Experiential marketing is effective in influencing tourist behaviour because pleasure tourists travel in pursuit of fantasies and positive emotions. The influences of experiential marketing on tourist behaviour depends on tourist imagery processing (i.e. the mental system involved in processing experiential stimuli). This theme has recently attracted the attention of tourism academics, but it lacks guidance for researchers to navigate the dense, complex literature. Hence, this paper aims to provide a theoretically based review of imagery processing research in tourism. The systematic quantitative literature review method is applied to select and analyse 70 relevant papers published in the period from 1997 to 2017. In doing so, this review reconciles imagery-related concepts such as mental simulation, consumption vision, narrative transportation, telepresence, imagination, fantasy and memory recall. Moreover, a general framework of tourist behaviour is developed to explain how experiential marketing influences tourist behaviour by means of mental processes. This paper suggests different ways to apply experiential marketing in managing tourist experiences. Also, it highlights the necessity of customising experiential marketing initiatives to target different tourist segments.