Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Enhancing Cultural Heritage Experiences with Smart Technologies: An Integrated Experiential Framework

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Enhancing Cultural Heritage Experiences with Smart Technologies: An Integrated Experiential Framework

Article excerpt

Introduction

The emergence of smart technologies has provided extraordinary possibilities to facilitate and enrich the experiences of visitors at heritage sites with relevant implications for the marketing and attractiveness of cultural tourism destinations (Chung, Han and Joun, 2015; Han, tom Dieck and Jung, 2017; Jung and tom Dieck, 2017; Jung, tom Dieck, Lee and Chung, 2016; Tscheu and Buhalis, 2016). Research in this area demonstrates the potential of different technologies to support and enhance visitors' experiences at heritage sites, including mobile Augmented Reality (Angelopoulou, Economou, Bouki, Psarrou, Jin, Pritchard, Kolyda, 2012; Cranmer, tom Dieck, and Jung, 2017; Han, Jung and Gibson, 2013; Kourouthanassis, Boletsis, Bardaki, Chasanidou, 2015; tom Dieck and Jung, 2016, 2017), Virtual Reality (Huang, Backman, Backman, and Moore, 2013; Guttentag, 2010; Jung, tom Dieck, Lee, and Chung, 2016; Pantano, 2011), wearable devices (Leue, Jung and tom Dieck, 2015; tom Dieck, Jung, and Han, 2016). However, most of the existing technological applications and related studies only focus on the on-site stage of the cultural heritage experience. Such a focus appears to be too narrow in relation to the perspective of technology-enhanced tourism experiences (Neuhofer et al., 2012, 2015), which emphasizes the important role of technologies in all the three main stages of the tourist experience, namely the pre-travel, the on-site and the post-travel stages. Indeed, recent research in the specific context of cultural heritage highlights the need to understand how smart technologies can enhance the cultural heritage experience by extending its boundaries to include pre- and post-visit stages (Kuflik, Wecker, Lanir and Stock, 2015; Jung and tom Dieck, 2017).

Furthermore, the application of smart technologies should take into account the multifaceted nature of the heritage experience. Cultural heritage attractions are 'experiential' products that can facilitate feelings of fun and enjoyment, escape from routine, sharing valued time with family or friends, or learning (McIntosh, 1999). Accordingly, tourism studies analyse the experience of cultural heritage sites and attractions as a multi-dimensional construct in order to capture the range of visitors' thoughts, feelings, emotional reactions, sensations, activities, benefits (Buonincontri, Marasco, and Ramkissoon, 2017; Chen and Chen, 2010, 2013; Masberg and Silverman, 1996; McIntosh and Prentice, 1999; Sheng and Chen, 2012). In this respect, studies have demonstrated the applicability of the four realms of experience identified by Pine and Gilmore (1998) - Aesthetic, Entertainment, Education, and Escapism - to the consumption of experiences at heritage tourism sites (Hayes and McLeod, 2007; Juroski, 2009; Mehmetoglu and Engen, 2011; Radder and Han, 2015; Suntikul and Jachna, 2016). Pine and Gilmore's model is also used by recent research on technology-enhanced heritage experiences (Jung, tom Dieck, Lee, Chung, 2016; Lee, Lee, and Ham, 2013). In line with Pine and Gilmore's model, the capacity to address cultural heritage tourists in more than one of the four dimensions can provide a strong experiential value.

Starting from this background, the purpose of this paper is to advance current understanding and practice in relation to the use of smart technologies for the enhancement of cultural heritage experiences at tourism destinations. In particular, the paper raises the need to consider how these technologies can support the intensification of all the four experience dimensions identified by Pine and Gilmore (1998) in relation to an extended perspective of the visitors' experience including pre-visit, onsite and post-visit stages (Neuhofer et al., 2012; 2015). In this view, the paper examines a sample of best practice examples of smart technologies for cultural heritage sites by considering their application in relation to different types of technologies, stages and dimensions of the experience. …

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