Plog’s model

The theory of Stanley Plog, known as Plog’s model, was first published in 1974, and then revised by the author in 2001 in the same journal, Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly. The model attempts to gather information on the relationship between individual tourists and destinations.

A model that establishes a relationship between individuals and tourist destinations

The initial 1974 article was significantly developed, from 4 to 12 pages, in a version published in 2001. The author states that the research work had begun in 1967 leading to an initial oral presentation in 1972. In 2001, he specified, in a statement with which we can only agree, that the first version was developed at a time when short and succinct proposals were still possible in the world of academic publishing: The original study provided several research luxuries that are not common in today’s fastpaced, skinnied-down research environment, and those factors facilitated the development of new ideas. We had the freedom to pursue offbeat ideas, the time and money to be as thorough as we needed in testing concepts, and the opportunity to employ several research approaches to ensure that our conclusions were justified.” (2001: p.14)

The model represented in the 2001 publication is based on a version published in 1972 (Plog, 2001: p. 20)

The graphical representation follows a Gauss-Laplace distribution, according to which the largest number of data are positioned around the mean, between the mean minus one standard deviation and the mean plus one standard deviation, while smaller configurations appear on either side. It therefore resembles a bell curve. Along the horizontal axis are destinations ranging from most familiar to most unfamiliar, for a typical individual residing in New York.

Thus, on the right we find Coney Island, a tourist destination near the Big Apple, in Brooklyn, while on the left are Miami-Beach, below the mean minus one standard deviation, then Hawaii, the Caribbean and Europe around the mean, while more unfamiliar destinations are above the mean plus one standard deviation, namely Japan and Asia, then the South Pacific and finally Africa.

Individuals are thus classified into categories: from “psychocentrics”, accustomed to familiar destinations, to “allocentrics”, who venture into increasingly unfamiliar places, with “midcentrics” in between, around the mean. At one end of the spectrum, the “dependables” in 2001 (“psychocentrics” in 1974), are conventional, home-loving, anxious etc., and their economic future is not secure. At the other end, the “venturers”, formerly “allocentrics”, are endowed with inversely symmetrical qualities based on the nine categories of observation.

Then, a link is established with the dynamics of the destinations. Any destination is discovered by “venturers” who then promote it to people in their circles. The latter then decide to embark on the adventure themselves, but as they are “near venturers”, they exert pressure on the destination to adapt to their needs. This second wave then convinces a third, the “centrics”, the most numerous in a given society, who in turn benefit from the adaptations made. Thus, in successive waves, the different categories of tourists follow one another to a place that is increasingly transformed until it is fully adapted to the “dependables” or “psychocentrics”, who are fewer in number, bringing about the decline of the destination. Butler (1980) built on this analysis with his own model.

A breakthrough

This model was a breakthrough. Firstly, it sought to understand the choice of destinations by focusing on tourists, at a time when notions such as a place’s potential and, worse, its vocation were particularly popular explanations. Moreover, the choice to base the analysis on an individual residing in New York effectively eliminates the question of belonging to a cultural group.

Above all, Plog tries to interpret the dynamics of destinations, as the title of his 2001 article emphasises: “Why destinations rise and fall in popularity”. Thus, according to him, the more distant places become accessible to individuals who are largely unused to confronting otherness by developing facilities that reduce this otherness. Conversely, tourists looking for adventure and novelty avoid places that are too crowded for their taste, seeking out the kick of novelty in places that are even further away. This is an initial approach to spatial technologies, explored more recently by Mathis Stock (2008).

Secondly, Plog addresses the issue of the dynamics of tourist destinations. He enriched his model in 2001 by suggesting possible measures by which the operators in these destinations could stop this fatal mechanism. On the one hand, they can implement strategies to curb or even prevent decline.

It is even possible to rekindle interest in a destination or an outdated tourism offer. In particular, he cites the cruise and guided organised tours as examples. Cruises, he argues, have diversified. Originally based solely on rest, they have opened up to various forms of discovery and types of traction, especially sailing. Guided organised tours, by incorporating more free time, less pressure, and new objectives, for example, has even managed to reverse the pattern by reconquering the “venturer” customer segment.

On the other hand, destinations can innovate and trigger events that he calls earthquakes. He cites the particular example of the Atlantic City, which has had casinos from 1976, and Las Vegas, which attracts “venturers” for its architectural eccentricity not for its casinos, like the “dependables”. The idea of a renewal of destinations is therefore very much present in 2001.

But there are limits

However, and although the epistemological modelling choice does in fact tend towards simplification, this approach emphasises individual psychology and personality traits assumed to be innate or in any case immutable.

It does not focus on the learning mechanisms that allow individuals to confront otherness in a gradual way and thus develop dispositions and skills (Guibert, 2016) that allow them to overcome higher degrees of otherness throughout their lives. Similarly, the social question is absent, while access to education, which is unevenly distributed, for example language learning, is an effective tool for addressing disparities. Moreover, this approach is better suited to analysing discovery practices than other practices, particularly rest, for which the question of novelty counts less than that of familiarity.

Similarly, understanding destinations through a government lens unduly narrows the view. Indeed, while it is relatively easy for a city dweller in one of the world’s metropolises, New York in this case, to travel independently in Shanghai or Beijing, smaller cities or the countryside present more of a challenge. In the former case, when using the metro, for example, a degree of convenience is available to visitors (Violier, 2016), particularly information in English. In the latter, tourists can only rely on themselves.

Also, the mechanical relationship between geographical distance and otherness should be questioned: one can also experience strangeness relatively close to home (Jounin, 2014). Alternatively, we can ask the same question in another way: is it not too reductive to consider inhabitants of metropolises as de-socialised entities, with no reference to their belonging, their habits, or their experiences?

Philippe VIOLIER


  • Butler Richard, 1980, «The concept of a tourist area cycle of evolution: Implications for managementof resources», The Canadian Geographer. vol.24, n°1, p. 5-12.
  • Guibert Christophe, 2016, «Les déterminants dispositionnels du “touriste pluriel”. Expériences, socialisations et contextes», SociologieS, Theory and research. 19 octobre, en ligne.
  • Jounin Nicolas, 2014, Voyage de classes. Des étudiants de Seine-Saint-Denis enquêtent dans les beaux quartiers. Paris, La Découverte, coll. «Cahiers libres», 256 p.
  • Plog Stanley C., 1974, «Why Destination Areas Rise and Fall in Popularity», Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly. vol.14, n°4, février, p. 55-58.
  • Plog Stanley C., 2001, «Why Destination Areas Rise and Fall in Popularity. An update of Cornell Quaterly Classic», Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly. juin, p. 13-24.
  • Stock Mathis, 2008, «Il Mondo è mobile», dans Lévy Jacques (dir.), L’invention du monde. Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, p. 132-159.
  • Violier Philippe, 2016, «Mobilité des individus et familiarité construite: des arrangements qui offrent aux touristes des prises pour parcourir le monde», Mondes du Tourisme. n°12, 1er décembre [consulté le 25 novembre 2021], en ligne.