The Long Tail of Travel

by: Chris Anderson

travel For a recent speech to a travel company, we pulled together some data on the changing shape of travel due to low-cost carriers, online travel information and social-media driven word of mouth taking tourists beyond the usual top destinations. As in any industry that democratizes, you should see more diversity and the demand should be spread out over more “products”. In this case, that this would be driven by:

  • Lowered flight costs = more travel, more risk-taking
  • Lower “search costs” = broader vistas, more willingness to go off the beaten path
  • Better word-of-mouth tools = “bottoms-up hits”
  • Peer ratings, reviews reinforce authentic success, punish “manufactured experience”

Did it happen? Yep. Check this out: data on travel from the UK, from 1998-2008. Over that period, the top 50 destinations from the UK (the “head” of travel” fell from 36% of the total to just 26%, while everything else (the “tail”) grew.


This research was done by our own Maren Jinnett using data compiled by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority. Maren’s spreadsheet is here, with a lot more data if you want to do your own analysis.