Consumer Behaviour Alex Bagnall (12258968)

The Leisure Industry (Tourism)


This presentation has been designed to explore how consumer behaviour has changed in the leisure industry, with specific focus on tourism across three traditional generation classifications: the baby boomers, generation X and the millennials. What has influenced this change and what effect it has had on the industry?

What Is Consumer Behaviour?

Consumer behaviour defines itself as the way in which a target market behave in association with products or services, with a focal point on their thoughts, traits, shared characteristics and how best to influence their behaviour in relation to the decision-making process (Harmon et al, 1999, 29). It is of vital importance to gain an understanding of why consumer behaviour changes, and how best to address the change to ensure that a brand’s product remains in-line with a target segment’s needs and wants (Harmon et al, 1999, 30); with the objective of establishing yourself in a customer’s evoked set. Influences on consumer behaviour emerge in varying forms such as economic, psychological, individual, socio-cultural, technological and the influence of the market (Darnios et al, 2013, 107).

Baby Boomers

Born post-world war two between 1946 and 1964, with the war over soldiers returned home leading to a surge in births, the mass population increase has led to Baby Boomers being considered likeminded individuals with opposing consumer attitudes towards television and internet services (Harmon et al, 1999, 31). Other traditional characteristics of the baby boomers include a high work ethic, independence, resourceful, disciplined and competitive however less proficient with technology generally (Hill, 2015).

Generation X

Following the baby boomers are Generation X, born primarily between 1965 and 1980 (Clark, 2017, 381). Growing up in the shadow of the later days of the Cold War with little interconnectivity similarly to Baby Boomers due to the lack of publicly available internet in the modern form. While generation X have been able to adapt to new influential technological advances such as social media, they are not considered to be as technologically proficient as millennials. Although more accommodating to change than the Baby Boomers who maintained a stereotypically stubborn resilient view on change the generation X, members maintained a larger degree of flexibility and valued teamwork and a positive work to life balance (Clark, 2017, 381).


The generation that has gained the name the millennials were born between 1980 and 2000 (Călin, 2012, 103). Influencing millennials’ consumer behaviour during the progression through to adulthood was the increasing importance and reliance on the internet and the following boom of social media in the 2000’s as many reached a point of financial independence (Clark, 2017, 381). With the world becoming ever-more interconnected there is a stark contrast between how millennials communicate with others and how generation X and baby boomers operated (Hill, 2015).

Millennials hold general characteristics of technological proficiency, political interest, open-mindedness, ambition, and a growing desire for interactive features (Cruz, 2016: 28). Alongside this they are considered as more self-centred than previous generations (Călin, 2012, 103). Many similarities are present with the developing generation Z primarily due to the online growth both generations have been heavily influenced by. An overwhelming statistic presented by the financial times states that “90% of millennials check their smart phone within 15 minutes of walking”, underlining the premise that millennials are reliant on technology in comparison to generation X, altering their consumer attitude but presents opportunity for marketers (Williams B, 2016).

Differences and Similarities

One stark difference between millennials and previous generations is their experience concerning the financial markets and global economic situation (Stowe England, 2016, 36-37). With an ever-challenging housing market and larger student debts along with uncertain pensions, millennials have little consideration for saving; spending more money each year than a Generation X individual (Cutler, 2015, 37). In particular, a surge in online commerce is noted compared to previous generations. With this there has been a noted increase in short-term spend over long-term spend, meaning many millennials are more likely to holiday more frequently than their predecessors (Williams A, 2016). Generation X however prioritised long-term spend with focuses on housing and financial security, with drives for such objectives revolving around cheap education and secure pension schemes (Williams A, 2016).

Another comparative area is loyalty, with millennials more prone to change brands within their “evoked set”, with loyalty being influenced by other factors such as price (Călin, 2012, 104). However, Baby Boomers often remain loyal to brands regardless of price, as seen with Marks and Spenser’s popularity amongst over 60’s. This persistence of changing brands makes appealing to consumer attitudes and segmenting consumer groups ever more challenging for marketers.


The ever-changing tourism industry in the UK has seen the days of holidays by the sea in Butlin’s and Haven, to the post-1950 package holidays, and finally to the rise of the internet and greater consumer choice with e-tourism. Currently, marketers face issues evaluating consumer behaviour in the tourism sector due to a lack of dependable statistics to form the basis of an evaluation to discover what tourists want from specific sections of the industry (Popescu et al, 2016, 269). Furthermore, another ongoing issue is the interpretation of data gathered both qualitatively and quantitatively, with the influence of culture, bias, and samples too small to draw conclusions applicable on a national scale due to individual differences (Popescu et al, 2016, 272), meaning consumer behaviour in this sector is often discussed in a historical rather than a predictive sense.

Butlin's and U.K. Tourism

(Butlins, 2017)

Once prominently famous, Butlin’s, established in 1936, offered the solution to Baby Boomers’ holiday desires; a week’s holiday for a week’s pay (Butlin’s, 2017). Butlin’s thrived during the Baby Boomer period, with a lack of desire for holidaying abroad seeing flourishing seaside areas such as Butlin’s offering entertainment, family activities, food drink and fun; all just a short drive away. Today they only operate in 3 sites, Skegness, Minehead and Bognor Regis however in their peak they operated up to 10, plus many other hotel sites. A change in consumer behaviour influenced by the emergence of the package holiday and the convenience of travel agents, which are still present today, led to a crisis within the business, and the need to close resorts and consolidate their position with new ownership taking over the organisation (Butlin’s, 2017).

With this trend, the economic model of consumer behaviour can be seen in action. The primary option for holidays was popular and successful seaside towns, however a substitute option developed; the package holiday. At reasonable prices, the substitute product offered a higher value for a rational price, seeing its popularity outweigh holidaying domestically. This led to package holidays replacing domestic holidays, offering a more flexible approach to meeting consumers’ needs and wants. This application must however consider the criticism present in the model. The model only considers product and price and completely disregards socio-cultural aspects (Zalega, 2014, 71-74), as well as considering the market to be straightforward in presuming price is the only factor which may influence buyer behaviour. Issues such as these are present in many economic based models which tend to focus solely on a monetary point of view and how price may affect demand (Lewis, 2012, 228-231). However, socio-cultural aspects must be considered especially into the modern world where the internet plays a colossal role in dictating buyer behaviour (Soava, 2015, 101-106). The internet gives consumers the ultimate observational tool, you can watch a multitude of different topics influencing tourism. Through Albert Bandura’s observational learning theory (Zainal et al, 2012, 436) we can see that consumers influence their surroundings when they travel. Showing locals western attributes which alter their behaviour, therefore through tourism culture is shared (Zainal et al, 2012, 436). This can be alternatively replicated influencing tourists’ future behaviours possibly giving them a cultural preference for future travel for example. However, it must be noted that it can be difficult to value the replicated acts as learnt behaviour rather than simply mimicking or a placebo effect. (Swider and Babel, 2016, 1-4).

In a basic example of observational learning, the video below shows how a child learns to dance through observation (My SPED Link, 2014).

It can be considered that millennial consumer’s attitudes have become more experiential rather than physical, with 78 percent of millennials traveling now for the experience (Williams A, 2016), particularly at young ages, tying in with the increasing short-term spend over long term saving. It can be said that Generation X consumer attitudes changed considerably alongside the package holiday further underlining the popularity of the package whilst opening the door to budget airlines focusing on cheap flight.

The Internet

The internet has been a driving force for change in consumer behaviour amongst the population of the United Kingdom, leading to a direct impact concerning consumer attitude in the millennial generation. With a colossal quantity of information available to an ever-increasing population, consumer choices have seen alternatives to the traditional package holiday arise, with the current use of “channels” to book their holiday (Steinbauer and Werthner, 2007, 65). A prominent example of this comes through the increased use by millennials, generation Z and generation X to use compare the market websites, selecting flights, hotels, destination and other factors (Soava, 2015, 102) individually through online travel agents at lower prices (Hoonsawat, 2016, 33-36). This leads marketers to constantly review competition with further urgency than in previous years due to consumers bypassing the package holiday, and an increase in easily accessible information benefiting the technologically proficient millennials in comparison (Hoonsawat, 2016, 33-36), Baby Boomers who are often sceptical about the internet, and certainly would not consider purchasing online due to the lack of trust present amongst their generational attitude.

Interaction has also increased between businesses and consumers, leading to consumers calling for higher levels of transparency, fair-trade and ethical practice from big organisations, increasing the number of considerations made by millennials (Soava, 2015, 101-104). An example of this in action is a previous call to boycott the Maldives over their harsh judicial system. The loss of tourism would have been a blow for the nation economically with 33% of their GDP originating from tourism at the time, however this is an example of protests from consumers concerning the nation (Smith, 2013) and the effect this could have upon tourism.


To conclude, the tourism market has evolved alongside technological advances with internet becoming the primary influence bringing e-tourism into consideration. The market has shifted from domestic holidays to international trips through package holidays and further inflamed by the increasing choice to consumers allowing them to book their own holidays without the need for travel agents. The change occurred due to a change in perception and an increased open-minded view in Generation X and millennials pushing them to consider further options. However for future study in this field it is possible to consider a developing criticism of segmenting age groups into generational categories due to the growing differences between individuals and the exchange of cultures that has taken place over the decades stating that the Boomer segmentation was the last practical generational segmentation (Cutler, 2015, 34). It is claimed that categorising the population in this way offers little practical use to marketers and a life stage theory may be more practical (Călin, 2012, 103).


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