chapter  15
28 Pages

Push–pull dynamics in travel decisions

ByMuzaffer Uysal, Xiangping Li, Ercan Sirakaya-Turk

Tourism researchers have long recognized the importance of studying reasons for travel, motivations, and attitudes toward tourism destinations to better understand and predict travel decisions and consumption behavior of tourists. They developed and applied a number of theories to explain tourist behavior. The sign-gestalt paradigm, better known as the ‘push-pull factor’ compendium theory by Tolman (1959) and later by Dann (1977), is perhaps the most recognized theory within the realm of tourism research. While models containing variables such as perceptions, images, attitudes, emotions, cultural conditioning, and learning contributed to an increased understanding of tourist behavior, motivation seems to be responsible for explaining much of the consumption behavior in tourism, thus making it a critical variable to study on its own right (Gnoth, 1997; Sirakaya et al., 2003). The authors of this chapter support the definition suggested by Fodness (1994), when he said ‘[it is] the driving force behind all behavior.’ A motivated person acts on psychological or physiological stimuli in order to satisfy a felt need or achieve an anticipated goal (Dunn Ross and Iso-Ahola, 1991; Fodness, 1994; Gnoth, 1997). An improved understanding of travel motivations would help in

segmenting the markets, thereby allowing tourism marketers to allocate scarce tourism resources more efficiently. It has been suggested that the field of tourism would greatly benefit from a segmentation technique based on motivations because it could provide cues and/or insights that destination marketers could use in developing and promoting their tourism destinations. Crompton andMcKay (1997) argued the importance of understanding motivations by giving three reasons: (1) understanding tourist motivations would pave the way for creating better products and services, (2) satisfaction with tourism experiences is intrinsically related to initial motives of tourists, and (3) motives must be identified and prioritized first before a destination marketer can understand tourist decision-making processes. Effective tourism marketing would be impossible without an understanding of consumers’ motivation (Fodness, 1994). Thus, motivation seems to be a critical variable because it is the impelling and compelling force behind all behavior. Iso-Ahola (1980, 1982) also stated that motivation is one of the most important determinants of leisure travel. Therefore, understanding what motivates people to travel allows researchers to better define the value of tourism behavior, and ultimately predict or influence future travel patterns (Uysal and Hagan, 1993). Furthermore, delineation of underlying motivations offers useful insights into understanding the destination selection decision-processes (Crompton, 1979). Chapter 9 in this book has provided extensive reviews on motivation and its salient dimensions. This chapter is intended to provide in-depth discussion on the concept of push and pull motivation factors and their importance in and relationship to decision-making.