Top menu


The academic model for destinations is decline and demise. Here’s how to beat it.

It has no doubt occurred to you that the travel industry (both independent travel media and state-sponsored travel marketing) likes to sell the “quaint” and “undiscovered” nature of its destination —  the very qualities that cease to exist once visitors arrive. It’s like a business model built on offering licenses to shoot endangered species… not likely to last very long.

If visitors want quaint and undiscovered and those things die off quickly, one might presume that visitors will simply move on (like vampires of the quaint and undiscovered) to the next untouched victim.  And that’s more or less what happens. Here’s how it’s reflected in the academic models of tourisms.

In 1974, it was Plog. His bell curve shows the rise in popularity, development and then demise of the destination.










This was followed in 1975 by an academic named Doxy, which created an Irritation Index (or irridex, as it’s also known).








Then came Butler’s new model in 1980.  His idea is that the destination will follow Plog’s path unless — like Madonna — it reinvents itself.  If it manages this successfully, it can have another life.  But it needs to keep doing this to stave off the bell curve.









Consider a beach town in India that rebrands itself as yoga retreat, then updates that with a rebrand as an Ayurvedic treatment destination.  Or a sunny spring break town that would rather have year-round sun-seeking seniors so it rebrands itself as a retirement community, then tries to appeal to a wider audience so it rebrands itself as an antique shopping destination.

So your options are 1) reinvent yourself every 5-15 years as something different, taking advantage of a new trend. 2) become best at something (skiing, shopping, hiking) and keep developing your product so you stay on top 3) create a mass-market hub that basically says “there’s nothing quaint here, it’s not the best of its kind, but it’s easy to reach, the airfare is cheap, there are lots of good hotels and restaurants and the main thing to do here (beaching/skiing/hiking/shopping) is pretty good.

Plan #1 may seem most risky because it’s a completely new direction, but it’s probably the least expensive and — if done well —  most likely to be successful option. Plan #2 (becoming or remaining the best) requires a huge upfront investment and constant development to stay on top.  Plan #3 seems like the easiest transition and where market forces are generally trying to take things… which is exactly why almost everyone is pursuing this route and it’s the most difficult product to compete with.

Look at it from the viewpoint of an airline executive who’s trying to figure out routes for the coming year. They’ve heard a presentation from a city that has set out to become the world’s premier yoga destination and lined up camps, conferences and workshops and claim they need the flights to get them there.  They’ve heard from a town that has opened a new mountain to make it the world’s biggest ski resort and will be getting tons of media attention and repeat visitors.  And they’ve heard from a resort city that has added a few brand hotels and chain restaurants and wants you to keep flight prices low so they can be competitive with other similar destinations.  If you can only pick two of these three, where do you place your resources?

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

      Privacy policy