The power of consumerism over the demand for air travel

Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences (Paperback)

by Andrew Holden
“… we talk of the tourism industry as being in the business of selling daydreams
within a culture of consumerism, and of tourists fulfilling motivations and fantasies
through participation in tourism…. “(Page2)


“….thinking of tourism in the context of contemporary consumer culture is the
best way to understand it; as an extension of the commodification of life. Tourism
can thus be interpreted as a form of consumerism, having similarities to buying
a car or clothes.” (Page 51)


Consumerism describes the culture of spend, spend, spend – a trying to find your
way to happiness mentality – even if you do not have money to spend. It is the
belief that the more stuff you have, the happier you will be.

It is commonly described as “keeping up with the Jones’s.” The Jones’s are the
people that have money than you, or you perceive that they have money and they
have the stuff you want. You know the nice big house, or the more expensive car,
the foreign holidays and the high priced clothing that you cannot afford.

In reality, can you ever keep up with the Joneses? Probably not. There will always
be someone with a bigger house, more expensive car, more trips to destinations
to brag about, and more expensive clothes.

If you let it, keeping up with the Jones’s can use all of your time and money
to get more stuff, and have more expensive experiences.

However, it is hard to resist the power of consumerism. Every day, we are flooded
with messages to spend, spend, and spend. Apparently the average American sees
3,000 ads and brands and products every day. Somewhat less in the UK – but still
a lot for anyone who reads magazines or newspapers, watches TV or goes to the

You begin to think that everyone drives big expensive cars. Everyone has weekend
city breaks and several flights per year, whether on holidays or for work. Everyone,
that is, but you.  You may begin to think that everyone lives in big glamorously
decorated homes, just like the people in adverts on TV, and jets off to their
second home in Spain or a winter sun break in Thailand.  You compare yourself
and life to what you see on TV and somehow conclude that you are missing out and
not living at the same level as most people.  And if you don’t visit all those
places, and see them for yourself, you are not a fully formed person, and certainly
not a dynamic or interesting one.

Today the Jones’s do not just live next door, they live on the internet, where
you can just about see anything that can make you feel not normal. There is so
much stuff to want, and so many places that are sold as “must see before you die”
destinations.  Need to tick them off in order to keep up in the well-travelled

The people behind the ads for the trendy stuff, the glamorous destinations and
comfortable airliners want to make money out of you, and not just you but your
children too. In fact, they want to get to your children, so your children will
pester you into all manner of purchased, including destinations like ski trips,
trips to Disneyland, trips to watch football and other sporting fixtures, or the

Some of these products being pushed by the endless advertising benefit you and
you need them, and some you do not. You need loads of products, but perhaps not
absolutely everything you might be persuaded to want. Occasional trips abroad
are fine. Getting a new outfit every two weeks, the very latest purchase of techno
gizmos, or five trips abroad per year looks a bit like manic consumption, and
the triumph of hedonism over reality. Or a bit too much uncritical absorption
of adverts and consumer hype. Some of the unnecessary things that the adverts
persuade you to buy limit what you have to give and save for the benefit of your
family now and in the future.

Many marketers use a selling strategy that focuses on a person’s insecurities. 
They appeal to the way other people will see you, and how they will judge you. 
They make you feel you are being left behind in the consumption race, and we have
to have it all, and we have to have it now – because we’re worth it.

That’s why advertisements are so powerful. They tap into your fears, especially
the fear of being judged inferior to others. Imagine not being able to hold your
own in a conversation about the cost and the originality of your summer holiday

To reduce advertising pressure, we need to take some time to really look and
view all the adverts we see, including the holiday and flight ads.  By taking
the time to really view and question them, we can see how they are trying to manipulate
us – and get us to part with our money.

It would seem that being aware of marketers’ manipulative messages would strengthen
our ability to just say no. The problem is that you and thousands or millions
of other people are seeing the same spend, fly, spend, fly messages over and over
and over again. So much so that they appear to define what is normal, and desirable. 
However seductive, exciting, adventurous or exotic the holiday offering is,  we
are probably just being manipulated into parting with our hard earned cash for
a standard consumption package – in the same way we are sold everything else.


see also
BBC World Service
In this special series of programmes on consumerism, the BBC World Service travels
the world to uncover how we spend, what we spend and why we spend. Is it true
that we now equate personal happiness with material possessions? And, if so, who
is responsible for promoting this way of thinking?

The Psychology of Consumerism compares consumer trends around the globe and explains
what they can tell us about the mindsets of different countries – taking an in-depth
look into the various issues, we hear about how consumerism can become a political
statement, how new shoppers cope with a developing economy, and what affect it
has had on the divide between rich and poor.

Sell, Sell, Sell finds out what goes into making a successful marketing campaign.
How do agencies manipulate the public in order to convince them what to buy and

Each year billions of pounds are spent on advertising in an attempt to influence
our decisions and to persuade us to spend more.

In a series of discussion programmes, the BBC talks to a wealth of experts including
advertising agencies, market researchers, designers and psychologists from all
around the world – finding out why advertising is such a massive global business.

The BBC World Service travels to Japan, Germany, India and Botswana and discovers
that what you buy is increasingly defining who you are or who you would like to
be.  But what drives us to want to consume and does it make us any more fulfilled?
4 radio programmes.

see also

see also