Psychological Motivators of Tourism
Why do people travel? It is a fairly simple question; however, people are complex beings. There are obvious reasons why people travel such as business, leisure, and to visit friends and family. As a person who plans to spend my life working in the Travel & Tourism industry it is important for me to understand on a deeper level what motivates consumers to travel. It’s useful for marketing purposes to understand the psychological motivators of your clients. In this blog post I am going to be analyzing what motivates people to travel using five motivational theories of psychology.
The first theory of motivation I am going to explore is the instinct theory. The instinct theory states that humans and animals alike are driven by instinctual unlearned behaviors. For example, birds fly south for the winter, not because they were taught to do that but because it is instinctual to them. I believe that it is not instinctual for humans to stay stagnant in one place. Pre-industrialization we were a species of nomads. In the days of the hunters and gatherers our natural travel patterns were connected to the earth and weather. When the seasons changed, or whenever there was impending danger we traveled accordingly. By this theory, people are naturally internally motivated to travel. In today’s society people tend to stay in one place for prolonged periods of time to work, attend school, and raise families. I think everyone has that instinctual urge to get away and explore new territories. That is one reason I believe people travel when they have adequate free time and can afford it.
People are also motivated to travel by arousal. The arousal theory of motivation states that all humans seek an optimum level of excitement or arousal. Some people seek higher level of arousal than others. I believe that travel itself is a form of arousal as well as the many other activates and experiences you can have while traveling. People with high optimum levels of arousal will be motivated to travel more, while people with low optimum levels of arousal will be more content with staying home. Additionally I think people with high optimum levels of arousal are more likely to travel to distant destinations and incorporate adventure sports into their travels while people with lower levels of arousal could be satisfied by a local trip or a vacation to a popular resort area to relax.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be used to explain what motivates people during their travels and how people act while traveling. Maslow explains through his hierarchy of needs that basic needs must be satisfied before upper level needs are sought after. When arriving in a foreign area travelers are initially motivated by basic needs. Physiological and safety needs are of the most basic needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy. When a traveler arrives in a new area they are likely to find food and check into their accommodations first. Once they feel these needs are satisfied they will be motivated to fulfill their belonging needs. These may include trying to meet new people, communicating with their travel group or contacting loved ones back home. Once a traveler is feeling like their basic needs are satisfied they are more likely to be adventurous, try new things and enjoy themselves. We can also relate Maslow’s theory to why people choose to travel in the first place. A person who has fulfilled most of their basic needs at home may feel the desire to travel to achieve esteem needs or even self-actualization.
The Hawthorne Effect is a theory popularized by Henry A. Landsberger who noticed that people have a tendency to preform their jobs better when they are being observed by researchers. The effect was accidentally discovered during a study to observe how workers at Western Electric’s Factory in Hawthorne Chicago reacted to changes in environment such as air temperature and brightness of lights. With every alteration they made, the workers increases productivity leading to the conclusion that the elements they were testing were negligible and the workers were increasing their productivity because they know they are being watched. Although this theory is regularly applied to the workplace it can be related to the Travel and Leisure industry as well.
To generalize the study, people have a tendency to behave differently when being observed. In the age of social media our lives are on constant display. There is an underlying competitive nature to making our lives seem interesting over the Internet. Peers typically put people who travel regularly on a pedestal. Traveling can make a person seem worldly, interesting, and also displays signs of wealth. I believe that constant observation by our peers through social media is definitely a motivator to travel. Although shallow, I do believe some people would travel less if they didn’t have the opportunity to show it off.
Lastly, I’d like to relate the desire that people have to travel with intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivation occurs when you do something because you genuinely find it interesting and enjoyable. Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards. I believe travel is highly intrinsically motivated although there are a few great examples of extrinsic motivators. Some intrinsic motivators include leisure travel, traveling for celebration, adventure, and cultural immersion. People are also intrinsically motivated to travel to explore their passions such as art, photography, videography, culinary arts, and fashion. Some examples of extrinsic motivators would be getting paid to travel for work or receiving rewards points when traveling. I consider myself mainly intrinsically motivated to travel, however I would love to get paid for it someday! Any traveler could have a number of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and they can vary based on the type of trip.
People are motivated to travel for a wide variety of reasons. In relating psychological theories of motivation to the travel and tourism industry I have formulated some personal theories on why people travel. People travel because it is instinctual for humans to not live in one place their entire lives. Our species is also motivated to travel by arousal. However, everyone has a different optimum level of arousal. In relation to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people may also travel to fulfill their esteem needs and to achieve self-actualization. Motivation can also stem from the constant speculation of peers we experience on social media as a digital society, as well as many other extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. For whatever reasons we travel I’m sure we can all agree the world is a beautiful place with new adventure around every corner.
Wander often & wonder always,
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