The growth of live streaming and its application on tourism marketing in Australia
In today business world, marketing and communication are acting as a focal point in enhancing the competitiveness of enterprises. The tourism sector is not an exception to that current situation, thus it is compulsory for destinations and tourism firms to adopt efficient marketing strategies and utilize the power of available communication tools. Among the available media solutions, live streaming is being considered as a fast and strong emerging instrument for enhancing marketing effectiveness. In China, based on the statistic of the China Internet Network Information Center, by the end of 2020, the live streaming users accounted for 62.4% of national internet users (617 million), with more than half of them attending to live streaming commerce activities (Ming et al., 2021). In Vietnam, online selling through live streaming has become a new trend (Bui and Pham, 2019). The application of this tool in Vietnam has even emerged beyond its original context – social media, with the live streaming function is now available on key e-commerce platforms (such as Lazada and Shopee). Despite the growth of this method, live streaming has not gained enough popularity in the context of the Vietnamese tourism industry. In addition to that, the lack of academic research in Travel Live Streaming might be a factor that causes the hesitation in this technology adoption. By using the desk research method, the research will explore the growth of live streaming and study 2 live streaming marketing campaigns in Australia: “Remote Tourist Control” (2013) and “Live from Aus” (2020). The observations from the case studies are expected to provide some insights into live streaming applications in the context of tourism marketing, thus might provide a foundation for the future adoption of live streaming for Vietnam tourism.
The definition and the growth of live streaming
According to Sjöblom and Hamari (2017), live streaming is a form of broadcasting that allows media content to be simultaneously consumed with the content creating process. Compared to the traditional video and audio content, live streaming is a more comprehensive and manifold means of communication by its highly interactive nature. When participating in the live streaming session, the content users are allowed to contact the content generators and on the other side, the streamers can immediately responses their viewers. This mechanism of real-time immersion created a social presence (Wongkitrungrueng and Assarut, 2020), which can be simply defined as “the feeling of being there with the real person” (Oh, Bailenson and Welch, 2018). Social presence can result in a strong sense of human interaction that can be gained for users, despite the fact that no direct interaction has been made.
The rise of live streaming started in the gaming industry, with the significant growth of Twitch – a live stream web service for gaming content. February 2014, Twitch reached the 4th position in “Peak US Internet Traffic”, which accounted for 1.8% of the total internet traffic in America (Twitch, cited in Nascimento et al., 2014); and in 2015, it earned 100 million viewers per month (Needleman, 2015). The popularity of watching video games live streams has attracted academics in exploring this phenomenon. Examining the motivations to watch live streams, Sjöblom and Hamari (2017) have figured out five key needs of viewers when watching live streaming video game content, including “Cognitive”, “Affective”, “Personal Integrative”, “Social Integrative” and “Tension Release”.
With the development of technology, live streaming has later emerged beyond its original entertainment-based nature to become a marketing solution, In the context of e-commerce, live streaming has proven to be a useful marketing/commercial tool. From the social presence gained through joining the live streaming session, the level of trust of consumers can be significantly increased (Ming et al., 2021). To be precise, the research of Ming and colleagues indicated that, the social presence in live streaming can provoke a deep concentration and enjoyment of users, thus allowing the retailer to influence the customer easier and better. Not just that, the level of trust is shown to be able to be enhanced through the interaction between participants in the live streaming session.
Another useful notion of live streaming in the context of marketing and e-commerce is the ability to eliminate the uncertainty of customers before making the buying decision. The research of Wongkitrungrueng and Assarut (2018) proves that live streaming can result in the affirmation of product authenticity and seller legitimacy. Since the buyers can have a high level of concern when they can not physically experience the product, while the digitalized visualization in the advertisements or virtual replication might not reveal the true appearance of the product, live streaming is a useful tool in providing a real sense of the product. In combination with seeing the actual seller promoting the authentic product, the customer can have a higher level of security when making the purchasing decision. Also, the high responsiveness nature of live streaming not only can increase the social presence as mentioned above but also allow the customers to gain a timely response in case of having any uncertainty (ibid.). It is also important to note that the source of affirmation gained from live streaming can come from both the seller and other participants. With the high variety of information sources, the customer might have fewer chances to be given biased reviews on the product.
In recent years, especially under the COVID-19 pandemic conditions, the practice of live streaming in tourism is gaining more popularity and has proven to be a useful marketing tool in tourism (Deng, Benckendorff and Wang, 2021). In Australia, the application of live streaming in tourism started in 2013, with the “Melbourne Remote Control Tourist” campaign. In 2020, Tourism Australia successfully launched the “Live from Aus” campaign, attracting numerous visitors through live virtual tours on social media platforms. Trip.com, one of the largest tourism enterprises in China adopted live streaming in its “Boss Live Session” project to boost Chinese domestic tourism. In Vietnam, the Tourism Promotion Information Centre of Ninh Binh Province has introduced their online, live streaming tours in numerous destinations on their Facebook fan page (Viet Nam News, 2021). Apart from the practical side, the value of this means of communication has been affirmed in academic research as well. According to the research of Zhang, Wang and Zhang (2021), travel live streaming can strengthen destination trust, thus increasing the visit intention of live stream viewers. However, in an academic context, the role of travel live streaming remains under-investigated, especially in terms of empirical research.
The role of live streaming in tourism
In the context of tourism, it is best to treat live streaming as a form of experiential marketing. Experiential marketing is defined as any type of customer-centric marketing activity that results in a customer connection (Ferreira and Sousa, 2020). Usually, Experiential marketing requires the participation of the customer in virtual or real events (Schmitt, 1999). The main goal of these experiential events is to create satisfaction in tourists experience, thus leveraging their emotional impression (Wibisono and Syahyahya, 2018). Examining the characteristics of travel live streaming, this form of communication (1) displays a virtual model of the destination for the customer to experience; (2) has an interactive nature that allows a deep connection from the customer to occur. These characteristics are in sync with the nature of experiential marketing. In the age of experience economy, the adoption of experiential marketing strategies like travel live streaming is critical to boosting destination competitiveness (Rather and Hollebeek, 2020).
On the other hand, travel live streaming, like any form of virtual tour, must not be considered a tourism product. According to the research of Hassani and Bastenegar (2020), the live stream while might be able to form an experience for tourists, but the experience gained violates the definition of tourism, since no physical travelling activities are conducted when users participate in a virtual tour. Thus the study of travel live streaming should stay within the tourism marketing scope. The understanding of this nature of travel live streaming is critical since it ensures that both authoritative bodies and tourism enterprises can follow an accurate direction when applying this marketing solution.
The success of Australia in adapting travel live streaming in tourism marketing
Australia is the country that has witnessed an intensive application of travel live streaming. In this paper, two distinctive travel live streaming of Australia: “Melbourne Remote Control Tourists” and “Live from Aus” will be examined.
Melbourne Remote Control Tourists
Melbourne is the capital of Victoria State, Australia. Not just only the political and economic centre of Victoria State, Melbourne is also the spearhead destination of the Victorian tourism sector. In 2007, the city developed its 2007 – 2012 Tourism Plan, aimed at making the city truly a tourist destination (Tourism Melbourne, 2007), and had gained significant success. In 2012, Melbourne achieved its highest number of international visitors, visitors night and expenditure (Tourism Victoria, 2013). Along with Sydney, this coastal city was now considered among the key attractions in Australia. In 2013, with the aim to strengthen its position as a major destination; continue to attract tourists from New Zealand (the second-largest spending market in Melbourne) and domestic tourists, the city continued its Play Melbourne campaign.
In 2013, the city of Melbourne in Australia has launched a disruptive tourism marketing campaign, the “Melbourne Remote Control Tourists” – The second stage of the Play Melbourne campaign. To execute this campaign, 4 tourists, equipped with cameras, microphones and GPS tracking devices, were assigned to travel across the city for 5 days, and all of their experiences were live-streamed on the campaign microsite (Ali, 2013). Based on the request of viewers on social media platforms, the tourists would perform the experience. For example, when the viewers ask for taking an espresso, the tourist would go to the coffee shop and grab a Melbourne’s signature short black.
The campaign was considered as gained a great success:
– Attracted over 100,000 visitors.
– 43 million earned social media impressions were generated (IAB Australia, 2013).
– Gained the attention from viewers in 4000 cities in 158 countries (IAB Australia, 2013).
– Target customers spent over 6 minutes on the website with a low bounce rate of 14% (Hauser, 2014).
– Over 10,000 social mentions with 96% of them being positive (Hauser, 2014).
– Overall, the campaign had both been successful in terms of increasing the participation and engagement of tourists (Hauser, 2014).
– Post-campaign growth on social media platforms was recognized (PhocusWire, no date).
– With its dynamic nature, the campaign had developed far beyond its original scope (New Zealand market and domestic market) and received global recognition.
– The project had supported Melbourne to strengthen its position as the most attractive capital for tourism in Australia (Tourism Victoria, 2014).
Live from AUS
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had suddenly struck the Australian tourism industry. With the compulsory application of non-pharmaceutical interventions in order to limit the contagion of the coronavirus, all tourism activities could not be able to operate. That situation could significantly damage the tourism demand in Australia, thus the need of having a campaign to keep the image of the destination fresh in the tourist minds was raised.
Aimed at keeping the destination image when travel activities are restricted, Tourism Australia has launched the “Live from AUS” project, focusing on the domestic market. The project started on 15th May 2020 with the 1-hour broadcast of The Love Australia Project, followed by numerous live stream sessions across 2 weekend days. Multiple individuals and enterprises participated in the delivery of live-streaming sessions, broadcasted various types of experiences across Australia. In this project, Tourism Australia focused on exposing the country’s unique culture, stunning natural resources, exceptional gastronomy and one-of-a-kind wildlife. The live streams were all posted on the official Facebook page of Tourism Australia and national television.
The campaign is reported to gain several significant outcomes (Digitas, no date):
– Generated 226 million impressions.
– Reached 127 million unique social users and drove significant lifts in recall and sentiment in all international markets.
– 1,765 pieces of media coverage were earned.
– 100% positive sentiments.
Especially, the campaign might contribute to the recovery of tourist sentiment, which had been significantly damaged by the pandemic. From 60% of domestic tourists were not thinking of the next holiday in April 2020, after the implementation of the campaign, only 38% of tourists had no thoughts about the next vacation at the end of 2020 (Australian Government, 2021).
Key notions that made the success of the live streaming campaigns
– Fostering interactiveness:
In both of the projects, interactiveness were all considered to be the key element in content delivery. For Melbourne Remote Control Tourists, the project organization board put most of the effort into ensuring the real-time interactive function of the live streaming platform would run properly. Also, the designation of the project itself had a highly interactive nature, since the viewers played a significant role in co-generating with the streamer. Moving to the “Live from Aus” campaign, in the Live Streaming Guidelines, Tourism Australia encouraged streamers to enhance their communication with the viewers. This had ensured that all the live sessions were conducted with a high level of interactiveness. In accordance with the research of Rather and Hollebeek (2020), the excellent executions in the interactiveness dimension of the campaigns had resulted in an enhancement in terms of customer engagement, fostered the marketing effectiveness of the two destinations.
– Ensuring the informativeness:
Examining informativeness, it is critical to look at two dimensions: (1) the amount of valuable information and (2) the delivery of information. These are the key objectives that both campaigns have successfully executed. For Melbourne Remote Control Tourist, the campaign had provided a large amount of information to the viewers with 321 check-ins across the city and multiple unique experiences (Remote Control Tourist, 2013). All of them were being delivered through a vibrant, highly interactive mechanism, with actual visual and audio, location via a mapping system with GPS and in-depth communication with the broadcasters and viewers. That created a stronger impression inside the tourist mind, helped them in consuming and memorizing the information better. Moving to the “Live from Aus” campaign, both of the objectives were successfully being met as well. While not using the same “wandering mechanism in designing the experience, the “Live from Aus” campaign still maintained the diversity in terms of their experiences, with the display of a vast majority of the different tourism products. On the other hand, the delivery of “Live from Aus” might provide a deeper sense of acknowledgement to tourists, since the timeframe was divided for specific experiences, resulting in in-depth delivery of information delivery on each tourism product.
– Focusing on authenticity
In tourism, authenticity is seen as one of the most important tourist motivations (MacCannell, 1973). Live streaming is a useful tool to affirm the authenticity of the destination (Wongkitrungrueng and Assarut, 2020). Providing real-time, true visualization of the destination, the immersion of tourists can be filled with authenticity, thus attracting them to have an actual visit at the destination. By choosing live streaming as the form of tourism product showcasing, both of the marketing campaigns had successfully delivered authentic experiences of Melbourne and Australia to the tourists.
Moreover, the designing of content delivery of both campaigns did have a significant impact on strengthening the authenticity as well. For “Melbourne Remote Control Tourist”, by allowing the viewers to explore the destination through the lens of the tourist, the realness in the experience of the tourist could be increased. For “Live from Aus”, Tourism Australia had cooperated with locals in delivering the experience online. Compared to a professional tour guide, locals might be a better piece of physical evidence on the authenticity of experiences, thus increasing the engagement of viewers.
– Increasing tourist affectiveness
Both of the campaigns had gained a high level of positive sentiments from viewers (with 96% for “Melbourne Remote Control Tourist” and 100% for “Live from Aus”). These results indicate that watching live streams can truly enhance the affective dimension of viewers, matching with the finding of Sjöblom and Hamari (2017). According to the research of Abdul Hamid and Mohamad (2020), tourist emotion plays a critical role in enhancing the connection between the travellers and the destination, thus it is vital to raise the affection of tourists when doing implementing tourism marketing strategies. By selecting live streaming as the form of content delivery, Tourism Melbourne and Tourism Australia had successfully established a connection between the location and the potential visitors.
– Meeting the tension release demands
Reducing the stress in life is a basic demand of humankind. According to the research of Sjöblom and Hamari (2017), “tension release” is among the value of watching live streams of gaming content. Even though video games and tourism are two distinct entities, both of them has the function to entertain people, help them reduce the stressfulness of life. So that, tension release can be considered as a dimension of travel live streaming content. While both of the campaigns had successfully created enjoyments and reduced the tensions of viewers, for the “Live from Aus”, meeting this objective is highly crucial. Since the COVID-19 pandemic causes a major impact on human mental health, by helping the viewers to reduce their level of stress, Australia can create a good impression inside the tourist mind and strengthen the destination image.
– Acknowledging the scope
For both of the campaigns, the two organization boards (Tourism Melbourne and Tourism Australia) did acknowledge that travel live streaming is a marketing tool, not a tourism product. Thus the operation of the campaigns was maintained within the scope of marketing, and no resources were wasted to develop these virtual experiences as a tourism product.
Recommendations for travel live streaming application in Vietnam
Under the COVID-19 conditions, Vietnam has intensively applied tourism experience digitalization to sustain the demands when tourist attractions are no longer accessible due to the pandemic. Live streaming is considered one of the tools in this digitalization process and has been adopted in several destinations. In Ninh Binh, since September 2021, the Provincial Tourism Promotion Information Center has started to air several travel live streams on its official Facebook fan page, promoted multiple tourism sites and local experiences (Nguyen, 2021). Tuyen Quang Investment Promotion Center has organized some online travel live streaming sessions in Na Hang and Lam Binh Districts via Zoom and has received positive reviews from tourism experts (Tuyen Quang Investment Promotion Center, 2021). However, the application of this technology remains relatively new. In order to foster the effective implementation of Travel Live Streaming right from the beginning stage, the paper provides some recommendations based on the two cases of Australia.
Conduct pilot testing and evaluation for travel live streaming application in Vietnam
Since the application of travel live streaming remains new in Vietnam, it is critical to conduct more researches on the implementation of this tool. In more detail, firstly, the testing and evaluation for live streaming applications should focus on the preference of viewers when consuming this type of content for effective content creating. Second, since most of the regions might have enough accessibility for this technology (due to the high level of smartphone owners in Vietnam and the availability of free platforms with the live streaming function), the research for travel live streaming adoption should focus on areas those are vulnerable, underdeveloped in terms of technology destinations. Thus, this can support the digitalization in these areas and foster a balance tourism development between regions.
Apply Travel Live streaming within its scope
Travel Live streaming, while do provide the experience for the users, is just a tourism marketing solution. Thus, the application of this tool should not exceed its marketing and promotion scope. For this task, the authority and tourism administration board play a critical role, since these entities are responsible for guiding the destination management organizations and tourism enterprises to adapt this tool accurately through issuing legal documents and official guidance.
Focus on interactiveness
Through the two case studies of Australia, it is clear that ensuring the interaction between the streamer and users is the key to enhancing the engagement of potential tourists for marketing campaign success. Thus, when adopting travel live streaming as a marketing tool, it is critical for the streamers and the content creators board to not just communicate with the viewers, but focus on boosting the viewers’ readiness to interact is also critical for the success of live streaming campaigns.
Be creative in creating and delivering content
By a high level of creativity, both of the live streaming campaigns in Australia had succeeded in being unique enough to disrupt the tourism marketing industry. From that evidence, the content creators should “think outside of the box” to provide viewers unique experience, which can result in a strong attachment and lead to future actual visitation.
Deliver high-quality graphics
Displaying a virtual version of the destination is identified as one of the main functions of travel live streaming. Thus, it is vital to ensure the quality of the graphic of the live streams, because the graphic quality determines the destination image observed by the participants. In case the graphic quality is not good enough to illustrate the beauty of the destination, it might negatively the way potential tourists see the destination thus can decrease the visit intention.
Ensure the local community involvement
When consuming the experiential marketing content, especially in the context of tourism, authenticity is a major notion (Kim, Lee and Jung, 2018) since the viewers wish to ensure what they see virtually can match the actual physical experience at the destination. From the evidence of the two marketing campaigns of Tourism Melbourne and Tourism Australia, the involvement of local people is a major factor that can strengthen this dimension position in the tourist mind. Also, by fostering the locals’ involvement, jobs for the people, especially those of vulnerable communities, can be provided. Thus, the livelihood of the people, which is an area in a crisis of Vietnam in the current pandemic conditions, can be secured.
Focus on education and training
Based on the fact that the application of live streaming for tourism in Vietnam remains new, there might be a lack of knowledge for this technology effective application. So that, it is critical to provide education and training on using this tool, especially for communities that have a low level of familiarity with the technology, so that they can be proactive in travel live streaming applications, thus fostering a digitalization for tourism in Vietnam towards sustainable goals.
From the practical implementation of live streaming in the context of tourism marketing in Australia, it is clear that this type of technology is a useful tool to strengthen the performance of the destination and attract more tourists. So that, a more intensive application of this marketing solution might be valuable for destinations, especially in pushing the recovery process of tourism post-COVID-19. Currently, multiple social media platforms announcing their live streaming function and the development of live streaming tourism platforms (Airbnb Online Experience, HeyGo). Thus the adoption of live streaming is now feasible for many destinations, including the developing ones, since they can save a significant amount of investment through the operation on existing platforms. The case studies also revealed that to fully utilize the power of live streaming, enhancing interactiveness, informativeness, authenticity in travel live streams are critical tasks. Also, since the number of academic studies on this entity is still limited, although its value has been proven in practical implementation, encouraging the research on live streaming is truly a vital task.
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