Travel and tourism is now regarded as the largest industry in the world, yet it has generated relatively few academic studies, particularly in the behavioural sciences. Overall, the aim of this thesis is to develop a better understanding of the underlying motivations influencing travel preferences. More specifically, this thesis aims to identify the key motivational discriminators or triggers guiding holiday preference and choice. Although motivation has been identified as a key factor influencing the decision making process, it is one of the least researched, and as a consequence, one of the least understood areas in tourism.
I begin this thesis by highlighting the need to better understand why people travel. It is acknowledged in the introductory chapter that the comparative recency of tourism as a subject of academic endeavour has contributed to this poor understanding of tourist motivation. Consequently, unlike many other well established fields, tourism is characterised by a small and fragmented research base. To strengthen the research base of tourism, I investigate the feasibility of integrating commercial market research within an academic study to complement and build on existing knowledge and literature.
The review of literature, presented in chapter 2, focuses on concepts relevant to better understanding the influence of motivation on holiday preference and choice. The theoretical and empirical frameworks related to the study of tourist motivation are reviewed. The usefulness of the push and pull dichotomy as an organising framework for the measurement of travel motivation is emphasised. A number of methodological challenges and difficulties associated with the study of motivation for travel are drawn. It is argued that to overcome some of the measurement difficulties, a broadening of methodological approaches is required.
A review of commercial market research and academic literature identified four key research questions to guide the study. Firstly, can pre-existing commercial market research be successfully integrated within an academic study to provide a more detailed understanding of tourist motivation and travel preference behaviour? Secondly, using the Joseph Banks Group segment discriminators as an historical basis for comparison, have preferences for travel changed since the original measurement in 1 984? Thirdly, what are the underlying push and pull motivations influencing preferences for travel? Fourthly, how do the underlying push and pull motivations identified in the previous question vary between the six market segments? Several studies were carried out to answer the four research questions posed.
In chapter 3 I set the stage for addressing the first research question by describing a commercial market research study conducted by the Joseph Banks Group in 1 984. The inclusion of the commercial market research provides a background against which the empirical foundations of this thesis are built and later examined in chapters 4, 5 and 6. The novel approach of integrating commercial market research data within an academic study is justified on the grounds that it provides an historic basis not available in the academic literature for comparing directional shifts in preferences for travel over a twelve year period. The integration of commercial and academic research is justified and empirically validated throughout the thesis.
In chapter 4 I address the second research question by reporting the results of two Newspoll® omnibus telephone surveys designed to re-measure the Joseph Banks Group segment discriminators. The results of the two surveys suggest that since 1 984, there has been a growing desire for more quality, value for money, independent, individualised, and environmentally orientated travel products and experiences. This research supports reports that preferences for travel have changed reflecting changes in consumer values and behaviour. The results also provide some insights into the dynamic nature of travel preference behaviour. Typically, studies of tourist behaviour assume that tourists can be neatly classified into mutually exclusive groups, however, an inherent weakness with this approach is the underlying assumption that behaviour is static. My results demonstrate the dynamics underlying travel preference behaviour by highlighting respondent overlaps between the six market segments.
In chapter 5 I report the results of a series of focus group discussions designed to elicit push and pull motivations to travel, addressing the third research question. A pattern analysis of the interview transcripts identified fourteen travel motivation themes. Of the fourteen themes, eight were classified as push factors, while the remaining six were classified as pull factors. The motivation themes which emerged from the discussions correspond to push and pull factors identified in previous studies. The focus group results demonstrate that tourist behaviour is multi- motivated. The study resulted in several travel motivation propositions and served as the basis for developing the quantitative study presented in chapter 6. The focus group discussions also provided empirical support for the construct validity of the Joseph Banks Group segment discriminators.
Finally, chapter 6 presents the results of a Newspoll® omnibus telephone survey designed to test the preliminary propositions for each market segment presented in chapter 5 . Overall, the push and pull profiles for each market segment identified in the larger study generally correspond with the preliminary propositions from the focus group discussions. Consistent with previous studies, respondents tended to exhibit multi-motive profiles. Importantly, the results highlight the danger of treating even a sub-segment of the total visitor market as an homogeneous group and emphasises the need to understand that differences in travel motivation can lead to differences in travel preference and choice. A particularly important finding to emerge from the travel motivation survey is the multidimensional nature of travel motivations. Reinforcing the findings from the focus group discussions, push and pull motivations for travel were found to overlap between the six market segments. This finding suggests that the segments attribute different meanings to the push and pull factor groupings, which in effect result in a diversity of expressions and behaviours. In other words, although the initial motivation to travel may be similar, the expression of these needs will vary from segment to segment depending on their initial pre-disposition to travel (chapter 3) and the social context accompanying behaviour.
In concluding this thesis I have proposed a multidimensional model of tourist motivation and travel preference behaviour. The model is based on the six market segments developed by the Joseph Banks Group and the results of this research. The theoretical and practical implications of the model are discussed. The thesis concludes by suggesting some directions for future research on tourist motivation and travel preference behaviour.