Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

    Exploring Place Attachment Theory in VR of a Rural Destination: The effect of VR Experience on domestic tourists’ attachment to places

    Pantelidis, Christos (2023) Exploring Place Attachment Theory in VR of a Rural Destination: The effect of VR Experience on domestic tourists’ attachment to places. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    Virtual Reality (VR) has the power to transform tourism experiences. VR can enhance the pre-, on-site, and post-travel stage by offering a range of new and innovative digital experiences. Place attachment (PA) theory can be described as people’s emotional bond to places. One of the key aspects of developing PA is due to positive place experiences. Hence, the tourist experience represents a critical factor in forming attachments to destinations. In the last decade, PA studies in tourism have increasingly examined how tourists form emotional bonds to places. The benefits of PA may lead to a range of positive outcomes for destinations such as sustainability, loyalty or place satisfaction. However, limited studies have explored how immersive experiences impact tourists’ attachment with destinations. Therefore, to address the gap, this doctoral thesis aimed to explore to what extent VR has an impact on tourists’ experience and attachment to a rural destination. For this purpose, an exploratory sequential mixed method research design was followed. The research was carried out at the biggest national park in the UK, Lake District National Park. The sample for both data collection stages involved repeated domestic tourists. Within the first qualitative stage, data was collected by using semi-structured interviews and analysed using thematic analysis to reveal new PA themes in a VR setting. The new identified themes were accessibility, aesthetics, presence, memories, increased place knowledge and Increased Intention to Revisit and Place Attachment. The second stage included a questionnaire and included a larger sample of repeat tourists to test the proposed model. For this purpose, the PA framework was tested by using the partial least square analysis. The findings found a significant impact of VR on tourists’ PA. However, the type of VR experience differed based on tourists’ existing PA level. The theoretical contribution of this thesis lies in proposing and validating the PA framework by integrating VR into PA. Furthermore, the thesis also presented methodological contribution and practical implications.

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