Industry Update
Opinion Article22 August 2016

Before You Invest In Offering the Augmented Reality Experiences

By Shangzhi Charles Qiu, Research Assistant at the Purdue Tourism & Hospitality Research Center

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The increased availability of AR applications provides destinations, attractions and tourism organizations more opportunities to enhance visitor experience (Han, Jung & Gibson, 2014). Although more and more destinations and attractions are incorporating the AR technology into the overall visiting experience, it is unclear yet whether this approach really increases the attractiveness of the place and brings more visitors. Only a few studies have been conducted on the influence of availability of AR experience on visiting intention (Chung, Han & Joun, 2015).


Nowadays, touristic AR application is not only a more interactive tour guide. Many entertaining functions have been added to the AR experience at tourism destinations. For example, TimeWarp and Urban Sleuth are AR gaming applications that actively engage users through the reconstruction of historic events and buildings, or by sending tourists on missions within a destination (Kouvanis et al., 2012). There is a trend to combine virtual games with touristic places to offer the AR entertainment experience at tourism destinations. However, before investing in creating the AR entertainment, it is important to know whether AR entertainment opportunity at the destination can increase potential visitor's interest in the destination.

Tourists' intention to visit a destination is influenced by whether the destination experiences can satisfy their travel motivation (Li & Cai, 2012). Motivation for leisure tourism has been extensively studied. The push/pull model is a widely recognized travel motivation theory. This model points out that travel motivation consists of two components of factors (Crompton, 1979; Dann, 1981). The push factors are inner states of the tourists that "push" them to leave the living environment. Push factors determine whether the tourists want to take tourism but do not decide the destination. Pull factors are destination attributes that attract tourists who have been "pushed" to the destination. The decision to visit a destination is made when the pull factors of the destination match the push factors of the tourists.

Widely recognized push factors include the need to escape from routine, the need to seek novelty, the need for education and knowledge, the need for relaxation, the need for better relationship with important others, the need for social recognition or prestige, and the need for self-actualization (Dann, 1981; Li & Cai, 2012). The unique destination experience that is difficult to obtain at home environment or at other destinations can satisfy multiple push factors. Touristic AR applications that incorporates entertaining functions rather than just a tour guide makes the destination experience different from the traditional one. Therefore, AR entertainment opportunity can provides such a unique destination experience compared with destinations without AR entertainment.

According to Han et al. (2014), AR games that combine with touristic information provide tourists with the opportunity to learn unknown surroundings in an enjoyable and interactive way. This enables tourists to learn about the history in an enjoyable manner, which at the same time can serve for educational purposes and facilitate the learning process. Kouvanis et al. (2012) claimed that using interactive content and blending digital content into the real world provides more experience values because information are provided in a different format than users are used to. Hence, this novelty aspect captures attention and creates a unique visitor experience. Another type of AR entertainment is application like Pokemon Go which is not designed for tourism but adds more fun to the destination experience. For this type of application, tourism works as a tool to facilitate the progress of playing the game rather than that the game facilitates the tourism experience. This is also a novel concept in tourism market.

In addition, AR technology offers a better way to fulfill the educational function of tourism. For example, in terms of cultural heritage tourism, the possibility to provide three-dimensional content through AR makes information on cultural heritage more accessible and understandable for non-expert tourists. Moreover, by connecting to the social media, tourists can instantly share the experience of interacting with the destination on the AR games. This function satisfies the need for social recognition if such an AR facilitated experience differs from that of other destinations, and satisfies the need for relationship enhancement if this unique experience is appreciated by friends and families (Crompton, 1979).

A recent study of Chung, et al. (2015) showed how AR technology influences tourists' intention to visit the destination and its attractions. They identified that if the tourist perceives that AR application can make the tour experience more interesting or funnier, the tourist will form a more positive attitude toward using the AR application at the destination, and in turn a higher intention of visiting the destination. Based on the above discussion, I proposed that AR entertainment opportunity at the destination should increase visiting intention.


  • Chung, N., Han, H., & Joun, Y. (2015). Tourists' intention to visit a destination: The role of augmented reality (AR) application for a heritage site. Computers in Human Behavior, 50, 588-599.
  • Crompton, J. L. (1979). Motivations for pleasure vacation. Annals of Tourism Research, 6(4), 408-424.
  • Dann, G. M. (1981). Tourist motivation an appraisal. Annals of Tourism Research, 8(2), 187-219.
  • Han, D. I., Jung, T., & Gibson, A. (2014). Dublin AR: Implementing augmented reality in tourism. In Z. Xiang, & I. Tussyadiah (Eds.), Information and communication technologies in tourism (pp. 511–523). Vienna: Springer.
  • Kounavis, C. D., Kasimati, A. E., & Zamani, E. D. (2012). Enhancing the tourism experience through mobile augmented reality: Challenges and prospects. International Journal of Engineering Business Management, 4(10), 1–6.
  • Li, M., & Cai, L. A. (2012). The effects of personal values on travel motivation and behavioral intention. Journal of Travel Research, 51(4), 473-487.

Shangzhi Charles Qiu

Shangzhi Qiu is a PhD candidate at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Purdue University. He has worked for the Purdue Tourism & Hospitality Research Center for two years. His researches have been published in several reputable academic journals including "International Journal of Hospitality Management".

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