Purpose: Training is one of the key dimensions of internal marketing. Virtual reality (VR), a computer technology that replicates an environment (real or imagined) and simulates a user’s physical presence in that environment to allow for user interaction, offers unique opportunities from a training perspective, such as allowing users to improve their skills without the consequence of failing real customers or the need to be in the real environment physically. This study aims to focus on comparing the effectiveness of VR hospitality training with that of real-world hospitality training. Design/methodology/approach: This study adopts situated cognition theory to empirically test the effect of the awareness of contextual variables (social interaction, location and task) on learning and compare learning outcomes between tourism training in VR and real-world experimental settings. Findings: Results indicate that location and task awareness enhance cognitive absorption, but social awareness does not influence cognitive absorption. There is no significant difference between training in real-world and VR environments. Finally, cognitive absorption has a positive effect on mental model change (the learning outcome). Originality/value: This result advances the theoretical understanding on the significance of learning context by applying situated cognition theory in hospitality training and has significant implications for training that aims for rigor and efficiency within cost, location and time constraints.
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