The Psychology Behind Destination Marketing

The average consumer might not know it, but the best tourism campaigns have a strong discipline of psychology behind their success. The crux of this psychology relies on human emotions, urges and motivations for travel. A thoroughly researched discipline, the science of human behaviour and tourism is rich and varied, but if you’re looking for a fresh angle on your next campaign, these ideas might help you get there. Here are some popular psychological methods employed in destination marketing:

Push and Pull Motivators

Over the years, many academic studies on tourism, leisure pursuits and marketing have determined that there are two groups of psychological factors that motivate consumers to choose one particular destination over another; these are “push” and “pull” motivators. Push motivators arise from an individual’s internal need to seek leisure and relaxation, while pull motivators stem from external attributes that persuade consumers to choose one destination for its particular benefits.

Common push motivators include:

  • A desire to escape monotony or routine
  • The need for relaxation or respite
  • The possibility of improving close relationships
  • The need for prestige

Common pull motivators include:

  • Nice accommodations
  • Nature, climate and environment
  • Novel experiences
  • Exciting activities

Both push and pull motivators play into a person’s desire to visit a destination, but it’s important for marketers to leverage the power of their pull motivators to differentiate their destination and to really lure customers in. The study added that all of these motivators are heavily influenced by emotions, creating the need for marketers to also ensure their campaigns cater to the emotions intertwined with common push and pull motivators.

For example, while many people have the push desire to escape routine, their emotions related to this need for escape may be different. For some it may be frustration or anger, for others it may be excitement and happiness. Many popular ads play on these emotions whether they encourage you to escape the winter blues, or to enter a world of excitement at their destination.

Satisfying Needs

A 15-year study  published in the Journal of Counselling Psychology examined the psychological needs satisfied by leisure pursuits like tourism and travel. In their findings, they found some of the most prevalent needs to be:

  • Novelty
  • Belongingness
  • Sensual Enjoyment
  • Service
  • Cognitive Stimulation
  • Creativity
  • Self Expression
  • Relaxation

Some successful campaigns that have played on these needs include:

Las Vegas: “What happens here, stays here.” In many of their ads, sensuality and excitement were the key desires highlighted, whether through images or videos of crazy parties, double identities or scandalous relationships.

Colorado: “Once.” These ads focused on the novelty and uniqueness of this location, explaining that some things can only be seen once, thus creating a sense of urgency and awe about the destination.

Australia: “Come Walk About.” Shot by famed director Baz Luhrmann, this campaign focused on relaxation and self discovery, encouraging those caught in the daily grind to see, enjoy and appreciate the stunning world around them—Australia in particular.

It’s not always easy to create a successful tourism campaign. The competition is heavy and the sights and activities are often too similar to other destinations. Yet, you don’t always require the best location to sell your area. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective on why people choose to visit it. With some of these psychological tips and tricks, your next ad might just resonate with a new crowd of tourists seeking to fulfil their very important needs and emotions.