Sun and Surf Or Adventure: Who Plays What Tourist Roles?Ban Australian Perspective

ABSTRACT - The aim of this study was to determine whether Yiannakis and Gibson’s (1992) 15 leisure tourist roles developed in the United States were applicable in the Australian context. The study also investigated whether demographics or personality, as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), provided a better indicator of roles undertaken. The findings verified the applicability of the tourist roles for the Australian sample. Regression analysis indicated that demographics, rather than personality, provided a better explanation for most tourist roles, but in most cases, a combination of demographics and personality led to a significant improvement in explanatory power.


Robyn McGuiggan and Jo-Ann Foo (2002) ,"Sun and Surf Or Adventure: Who Plays What Tourist Roles?Ban Australian Perspective", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 414-421.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Pages 414-421


Robyn McGuiggan, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Jo-Ann Foo, Eureka Strategic Research, Australia

[This paper is based on work completed for the Honours dissertation of Jo-Ann Foo entitled "Roles tourists play: A study of leisure tourist roles and effect of MBTI personality dimensions on tourist role preferences in an Australian context:, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia 2000. We would like to thank Andrew Yiannakis from the University of Connecticut for his valuable input to this study and for allowing us to use his TRPS questionnaire for this study.]


The aim of this study was to determine whether Yiannakis and Gibson’s (1992) 15 leisure tourist roles developed in the United States were applicable in the Australian context. The study also investigated whether demographics or personality, as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), provided a better indicator of roles undertaken. The findings verified the applicability of the tourist roles for the Australian sample. Regression analysis indicated that demographics, rather than personality, provided a better explanation for most tourist roles, but in most cases, a combination of demographics and personality led to a significant improvement in explanatory power.


Leisure tourists represent the largest proportion of the traveling population, accounting for 62.1% of the global tourist market (World Tourism Organisation, 1998), and 55.4% of the Australian tourist market (Bureau of Tourism Research, 1999). Developing a more comprehensive understanding of travel behavior would allow tourist organizations to btter identify potential target markets through segmentation, leading to the development of more appropriate products and marketing strategies. Segmenting a market requires the ability to distinguish relatively stable patterns of behavior - clusters of tourists who exhibit similar behaviors in various vacation situationsBand then identifying those more likely to exhibit certain behaviors.

The aim of this study was twofold. Firstly, to replicate the study of Yiannakis and Gibson (1992) to determine whether their typology of leisure tourist roles is applicable in the Australian context. Secondly, to extend their research by determining whether these leisure-based tourist roles can be predicted, based on demographics and/or personality, as determined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), thus providing a more comprehensive model of leisure tourist behavior encompassing both a descriptive and explanative element.


Cohen (1972) was one of the first researchers to suggest that tourists could be classified on the basis of similar observable behaviors. He described four tourist categories - the independent mass tourist, the organized mass tourist, the drifter and the explorer. He based the classification on preferences for novelty and familiarity, reliance on the 'environmental bubble’ of their own culture, and the extent to which they dealt with the organizational side of the tourist system - the institutional setting of the trip. In developing this categorization, Cohen suggested that the enactment of tourist roles reflected a relationship between a tourist’s motivation and resultant behavior. His work inspired numerous other researchers to subsequently develop various touristic typologies.

The earlier of these tourist typologies resulted from phenomenological research and non-empirical conceptualizations. Pearce (1982), recognizing this limitation, undertook one of the earliest comprehensive quantitative studies of tourist roles, culminating in the identification of fifteen travel related rolesBthe Tourist, Traveller, Holidaymaker, Jet-setter, Businessman, Migrant, Conservationist, Explorer, Missionary, Overseas student, Anthropologist, Hippie, International athlete, Overseas journalist and Religious pilgrim. He used multidimensional scaling to examine the relationship between these roles on twenty dimensions or constructs such as "buys souvenirs", "searches for the meaning of life". This led to him identifying five major clusters of travel related roles - environmental travel, high contact travel, spiritual travel, pleasure first travel and exploitative travel. While Pearce’s (1982) work has had significant impact on the study and understanding of travel behavior, he did not distinguish between travel roles of an expressive, leisure-based nature and those of an instrumental kind. This distinction is crucial due to the different underlying motivational influences of leisure and business travelers.

Yiannakis and Gibson (1992) have addressed this issue. Basing their work on the previous research and conceptualizations of Cohen (1979) and Pearce (1982; 1985), they undertook a number of quantitative studies in order to develop a typology to describe the nature and dimensions of specifically leisure-based travel roles and their major behavioral indicators. Their initial work (Yiannakis & Gibson, 1992) using principal components analysis, led them to identify thirteen leisure-based tourist roles (the Sun Lover, Action Seeker, Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Organized Mass Tourist, Thrill Seeker, Explorer, Jetsetter, Seeker, Independent Mass Tourist, High Class Tourist, Drifter and Escapist). Further analysis, using both principal components analysis and multidimensional scaling, led to the addition of the Sport Lover role. Yiannakis and Gibson’s analysis of the tourist roles utilizing multidimensional scaling, suggested three underlying dimensions to the rolesBfamiliarity-strangeness, stimulation-tranquillity, nd structure-independence (Yiannakis & Gibson, 1992, 287). They proposed that the positioning of each tourist role in this three-dimensional space was reflective of the optimal destination characteristics and relative behaviors for the role in reference to the others. More recent research (Gibson, 1994) has led to the addition of the Educational Tourist and a renaming of the Sport Lover to the Sport Tourist. Thus the latest typology contains fifteen tourist roles as presented in Table 1.

To measure the fifteen leisure tourist roles within a sample and empirically determine their underlying structure, Yiannakis and Gibson developed a Tourist Role Preference Scale(TRPS) (Dimanche & Havitz, 1994). The development of the TRPS involved a number of phases and was tested extensively to ensure that the instrument demonstrated good levels of validity and reliability. (For a detailed description see Yiannakis & Gibson, 1992). For the individual tourist roles, test-retest scores over a three-week period provided reliability coefficients ranging from 0.66 to 0.84. Cronbach’s Alpha internal consistency scores ranged from 0.82 to 0.87. In the TRPS each role is measured by two variables demonstrating both high loading on the appropriate factor and close proximity in three-dimensional space.



Yiannakis and Gibson’s classification of leisure tourists has been cited as being the most comprehensive to date (Dimanche & Havitz, 1994). Their research has made a significant contribution to the understanding of leisure tourist behavior in the United States by building on the work of previous researchers and developing descriptions of leisure tourist role characteristics in a three-dimensional, interactive form. However, in order for their typology to be of greater use internationally, further research needs to demonstrate its applicability to other countries and cultures.


With the consumption of tourism products being highly individualized, a clear understanding of consumer behavior and psychology is fundamental to businesses developing products, services and promotions that satisfy the needs of their chosen market (Dickman, 1999). While there are a number of psychological factors that may be considered as an object of study, personality is one of the better known and potentially the most useful concept (Jackson, Schmierer, & White, 1999). While personality research has gained prominence within the field of leisure over the past two decades, relatively little tourism research has focused on examining the personality of tourists. Yet if personality influences leisure preferences, it follows that such a relationship should exist between personality and tourism, as recreational tourism is a leisure activity (Iso-Ahola, 1983).

Plog (1972) was the first to conduct research on personality as applied specifically to tourists (Madrigal, 1995). Plog (1972) developed his Allocentric-Psychocentric model, which a review of the literature reveals is the most well-known and applied personality construct within the field of tourism. He sought to link personality traits directly with tourist behavior. According to his model, psychocentrics are those persons who are less adventurous, more inward looking, prefer familiarity in their surroundings and concentrate on popular destinations such as Coney Island and Miami Beach (Plog, 1972). Allocentrics, at the other end of the continuum, are adventurous and prepared to take risks and frequent destinations such as Africa which appeal to their sense of adventure and novelty (Sharpley, 1994). Although some support for Plog’s model, particularly in relation to locus of control, has been found (See Nickerson & Ellis, 1991; Griffith & Albanese, 1996), other researchers have found little support for his model (Lee-Hoxter & Lester, 1988; Smith, 1990; Madrigal, 1995; Jackson et al., 1999). Thus Plog’s model has not been adequately proven with regard to explaining tourist behavior, and its usefulness in addng to the current understanding of tourist roles is questionable.

In recognition of the shortcomings of Plog’s model, a small number of researchers have adopted a more conservative approach in their investigations of the tourist-personality relationship. Gilchrist, Povey, Dickinson and Povey (1995) investigated the relationship between sensation seeking and adventure travel. They observed that adventure travelers scored significantly higher on Zuckerman’s (1991) sensation seeking scale. Frew and Shaw (1997; 1998) were able to demonstrate a link between personality using Holland’s (1985) theory of personality types and tourist attractions. They found that of the 93 combinations of personality and tourist attractions examined, between one third and one half showed a significant relationship, although they could offer no theoretical justification for the results. The positive results from these studies suggest that the analysis of leisure travel behavior in terms of well-researched personality instruments appears to be an effective way to advance the knowledge of why tourists behave the way they do (Galloway, 1998). The MBTI was chosen for this study based on the fact that it is a theoretically based instrument that has been adequately tested in terms of reliability and validity, and that theoretical arguments can be advanced for expecting a relationship between the MBTI personality dimensions and touristic behavior (For a discussion of why these considerations are of particular importance see (Eysenck, Nias, & Cox, 1982; Foxall & Goldsmith, 1988; Kassarjian & Sheffet, 1991).

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on Myers’ theory of personality which she developed from her interpretation of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types and her own observations (Myers & McCaulley, 1992). The MBTI describes a person’s personality on four dichotomous dimensions indicating a person’s preference for source of psychological energy (extraversion vs. introversion), perception (sensing vs. intuition), making judgments (thinking vs. feeling), and orientation to the outer world (judging vs. perceiving). The MBTI questionnaire is a forced-choice, self-report inventory, virtually self-administering and designed for use with normal subjects. The questions consist of behavioral preferences and a number of preferred self-descriptive adjectives. Each individual question is designed to elicit a preference for one of the four dimensions. Countless papers have been written reviewing the reliability and validity data on the MBTI. Generally these support the view that the four MBTI scales have construct validity and measure important dimensions of personality which approximate those in Jung’s typology (See for example Coan, 1978; Wiggins, 1989; Murray, 1990). In addition the MBTI questionnaire is readily available, simple to administer and score and is the most widely used personality questionnaire in the world (Briggs-Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998, 9).

A number of arguments can be advanced for expecting a relationship to exist between MBTI type and tourist behavior. Firstly, Jung’s and Myers’ theories imply that a relationship should exist, since they are both type theories, which advocate that people of similar personality can be expected to react in a similar way to many situations in life. Thus it could be predicted that persons of a like personality type will prefer tourist experiences of a comparable nature. Secondly, the sensing-intuitive and thinking-feeling functions measured by the MBTI refer to the way people gather information and arrive at decisions. This parallels consumer behavior theory in terms of information search and decision making. In fact the MBTI has been used in organizations to estimate decision styles of executives (Moore, 1987). This argument could be extended to include decision making for product, or tourism choice. Although the MBTI has been used only to a very limited extent in consumer research, Shank and Langmeyer (1994, 162) concluded from their study that "the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator would seem to be the ideal personality inventory for marketers". Finally, the MBTI has shown some promising results in terms of explnation of leisure (In particular see McGuiggan, 1996; Lane, Montgomery, & Cashel, 1998). As leisure tourism is a leisure activity, there is reason to believe that the MBTI should also yield positive results in explaining tourist behavior.


A self-completion written questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 1,156 households in the metropolitan area of Sydney, Australia. A response rate of 19% was achieved, resulting in a final sample size of 207. The questionnaire consisted of three sections. The first contained the thirty questions of the TRPSBtwo questions measuring each of the fifteen tourist roles identified in Table 1. Respondents indicated the degree to which each statement reflected their actual tourist behavior on a five-point Likert scale from 1 "Never like me" to 5 "Always like me". A summation of the values given to the two separate questions for each tourist role allowed a composite score to be calculated for each role (For more details refer to Yiannakis and Gibson (1992)). The second section contained ten standard demographic questions relating to gender, marital status, household structure and income, education, occupation, country of origin, and age. The final section contained the self-completion version of the MBTI Form G.

Men comprised 61% of the sample and the mean age was 40-44 years (range 18-65+ years). Sixty nine percent were born in Australia and 70.5% had obtained at least a trade qualification after leaving school. Of the 69% who were working, 53% worked full-time and 16% part-time contributing to an average annual household income of AUD$46,000. In comparison with the general Australian population the sample was skewed towards males, those who were married or living with their partners and to households with children. There was a higher than normal number of managers within the sample, and the respondents on average had higher education levels when compared to the general Australian population. This may have been due in part to the greater representation of older personsBthe average age of the sample falling in the 40-44 years age groupBwith one quarter of the sample over 60 years of age. This may also have contributed to the greater comparative number of non-working people in the sample, as many in this latter group were retirees.


The Fifteen Tourist Roles

To determine whether the fifteen leisure tourist roles devised by Yiannakis and Gibson exist in the Australian context, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using LISREL VII and specifying a fifteen-factor solution was performed. The results indicated that all items of the TRPS, with the exception of the second composite item for the Escapist (ESC) role (ESC Q2, factor loading=0.31), exceeded the minimum factor loading criteria value of 0.40 (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, & Black, 1998). This indicated that they were significant in representing the tourist roles they were intended to measure.

Reliability estimates for the fifteen tourist roles ranged from 0.52 to 0.86, exceeding the cut off value of 0.50 as recommended by Nunnally (1967). Variance extracted values, which are a measure of convergent validity, also approximated the 0.50 recommended level with the exception of the Action Seeker (ACT) and Independent Mass Tourist (IMT) roles (variance extracted values of 0.38 and 0.36 respectively).

The overall fit of the TRPS to the sample was determined using a number of measures (see Table 2). The chi-square statistic of 556.25 (301 df) had an associated probability of 0.00, which suggested that the specified fifteen-factor model was not confirmed by te data. Because chi-square has been noted to be unreliable (Hughes, Price, & Marrs, 1996), several other measures were employed to assess model fit. As the goodness of fit index (GFI), the adjusted goodness of fit index (AGFI), the Tucker-Lewis index (TLI) and the Comparative Fit Index (CFI) were all close to the advocated level of 0.90 (Hair et al., 1998) and exceeded the corresponding values generated for the null model, the CFA indicated that the fifteen-factor model was an acceptable fit to the data.



Explanatory Power of Demographics and Personality

To determine the relative influence of MBTI personality type and demographics on tourist role preference, two sets of nested multiple regression analyses were undertaken with the dependent variables being the tourist role scores. The full model for both sets of analysis included the four MBTI continuous scale scores plus the demographic variablesBage, household income, education level, gender, marital status, number of people living in household, children under 18 years living in the household and their ages, usual occupation and cultural heritage (dummy variables having been created for the cultural heritage variable). In the first set of regressions the four MBTI continuous scale scores were used as the independent variables in the nested equation, while in the second the demographic variables were utilized. In each case the change in R2 and F-value was examined to determine the relative contribution to explanatory power provided by the two sets of variables. The results are presented in Table 3.

From Table 3 it is evident that neither demographics nor personality were able to explain leisure tourists engaging in either the Escapist (ESC) or High Class Tourist (HCT) roles. For the remaining thirteen roles, the power of the MBTI to explain the variability in the tourist roles differed from a low of 5.6% for the Sport Tourist (SPT) to a high of 18.1% for the Action Seeker (ACT) (the Sun Lover (SNL) role regression not being significant). For eight of the tourist roles, Action Seeker (ACT), Anthropologist (ANT), Archaeologist (ARC), Thrill Seeker (TRS), Explorer (EXL), Seeker (SKR), Drifter (DTR) and Educational Tourist (EDT), more than 10% of the variance could be explained by the MBTI scales alone. Taking demographics alone, the variability explained varies from a low of 12.4% for the Archeologist (ARC) to a high of 37.3% for the Thrill Seeker (TRS) (the Seeker (SKR) role regression not being significant). For four of the rolesBAction Seeker (ACT), Thrill Seeker (TRS), Explorer (EXP) and Independent Mass Tourist (IMT)Bmore than 20% of the variance could be explained by demographics. More than 10% of the variance was explained for an additional eight rolesBthe Sun Lover (SNL), Anthropologist (ANT), Archeologist (ARC), Organized Mass Tourist (OMT), Jetsetter (JST), Drifter (DTR), Sport Tourist (SPT) and Educational Tourist (EDT). It would appear from this that demographics are a better predictor of tourist roles than personality, as measured by the MBTI. In fact for only two roles, the Drifter (DTR) and the Seeker (SKR), was personality a better predictor than demographics. From an examination of the full model and the change in R2 and F-value, it can be seen that the explanatory power of ten of the thirteen tourist roles improved significantly using a combination of both demographics and personality rather than demographics aloneBthe improvement in explanatory power varying from 4.3% to 12.9%.

For each of the thirteen Tourist Roles with a significant regression equation, 2-tailed t-tests or Chi-squared tests were undertaken for all demographic variables and personality preference variables as appropriate. To increase the discriminatory power of the analysis, those who 'always’ or 'frequently’ enacted a particular Tourist Role (Tourist Roles scores 7-10) were compared to those who 'rarely’ or 'never’ enacted the role (Tourist Role scores 2-5). Those who indicated that they 'sometimes’ undertook a role (Tourist Role score 6) were omitted from the analysis. The results are presented in Table 4.

The Sun Lovers (SNL) tended to be slightly older, aged on average in their 40s, and came from larger households with children under four years old, than those who avoided this role. The Sport Tourist (SPT) was also more likely to be from a larger household. They were more likely to be male, to have children aged between 5 and 12 years and were more likely to be Extraverts than those who did not enjoy undertaking this role. Drifters (DTR) were also more likely to be male and to have children, aged between 5-12 years, but displayed a greater preference for Perception and for Intuition than those who were unlikely to engage in this role.

The Anthropologists (ANT) were, on the whole, younger (average 40-44 years), more educated, having obtained a tertiary qualification, and in full time work of a more skilled nature than those not engaging in this role. They were also likely to have a higher income (average AUD$50-60,000), and were likely to have a preference for Intuition, Thinking and Perceiving. The Archeologists (ARC) were also more likely to have a tertiary education and a higher earning capacity (average AUD$50-60,000) as well as a higher preference for Intuition than those not undertaking this role. The Educational Tourist (EDT) tended to be extremely well educated, most with a university degree, and were more likely to be of Asian descent than those who indicated that they were unlikely to enact this role.

Independent Mass Tourists (IMT) were more likely to have a tertiary education, be working full-time in a skilled or technical position and be aged on average in their early 40s compared to those not engaging in this role. They were also likely to have a preference for Perceiving. The Organized Mass Tourists (OMT) were generally older (average 50-54 years), with a lower level of education and a lower income (AUD$30-40,000) than those who declared themselves unlikely to enact this role.



Action Seekers (ACT) tended to be younger (average 30-34 years), be of Asian descent with a preference for Thinking and Perceiving compared to those who were unlikely to undertake this role. They were also less likely to be married, but if they had children, the children were likely to be aged 5-12 years. The Thrill Seeker (TRS) was likely to be much younger (average 30-34 years), single and in full-time work than those who avoided this role. They were extremely likely to be Extraverts and to have a preference for Perceiving. The Explorers (EXL) also tended to be Extraverts and Perceivers but with a preference for Intuition. They were younger (average 35-39 years), more likely to be employed full-time in a technical or skilled occupation, than those who did not enact this role. Although there were only a small number of respondents who indicated that they were likely to undertake the Jetsetter (JST) role (N=5), they could be described as somewhat younger (30-34 years) and more likely to be of Asian descent than those who did not engage in this role. The Seekers (SKR) tended to be single and so came from smaller households than those who did not undertake this role. They were well educated and likely to have a preference for Intuition.


The findings of this study seem to support the existence of Yiannakis and Gibson’s (1992) fifteen leisure tourist roles in the Australian context. However the TRPS may need to be refined to more effectively measure these roles. In particular, the wording of the questions may need to be modified to improve the factor loading of the questions measuring the Escapist role and the internal reliability of the Action Seeker (ACT) and Independent Mass Tourist (IMT) roles.

For the Escapist (ESC) and High Class Tourist (HCT) segments, it is evident that neither personality as measured by the MBTI, nor the demographics investigated could be used to describe those undertaking these roles. A possible explanation for the ESC role is the poor fator loading of the second question measuring this role, indicating that the questions may have been measuring different aspects of the role, or in fact different roles. The HCT segment was small in this sample (N=13) and this may have contributed to the non-significance of the results. It may also indicate that very few Australians undertake this role.



In the other thirteen tourist roles, explanation was improved by use of both demographics and personality variables. The combination of personality and demographic variables explained 20% or more of the variance in nine of the thirteen tourist roles. Using the two types of variables significantly improved explanation but the improvement varied considerably. By adding personality to the demographics only model, explanation was improved by between 1.6% and 12.9%, while adding demographics to the personality only model led to between 6% and 24.8% improvement in explanatory power. Therefore, it would appear that eleven of the tourist roles are better explained by demographics, while only two (the Drifter and the Seeker) are best explained by personality.

It is possible that the global measure of personality used in this study is not the most appropriate measure of personality for determining leisure tourist roles. Perhaps more specific personality measures such as sensation seeking, adventure seeking or need for cognition, may provide a better explanation for enactment of the roles. It is also possible that personality acts as a moderating variable in determining tourist roles and further research needs to be undertaken to determine if this is so. It must be born in mind that many constraints, intra- and inter-personal, as well as environmental, may inhibit the undertaking of preferred tourist roles. This study asked respondents about their actual tourist role activity, not their preferred role/s. Further research could investigate whether stronger correlations exist between demographics and/or personality and preferred or enacted tourist role. Furthermore, research needs to establish whether personality and/or certain demographics act as moderating variables between preference and actual tourist role engagement.


The findings of this study generally support the existence of Yainnakis and Gibson’s (1992) fifteen leisure tourist roles in the Australian context. The study also indicates that demographics rather than personality, as measured by the MBTI, provide a better explanation of leisure tourist role enactment. The overwhelming conclusion from this study is that demographics and personality together provide a significantly richer description of the leisure tourist role participants than either taken alone.


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Robyn McGuiggan, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Jo-Ann Foo, Eureka Strategic Research, Australia


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