New PhD Project at BUeTourismLab to start in Sept 2012: Augmented Reality Gaming: A New Paradigm for Tourist Experience?


Project Summary

Gaming allows us to experience reality and can prepare and engage individuals for a future event. Smart phones make gaming part of everyday life and its potential to enhance a tourists experience represents a new industry frontier which this project will pioneer.
Aim: to create a new industry paradigm by engaging tourists in a dynamic, personalized and contextualized experience, through Augmented Reality Gaming (ARG) delivered via smart phones. ARG, which leverages power from both augmented reality and gaming technology, will engage tourists in a fun, informative and memorable way through an entire trip (pre, during and post). This represents a new frontier for both the tourism and gaming industry; a frontier that this project will pioneer.
Rationale: the digital technology has changed the way we think, work, learn and travel. The tourism industry must adapt to this age. Augmented Reality (AR) offer significant benefits in entertainment, training and tourism. With the increasing performance of smart phones, such as iPhone, tourism companies and government agencies are developing AR applications for interpretation of specific attractions, delivery of guided city tours, etc. Though smart phones provide tourists the interpretation timely on site, the information is static lacking interaction and fun. While some games have been developed for tourists, they are not available onsite for tourists to play in a more contextualized way. To tackle those limitations we propose in this project ARG which combines the power of both AR and computer games, believing that it has huge potential for tourism industry. For example, tourists could play a ‘treasure hunt’ game before the trip to generate interests for a visit; after the trip, the game allows them to recall their experiences; while during the trip, an AR game which joins both the real and virtual world, gives tourists a real, personalized, fun and fantasy experience feeling that they are actually in the game themselves rather than being a separate, exterior entity. ARG combines the real and the virtual worlds in a way that no other type of technology can and will create a new, dynamic experience for tourists. According to World Travel Market Report (2011), the gamification is a major trend for the coming years, which will appeal to consumers across all age demographics.


The aim of this project is to use ARG to make tourism experiences more informative, interactive, enjoyable and fun. The methodology includes a combination of social science research methods (qualitative and quantitative) and technical approach (system design). Details could be found in the diagram below. The project initiates from user feedback (social science), leads to system design (ICT), and then seeks more feedback (social science) to improve the design (ICT).
We aim to publish 3-4 (3 or 4 star) academic journal articles both in the field of tourism and informatics technology. One conference or workshop will be organized in BU to publicize the project. Presentations will also be made at other conferences. This is an inter-disciplinary project which embraces a great fusion between social science and technology. Depending on the research background of the PhD candidate, the focus and contribution of this project may fall into both tourism and ICT.

Academic Impact

This is a new, cutting edge research project, the outcome of which will produce a number of high quality (3 or 4 star) journal articles both in the area of tourism management and ICT. By disseminating our findings from this project into conferences or workshops, we expect to open a new research and development direction to digital technology’s application in tourism among academia from the tourism, ICT, design and technology field.

Societal Impact

Being one of the world’s largest and most pervasive industries, the travel and tourism sector is as exposed as any
other to the forces of change that are being brought about rapid developments in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) arena. Destinations around the world, are investing more on how to use ICT in destination management and marketing. At present, AR represents one of the most promising ICT technologies that offer benefits in various areas such as entertainment, education (interpretation), and tourism.
This project will shape a new, dynamic holiday experience through wide spread digital technology, and have great impact on the society. The project will add to the theory and practice of human computer interaction and will provide valuable methodologies for developing gaming techniques in augmented reality environments creating opportunities for using this in other industries and contexts.

Training Opportunities

Since this is a multi-disciplinary project, we will provide the PhD candidate a comprehensive training opportunity across different levels.
At the university level: the Graduate School offers a serials of programs, designed to support and promote generic and employability skills training for postgraduate researchers, including Research Skills and Techniques; Research Environment; Research Management; Personal Effectiveness; Communication Skills; Networking and Team working; Career Management. These programs provide opportunities to gain an understanding of the broader research environment, develop a PhD student’s conceptual and practical understanding of research and to develop more generic transferable skills, such as communicating to various audiences, negotiation skills and presentation skills.
At the school level: School of Tourism currently runs a methodology training program, including a series of workshops for all PhD students within the school. This program focuses specifically on tourism related subjects. And in DEC, there are high-end Mac PCs in the lab where the PhD student will have an opportunity to familiarize and train himself the design and development of iPhone Apps, with the supervisor and other staff in DEC. These programs will help the candidate to gain an understanding of both social science research methods and technical approaches.

Besides, the candidate will have regular weekly meetings with a cross disciplinary supervisory team. He/she will also have chances to meet other PhD students in the School of Tourism and DEC, discussing and sharing ideas, experiences, challenges and difficulties in a friendly, supporting environment.

The supervisor team will encourage and guide the candidate to write articles and submit to conferences, where he/she could present his/her work, providing valuable experiences to prepare for future viva.

First supervisor

1. Feifei XU

Additional supervisors

2. Feng Tian
3. Dimitrios Buhalis


Recent publications by supervisors relevant to this project

1) Minghetti, V. and Buhalis, D., 2010. Digital divide in tourism. Journal of Travel Research, 49 (3), pp. 267-281. (In Press)
2) Buhalis, D. and Law, R., 2008. Progress in information technology and tourism management: 20 years on and 10 years after the Internet—The state of eTourism research. Tourism Management, 29 (4), pp. 609-623.
3) Buhalis, D., 2003, eTourism: information technology for strategic tourism management, Pearson (Financial Times/Prentice Hall), London
4) Morgan, M. and Xu, F., 2009. Student Travel Experiences: Memories and Dreams. Journal of Hospitality and Marketing Management, 18 (2&3), pp. 216-236.
5) Weliamto, W.A., Seah, H.S., Tian, F. and Li, L., 2005. Enhancement of Aligning Accuracy on Zooming Camera for Augmented Reality. In: ACE ’05: Proceedings of the 2005 ACM SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, 15-17 June 2005, Valencia, Spain, pp. 233-237.

Informal Enquiries

To discuss this opportunity further please contact

Feifei Xu – email:;

Feng Tian – email: or

Dimitrios Buhalis – email:

How to Apply

Information on how to apply can be found on:

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