visitor behaviourdigital mediainterpretationheritage tourismmobile phone applications
Tourism in its many forms is one of the largest and continually expanding sectors of global economic development. Tourism spaces often contain stories for visitors to explore. These stories are told using various interpretive approaches and tools to familiarize, educate, and entertain visitors. This is especially evident in heritage tourism, since the variety of sites and the degree of visitor interest associated with this form of tourism is high. Rapid technological innovation and high interest in the use of digital tools for tourism have precipitated this study, which examines how visitors engage with a locative media mobile phone application (GuideTags) in digital interpretive experiences in historic downtown Niagara Falls, Ontario. This research specifically explores the behaviour of visitors using a digital interpretive app at a heritage site who were offered a decision between following a prescribed linear tour route or given the autonomy to choose their own route in the same location. Results suggest that a) emerging digital technologies impact the interpretive experience for users, and b) understanding how visitors choose to engage with these tools provides useful theoretical insights for tourism researchers, and practical insights for tourism operators and businesses when creating digitally mediated tourism experiences.