This seminar will be held in English.
Meaningful virtual nature: nature-based tourism, virtual reality and eudemonia
The research explores the virtual tourism of natural areas in contemporary virtual reality (VR) environments. The intersection between tourism and VR is one of the most critical research venues today. Several studies underline how valuable VR experiences of destinations positively contribute to place attachment, visitation intention, awareness and evangelism about destinations, among other aspects. VR also constitutes one of the most promising touchpoints between destinations and tourists outside the destination space. At the same time, recent socio-technological developments in VR question extant definitions and call for fresh research perspectives.
Most research on VR and tourism investigate virtual experiences of destinations by measuring sensorial immersion, fun, amusement, and satisfaction, which are elements typically related to hedonic experiences. Specularly, I look at how virtual experiences of destinations, particularly of natural areas, connect to human flourishment, meaningfulness, positive relationships and identity building, which are constitutive elements of eudemonic experiences. Today’s tourism industry is increasingly concerned with the staging and demand of eudemonic experiences instead of hedonic. Tourism has been recently defined as an investment in mental health more than mere relaxation, and an increasing amount of research evidences its connection to transformation, regeneration and flourishing.
I present a number of significant cases of virtual destination environments displaying a link to eudemonic experiences due to specific features. I draw and discuss opportunities that virtual experiences of natural areas represent for nature-based tourism stakeholders interested in eudemonic, transformative and sustainable tourism. Finally, I discuss the possible roles of VR across the tourist’s consumer journey in natural areas.
Eugenio Conti, PhD student at Dalarna University, Tourism Studies.
Centre for Tourism and Leisure Research, CeTLeR
CeTLeR at Dalarna University is the collaborative centre of excellence that works with regional businesses and the tourism industry to increase knowledge and understanding so as to meet industry needs while developing its potential.