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Psychology and Tourism, group 2

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    Psychology and Tourism

    An article by: Antôn, Salah, Maurice & Yoni


    Through psychology one can enhance the understanding of tourism as a form of individual behaviour. Different behaviours can be explained and discussed using psychological theories. These theories can for example describe the motivation for a tourist to travel, the effect of attitudes and the experience the tourist has traveling. What are these theories about and how can they be applied within tourism?



    There is a lack of knowledge to consider what motivates tourists to travel in the psychology sector. Several theories agree that people decide to travel seeking for pleasure or escape from their real everyday life. This is called ‘escapism’. Instinct theory clarified the motivation of human behaviour stimulates individuals to travel by: construction, curiosity, flight, gregariousness, pugnacity, reproduction, repulsion, self-abasement and self-assertion. The theory explains all patterns which let the rational human choose to travel in both feelings and action attitudes.


    Another theory merged to explain behaviour is the ‘drive-reduction theory’ which has also been applied to explain the seeking of a state of psychological equilibrium and a way to reduce tensions while recovering again by traveling (Holden, 2006).


    Five categories of needs have been identified by Maslow (as cited in Holden 2006) such as: psychology, safety, love or relationships, esteem, and self-actualisation. Maslow’s categories explain a chain of the human needs and the desire which stimulates the human behaviour to demand the higher level if the lower one is fulfilled. Therefore, there are individuals who are partly satisfied and partly unsatisfied when they shift and are aware of shifting to the next level.

    To briefly illustrate the five categories:


    •       Physiological: Basic needs such as food, sex and shelter.

    •       Safety: Security, by avoiding high crime rates and terrorism.

    •       Relationships: The human needs to be a part of social life and make new relations. Tourism offers this opportunity.

    •       Esteem: Through the experiences which tourism offers to individuals, it helps to build a confidence and self-pride while achieving those experiences

    •       Self-actualisation: Tourism may play an important role in the self-fulfilment of the individual (Holden, 2006).


    The development of the original model occurred in the 1970s and the hierarchy of needs model, including cognitive and aesthetic needs by Abraham Maslow's Hierarchyas a development of the old hierarchy. Aesthetic needs defined as appreciation and search for beauty, balance, formwhilst cognitive added knowledge and the meaning of things. In the 1990s the hierarchy of needs model was adopted, including this time transcendence which refer to helping others to achieve self –actualization (“Maslow's hierarchy of needs”,2015).


    The application of motivational theories to tourism studies

    As mentioned in the previous chapter there are many theories about motivation but there is no commonly used theory. As for the motivational theories applied to tourism here are a few that seem interesting.


    The desire for travel and a touristic holiday is mostly stimulated by push factors. These push factors are impulses that will trigger the desire or need to travel in a person’s mind. One of these push factors is to escape the mundane, to escape the everyday life and routine. This can be caused by a desire for change. Other push factors are prestige, relaxation, and exploration of self, regression of childhood, bonding with family and friend and social interaction. All these push factors are motivations for traveling seen form a social perspective. These push factors are all interrelated with sociology (Holden, 2006). This theory was developed by Dann (as cited in Holden 2006). This theory is mostly based on extrinsic motivations and the impulses a person might receive.


    The previous theory was contradicted by Ahola (cited in Holden 2006), as he mentioned that motivation is purely a psychological concept instead of a social concept. He preferred the psychological theory and stated that leisure motivation is optimal arousal. This arousal can be obtained at home or away from home. So people who receive enough arousal at home will go towards more relaxed holidays and people who don’t obtain enough arousal chose a more adventurous holiday. For each person the arousal is a personal preference. Some might find arousal in sports for example. As stated by Ahola (as cited in Holden 2006) people will always want to reach a certain level of arousal which will influence their choice of spending their holiday as well as influencing the choice of the destination itself. This theory is mostly based on the intrinsic motivations as it depends on the personal level of arousal. And this will be the motivation for the choice of destination.


    The application of these theories is completely depended on the type of tourism it is used on. The “arousal” theory is mostly based around adventure tourism. And the “social” theory can be applied to more sorts of tourism. In the end the motivation to travel is depended on the person and which kinds of impulses the person receives. May that be through his social circle or through the desire to reach a certain arousal level? This may lead to the decision of the destination and kind of holiday (Holden, 2006).


    The travel career

    The motivation for traveling does usually not look the same. Through all time our habits have been changing, not only in within the framework of society, but also on an individual level. While we participate in tourism, our tourism experiences can be seen as one tourist career. Some of the principals of our travel career is that our motivation for traveling will change and depend upon factors such as our previous tourism experiences, age and social relationships.

    Different groups of people have different interests attached to them and they all expect something different form their travel experience. For instance, it is very likely to see how a youngsters’ motivations in traveling evolves to something totally different at the age of retirement (Holden, 2006).


    In Pearce’s multivariate model, different types of tourist aspects such as tourist behaviours are classified. These model contains: fulfilment, self-esteem and development, relationships, stimulation and relaxation/body needs (Holden, 2006). These kind of aspects and behaviours can be used to explain the motivations and expectations on the tourism experience, which helps us understanding how people evolve over time. For instance, people at an older age tend to search for a more spiritual fulfilment compared to youngsters that more commonly are looking for thrills, such as a theme-park experience (Holden, 2006).



    As well as motivation, personality can also be used for discovering patterns of tourist behaviour. Personality is hard to measure, as well as it is hard to define, but it could be seen as the unique characteristic that belongs to a person. 


    When applying personality as a tourist behaviour, a person’s genuine desire of visiting a certain destination is being mentioned. Scientists are trying to discover the role of the personality when a person decides to go on holiday. The choice of destination relies on the persons own unique characteristics, but could also be affected by aspects such as background and previous experiences, which together form the human personality. (Holden, 2006)


    Aspects such as social class, economic situation and human rights have been experiencing a drastic change in the last decades, and it has become more difficult to measure tourist behaviour. Therefore, focus has been based upon groups of people and the way they interact with each other. Their mutual motivations for traveling give a better understanding of how personalities can predict and explain our travel behaviour. In that way our personal characteristics can very often define who we are and what we are more likely to do in different situations.


    Another way of describing the way destinations gain popularity is through the relationship between certain types of tourists and the destination. Allocentric can be mentioned here. They can be described as people that are adventurous, curious and outgoing as individuals. Therefore, they could be appreciated by non-touristic areas. Allocentric are very likely to spread the word about their travel experience to their friends and the destination can benefit a lot from people like them. The way their outgoing and self-confident personality can increase the demand for tourism is a good example in this case (Holden, 2006).


    Attitudes and environmental psychology

    Attitudes is one of the key aspects within psychology when trying to understand tourist behaviour. The activities which tourists decide to undertake in are influenced by the attitudes they hold to the environment of a destination. An attitude can be referred to as the feelings and knowledge about an activity or object which both can be living or non-living, tangible or intangible. Attitudes can have different components, one of which is the cognitive component, concerned with perception. Within tourism, perception may be defined as the translating   process of tourist information from an external into an internal world which every single individual experiences. Attitudes are fairly permanent, making our response more predictable than otherwise. However, the attitudes can be changed, based upon a cognitive component and the ability we have to assimilate new information, the part of the attitude that is cognitive is susceptible to influence (Holden, 2006).


    It can be argued that in able to understand tourism more comprehensively environmental psychology is an important part to include, where the attitudes tourists have to destinations are brought up. It it also represents an essential comprehending how tourists experience and perceive foreign environments. Ittleson et al. (as cited in Holden 2006) distinguished different modes of interaction, which arise when we experience our physical environment:


    •       The ‘external’ views nature and the surrounding as being separate from us, with almost no emotional attachment to it.

    •       Within the ‘setting of actions’ a background for the pursuit of activity is provided by the characteristics of the environment. 

    •       A setting of bonding and types of social interactions are provided by the environment in the ‘social system’.

    •       The mode of ‘emotional territory’ describes emotional attachments to certain places or environments.

    •       Finally, the ‘self’ mode concludes an inseparability one can have with the environment, where every threat to the environment is taken personally and any free time is spent visiting it.


    How we as a tourist interact with a particular environment is likely determined by how we view it. A perception where the environment is seen as external to ourselves, the possibility of using it in an uncaring way increases. Some examples of this behaviour is shooting wildlife or carelessly throwing litter away.


    The visitor experience

    Different psychological theories are used to enhance the visitor experience, through for example helping visitors at a destination find their way around, as well as the provision of environmental interpretations of what they are seeing.


    How we learn moving around our environment is what cognitive mapping is concerned with. Within this research the understanding of how learn about special information is important and it offers the potential to understand how individuals come to assimilate the unfamiliar. The ‘anchor point’ theory is about children and new arrivals to an area building up their knowledge of a place by remembering and first identifying distinctive features.


    Interpreting the environmental setting is a way to enhance the visitor experience and communication is a significant setting of environmental interpretation. Finally, it can be important to state that environmental interpretation and communication be effective when it comes to changing aspects of negative behaviour from tourists towards the surroundings (Holden, 2006).





    •       Holden, A. (2006) Tourism Studies and the Social Science. New York: Routledge

    •       Businessballs’ website. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Retrieved 2015-11-17, from,


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