Why We Want To Travel More When Destinations Are Described Like People

Life & Culture Writer


I have a friend who posts pictures of her abnormally adorable dog Otis with quotes of the dog’s thoughts, which often include him calling her “mama.” I would smugly roll my eyes at this if I wasn’t convinced that my cat acts as cute as she possibly can as part of some Machiavellian scheme to draw me into her reach so she can claw me until I shriek and pull back a stump. We are just two people among millions who like to anthropomorphize non-human things. Our ranks include people who have pet weddings, people who name their cars, and people who talk to their computer in soothing tones so they don’t upset it when it loads for longer than they would like. And, recent research indicates, the more we indulge in this behavior, the more we will also respond to travel writing that personifies a locale.

Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology conducted a study of 210 Australian participants; they were presented with an advertisement for Roman or Parisian travel. Half of the people got a personified ad, which in this case, meant the city was called “she,” while the others received an ad that referred to the destination as “it.” So, one group enjoyed some basic facts about Paris and the other was told that Paris was waiting to warmly welcome them.

The results, which were published in Tourism Management, showed people with an increased tendency to anthropomorphize experienced the most positive travel intentions and destination attitude when tourism messaging was personified. The more a travel locale felt like a person, the more people with anthropomorphic traits felt excited about visiting it. It’s worth starting to keep an eye out because this is a tactic you will likely be seeing more and more.

“Large sums of money are spent on campaigns to try to attract tourists and destinations need to appear warm and welcoming,” one of study’s authors, Professor Martin, stated. “Tourism campaigns often focus on attracting specific demographics, for example Chinese tourists or luxury holiday-makers, and our research shows that if you have a tourist who naturally humanizes, you can tailor the message to appeal to this aspect of their personality. If you can successfully identify what traits people have, you can send them customized messages. Ten to 20 years ago that wasn’t possible, but now it is.”

I can’t wait for all the ads that tell me Las Vegas is desperate to have me in her.

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