporary or will persist after the pandemic is over. Questions also remain regarding the factors driving this behaviour. The present study uses stimulus-organism-response theory (SOR) to propose a sequential mechanism of the interplay of antecedents and outcomes, theorising VR tourism as a sustainable tourism solution long into the future. The model, tested by analysing 359 responses collected from VR users through Prolific Academic, confirmed the positive association of the environmental impact of touristic travel and pandemic travel anxiety with eco-guilt; pandemic travel anxiety, moreover, was also associated with attitude towards VR tourism. Furthermore, attitude towards VR tourism was positively associated with willingness to forgo the pleasure of in-situ tourism and post-pandemic VR tourism continuance intentions, with willingness also mediating the association between the other two. Finally, willingness partially mediated the association of attitude and fully mediated the association of eco-guilt with intentions.