Date of Award

8-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Backman, Sheila J.

Committee Member

McGuire , Francis A.

Committee Member

Backman , Kenneth F.

Committee Member

Holmevik , Jan Rune

Abstract

Given the increase in the use of technologies within the tourism industry, particularly the rising interest in virtual worlds such as Second Life, the purpose of this study is to identify the factors related to the 3D virtual tourism experience and behavioral intentions after visiting a virtual tourism destination. Two theories, the Technology Acceptance Model and Self-Determination Theory, were used to guide this study, both of which were found to be useful frameworks. Basecamp Maasai Mara in Second Life was selected as the research site, designed and developed through a collaborative effort at Clemson University. The results revealed that technological acceptance factors of tele-presence, perceived usefulness and perceived ease-of-use as described by the Technology Acceptance Model are significant factors related to both virtual tourist experiences and the behavioral intentions. In addition, the results obtained here indicate that psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, as specified by the Self-Determination Theory, are significantly associated with virtual tourist experiences and behavioral intentions. The results of this study suggest that in designing virtual destinations, tourism practitioners need to consider consumers' psychological needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness; for instance, the activities provided in Second Life Maasai Mara such as riding animated animals and listening to Maasai music were found to increase the virtual tourist's autonomy. In addition, tourism marketers should consider the types of information provided as well as the media used to present the information, by including videos and music, for example, in order to enhance the perception of ease-of use and usefulness. As technology continues to evolve, more research is needed to understand the significance of the use of virtual worlds in the tourism industry as well as to generate a new paradigm shift in tourism literature.

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