Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Travel motivation

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Travel motivation:
What motivates people to seek out travel experiences?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Airplane silhouette.svg
Jenny runs a large company with many employees; this year more employees have applied for leave than ever before. Assuming all of her employees are going on leave to travel, Jenny wants to know more about why they go and if she can do anything to influence this behaviour.

Fig 1. Click here to take the quiz! Adapted from Figler, Weinstein, Sollers & Devan, 1992

Crompton (1979) notes it is possible to describe the who, when, where, and how of travel motivation, but there is no answer to the question ‘why’, the most interesting question about travel behaviour. Travel motivation relates to why people travel (Woodside & Martin, 2007). If we can explain what an individual gets out of travel experiences then we can explain the motivation behind them seeking it out. Motivation is crucial in explaining travel behaviour as it constitutes the driving force behind all actions. Motivation sets the stage for individual goal formation, reflected in both travel choice and behaviour while further influencing expectations and experience perception. Motivation is therefore a factor in satisfaction formation (Reissmann, n.d). Basic motivation theory suggests a dynamic process of internal psychological factors (needs, wants and goals), causing an uncomfortable level of tension within individuals’ minds and bodies, resulting in actions aimed at releasing that tension and satisfying these needs (Fodness, 1994), moving people to do.

This chapter delves into the reasons behind pursuing travel experiences through reviewing psychological literature. Most travel motivation literature is based on application of theories from mainstream psychology. This chapter highlights Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs and its application to travel motivation, stemming from here a less well known of Maslow’s theories is the aesthetic need and the need to know and understand. Examination of the Travel Career Ladder (TCL) and Travel Career Pattern (TCP) will also help explain the motives behind seeking travel experiences. Murray’s (1938) classification of human needs, Crompton’s (1979) push/pull theory and Plog's (2001) allocentrism/psychocentrism concept will further contribute to describing the relationship between travel and motivation.    

The aim of this chapter is to use psychological theories to uncover the motivation behind travel. It is hoped that this investigation will aid readers in understanding their employees, consumers, families, friends or own travel motives better.

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson  

“We travel for fulfilment.”– Hilaire Belloc

“I travel because half the fun is the aesthetic of lostness.”Bradbury

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Application to travel motivation[edit | edit source]

Fig 2. Maslow's hierarchy of needs, also known as Maslow's pyramid.

An influential psychological theory and one that many travel motivation researchers base their theoretical analysis around is Maslow's hierarchy of needs (1954) (Jang & Cai, 2002), also known as Maslow's pyramid. According to Maslow (1970), human needs can be arranged in a hierarchy of five categories (see Figure 2). The most basic needs are physiological, such as hunger, thirst, and sex (Huang & Hsu, 2009). Climbing the pyramid, Maslow’s other needs include safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualisation. Typically, people fulfill their needs starting from the lower segments of the pyramid, upwards, as each level of need is satisfied. Human needs usually follow this hierarchical order; however, circumstances exist when higher level needs outweigh lower level needs even though they have not been met (Maslow, 1970). This can be the case when it comes to travel motivation. Maslow’s hierarchy theory helps us to understand the different needs that motivate travellers while also providing knowledge about what kinds of experiences travellers seek, especially for certain groups of people. Nationality and age play a role in the motivation to travel, however gender has no effect when predicting motivation to travel (Jönsson & Devonish, 2008).

Many researchers have used motivational theory to try to interpret the motivations of tourists. On the idea that motivations derive from a real or perceived need, it is justifiable to analyse individuals' travel experience seeking choices as a consequence of need deficiency (Brown, 2005). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs forms the basis for further development and applications to understand travel behaviour (Maslow, 1970).This hierarchy can be related to the travel industry in the sense that unless individuals have their physiological and safety needs met, they are less likely to be interested in travelling the world. Self-actualisation can, in fact, be considered the end or goal of leisure (Brown, 2005), with travel experiences offering the opportunity to re-evaluate and discover more about the self, to act out one’s self-image as a way of modifying or correcting it.

Maslow discusses two other sets of important human needs: the aesthetic need and the need to know and understand, [grammar?] they are less known because they were not included in the hierarchy model (Huang & Hsu, 2009). If placed in the pyramid these two needs would come between self-actualisation and esteem (see Table 1).

The aesthetic need & the need to know and understand

It has been suggested that this section is more important in travel motivation than Maslow's Hierarchy of needs[factual?]. Discuss

Referring to Figure 2 and Table 1 the first four needs, Maslow identified as deficit needs[grammar?]:  if the needs are not met, they make us uncomfortable and we are motivated or driven by these needs until we are able to sufficiently fulfill these needs (Gautam, 2007).

However the last three needs, particularly the aesthetic need and the need to know and understand, he[who?] identifies as growth needs: we never get enough of these. We are constantly motivated by these needs as they affect our growth and development (Gautam, 2007). It is obvious how important these needs are when explaining travel motivation and the experience seeking behaviour behind it.

  1. The need to know and understand: at the fifth level of Maslow’s pyramid humans have the need to increase their intelligence and thereby chase knowledge. This need is the expression of the natural human need to learn, explore, discover and create to get a better understanding of the world around them (Martin & Loomis, 2007).
  2. The aesthetic need: at the sixth level based on Maslow’s beliefs, it is stated in the hierarchy that humans need beautiful imagery or something new and aesthetically pleasing to continue up towards self-actualisation (the seventh and last level). Humans need to refresh themselves in the presence and beauty of nature while carefully absorbing and observing their surroundings to extract the beauty that the world has to offer (Martin & Loomis, 2007). 
Table 1 - Needs and motives
Deficiency needs Need Motive Travel Literature
Physiological Relaxation Escape, relaxation, relief of tension, sunlust, physical and mental relaxation Maslow, 1943

Gary, 1970

McIntosh, 1977

Pearce, 1988 Figler et al, 1992

Safety Security Health, recreation, keep one's self active and healthy Maslow, 1943

McIntosh, 1977

Pearce, 1988

Belonging Love Family togetherness, enhancement of kinship relationships, companionship, facilitation of social interaction, maintenance of personal ties, interpersonal relations, roots, ethnic, show one's affection for family members, maintain social contacts Maslow, 1943

McIntosh, 1977

Pearce, 1988

Esteem Achievement, status Convince oneself of one's achievements, show one's importance to others, prestige, social recognition, ego-enhancement, professional business, personal development, status Maslow, 1943

McIntosh, 1977

Pearce, 1988

Figler et al, 1992

Growth needs To know and understand Knowledge Cultural, education, wanderlust, interest in foreign areas Maslow, 1943

Gary, 1970

Figler et al, 1992

Aesthetics Appreciation of beauty Environmental, scenery Maslow, 1943
Self-actualisation Be true to one's own nature Exploration and evaluation of self, self discovery, satisfaction of inner desires Maslow, 1943

Pearce, 1988

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a key theory in travel motivation research. Two conceptual frameworks in understanding travel motivation – the travel career ladder (TCL) and travel career patterns (TCP) – emerged from his work and apply to this field (Huang & Hsu, 2009).

Travel Career Ladder (TCL)[edit | edit source]

The core idea underlying this conceptual framework is that an individual’s travel motivation changes with his/her travel experience. The Travel Career Ladder (TLC) suggests that peoples’ travel needs change over their life span and with accumulated travel experience. As tourists become more experienced, they increasingly seek satisfaction of higher level needs.

Fig 3. Travel Career Ladder (Ryan, 1998)

Many people move systematically through a series of stages, or have predictable travel motivational patterns (Huang & Hsu, 2009). Some travellers ascend the hierarchy, while others remain at a particular level. Pearce, (1988) suggests that the TCL proposes that people progress upward through motivation levels with accumulated travel experience and these travel experiences enable people to psychologically mature.

Based on Maslow’s hierarchy, Pearce’s 1988 model specified that there are five different steps affecting tourist behaviour (see Figure 3) which may be used to explain the TCL concept. Pearce (1996) describes his theory as distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation at the four lower levels of the system. The travel career ladder emphasises all the tourists’ patterns or motives, rather than a single motive for traveling. Pearce (1996), observes that the direction of the change within the TCL is variable; some individuals may ascend the ladder predominantly on the left hand side of the system, while others may go through all the steps on both the left and right hand side of the model. This shows that travel motivation is developmental and dynamic, as people acquire touristic experiences (a career), their motivations change (Ryan, 1998). Those going abroad for the first time may prefer the security of a group tour, but in time may opt for independent ones as they become more experienced.

Pearce explicitly recognised that tourists’ travel motivation can be self-directed or other-directed (see Figure 3); individuals do not always seek the same type of fulfillment from travel, and people can descend as well as ascend on the ladder. To what extent tourists do so from one trip to the next, or whether this only occurs over longer time periods, is not quite as clear (Brown, 2005).

Travel Career Patterns (TCP)[edit | edit source]

Another theoretical outline based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the Travel Career Patterns (TCP) framework, presented by Pearce and Lee (2002). The TCP is essentially a modified version of the TCL. The TCL theory proposed that travellers progress up the ladder of travel motives as their travel experience increases, which created some questions of validity of the theory[why?] (Ryan 1998; Pearce and Lee 2005), and led to development of Travel Career Pattern (TCP) theory (Paris & Teye, 2010). The TCP reduced the hierarchical focus of the TCL and recognised that travel motivation is dynamic and multi-leveled (Paris & Teye, 2010). The concept of travel career is still central to the TCP, as is the idea that travellers will have changing motivational patterns during those travel careers (Pearce and Lee 2005).

File:Travel Career Pattern (TCP) amended.png
Fig 4. Travel Career Pattern (TCP) concept. Adapted from Huang & Hsu, 2009; Lee, 2004

The TCP is centred on 14 motivational factors:

  1. Self-actualisation – internal
  2. Self-enhancement – internal
  3. Romance – internal
  4. Belonging – internal
  5. Autonomy – internal
  6. Self-development (host site involvement) – external
  7. Nature – external
  8. Escape/relax – most important
  9. Novelty – most important
  10. Kinship – most important
  11. Nostalgia – less important
  12. Stimulation – less important
  13. Isolation – less important
  14. Recognition/social status – less important

The most important and core concepts (see figure 4) of the Travel Career Pathway are the most common motives among travellers (Lee, 2004). The next layer or middle layer is moderately important and is where traveller’s motives change from inner to externally orientated. Individuals at a higher travel career level were more externally orientated and motivated to travel, while people with lower travel career levels were more internally motivated to travel. The final and outer layer consists of common, stable and less important travel motives (Huang & Hsu, 2009).

Murray's classification of human needs: Application to travel motivation[edit | edit source]

Another motivation theory from mainstream psychology which may offer an explanation behind travel motives and behaviour is Murray’s classification of human needs. Henry Murray’s 1938 needs classification theory provides a comprehensive list of human needs that could influence travel behaviour (Pizam & Mansfeld, 1999). Murray listed 14 physiological and 30 psychological needs from which it is possible to identify factors that could act as travel motives (Pizam & Mansfeld, 1999), offering considerable scope for the exploration of needs and travel destination decisions (Ross, 1998).

For example, Table 2 provides a selection of Murray’s needs that may be applicable to travel motivation.

Table 2: A selection of Murry's needs applicable to travel motivation (more at:
Need Behaviour
Achievement To accomplish difficult tasks, overcoming obstacles and becoming expert
Acquisition Obtaining things
Autonomy To break free from constraints. To be irresponsible and independent
Cognisance Understanding; to be curious, ask questions and find answers
Play To have fun, laugh, relax and enjoy oneself
Recognition Describing accomplishments
Sentience To seek out and enjoy sensual experiences
Succorance To have one's needs satisfied by someone or something

However this theory suggests that needs will change independently, so knowing the strength of one need will not necessarily explain the strength of others (Ross, 1998), due to its complexity Murray’s work is not as easy to apply as Maslow’s hierarchy and has not been adopted by travel researchers and is also therefore not as well known (Pizam & Mansfeld, 1999).

Push/pull theory[edit | edit source]

Quick quasi-psychological theory :

Wanderlust - the desire to exchange the known for the unknown, to leave things familiar and to go and see different places, people, and cultures or relics of the past in places famous for their historical monuments and associations of for their current fashions and contributions to society.

Sunlust - a type of travel which depends on the existence else where of better amenities for a specific purpose than are available in the domicile; it is prominent with particular activities such as sports and literally the search for the sun.

Gary (1970)

One of the best known theories of travel motives, after Maslow’s, was proposed originally by Dan (1977) who suggested a two-tiered scheme of motivational factors: the ‘push’ and the ‘pull’ (Brown, 2005). The push factors social-psychological motives that drive the desire to travel[Rewrite to improve clarity]. The pull factors are external factors that affect where a person travels to fulfil the identified needs or desires. Dann suggested that anomie and ego-enhancement were the basic underlining reasons for travel (Brown, 2005). John Crompton (1979) agreed with Dann’s basic idea of push and pull motives but went further to classify these motives as those that push people to travel and motives that pull people towards a travel experience as well as identifying nine motives for travel.

They were:

  • The escape from a perceived mundane environment
  • Exploration and evaluation of self
  • Relaxation
  • Prestige
  • Regression
  • Enhancement of kinship relationships
  • Facilitation of social interaction
  • Novelty
  • Education

He classified the first seven motives as push factors, and the last two as pull factors (Brown, 2005). According to Crompton (1979) people travel because they are pushed by their inner motives and/or because they are pulled by the external factors of an experience. It is considered that most motives that push people originate from non-materialistic inner desires to escape, experience adventure, fulfill dreams, develop relationships, rest and relax, improve health and recreate or from a desire for prestige and socialisation (Huang & Hsu, 2009). On the other hand, the motives that pull are based on the attractive factors of the destination and expectations like a search for novelty and education (Vukic, Kuzmanovic, & Kostic Stankovic, 2014). Some researchers only accept push factors as motivation (Woodside & Martin, 2007), while they are considered important in initiating travel desire to satisfy or reduce the need, travellers are also pulled by destination attractions and attributes[grammar?].

Plog's allocentrism/psychocentrism model[edit | edit source]

File:Plogs theory.jpg
Figure 5. Plog's allocentrism/psychocentrism distribution model

Stanley Plog (1974; 1987) developed the influential allocentrism/psychocentrism model, the earliest model that forms the basis of tourism typology theory. Individuals either fall into the allocentrism or psychocentrism category in relation to travel seeking behaviour. Psychocentrics are defined as people who experience territorial boundaries: a tendency to have travelled less throughout one’s lifetime, generalised anxieties: a strong feeling of insecurity in daily life and a sense of powerlessness: inability to control fortunes and misfortunes throughout their lifetime (Plog, 1974). Psychocentrics dislike destinations that offer unfamiliarity or insecurity. It is suggested that the psychocentric is dominated by safety needs (Brown, 2005). Allocentrism however exists on the opposite side of psychocentrism; allocentric people are venturesome and self-assured (Huang & Hsu, 2009) who tend to choose remote, untouched destinations (Brown, 2005), and unstructured holidays with more involvement in local culture (Pizam & Mansfeld, 1999). Between the psychocentric and allocentric groups are clusters of near-psychocentric, near-allocentric and mid-centric individuals (see Figure 5), the latter group displaying characteristics of an adventurer, but they want home comforts. It is this group that represents the mass travel seeking crowd (Brown, 2005).

Recently, Plog (2001) updated his model and re-labelled the term psychocentrics with dependables, and allocentrics with venturers. The remainder falls in between: near-dependables, near-venturers, and centrics (the largest group). Based on the model, Plog (2001) argues that most destinations follow a predictable but uncontrolled developmental pattern from birth to maturity, old age, and declination (Huang & Hsu, 2009). At each stage, a destination appeals to a different psychographic group of travellers based on the destination’s character and success. In the early stage, mass tourists do not arrive; only a few venturers visit. When the venturers return home, they talk with friends and relatives about what they have discovered. Some friends and relatives, the near-venturers, visit the intriguing place they had just heard about. When the near-venturers return home satisfied, they pass the message to their mid-centric friends. The destination gradually takes on a more touristy look, which is more appealing to dependables but unattractive to venturers. Some researchers criticise Plog’s model because tourists travel with different motivations on different occasions (Huang & Hsu, 2009). However, compared to other tourist typology forms, Plog’s model seems to provide better tourist motivation explanations (Huang & Hsu, 2009).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Ultimately travel motivation is a multidimensional concept that has been proposed by many researchers. Tourist motivation studies need to be carried out on a regular basis as people’s motivations change over time, with accumulated travel experience and with the social and cultural evolution of travel. Travel motivation is an important topic for researchers to understand and develop individuals' travel ideas and behaviour, with hopes of predicting the who, what, where, when and why of travel seeking experiences with ease. Future study areas include the reasons for people not wanting to travel or the differences in motivation between ages, life stages, income status, cultural backgrounds or occupation types.

This chapter has examined the psychological domain of motivation and its application to reasons for people seeking out travel experiences. It was aimed at improving the readers' understanding of their own travel motives as well as their employees, consumers, family or friends.  

It is clear that knowledge of people's travel motivations plays a critical role in predicting future travel patterns, to find out specifically why her employees travel Jenny may want to send out a survey or questionnaire. However, unfortunately for Jenny most people are [[Wikipedia:Motivation#Intrinsic motivation intrinsically]] motivated or pushed to travel so even if she does know why her employees seek travel experiences she most likely will not be able to influence them into changing their travel plans and staying at work.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Brown, S. (2005). Travelling with a Purpose: Understanding the Motives and Benefits of Volunteer Vacationers. Current Issues In Tourism, 8(6), 479-496.

Dann, G. (1977). Anomie, ego-enhancement and tourism. Annals Of Tourism Research, 4(4), 184-194.

Figler, M., Weinstein, A., Sollers, J., & Devan, B. (1992). Pleasure Travel (tourist) Motivation: A Factor Analytic Approach. Bulletin Of The Psychonomic Society, 30(2), 113-116. Retrieved from*~hmac=1cc8cdcbe38f87ed76946ca0977e211336d026322734289e5adab4d8f4ace108

Fodness, D. (1994). Measuring tourist motivation. Annals Of Tourism Research, 21(3), 555-581.

Gautam, S. (2007). Maslow’s eight basic needs and the eight stage developmental model. The Mouse Trap. Retrieved from

Huang, S., & Hsu, C. (2009). Travel motivation: linking theory to practice. International Journal Of Culture, Tourism And Hospitality Research, 3(4), 287-295.

Jönsson, C., & Devonish, D. (2008). Does Nationality, Gender, and Age Affect Travel Motivation? A Case of Visitors to The Caribbean Island of Barbados. Journal Of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 25(3-4), 398-408.

Lee, U. (2004). Travel Motivation and Travel Career Pattern - A Study on Australians. Journal Of Tourism And Leisure Research, 16(4), 163-184.

Lee, U., & Pearce, P. (2002). Travel motivation and travel career patterns. Proceedings Of First Asia Pacific Forum For Graduate Students Research In Tourism, 17-35.

Martin, D., & Loomis, K. (2007). Building teachers: A Constructivist Approach to Introducing Education, (pp. 72-75). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Paris, C., & Teye, V. (2010). Backpacker Motivations: A Travel Career Approach. Journal Of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 19(3), 244-259.

Pearce, P. (1988). The Ulysses Factor. New York, NY: Springer New York.

Pearce, P. (1993). Fundamentals of Tourist Motivation. In Tourism research: Critiques and Challenges. London: Routledge.

Pearce, P., & Lee, U. (2005). Developing the Travel Career Approach to Tourist Motivation. Journal Of Travel Research, 43(3), 226-237.

Pizam, A., & Mansfeld, Y. (1999). Consumer behavior in travel and tourism. New York: Haworth Hospitality Press.

Plog, S. (1974). Why Destination Areas Rise and Fall in Popularity. Cornell Hotel And Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 14(4), 55-58.

Plog, S. (1987). Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Research. A Handbook for Managers and Researchers. (pp. 203-213). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Plog, S. (2001). Why Destination Areas Rise and Fall in Popularity: An Update of a Cornell Quarterly Classic. The Cornell Hotel And Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 42(3), 13-24.

Reissmann, T. Motivation Theory. Bringing Holidays to life. Retrieved from:

Ross, G. (1998). The psychology of tourism. Melbourne: Hospitality Press.

Ryan, C. (1998). The travel career ladder An Appraisal. Annals Of Tourism Research, 25(4), 936-957.

Vukic, M., Kuzmanovic, M., & Kostic Stankovic, M. (2014). Understanding the Heterogeneity of Generation Y's Preferences for Travelling: a Conjoint Analysis Approach. International Journal Of Tourism Research, 17(5), 482-491.

Woodside, A., & Martin, D. (2007). Tourism management. Wallingford, Oxfordshire: CABI Pub.

External links[edit | edit source]

This quiz is based on the Travel Motivation Survey (TMS) from the above article, results support past and present papers in travel research.

There are 5 possible categories that a participant could be placed in:

Anomie/authenticity seeking

Specifically this category validates Dann's (1977) position that people travel in search of something better or more comfortable for themselves, Pearce (1983) also suggested that positive travel experiences reflect fulfillment of self-actualisation, and needs for love and belonging. It further maintains Cohen's (1979) description of diversity, experimental and existential travel modes. McCannell's (1976) thesis is also all about people seeking a more authentic travel existence.

Culture/education seeking

Present data reinforces that travel can be for cultural enhancement and educational pursuits (Crompton, 1979, Dann, 1977), meaning that individuals are 'pulled' toward the attributes of the destination rather then social-psychological factors that motivate one to travel.

Escape/regression seeking

Many researchers are supported in this category (Crompton. 1979, Cohen, 1979, Farber 1954) with suggestions that travel is to escape from pressure, dissatisfaction and routine at home. Trying to shed responsibility and relax.

Wanderlust/exploring seeking

Relating to the desire to roam and explore Gary, 1970, Cohen, 1979 & Vogt, 1976 all acknowledge this motive.

Jetsetting/prestige seeking

Finally this motive implies a desire for personal recognition, status and higher living, Lett (1983), Dann (1977) and Crompton (1979) support this social prestige seeking travel motive.