On this page:

3.63.              As compared with the aim of phase one, which is dedicated to the observation of global flows, the aim in phase two is to obtain more details about the characteristics of the travellers making the trips. What first needs to be established is, whether the traveller is a non‑resident (but only if the information generated in phase one is insufficient for that purpose). Additional information is then needed from non‑residents to determine whether their travel constitutes a tourism trip. If so, then further information is collected on the characteristics of the visitor, his or her travel party (if travelling in one) and the conditions of the trip (e.g., duration, purpose, modes of international transport, main type of accommodation used and arrangements). This is all the information necessary to characterize visitors and their trips and, in a subsequent stage, to generate statistics on their tourism expenditure.

3.64.              The information to be requested should be useful, for policy and analytical purposes, to both national authorities (mainly NTAs, NSOs and central banks) and other stakeholders in the tourism sector. Whether persons travel alone or in parties, for instance, affects not only average expenditure but also the type of accommodation needed (single, double or multiple‑occupancy rooms). The reason of persons for travel, whether business or recreation, will have an impact on their activities, including the times at which they will be available for touring or other recreational or cultural activities.

3.65.              With very few exceptions (e.g., when information can be collected from E/D cards completed by visitors upon departure), tourism authorities will need to use surveys to establish the characteristics of inbound visitors. Though flows of inbound tourism are measured on arrival, those surveys will usually need to be conducted upon departure, for two basic reasons:

  • To avert prolongation of the border transit process for arriving visitors and immediately assailing them with a multitude of questions
  • Because it is more accurate to establish the actual characteristics of the visitor, particularly with respect to expenditure, length of stay and activities undertaken while in the country. Only the expectations of visitors about such matters can be recorded upon their arrival and those expectations can be highly inaccurate, particularly in relation to expenditure.

Box III.10 

Dealing with unknown reference populations in border surveys on inbound tourism: example of Italy 

Since 1996, the Ufficio Italiano dei Cambi (UIC) has been carrying out an extensive inbound‑outbound border survey on international travel for Italy. The survey is run on a continuous basis through a representative sample of around 130,000 face‑to‑face interviews per year, allowing the observation of several qualitative and quantitative attributes. The data from this survey are used both to compile travel information for balance‑of‑payments purposes and to meet the information needs of tourism operators and analysts. The paper focuses on the consequences of inadequate knowledge about the reference population, a typical problem in tourism statistics still requiring research. As illustrated in the paper, the Ufficio Italiano dei Cambi (UIC) tackles this issue by conducting counting operations (more than 1,000,000 per year) to determine the number and nationalities of cross‑border visitors. An approach to measuring the additional sampling errors resulting from the procedure adopted in Italy is also described.


Source: World Tourism Organization (2005a), annex II.

Box III.11 

Linking administrative with sample survey data for grossing up: example of Argentina 

The National Immigration Authority usually provides information about travellers’ arrivals and departures from/and into countries, classified by nationality. The International Tourism Survey (ITS) estimations need residence ‑and not nationality‑ to classify travellers; hence, the data must be adjusted in order to calculate the number of inbound/outbound visitors in terms of residents/non‑residents. Argentina uses a three‑step methodology to perform this adjustment: 

Step 1: Calculation of residence coefficients. The ITS uses two different questionnaires: one for resident tourists (form A) and the other for non‑resident tourists (form E). In both cases, travellers are asked about country of nationality (Argentina or foreign). Thus, it is possible to identify nationality within each of the surveyed samples (of residents and non‑residents), and compare it with country of residence. Completion of table 1 enables where the following classification: 

   (a) For resident travellers: those of Argentine nationality (A1) (i.e., those who arrive in/depart from the country with an Argentine passport/ID) are separated from those of foreign nationality (A2);

   (b) For non‑residents travellers, the same logic is used, with the separation of those of Argentine nationality (E1) from those of foreign nationality (E2). 


Argentine passport/ID

Foreign passport/ID


Resident tourists (survey A)



A= A1+ A2

Non-resident tourists (survey E)



E= E1+ E2


X= A1+ E1

Y= A2+ E2


Adjustment factors are produced by calculating the ratio of the number of resident tourists (A1) to the total number of respondents of argentine nationality (A1/X) and, the ratio of the number of non‑resident tourist (E1) to the total number of respondents of Argentine nationality (E1/X). Thus, it is possible to calculate the share of travellers of Argentine nationality residing in Argentina and the share of those of Argentine nationality living abroad. The same exercise is applied to those of foreign nationality residing in Argentina (A2) and to those of foreign nationality residing abroad (E2). The adjustment coefficients are displayed in table 2 below: 


Argentine passport/ID


Foreign passport/ID


Resident tourists (survey A)

X1 (A1/X)

Y1 (A2/Y)

Non-resident tourists (survey E)

X2  (E1/X)

Y2 (E2/Y)

Total A+E

100 (X1 + X2)

100 (Y1 + Y2)

 Step 2: Calculation of coefficients shares by countries and groups. The second step entails determining the country of residence of those of Argentine nationality living abroad (E1). Fortunately, form E of the ITS includes a question regarding travellers’ country of residence, grouping them according to the following classification: Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, the set “United States of America and Canada”, the set “Rest of America”, the continent Europe and the set “Rest of the world”. 

Adjustment coefficients are produced by calculating the ratio of the number of non‑residents tourists with Argentine passport in each country or region to the total number of non‑residents tourists with Argentine nationality. Table 2 is then extended to produce table 3 below: 


Argentine passport/ID


Foreign passport/ID


Resident tourists (survey A)



Non-resident tourists (survey E)












United States of America and Canada



Rest of America






Rest of the world



Total A+E

100 (X1 + X2)

100% (Y1 + Y2)

 Step 3: Calculation of the total number of tourists. First, in order to calculate the number of resident travellers in Argentina, the ratio of the number of those passengers of citizenship and residency in Argentina to the total number of respondents with Argentine nationality (X1%) is multiplied by the total number of arrivals of Argentine nationality. The ratio of those of foreign nationality and local residence to the total number of traveller with foreign passport (Y1%) is then multiplied by the total number of arrivals of foreign passengers. The sum of those terms yields the total number of resident travellers in Argentina.

In order to estimate the number of non‑resident travellers, the same procedure is followed only in this case, the coefficients X2% and Y2% together with departure data are used. Here, estimates are made separately for each country or group of countries: First, coefficients for those of Argentine nationality and foreign residence by country or region (X2.1%, X2.2%, etc.) are applied to the total number of departure transits from Argentina. Then, to the total number of the departures of foreign passengers, the coefficient for those of foreign nationality and residence abroad (Y2%) is applied. Again, calculation of the sum of both terms yields the total number of non‑resident travellers.


Source: Ministry of Tourism of Argentina (2013).

C.2.1.           Issues specific to the observation of the characteristics of inbound visitors 

3.66.              While, in most tourism observation procedures, the characteristics of inbound trips and inbound visitors are established as visitors leave the country, in fact, this information is then assigned to arrival figures estimated for the period of reference.

3.67.              Figure III.2 below provides compilers with the hidden assumptions behind the most frequently used procedure which is to assign all tourism activity to the period of reference corresponding to the arrival of the visitor. As displayed, this practice is strictly appropriate in any one of only four possible types of circumstances. 

Figure III.2 

Flows of visitors and period of reference



Type 1. A person arrives at the place visited before, and leaves during, the period of reference (t). In such a case, the person will be registered as arriving in period t-1, even if part of the person’s tourism activity takes place during the period of reference. Consequently, measurements of all of the person’s activity during the trip, including expenditure, will be assigned to period t-1. 

Type 2. A person arrives before and leaves after the period of reference (t). As for type 1, the person’s tourism activity during period t will be assigned to period t-1, although it occurs party in period in t-1, partly in period t and partly in t+1. 

Type 3. A person both arrives and leaves during the period of reference (t). In this “ideal” case all of the person’s tourism activity occurs during period (t) and enters into the calculation. 

Type 4. A person arrives on a tourism trip during and leaves after the period of reference (t). That person will be registered as arriving during period t although part of his or her activity will take place also during period t+1. Consequently, measurements of all the person’s activity, including expenditure, will be assigned to period t, although part of it occurred in period t+1.

3.68.              In order that tourism activity may be measured with precision during a given period of time, ideally, each of the four circumstances presented above should be identified separately and the visitors’ activities allocated proportionally (or otherwise) to the periods of time in which their stay and the period of reference overlap. Obviously, the applicability of this ideal method depends on whether entry and departure dates have been registered for each traveller and on how the information captured on E/D cards has been stored.

3.69.              The implementation of this ideal method would entail a higher cost, as it requires systematic re‑estimations of tourism statistics. Countries should document which method they applied when counting travellers. If a country opts to count and survey inbound tourism at arrival, it should make clear that some of the information supplied is not to be taken as certain, e.g., by labelling the information as “expected length of stay” or “expected expenditure”. On the other hand, the country counts and surveys inbound visitors on departure, “actual length of stay” or “actual expenditure” would be measured, as would also be the case for outbound tourism.

3.70.              In practice, however, the distinctions between types 1, 2 and 4 are often ignored, it is being assumed implicitly that the mismatches will eventually cancel each other out. In the cases concerned, however, short‑term analyses of arrival and expenditure figures could be distorted (see Box III.12). In publishing the data, it should be made clear that the numbers relate to “arrivals” during the reference period. The longer the period of reference and the shorter the duration of the trip, the smaller the problem of determining when to count a visitor.

Box III.12 

Treating “long‑term” visitors in the case of short‑term statistics 

Although, in general, the implicit assumptions discussed above will have little effect, they could be particularly troublesome in the case of short‑term statistics (monthly, for instance) when there are wide seasonal differences in behaviour that extend across two contiguous periods (for instance, heightened tourism activity over the new year). In those cases, a more rigorous method of estimation might be needed, using the dates of visitor arrivals and departures. Such a method would obviously delay estimation because it could not be applied properly before the departure of all persons who had arrived during the period. It may also generate inconsistencies when, for some exogenous reason, there are marked difference in behaviour between two periods that normally balance each other out. It would be necessary in such circumstances to take into consideration arrival and departure dates.

In countries where the average stay of persons belonging to certain categories is particularly long (retirees on a Caribbean island, for instance), it might be necessary, in estimating their tourism activity, to use methods of estimation appropriate for this category of visitor and to consider how the tourism activity of such persons might be allocated over each of the periods observed during their stay.   

However, it must be observed, that this recommended method of estimating tourism activity will have an effect on coherence and consistency between demand and supply data. A statistical discrepancy might appear, for instance, in respect of estimates of hotel stays when using this method, as compared with estimates derived from hotel‑room occupancy, since actual nights spent in hotels during a given period are measured without attention to when visitors began or ended their visit.

3.71.              The present section pays special attention to the assignment of tourism activity to the correct period of reference. Related to this issue are possible distortions in the estimated number of non‑resident international arrivals when the information about country of residence is collected upon departure of visitors and is then applied to the arrivals figures. Residents and non‑residents may have opposite behaviours that can lead to wrong conclusions. Similar problems can arise in specific periods if data from passengers entering a country and data from those living the country are combined, e.g., the former may come for a short visit in September (and both arrive and depart in that month) while the latter may leave after a long holiday period ending in September. 

C.2.2.           Statistical sources 

3.72.              In an increasing number of countries, the border control system is neither complete nor totally reliable. A clear example is that of the European countries that are parties to the Schengen Agreement, where controls are limited to the zone’s outside borders, with limited control not only over internal movements of residents of non‑Schengen countries (once they have entered the Schengen Area) but also over the internal movements of residents of Schengen countries onece they have returned to the Schengen Area. In these cases, it is necessary to look for other sources of information, whether of an administrative nature or, principally, statistical surveys, in order to measure the flow of non‑resident travellers arriving in the country. There are four classes of possible statistical sources: 

  • Border surveys
  • Surveys of visitors (at market accommodation establishments or popular visitor sites)
  • Household surveys in originating markets
  • Other (e.g., administrative or, mirror data)

 If different types of surveys are available, their questionnaires should be mutually consistent so that they can complement each other: definitions and classifications should be shared and questions formulated similarly. 

C.2.2.1.              Border surveys 

3.73.              It should be emphasized at the outset that, before border surveys are considered, the first priority should be to obtain data from administrative sources, particularly the passport control processes. Border surveys should be used to collect data supplementary to the available administrative data, for example, data on expenditure, on activities while in the country, on places visited, etc., as discussed in section C.1.3.1.

3.74.              Countries carrying out such surveys usually draw their sample from a universe determined on the basis of administrative data from official sources, or data provided, e.g., by carriers (airlines, railway companies, shipping lines, scheduled bus lines) or though vehicle counts at road border crossings.

3.75.              As mentioned above (see para. 3.65), these surveys are carried out upon the visitor’s departure from the country. Often, they also include some type of measurement of expenditure, based on a single question, but preferably on an expenditure module, i.e., a set of interconnected questions serving to elaborate on certain characteristics of the visitor’s behaviour (see chap. IV, sect. B.3.1).

 General design 

3.76.              The statistical design of border surveys must be such that the sampling and characterization of tourism trips and visitors can be considered representative of the entire population of international inbound trips. Designing such surveys requires an analysis of the country information obtained in phase one (see sect. C.1) in order to evaluate its suitability as the population framework of reference from which the sample is to be selected and data are to be collected and grossed up.[1] 

Box III.13 

Challenges in measuring inbound tourism: example of the Philippines 

The main source of inbound statistics in the Philippines is the arrival card which is filled out by all travellers entering the country. The Department of Tourism and the Bureau of Immigration are jointly responsible for encoding, processing and generating reports on the volume of international visitor arrivals, as sourced from the arrival card, which has been identified as a “designated statistic” for tourism under 1996 Executive Order. Though a proposal to remove the arrival card has been put forth, the Department of Tourism and the Bureau of Immigration are working together on a continuous basis to improve the appearance and dynamics of the arrival card so as to ensure that it remains a vital and critical data source for decision‑making by the Government and the private sector with regard to tourism development and promotion. The critical data in the arrival card relevant to tourism are country of residence and purpose of visit. 

A Visitor Sample Survey (VSS) is also being administered by the Department of Tourism on a regular basis in all international airports of the country to generate statistics on visitors’ demographic or profile and their travel characteristics, including psychographic information. The most critical data (as determined by the survey) are of length of stay and average expenditure of visitors, which are important parameters for estimating visitor receipts. The VSS complements the data gathered from the arrival card, with both being major sources of information for inbound tourism statistics and the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA).


Source: National Statistical Coordination Board of the Philippines.

Box III.14 

Establishing the characteristics of international visitors and tourism trips: example of France 

In France, a border survey is conducted every quarter (encompassing 20,000 questionnaires) by a private subcontractor. Entitled “L’Enquête auprès des Visiteurs de l’Étranger” (EVE), the survey, which permits the collection of quantitative data on trips (including same‑day visits) in France by non‑resident visitors, is conducted just before they leave French territory. One major purpose is to collect data on physical flows of non‑resident visitors (e.g., arrivals, tourist nights spent and same‑day visitors, broken down by country of usual residence). 

Another major purpose is to provide data requested by the statistical service of the Central Bank (Banque de France) for use in estimating the travel receipts item for the France’s Balance of Payments. The survey also collects data requested for tourism market analysis in France (categorical data on, e.g., non‑resident visitors, main purposes of trip, places visited in France, activities during their stay, types of accommodation and modes of transport used). The General Directorate for Competitiveness, Industry and Services is interested in both monetary and non‑monetary variables.

The sample is stratified in order to calculate results for 22 countries or group of countries. Manual headcounts are conducted and EVE questionnaires are used at the locations from which visitors leave the country, e.g., airports, except in the case of travellers by road, who are interviewed at car parks along motorways near the French border. 

Dates of arrival and departure are indicated by the respondent; hence, the issues mentioned in chapt. III sect. C.2.1 are avoided.


Source: Ministre de l’Économie, du Redressement productif et du Numérique (2010).

3.77.              Once this information has been analysed, and depending on the country and the type of border crossing concerned, there will be one of two outcomes: 

(a)           Comprehensive and reliable data on arrivals of international travellers will be available

In such situations, the variables linking the information in the survey and the universe of reference will be the relevant characteristics measured in the arrival statistics (such as country of residence and/or nationality). These variables also need to be reliably recorded in the sample, being representative of those characteristics in the universe.

In this case, the information obtained from the survey will serve to improve the classification and characterization of traveller flows based on the records of international traveller arrivals. 

It is frequently the case, however, that data are collected on nationality only, and not on country of residence. In some countries, border officials are instructed to ask travellers for their country of residence, but often, in practice, this information is not reliable or is not properly collected.

 (b)          The data available on arrivals of international travellers will not be totally reliable

The survey will need to be designed so as to provide the information required (i) for distinguishing, within the universe of inbound traveller flows (e.g., by railway or at land border crossings), those travellers who are nationals of the country (versus foreign nationals) and those who are residents (versus non‑residents), and (ii) for identifying the characteristics of non‑resident visitors and of their tourism trips. 

3.78.              The information yielded by the survey, together with the information on border flows, should make it possible to segment the population frame or statistical universe by tourism‑relevant variables.

Box III.15 

Estimating the number of international visitors within the Schengen Area of free movement of people: example of Spain 

The practice of Spain may be considered a good example of how a combination of information sources can be used to estimate the number of non‑resident travellers arriving in a country. Like many other European Union countries, Spain dismantled a sizeable part of its border police controls in 1994, which resulted in the immediate disappearance of information historically gathered by security forces at national borders on the number of travellers arriving from Schengen Area countries. This obliged Spain to design and introduce a new system for measuring and characterizing traveller flows at its borders, based on administrative data from various bodies responsible for traffic on access roads, at airports and ports and on trains, as well as information generated by direct surveys at all points of entry.

Spain puts this information to several uses:

  • Border surveys: the National Tourism administration (NTA) carries out two kinds of border survey, one on arrival and the other on departure. The former entails a short questionnaire whose purpose is to classify travel flows according to seven basic characteristics (age, gender, country of residence, purpose of trip, type of accommodation, length of stay and organization of trip). Surveys conducted upon departure use a much broader questionnaire which includes the same questions asked upon arrival as well as additional ones whose aim is to obtain more data on the trip (e.g., expenditure, frequency of visits, activities engaged in and satisfaction, etc.).
  • Manual counts on roads: the NTA is also responsible for carrying out manual counts at the principal land borders so as to determine the number of vehicles crossing and the registration number and number of occupants for each vehicle.
  • Automatic traffic counts on roads: road traffic authorities in Spain (Dirección General de Tráfico) provide the NTA every month with a record of vehicles entering Spain, as recorded by the automatic counting devices of the NTA at all road borders.
  • Administrative records of passengers on international flights: Spain’s airports authority (Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA)) provides the NTA with monthly records of passengers arriving at Spain’s airports on international flights, according to their country of origin and airport of destination.
  • Administrative records of passengers arriving at ports: the authority responsible for passenger and goods traffic at national ports (Puertos del Estado) provides the NTA with a monthly record of disembarking passengers.
  • Administrative records of passengers arriving on trains from abroad:  the authority responsible for passenger traffic on national trains (RENFE) provides the NTA with monthly records of passengers arriving in Spain on trains with international connections.

Based on these official figures, the NTA makes a month‑by‑month estimate of the number of non‑resident travellers arriving in Spain and identifies some basic characteristics, such as type of visitor, country of residence, purpose of travel, type of accommodation and length of stay. Since 1995, it has used a sophisticated system, known as FRONTUR, which for each point of access makes it possible to combine information from the administrative records, in some cases on vehicles and in others cases on passengers, with the data yielded by border surveys.


Source: Spain, Instituto de Estudios Turísticos (IET).

 The sample 

3.79.              The design of a statistical sample is usually extremely complex. There are often official and complementary data sources available for use in structuring the statistical universe or sample frame. The design must account for the particularities of trips: that travellers often travel in groups or parties, that they include children, and that questionnaire respondents need to be selected in such a way as to reflect those particularities. Expanding the data gathered to represent the entire universe of trips presents a real challenge to statisticians.

3.80.              Further, through their access to administrative information on the arrival and departure flows of non‑resident travellers at a country’s ports of entry, statisticians can be provided with and advance indication of which flows are most representative at each point in the year, because of their volume or the greater heterogeneity of travellers. Their representative character can also change over time, as was the case for Iceland in 2010 when the ash plume from the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption disrupted air travel in Northern Europe for several weeks, forcing visitors to Ireland to shift to smaller local airports--a change that the existing statistical design was slow to properly assimilate.

3.81.              These designs require statistical expertise. In countries whose NTA lacks that expertise, it is necessary to secure the active involvement of the NSO in survey design and the establishment of minimum size and selection of the sample – including its distribution by type of port of entry, by type and characteristics of modes of transport used, by flight (charter/scheduled; low‑cost/conventional), time (day or night), day of the week (working day, holiday, weekend day), and period of the year, as well as other characteristics of the tourism trip or of the visitor considered relevant.

3.82.              In determining sample size, consideration should be given to the minimum number of interviews required to ensure that the entire population of travellers arriving at each port of entry is represented, as well as to the distribution of travellers over time. Also, consideration should be given to the need for a sample size sufficient to allow for the production of cross‑tabulations between crucial variables (e.g., country of residence by purpose of visit) with a degree of statistical reliability.

3.83.              The cooperation of the NSO should also extend, where possible, to subsequent processing of the data collected, namely, their entry, filtering, validation and tabulation, all processes commonly carried out during the undertaking of surveys and often requiring the expertise mainly or exclusively possessed by an NSO.

3.84.              Unlike other statistically observed phenomena, where a given stratification and sampling characteristics might remain virtually stable over the years, travel flows can be volatile, in response to a variety of factors; hence, the initial sample design should be updated regularly.

Box III.16 

Inbound tourism survey: example of Egypt 

  • Number of data‑collection rounds: 4
  • Dates of rounds: 4 rounds, each represented by the seven days of the week and each day appearing only once during each round
  • Total targeted sample size:

-   60,000 tourists distributed to represent the prior year’s actual relative distribution of the broad categories of nationalities, namely, Arabs, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Asians, Americans, Africans and others

-   10,000 Egyptians (residing elsewhere) while visiting Egypt 

Sample size relative to total population




Total number of foreign inbound tourists





2 411




2 944




2 356




3 528




4 603




12 500



  • Coverage: 11 ports

-   Airports (Cairo (the old and new airports), Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Luxor, Borg El Arab, Nozha), maritime port of Nuweiba and road paths of Salloum and Taba

  • Unit of analysis:

-   Visitor

  • Weighting method

-   Actual number of tourists and nights spent in the reference year, used and distributed according to the broad categories of nationalities

-   Average expenditure per night of each broad category of nationalities is estimated through the survey and applied to the actual number of nights spent by tourists in the reference year, to produce the total expenditure of this category. The summing of this cross‑multiplication across all categories of nationalities yields total inbound tourism expenditure.

  • Questionnaire languages: 9 (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish).


Source: Ministry of Tourism of Egypt (2011).

 The questionnaire 

3.85.              UNWTO has developed a set of questions (see Annex I) that could serve as a starting point for the design of a questionnaire and should be adapted by each country’s own particular tourism reality and resource availability. Here are some examples of particularities that should be considered:

  • In many countries, the number of inbound same‑day visitors or excursionists is not significant or, if it is, the cost of surveying such visitors would be disproportionate to the benefit of including them (in terms of their total expenditure)
  • It might be reasonable to use a simplified version of the questionnaire at border crossings, where there is little time for interviews. More time is available at airports than at road crossings
  • Questions related to the breakdown of transport could be broken down into further levels of detail, as indicated in IRTS 2008 (figure. 3.2)
  • For questions on “Types of accommodation”, it is recommended that each country separate paid and market accommodation from non‑paid and non‑market accommodation and, on this basis, use the nationally established classification, that is, the relevant classification for analysing supply and expenditure 

3.86.              While the proposed set of questions focuses on information requested during a border survey, it could be also used as a reference for other types of surveys. It is divided into five blocks:Core module

  1. Module 1: Mode of transport
  2. Module 2: Accommodation
  3. Module 3: Activities while in the country
  4. Module 4: Expenditure

3.87.              A few words of caution regarding the use of these questions:

  • The set of question should be adapted to the particularities of tourism in each country and discussed with key stakeholders in the tourism sector as well as officials involved with the Balance‑of‑Payments and the National Accounts.
  • Since border surveys are expensive, the entire process should be tested (including the tabulation of results) by means of a pilot exercise so as to ensure that the final version is as efficient as initially envisaged.
  • The tables of expected results to be produced alongside the questionnaire should be designed and their content tested using the data collected through the pilot exercise, since the final objective of a questionnaire is to produce data that cross‑classify the main variables observed; the usefulness of the tables for tourism analysis should also be reviewed.
  • Since border surveys are technically challenging, it should be established that the necessary resources and technical expertise have been committed to them and that their funding will be stable over time.
  • Guidelines for field personnel should be drafted and a serious commitment made to training before the launching of the survey.

Box III.17 

Taking into consideration the special features of tourism in a particular country 

In countries where the number of non‑residents owning vacation homes or timeshares is relevant, or where it is a national policy to encourage non‑residents to do so, vacation homes and timeshares should be specifically identified as forms of accommodation. Similarly, in countries with large emigrant populations, staying with family and relatives should be highlighted as a mode of accommodation. In countries that host many international conferences and meetings, it might be helpful to collect information on the secondary purpose, particularly for accompanying persons. In countries that frequently attract family groups, it might be useful to collect more information on travel‑party composition (on age structure in particular).

 Implementing the survey 

3.88.              Procedural factors to bear in mind in implementing border surveys include the following:

(a)           Survey vehicle used: while any method considered suitable may be used to collect information, the most desirable methods are the computer‑assisted interview (which generates highly reliable information, albeit at higher cost) and the printed questionnaire, to be completed by the respondents (which is less reliable, with a higher incidence of non‑responses, but also much less costly). All means of access may not be equally relevant for identifying inbound tourism (e.g., some small and out‑of‑the‑way land border posts may not be used much, if at all, by visitors); those considered less so could be excluded (at least in the first stages of observation, in line with the principle of gradualism);

(b)          Recording and grouping possible answers:, questions regarding activities deployed during the stay for instance, should be adapted to local conditions;

(c)           Subjects targeted: in the case of air travel, countries often use a multistage selection process, which starts with the selection of a flight from an entire flight programme. Some countries then select all passengers on board; others select only certain passengers (possibly based on the seats occupied). Information on the number of passengers on a flight provides the basis for grossing up the information and should be collected and stored for future review and follow‑up with the source. After the required passengers have been interviewed, the number of questionnaires can be compared with the number of passengers, making it easier to strictly control the country of nationality/country of residence of all passengers on the selected flight and gross up the findings to encompass the entire universe of flights. At other types of borders, as mentioned, a similar statistical design is desirable, in which all passengers in, e.g., a land vehicle or train carriage, are treated as clusters. The case of passengers who are in international transit but do not leave the international zone of an airport should be given appropriate consideration (e.g., are they significant enough in terms of numbers and expenditure, to count (see chapt 4, sect. C.4));

(d)          Place of sampling: at airports, data collection on inbound visits, should occur, preferably prior to flight departure in the waiting area at the boarding gate. However, the increasing use of airline lounges for first class, business travellers and frequent fliers makes an increasing number of passengers, with specific characteristics, inaccessible for interviewers. A specific strategy needs to be designed to deal with this issue (e.g., conducting the interviews at the check‑in stage). At other types of border, particularly land border posts, the strategy needs to be carefully planned, because time is short, and traveller flows cannot be easily stopped. It might be necessary to look for alternatives, such as selecting respondents at toll booths or rest areas situated near the border post (although this approach could bias the procedure);

(e)          Personnel conducting the sample: the sampling should be carried out preferably by bilingual personnel who are specially trained for this purpose by the NTA and, so as to ensure that the interviews are conducted as much as possible in the passengers’ first language, inasmuch as interviews conducted in another language often lead to misunderstandings and thus to inaccurate data;

(f)            Treatment of non‑responses and outliers: non‑responses and outliers directly affect the quality of the information collected and impair that of the resulting estimates. They inevitably have a negative impact on the sample size initially established and create biases in the sample which are difficult to control. The distribution of non‑responses among the population of international travellers needs to be determined in order to define strategies for reducing their numbers and develop formulae for correcting the resulting biases;

(g)           Additional considerations: various factors conducive to high response rates also need to be considered; including where the questionnaires are distributed or the interviews are conducted, the method used to collect the information, the survey team’s level of experience, the language used to address travellers, the subject’s country of residence (persons from some countries are more reluctant than others to participate in interviews) and legal requirements (whether survey responses should be compulsory). Finally, imputation techniques should be applied (that is, similar, reliable and complete data sets should be utilized) to supplement or substitute for missing or unreliable data.

Box III.18 

Imputation of item non‑response: example of Austria 

Nearest neighbour imputation (NNI) 

Nearest neighbor imputation (NNI) is one of the hot‑deck methods used in sample surveys to compensate for non‑response. Although it has a long history of application, few theoretical properties of the nearest neighbour imputation method are available. Under defined conditions, the nearest neighbour imputation method provides unbiased and consistent estimators of functions of population means (or totals) and population distributions. Simulation results show that the estimators based on nearest neighbour imputation and the proposed variance estimators perform well.

In hot‑deck imputation, a donor questionnaire is found that is from the same survey as that to which the questionnaire with the missing item belongs. The nearest neighbour search technique is often used to expedite the search for a donor record.

In this search technique, the deck of donor questionnaires come from the same survey and show similarities to the receiving record, where similarity is based on other data on the questionnaire that is correlated with the data being donated. For example: similar destination and kind of accommodation might be used as the basis for donation of travel expenditure (see also Chen, J. and Shao, J (2000)). 

Holiday and business trips 

In Austria, sample surveys of the Austrian population 15 years or age or over proved to be the most efficient means of gathering information on domestic and outbound tourism. At Statistics Austria, information on national tourism is therefore compiled by using a demand‑side approach, that is to say, a members of representative sample of Austria’s population are asked about their travel behaviour with the help of computer= assisted telephone interviews (CATI).

One of the shortcomings is the existence of missing values. Since this is a retrospective survey, there is commonly a recall problem concerning various items, in particular expenditures with a view to overcoming this problem, an information letter is sent out two weeks before the interviewing phase starts. Since the respondents are not being approached out of the blue, more accurate answers can be expected, but many respondents still either have no information on expenditure (e.g., business tourists and older children travelling with their parents) or have simply forgotten (recall problem).

Missing and implausible values on individual questions (item non‑response) are replaced after the interviews (imputation) to enable the simulation of a complete data file. Quantitative and qualitative values are replaced by donors. This approach underlies the presumption that the characteristics with missing values are linked to other characteristics of the trip. The whole data file with (each row corresponding to a trip) is grouped into classes of similar trips, whose means are then used to replace missing values. In order for adequate donors to be found, similarities need to be mathematically expressed by distance functions. The criteria used depend on the missing value.


Source: Statistics Austria (2013).

3.89.              For a comprehensive overview of border survey implementation, see UNWTO, “Tourism as an international traded service”, sect. 3.D

C.2.2.2.              Surveys of visitors (at market accommodation establishments or tourism sites) 

3.90.              Guest registers could form the basis for surveys at market accommodation establishments, and are, in fact used in much of Europe, where border surveys are less feasible. They do not, however, permit visitors to be distinguished from other travellers, a key objective in compiling inbound tourism statistics in countries where the difference is relevant. If used, those register should therefore be evaluated, with particular attention to:

  • The updating mechanism for such registers (particularly in the case of repeat customers, whose particular characteristics hoteliers might fail to update) even if they have changed over the years
  • Relevance of same‑day travellers
  • Visitors who stay in the homes of friends or relatives, in private homes or in other forms of accommodation not officially registered as market establishments 

3.91.              Exogenous information needs to be used to correct for the underestimation and bias that results from considering only visitors who use such forms of accommodation. If the flow of visitors who are not staying at market accommodation establishments is considered relevant (as usually, it would be), their activity can be measured by including “tourism modules" in local household surveys (to estimate the number of resident households that have received that visits from non‑resident relatives and friends or rent rooms or apartments that they own to visitors).

3.92.              Once the limitations mentioned directly above have been overcome, surveys of visitors staying at market accommodation establishments might be used to characterize visitors and their tourism trips doing so more precisely and possibly more completely than border surveys alone (see sect. C.2.2.1), as the time constraint might be less relevant.

3.93.              Estimating expenditure at the time of the interview, before visitors have concluded their stays in the country, is more challenging, since they can report only what has happened up to that point in time. If information is also being collected on expenditure, there may be significant biases, since people often leave the purchase of souvenirs and other items to be taken back home to the very last minute before departure purchasing them, (e.g., in the duty‑free shops at the airport). Also, unexpected events, occurring either in the country of origin or in the country visited (such as natural disasters, bad weather or political turmoil) or personal reasons might oblige visitors to change their minds about anticipated expenditures.

3.94.              An alternative to surveying travellers at market accommodation establishments might be to survey visitors at popular tourism sites. However, this kind of survey poses similar difficulties as surveys at accommodation establishments: a traveller might visit more than one site, while others might not visit any, particularly if the main purpose of the trip is other than recreation, e.g. visits to family and relatives or for business. It is not always feasible, moreover, to use statistically designed samples for such surveys, making the process of grossing up the findings to represent the entire population of inbound travellers a particular challenge, probably resulting in biased or misleading data. However, if implemented consistently over time, surveys at tourism sites can be useful in measuring changes or trends in visitors’ activities or characteristics over time and also to estimate average daily expenditure. Compilers should bear in mind that surveys at tourism sites may not be a reliable indicator of total visitor numbers.

C.2.2.3.              Household surveys in originating markets 

3.95.              Surveys designed to collect information on the tourism behaviour of individuals in their usual environment, use the sum of residents as the population frame or statistical universe. Consequently, one way of estimating the number of arrivals and the expenditure of non‑resident travellers from country X in the country of reference (Y), and of identifying the characteristics of those travellers, could be to draw from the information reported by such travellers in response to household surveys in their country of residence X. If countries are willing to share this information (especially if, like most European countries, they have harmonized their surveys), then estimates can be made of the number of arrivals and expenditures by non‑resident visitors in country Y for all countries concerned.

Box III.19 

Collecting information on inbound tourism after the return home: example of New Zealand 

The New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development conducted an International Ticket Purchasers Survey after the holding of the Rugby World Cup 2011. A database of overseas resident Rugby World Cup (RWC) ticket purchasers was available for e‑mail contact. For the International Ticket Purchasers Survey, RWC visitors were defined as individuals in the database. 

Although the RWC matches were held in September and October 2011, RWC visitors arrived before and stayed after this time period. The time periods used for two additional surveys (the International Visitor Arrivals Survey and the International Visitor Survey) were designed to best capture a true picture of RWC visitors. 

The survey was sent to the 37,156 unique ticket purchasers following database cleaning. Of these, valid responses were received from 12,259 respondents, resulting in a response rate of 33 percent. Data were then weighted by country using the database population and were subsequently cleaned. 

The International Ticket Purchasers Survey included questions on travel information, satisfaction, Auckland RWC venues and expenditure. For the purposes of the Rugby World Cup 2011 analysis, this Survey was used to derive information on the number of trips to New Zealand matches attended, and satisfaction.


Source: New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (2012).

C.2.2.4.              Mirror statistics

3.96.              Since most non‑resident visitors arriving in any European Union (EU) country come from other EU countries, Eurostat has repeatedly emphasized the usefulness of mirror statistics, which enable EU countries to estimate the number and characteristics of most inbound visitors by using outbound tourism data provided by other countries in the subregion. While mirror statistics, seem to be simple and attractive, the countries using them may not have paid sufficient attention to the challenges such statistics pose (see Box III.20 and Box III.21). For example, if a country uses mirror statistics to estimate numbers of inbound visitors from the numbers outbound visitors of several source countries, then there is a need for consistency in definitions (and, preferably, collection methodologies) among, those countries. Otherwise, it will not be possible to aggregate the data, or to compare the characteristics of visitors from one source country with those of another source country. Also, in cases where an outbound trip involves a number of destination countries, only the main destination country (however defined) may be recorded by the source country, which will result in the underestimation of the number of inbound visitors from those source countries in the countries that are only secondary destinations.

Box III.20 

Mirror statistics 

“Measuring European intra‑regional tourism flows”, a paper written for the UNWTO Enzo Paci Papers on measuring the Economic Significance of Tourism, volume 4, by Teresa Ciller and Marion Libreros, discusses the challenge of reconciling the tourist flows reported by different countries, using available data. In terms of overall flows, the differences have been significant. The paper highlights various possible solutions: the sharing of common definitions and methodologies; modifications to collection procedures and content (e.g., determination not only of the final destination of an outbound trip, but also of all other countries crossed before arrival at the final destination), and a high degree of disaggregation for each mode of transport used.


Source: World Tourism Organization (2004a).

Box III.21 

Using mirror data: experience of Austria 

Austria uses mirror statistics from partner countries. In Europe, where tourism has a predominantly intra‑European dimension and where a legal framework obligates member States to transmit harmonized inbound supply‑side data and outbound demand‑side data, countries could greatly benefit from each other’s data. Mirror data can not only fill data gaps where own data are not available but also be used to assess the quality and comparability of existing tourism data.

Since the use of mirror data is not unproblematic, such challenges as different methodologies, conceptual issues and definitions have to be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, when countries start working together a better harmonization of tourism statistics might be expected and future duplication in the observation of tourism flows might be averted.


Source: Ostertag‑Sydler, J. (2010).