• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 12, No 5 (2021)

The Future of Post-COVID-19 Urban Tourism: Understanding the Experiences of Indonesian Consumers of Hallyu with South Korean Virtual Tourism

The Future of Post-COVID-19 Urban Tourism: Understanding the Experiences of Indonesian Consumers of Hallyu with South Korean Virtual Tourism

Title: The Future of Post-COVID-19 Urban Tourism: Understanding the Experiences of Indonesian Consumers of Hallyu with South Korean Virtual Tourism
Riela Provi Drianda, Meyriana Kesuma, Nadia Ayu Rahma Lestari

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Cite this article as:
Drianda, R.P., Kesuma, M., Lestari, N.A.R., 2021. The Future of Post-COVID 19 Urban Tourism: Understanding the Experiences of Indonesian Hallyu Consumers of South Korean Virtual Tourism. International Journal of Technology. Volume 12(5), pp. 989-999

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Riela Provi Drianda School of Social Sciences, Waseda University, 1-6-1 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8050, Japan
Meyriana Kesuma Department of Architecture and Planning, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Tarumanagara, Jl. Letjen S. Parman No. 1, Jakarta Barat 11440, Indonesia
Nadia Ayu Rahma Lestari Department of Architecture and Planning, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Tarumanagara, Jl. Letjen S. Parman No. 1, Jakarta Barat 11440, Indonesia
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Abstract
The Future of Post-COVID-19 Urban Tourism: Understanding the Experiences of Indonesian Consumers of Hallyu with South Korean Virtual Tourism









Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, South Korea is still actively promoting its culture and tourist destinations to global audiences. Through the initiative of Imagine Korea Virtual Reality, the country invites foreign people to view Korean sightseeing places and tourist spots. Based on Imagine Korea as the case study material, our study attempted to identify the perceptions, feelings, and expectations of Indonesian consumers of Hallyu through virtual tourism offered by South Korea. The study employed in-depth interviews with 15 respondents who often consume Korean pop culture. The result revealed that most respondents had never experienced or had been interested in any virtual tours offered during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the experiments changed their perceptions of the entertainment virtual tours can provide throughout the COVID-19 crisis. While most respondents agreed that virtual tours sparked their interest in visiting Seoul after the pandemic ended, they mainly stated that virtual tours could never replace traditional travel. Thus, instead of serving as an alternative form of tourism during COVID-19 and afterwards, the study indicated the potential of virtual tours to be a primary destination marketing tool, one that can help visitors better design their itinerary routes and learn about local attractions.

Hallyu consumers; Indonesia; Post-pandemic; Urban tourism; Virtual tourism

Introduction

The outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the travel and tourism sector all around the globe. As the virus continues to spread, many countries have closed their borders to international tourists. The World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) (2020) reported a significant decline in international tourist arrivals, which has caused the loss of US$ 936 billion in export revenues from international tourism. The recovery of tourism receipts worldwide will take some time (OECD, 2020), as the pandemic has forced international tourism to return to the level of 30 years ago (UNWTO, 2020). In addition, many countries have suffered from economic decline and job losses due to the COVID-19 crisis in the tourism sector. Drastic losses in GDP are apparent in tourist-centric countries like Mexico, where 15.5% of the economy is dependent on the travel and tourism sector (Richter, 2020). The forum also identified Italy and Spain as among the most vulnerable countries to COVID-19's impact on tourism (Richter, 2020).

As people cannot engage in traditional tourism during the pandemic, virtual tourism has become a new alternative for the tourism industry (Srinivasa and Krantz, 2020; Rogers, 2020). According to IGI-Global, virtual tourism can be defined as an ICT-based tool that uses digital images and sensory feedback to simulate tourist attractions available at remote destinations (IGI Global, n.d). This type of tourism enables a tourist experience without visiting the place in person. In 2002, destination marketers considered the use of virtual tours for tourism marketing (Cho et al., 2002); however, there was no precise definition of what ‘virtual’ means. As time went by, the popularity of virtual tourism continued to rise as it opened up the possibility to visit protected or impossible-to-visit sites (Wagler and Hanus, 2018). Heritage destinations are often threatened by tourism activity (Widaningrum et al., 2020), and virtual tours could help preserve these endangered sites. Additionally, virtual tours could also help visitors experience the destination's selected visual, audio, and spatial aspects without actually being there (Yung and Lattimore, 2019). Virtual tourism is also safer and more secure, as users do not have to deal with jetlag, the risk of contracting diseases, and other dangers and discomforts (Srinivasa and Krantz, 2020).

During the wide and continuous spread of the coronavirus, many countries are trying various interventive measures to save their tourism through a rapid shift to digitalization. Virtual tours, which will be discussed in this study, emerged as an innovative solution to address the challenges faced by the tourism sector during the global spread of COVID-19. Its development was intended to assist the traditional tourism and cultural sectors hit hard by the pandemic. Various countries have been developing virtual tours to keep their cultures alive. However, in this study we focus on the tours developed by South Korea as one country that has been actively using virtual tours to attract potential holidaymakers. The outbreak of COVID-19 has not stopped the country from promoting its cultural and historical assets to potential holidaymakers. Instead, the Korean Tourism Agency (KTO) has aggressively branded South Korea tourism through various virtual tours and promotional videos, despite the continuous worldwide spread of coronavirus. By looking at the virtual tours developed by the Korean Tourism Organization, this study intended to identify the extent to which they could provide users, in this context Indonesian consumers of Hallyu, with tourism experience. In addition, this study focused on the experiences of Indonesian consumers of Hallyu while considering the increased number of Indonesians who consumed Korean pop culture during the pandemic (Drianda et al., 2021). Further, the study attempts to identify whether Indonesian tourism stakeholders should consider virtual tourism for the future of post-pandemic tourism. Finally, it also seeks to fathom the lessons learned in order to recommend improvement of the design of virtual tours to optimize the tourism experience.

Conclusion

        The study recognized the potential of virtual tours to attract people’s interest in tourist destination sites during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, virtual tours should be considered as a potential marketing tool for urban tourism, in light of their power to generate short bursts of enjoyment, nostalgic feelings, and even to spark a desire to visit Seoul. However, the study reminded us of aspects that could not be replaced by a virtual tour: the desire of tourists to connect with real people, taste the food, and experience the culture directly. Therefore, this study suggests investing in the development of virtual tourism as a tool for the marketing of a city. In addition, the present study identified some lessons learned regarding the design of Imagine Your Korea virtual tours. The first is related to the quality of images used in the virtual tours: All images are presented in high resolution, enabling the users to see the scene clearly in detail. The closer the image is to reality, the greater the tendency for users to be interested in the promoted area. The second concerns the design of the content and narratives. Imagine Your Korea offers users ten thematic tours, allowing them to explore Korea with explanations from different points of view. The designers focus on providing images that they believe would attract potential holidaymakers, particularly Hallyu fans. The case of Imagine Your Korea taught us the importance of developing attractive narratives that could spark users’ interest in visiting the promoted area in person. The third lesson concerns easy access for users to explore the virtual tour, such as eliminating the need to log in, register, or use a specific device to explore the tour. Nevertheless, some of the input from the respondents of this study can be considered in optimizing the tourism experience. The first of these improvements concerns adopting mixed reality, a hybrid of virtual reality and augmented reality, to accommodate users’ expectations for a near-realistic tourism experience. However, this adoption might lead to the second suggestion, which focuses on providing an alternative virtual tour for those with limited access to an internet connection. The respondents in this study who could not access the tour due to a poor wi-fi connection decided not to explore it. It would thus be a waste to invest in virtual tours that potential holidaymakers cannot access. Finally, this study emphasizes the importance of speeding up the provision of digital infrastructure to enable more innovation in future cities, as suggested by Berawi (2018; 2021).

Acknowledgement

    We would like to thank our respondents for devoting their time to the study, and for sharing their perspectives on the virtual tours studied.

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