Long Tail Theory & Niche Tourism

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ABSTRACT. The Long Tail concept refers to the Internet-based economy that has enabled company success through a focus on highly specialized services and products that are not in high volume demand, but maybe in high-value demand. The concept of the post-tourist, for example, is a Long Tail phenomenon. Long Tail marketing approaches are proving success due to advances in communication technology and social networking that have given more people access to a broader range of goods and services and information. The Long Tail is not without its challenges, including increased global competition, and it has not abandoned geographic considerations. Geography, in fact, can help to differentiate niche products and must still be overcome to consummate the tourist experience. KEYWORDS. The Long Tail, social software, marketing, geography, the Internet The Long Tail theory refers to the behavior of economic sectors that provide products in relatively low volume, but are able to make a profit by providing a greater variety of products in aggregate. This is in contrast to the short head sectors where profit is based on a more narrow range of products selling in much higher volume. The tendency for natural patterns and social behavior to congregate on a short head, and "tail o f f into a long tail is well known in statistics, where the long tail refers to the far ends of a normal statistical distribution. In a normal bell curve, the highest frequency occurrences appear at the center of the distribution and then gradually taper off at the high and low extremes. Those tapered extremes are the Long Tail. Long Tail events occur in a relatively rare frequency, including items that are low in individual popularity or in sales. However, in many instances, the total aggregate number of occurrences that are found in the Long Tail can be greater than the total aggregate number of occurrences in the short head, The Long Tail part of the statistical distribution has also been by referred to as heavy tales, power law tales, and Pareto tails, among other terms (Adamic & Huberman, 2002; Brynjolfsson, Hu, & Simester, 2003). The power law suggests that small occurrences are extremely common, while large occurances are extremely rare (Adamic, 2005). The Pareto tails rule is also known as the 80-20 rule, and suggests that 80% of effects come from 20% of instances (Reed,

Alan A. Lew, PhD, is Professor, Department of Geography, Planning, and Recreation, Northern Arizona University, Box 15016, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA (E-mail: Alan.Lew@nau.edu). Portions of this article were originally published in: Lew, A. A. (2006). Long tail tourism: Implications of the distributed business model for the tourism and travel industry. In N. Othman (Ed.), Conference Proceedings: The 2nd Tourism Outlook Conference—Tourism Edge and Beyond (pp. 26-38). Shah Alam, Malaysia: Universiti Teknologi MARA. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, Vol. 25(3^) 2008 © 2008 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved. doi: 10.1080/10548400802508515 •





2001). For many economic activities, 20% of products (the short head) generates 80% of sales, while the remaining 80% of products (the Long Tail) provides 20% of sales. This is often cited with reference to Long Tail economics. Markets that lower the short head below 80% and increase the long tail to over 20% are often cited as representing a move toward a Long Tail economy (cf. Anderson, 2008a). In spatial geographic terms, the Long Tail concept is related to Central Place Theory, the Gravity Model, and Distance Decay (McKercher & Lew, 2004). Patterns that reflect this distribution include the geographic frequency of most plants and animals, the income distribution within a corporation, the geographic distribution of newspaper sales, and political power within a society. From a tourism...
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