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Finding Your Travel Type & Ideal Destination

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security-line.jpgDo you know your travel personality? Dr. Stanley Plog may be able to help you out.

Dr. Plog, a longtime expert in travel market research, launched his Web site, www.Besttripchoices.com, designed to help people figure out what type of traveler they are, and what destinations are best suited for those types.

“We divide personalities into six different types from those are very adventurous and outgoing to those who want to relax when they get there,” says Dr. Plog. Travel personalities range from “Venturer” to “Authentic,” or somewhere in between.

In a nutshell, a Venturer is that free-spirited wanderer who jets around the world, exploring exotic destinations with nothing more than a backpack; at the other end of the spectrum is the Authentic, i.e. the family that drives to the same rental house in Ft. Lauderdale every year with a car packed with favorite clothes and toys. If they do explore somewhere new, “they go to crowded places because if it’s crowded, it must be good,” explains Dr. Plog.

Harvard-trained Dr. Plog founded the California-based Plog Research, a leading market research organization for the travel industry (it has since been acquired by another company). Dr. Plog has served as a travel consultant and marketing expert for more than four decades.

His scientific study of travel personality types began more than 30 years ago, when he was commissioned by a group of 16 sponsors to study the characteristics of air travelers. (That group included some high-profile names including Boeing Commercial Aircraft Division, Lockheed, Douglas, American Airlines, United Airlines, TWA, and Pan Am, and Life Magazine to name a few). “Airline capacity was increasing a lot faster than people were coming on board. They wanted to find out the characteristics of the people who weren’t flying.” At the time, nearly 75 percent of the population had never flown, and airlines were eager to tap into that market.

Since 1994, Dr. Plog and his team has been sending out annual surveys to travelers, finding out where they’ve been, what sort of places they prefer, and which personality types match with certain destinations. The result is a 15-question survey in which users rank each one on a scale of one to seven, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

virgin-america.jpgThe questions themselves are deceptively simple and aren’t necessarily travel related; you’ll find yourself answering questions like “I have friends over to the house frequently” and “I make decisions quickly and easily rather than deliberating over them.” At the end, you’ll be told your travel personality and which destinations work best with your type. The site also offers a mini-travel guide for each destination and general trip-planning information.

Like many personality assessments, the descriptions can seem overly broad—enough to apply to a wide variety of people. The description of a Centric Venturer, for example, claims that “In the same year, you are likely to fly to one or two destinations and drive to a couple of others … a good bed in a nice hotel, food that can be trusted, and a transportation network that can help you get around are what you consider to be basic necessities … But, when over-commercialization sets in … you will move on to some other place that has not yet lost its qualities of freshness and uniqueness.” Sound like anyone you know?

Once you figure out your travel personality, you can find out which destinations are appropriate for your type—although not all of the options are the most exciting. “Gold destinations” are those that have scored highly by others with your personality type.

According to the assessment, true Authentics (the family driving to Florida) may have a great time in other warm-weather destinations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Aruba, and the Bahamas. But U.S. cities that appeal to enthusiastic Venturers include … Portland and Phoenix? “What that means is that a particular destination offers enough different things to do that each personality type will be able to pursue activities that interest to them,” explains Dr. Plog.

So, while these suggested destinations may not be the gold standard for all travelers, they’re certainly a place to start. “Since vacation time is limited, and trips are expensive, [your destination] is an important choice. The more that people come back satisfied, the happier they will be and the more comfortable they will be about choosing another destination for their next trip.”

By Managing Editor Sarika Chawla for PeterGreenberg.com.

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