(Last updated on: 16/12/2021)
Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity is one of the best-known theoretical models in the travel and tourism industry. Since Plog’s seminal work on the rise and fall of tourism destinations, back in 1974, a vast amount of subsequent research has been based on or derived from this concept- so it is pretty important! But what is Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity?
In this article I will explain, in simple language, what this fundamental tourism model is and how it works. I will also show you why it is so important to understand Plog’s work, whether you are a student or whether you are working in the tourism industry.
Are you ready to learn more? Read on…
- What is Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity?
- How did Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity come about?
- Why Destination Areas Rise and Fall in Popularity
- Plog’s tourist typology
- Positive aspects of Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity
- Negative aspects of Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity
- To conclude: Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity
What is Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity?
Right, so lets get to the point…. what is Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity?
Plog’s model is largely regarded as a cornerstone of tourism theory. It’s pretty important. This model has provided the foundations for many other studies throughout the past four decades and has helped tourism industry stakeholders to better comprehend and manage their tourism provision.
Plog’s work was the precursor to Butler’s Tourism Area Lifecycle. Plog wanted to examine the way in which tourism destinations develop. How do they grow? How and why do they decline? How can we make (relatively) accurate predictions to help us to better manage the tourism provision at hand?
Plog’s research found that there were (are) distinct correlations between the appeal of a destination to different types of tourists and the rise and fall in popularity of a destination.
Plog essentially delineated these types of tourists according to their personalities. He then plotted these along a continuum in a bell-shaped, normally distributed curve. This curve identified the rise and fall of destinations.
‘You said this would be a simple explanation! I still don’t understand?!’
OK, OK- I have my academic jargon fix over with. Lets make this easy…
To put it simply, Plog’s theory demonstrates that the popularity of a destination will rise and fall over time depending on which types of tourists find the destination appealing.
‘OK, I get it. Can I read something else now?’.
Well, actually- no.
If you are going to really understand how Plog’s model works and how you can put it into practice, you need a little bit more detail.
But don’t worry, I’ll keep it light… keep reading…
How did Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity come about?
So lets start with a little bit of history. Why did Plog do this research in the first place?
Plog’s research began back in 1967, when he worked for market-research company, Behavior Science Corporations (also known as BASICO). Plog was working on a consulting project, whereby he was sponsored by sixteen domestic and foreign airlines, airframe manufacturers, and various magazines. The intention was to examine and understand the psychology of certain segments of travellers.
During this time, the commercial aviation industry was only just developing. Airlines wanted to better understand their potential customers. They wanted to turn non-flyers into flyers, and they wanted Plog to help. This saw the birth of Plog’s research into tourism motivation, that later spanned into decades of research into the subject.
Why Destination Areas Rise and Fall in Popularity
Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity demonstrated that destinations rise and fall in popularity in accordance with the types of tourists who find the destination appealing.
Essentially, Plog suggested that as a destination grows and develops (and also declines), it attracts different types of people.
Example: Tortuguero versus Kusadasi
Lets take, for example, Tortuguero. Toruguero is a destination in Costa Rica that is pretty difficult to reach. I travelled here with my husband and baby to see the turtles lay their eggs, it was pretty incredible. If the area was more developed, the turtles probably wouldn’t choose this area as their breeding ground anymore.
To reach Tortuguero, we had many hours in the car on unmade roads. We then had to take a boat, which only left a couple of times a day. This was a small local boat with a small motor. There were only a handful of hotels to choose from.
The only people who were here wanted to be here. The journey would put most tourists off.
The types of people who choose to visit Tortuguero are likely to visit destinations that have little tourism and are un/underdeveloped. They enjoy the challenge of travel, they are happy with the unknown and they do not require all of the home comforts that they may have at home.
In contrast, I was shocked at the overtourism that I experienced when I visited Kusadasi, in Turkey. The beaches here were some of the busiest I have ever seen. The restaurants were brimming with people.
Here you could find all of the home comforts you wanted. There was a 5D cinema, every fast food chain I have ever known, fun fair rides, water parks, water sports and much more. The area was highly developed for tourism.
Kusadasi attracts package tourists and mass tourists. These people like holidays that are made easy for them- prepared by a tour operator and sold as a commodified product by a travel agent. These tourists enjoy the familiar.
Plog pointed out that as a destination reaches a point in which it is widely popular with a well-established image, the types of tourist will be different from those who will have visited before the destination became widely developed. In other words, the mass tourism market attracts very different people from the niche and non-mass tourism fields.
Plog also pointed out that as the area eventually loses positioning in the tourism market, the total tourist arrivals decrease gradually over the years, and the types of tourists who are attraction to the destination will once again change.
Plog’s tourist typology
OK, so you get the gist of it, right? Now lets get down to the nitty gritty details…
Plog developed a typology. A typology is basically a way to group people, or classify them, based on certain characteristics. In this case, Plog classifies tourists based on their motivations.
Note: Plog has suggested the updated terms ‘dependables’ and ‘venturers’ to replace pscychocentric and allocentric, but these have not been generally adopted in the literature
Plog examined traveller motivations and came up with his classifications of tourists. He came up with two classifications (allocentric and psychocentric), which were then put at the extremes of a scale.
As you can see in the diagram above, psychocentric tourists are placed on the far left of the scale and allocentric tourists are placed at the far right. The idea is then that a tourist can be situated at any place along the scale.
‘OK, so I understand the scale. But what do these terms actually mean?’
Don’t worry, I am getting there! Below, I have outlined what is meant by the terms allocentric and psychocentric.
In Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity, the allocentric tourist is most likely associated with destinations that are un(der)developed. These tourists might be the first tourists to visit an area. They may be the first intrepid explorers, the ones brave enough to travel to the ‘unknown’. The types of people who might travel to Torguero- the example I gave previously.
Allocentric tourists like adventure. They are not afraid of the unknown. They like to explore.
No familiar food? ‘Lets give it a try!’
Nobody speaks English? ‘I’ll get my with hand gestures and my translation app.’
No Western toilets? ‘My thighs are as strong as steel!’
Allocentric tourists are often found travelling alone. They are not phased that the destination they are visiting doesn’t have a chapter in their guidebook. In fact, they are excited by the prospect of travelling to a place that most people have never heard of!
Allocentric tourists enjoy cultural tourism, they are ethical travellers and they love to learn.
Research has suggested that only 4% of the population is predicted to be purely allocentric. Whilst many people do have allocentric tendencies, they are more likely to sit further along Plog’s scale and be classified as near or centric allocentics.
OK, so lets summarise some of the common characteristics associated with allocentric travellers in a neat bullet point list (I told you I would make this easy!)
Allocentric tourists commonly:
- Independent travellers
- Excited by adventure
- Eager to learn
- Likes to experience the unfamiliar
- Is put off by group tours, packages and mass tourism
- Enjoys cultural tourism
- Are ethical tourists
- Enjoy a challenge
- Are advocates of sustainable tourism
- Enjoys embracing slow tourism
Psychocentric tourists are located at the opposite end of the spectrum to allocentric tourists.
In Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity, psychocentric tourists are most commonly associated with areas that are well-developed or over-developed for tourism. Many people will have visited the area before them- it has been tried and tested. These tourists feel secure knowing that their holiday choice will provide them with the comforts and familiarities that they know and love.
What is there to do on holiday? ‘I’ll find out from the rep at the welcome meeting’
Want the best spot by the pool? ‘I’ll get up early and put my towel on the sun lounger!’
Thirsty? ‘Get me to the all-inclusive bar!’
Psychocentric tourists travel in organised groups. Their holidays are typically organised for them by their travel agent. These travellers seek the familiar. They are happy in the knowledge that their holiday resort will provide them with their home comforts.
The standard activity level of psychocentric tourists is low. These tourists enjoy holiday resorts and all inclusive packages. They are components of enclave tourism, meaning that they are likely to stay put in their hotel for the majority of the duration of their holiday. These are often repeat tourists, who choose to visit the same destination year-on-year.
So, here is my summary of the main characteristics associated with psychocentric tourists.
Psychocentric tourists commonly:
- Enjoy familiarity
- Like to have their home comforts whilst on holiday
- Give preference to known brands
- Travel in organised groups
- Enjoys organised tours, package holidays and all-inclusive tourism
- Like to stay within their holiday resort
- Do not experience much of the local culture
- Do not learn much about the area that they are visiting or people that live there
- Pay one flat fee to cover the majority of holiday costs
- Are regular visitors to the same area/resort
The reality is, not many tourists neatly fit into either the allocentric or psychocentric categories. And this is why Plog developed a scale, whereby tourists can be placed anywhere along the spectrum.
As you can see in the diagram above, the largest category of tourists fall somewhere within the mid-centric category on the spectrum. Tourists can learn towards allocentric, or pyschocentric, but ultimately, they sit somewhere in the middle.
Mid-centric tourists like some adventure, but also some of their home comforts. Perhaps they book their holiday themselves through dynamic packaging, but then spend the majority of their time in their holiday resort. Or maybe they book an organised package, but then choose to break away from the crowd and explore the local area.
Most tourists can be classified as mid-centric.
Positive aspects of Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity
Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity has been widely cited throughout the academic literature for many years. It is a cornerstone theory in travel and tourism research that has formed the basis for further research and analysis in a range of contexts.
Plog’s theory preceded that of Butler, which is subsequently intertwined with Plog’s model, as demonstrated in the image below. As you can see, Butler was able to develop his Tourism Area Lifecycle based in the premise of the rise and fall of destinations as prescribed by Plog.
Plog’s theory has encouraged critical thinking throughout the tourism community for several decades and it is difficult to find a textbook that doesn’t pay reference to his work.
Negative aspects of Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity
Whilst Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity is widely cited, it is not without its critique. In fact, many academics have questioned it’s ‘real-world’ validity over the years. Some common criticisms include:
- The research is based on the US population, which may not be applicable for other nations
- The concepts of personality, appeal and motivation are subjective terms that may be viewed different by different people. This is exemplified when put onto the global stage, with differing cultural contexts.
- Not all destinations will move through the curved continuum prescribed by Plog, in other words- not all destinations will strictly follow this path
- It is difficult to categorise people into groups- behaviours and preferences change overtime and between different times of the year and days of the week. People may also change depending on who they are with.
To conclude: Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity
Do you understand Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity now? I certainly hope so!
This important theory in tourism is a core part of most tourism management curriculums and has helped tourism professionals understand, assess and manage their tourism provision for decades, and will continue to do so for decades to come, I’m sure.
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