The factors that influence consumer behaviour in travel and tourism fall into two categories: economic and social. Economic drivers include the state of the economy, the necessity of the general public to travel and innovation and competition in the sector. Social factors include the use of the Internet, fashion and patriotism. The travel and tourism sector may experience expansion during an economic down turn or contraction during economic expansion. The reaction of the general public to external factors means that the travel industry does n ot strictly follow the regular economic cycle.
When global or local economies are under threat from recessions, people start to save money and spend less. The UK's Civil Aviation Authority keeps track of passenger volumes at UK airports. They noted a steep drop in travel from a 2007 peak in passenger numbers. That drop continued until 2011, when they recorded a slight rise in overall passenger numbers. This recovery continued through 2012. This pattern mirrors the 2008-2012 recession in the general economy.
The Civil Aviation Authorities passenger numbers study highlighted an interesting trend in business travel. General UK passenger numbers increased in 2011 and 2012, but only because tourist journeys increased. Business travel continued to fall. If the general economy is improving, then you would expect business travel to rise in line with the economy and at the same pace, or slightly ahead of tourist travel. this indicates that business priorities have shifted. Businesses are now able to complete communication via the Internet. Salesmen stress the importance of face-to-face communication over written methods. However, teleconferencing now makes face to face sales contacts possible without travel.
The 2008 recession did not only reduce the British appetite for foreign travel because of decreased economic activity and unemployment. The corresponding sharp drop in the pound made foreign holidays more expensive to book and also made it harder to take enough cash to ensure an enjoyable holiday. This, however, did not result in Britons going without a holiday. Instead, they switched to holidaying within the UK. The gradual recovery in the strength of the pound in 2011 and 2012 may explain the return of the UK holidaymaker to the overseas market.
Tourism is a non-essential expense which would usually make it a lagging indicator in the economy. That means it is likely to grow later than the economy in general. However, 2011 unemployment figures and CAA tourist passenger numbers show that travel and tourism managed to pull itself out of recession earlier than the general economy. Unemployment continued to increase in 2013, but tourist passenger numbers consolidated their 2011 gains by continuing to improve, growing by 4% in 2012. This shows that social factors and competitive pricing in the travel industry started to have greater influence over travel consumers' decision making than the state of the economy or job security.