A Netnographic Study of Iranian Women's Behaviour Within Virtual Tourism Destination

This research explores Iranian women’s behavior traveling within virtual tourist destinations. Thisstudy uses a netnographymethodology driven by the feminism paradigm; sixteen in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with a group of Iranian women aged 40 to 53 living inMalaysia. The study findings show that most of the participants perceived virtual realitydestinations as platforms that have a significant potential to empower Iranian women tourists toovercome the travel constraints they face in real life.

This research explores Iranian women’s patterns of behavior traveling within virtual tourist destinations in vTime, a popular immersive virtual reality world. This study uses a netnography methodology driven by the feminism paradigm; sixteen in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with a group of Iranian women aged 40 to 53 living in Malaysia. They were students, housewives, lecturer. They were comfortable with new technology and had no prior experience with VR tourism platforms and little experience with VR in general. After approximately one hour in the virtual destinations, the participants were asked what they did, whom they talked to, and what they thought about the experience. All of the interviews were tape-recorded and were reviewed and transcribed. After that, the data analyzed and organised them into categories or themes. The findings show that most participants tried to create an avatar look like their physical appearances, natural, and not exaggerated. Moreover, while the virtual tours offer the participants more freedom to communicate with people worldwide, not all felt comfortable talking with other people. The study findings also show that the participants conceived corporeal and sensorial involvements as crucial components to engage in virtual tourism. However, the virtual reality tour was perceived as a different kind of tourism experience that has a significant potential to empower Iranian women tourists to overcome from the travel constraints they face in real life. This empowerment can achieve when women are not just simple users, but also they must play a sufficient role in the whole process of policy decision-making and application production in virtual tourism. This study makes multiple contributions to theory, methodology, and practical contributions towards tourist destination marketing, tourists themselves, particularly women, and virtual tour developers.

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