The Distance Decay Theory. Its Applications On the Nigerian Tourism Industry

Scientific Study, 2019

16 Pages, Grade: 5.0




Friction of distance



Strengths and Weaknesses





Distance decay theory is a geographical theory which describes the effect of distance on cultural or spatial interactions. The distance decay effect states that the interaction between two locale declines as the distance between them increase. Once the distance is outside of the locales activity space, their interactions begin to decrease.

The theory is entrenched in Waldo Tobler (1970) first law of geography when he wrote “everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distance things” (Tobler 1970). This law entrenched the concept of distance decay into the popular geography lexicon. Distance decay is evident in town/city centres. It can refer to various things which decline with greater distance from the center. Such thing include:

a) Density of pedestrian traffic.
b) Street quality.
c) Quality of shops (depending on the definition of quality and center).
d) Height of buildings
e) Price of land.

In the discourse of distance decay theory there are related terms such as:

a) Friction of distance which describes the force that creates distance decay.
b) Waldo .R. Tober’s first law of geography” an informal statement that “all things are related but near things are more related than far things.
c) “Loss of strength Gradient” amount of a nations military power that could be brought to bear in any part of the world depends on geographic distance.

Distance exerts a significant filtering effect on the type of person willing or able to travel, which in turn affects behaviour and consumption patterns within destinations. Distance decay is observed widely in spatial studies and best describes the relationship between distance and tourism demand (Mckercher & Lew 2003). In tourism, demand curves typically peak some distance away from an entertainment source and rapidly tail off; they also take two other forms: a wide plateau near the source, or a series of shrinking peaks (Mckercher & Lew 2003)

Friction of distance

In all manner of ways the lives and activities of people everywhere are influenced by the friction of distance. This shows that distance has a retarding effect on human interaction because there are increasing penalties in time and cost associated with longer-distance, more expensive inter changes. We visit nearby friends more often than distant relations, we go more frequently to the neighourhood convenience store than to the farther regional shopping center. Telephone calls or mail deliveries between nearby towns are greater in volume than those to more distant locations. An informal study showed that college students living in dormitories near the cafeteria are more likely to use the cafeteria, students farther away do not visit the cafeteria as often.

When the friction of distance is reduced by lowered costs or increased ease of flow, the slope of the distance decay curve is flattened and more total area is effectively united than when those costs are high. U.S. cities underwent massive geographic expansion when automobiles and expressways became widely available in the second half of the 20th century as the friction of distance was land were brought within reasonable commute time from the city.

However in the analysis of distance decay one discovers that the decay curves vary with the type of flow. The majority of our social contacts tend to be at short distance within our own neighborhoods, or with friends who live relatively are less frequent. In all such trips however, the distance decay functions is clearly at work with neighbours on the same street are frequent. They are less common with neighbours around the corner and diminish quickly to the vanishing point after a residential relocation, friends exert a greater spatial pull, though the distance decay factor is clearly evident. Visit with relatives offer the greatest incentive for longer distance (though relatively infrequent journeys).

The diagram below shows such interaction

Editorial Note: This diagram was removed due to copyright issues.


The underlying assumption of this theory is that declining accessibility will lead to reducing interactions for places further apart. Basically distance decay theory demonstrates how demand or volume declines exponentially as distance from a source increases. People tend to use the nearby resources rather than those far from them. For example, in many cities the highest land values occur in the city center but prices drop off rapidly with increasing distance. In relation to tourism the theory has been widely used for exploring the relationship between distance and tourism demand. Among the diverse factors affecting the volume of tourism market for a given destination in the geographic distance.

Traditionally distance means the physical and more realistically topographic surface distance. The term decay refers to the diminishing influence of a phenomenon, attribute or activity when two locales are far away from each other.

Distance decay theory is commonly represented graphically by a curving line that swoops concavely downward as distance along the x-axis increases. Distance decay is an important precept of spatial analysis, especially for spatial interaction models and notions of cultural diffusion.


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The Distance Decay Theory. Its Applications On the Nigerian Tourism Industry
University of Nigeria
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
distance, decay, theory, applications, nigerian, tourism, industry
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Ph.D Chinwe Chimezie Uwaoma (Author), 2019, The Distance Decay Theory. Its Applications On the Nigerian Tourism Industry, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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