How virtual reality influences travel intentions: The role of mental imagery and happiness forecasting
Skard, S., Knudsen, E. S., Sjåstad, H., & Thorbjørnsen, H. (2021). How virtual reality influences travel intentions: The role of mental imagery and happiness forecasting. Tourism Management, 87, 104360.
How does seeing a travel destination in VR relative to 2D images affect intentions to travel to the destination? And what are the psychological processes that explain the outcomes?
Virtual reality can influence consumer behavior in powerful ways, but in the domain of tourism marketing, less is known about the psychological process. One possibility is that VR has stronger impact on mental imagery than traditional channels, creating vivid simulations of what it would be like to visit destinations. This process might create hedonic expectations of future happiness, which should increase the willingness to actually seek out the destination in real life. The results from a laboratory experiment provided support to this hypothesis. Participants were randomly assigned to view a nature destination either in traditional still images or virtual reality, and then reported their initial responses before making an actual consumer choice. VR exposure led to higher levels of mental imagery and happiness predictions, which in turn was associated with stronger travel intentions and purchasing decisions. However, VR effects on consumer choice were moderated by previous experience with the destination.