C.6.  Surveys of tourism activities[1] 

6.64.        It is useful to observe the activities that supply products relevant to travel (credit) and inbound tourism consumption according to the tourism statistics concept. This necessitates the ability to identify products that meet the share-of-supply condition, that is, those in which the consumption of travelers and visitors represents a relevant share of total supply. Additionally, it is necessary to be able to distinguish between the output provided to residents and provided to non-residents. In the following paragraphs, the supply of accommodation and travel agencies and tour operators services is highlighted as possible sources of information on resident to non-resident transactions related to travel and international tourism consumption. 

6.65.        Supply of accommodation services. Accommodation services are provided for the most part by production units specialized in their provision, although there are few exceptions. It is generally assumed that the provision of such services as a secondary output to other activities is limited, meaning that the collection of data will be restricted to production units producing accommodation services as their main output.

6.66.        Providers of accommodation services.  There are two broad categories of visitor accommodation providers: (a) market providers, which receive payment for their services, included under “accommodation” (ISIC division 55) or “real estate activities” (ISIC division 68) and (b) non-market providers, which accommodate guests free of charge, such as family and friends or one’s own second home or timeshare. A stay with family and friends does not generate any additional production of accommodation services, and services provided by one’s own second home or timeshare are not dependent upon an actual visit to those homes.[2]

6.67.        Only market providers included in ISIC division 55 are considered in the present Compiler's Guide since, in most countries, they represent the major providers of accommodation services, and are those to which specialized surveys are usually directed. For more information on the other categories of providers, users can refer to the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 Compilation Guide. Activities under ISIC division 55 include classes 551 (“short term accommodation activities”); 552 (“camping grounds”, “recreational vehicle parks and trailer parks”); and 559 (“other accommodation”).

6.68.        Most national tourism administrations have their own registers of accommodation establishments, based on a licensing procedure, which contemplate a more detailed classification, such as a “star” system of qualification of the provided services, or more restricted coverage that excludes group 559, or even group 551,  whereas the national statistics office might have its own general business registry that classifies establishments without considering such particularities. Such differences make inter-institutional coordination all the more important to insure consistency of the results.

Survey design  

6.69.        Regarding survey design, care should be taken, especially in the design of the in the annual national statistics office survey, to ensure that accommodation establishments located in zones of low general economic activity (manufacturing and business services), but with a high tourism orientation, are not omitted through the general selection procedure of statistical units, which is often based on the density of general economic activity.

6.70.        The general sample design should also recognize the existence of small family-owned units. It may be the case that the licensing system records them, but not the general business register. Such establishments should be included in the annual survey, but might be excluded from the monthly or quarterly surveys that usually focus on relatively big units, and should follow a census system whose base should be frequently updated (at least annually) to take into consideration the dynamics of the activity. Some of the small family-owned units might also be observed through the use of household surveys or surveys directed to associative bodies to which the families might belong. Such surveys might provide information on the global performance of their associates, in terms of tourism indicators, especially in terms of accommodation units offered and occupancy rates.

6.71.        Surveys of accommodation units concentrate on measuring occupancy rates, room revenues per night or per guest, and the national origin of guests. Such information can help to arrive at estimates of non-resident expenditures on accommodation. Other variables related to establishments can also be compiled, such as the number of employees per room, employee remuneration and details on employment, in particular, according to the permanency of the work contract (short-term contracts for a season are often used), as well as total revenue, revenue derived from the sale of accommodation services, value added  and gross fixed capital formation.

Frequency of accommodation surveys  

6.72.         Because tourism activity usually exhibits large seasonal variations, tourism-related  establishments are observed monthly, quarterly and annually. Tourism administrations frequently control the monthly and quarterly surveys, whereas the national statistical office is often in charge of the annual  structural survey. The design of the surveys used for those different observation frequencies should be harmonized to enable the comparison of their respective results.

Surveys of travel agencies and tour operator services 

6.73.        The main business of travel agencies and tour operator services is passenger transport, accommodation and package tours (arranged by others or arranged by the agencies or tour operators). The related fees are usually paid, although in different proportions, by both the person travelling or his/her employer in the case of business travel,  and the provider of the service, such as international transport, visitor accommodation services and package tours. The person travelling is usually a resident of the same economy as the travel agency, although this is rapidly changing with the increase of transactions realized through the Internet. The service provider might be a resident of the same economy as the visitors, a resident of same economy as the service provider or a resident of any other economy.

6.74.        Because their services are used to book or arrange trips, travel agencies and tour operators can provide indications on the degree of travel (debit) or outbound tourism consumption. It is worthwhile mentioning that, in BOP statistics, as well as in statistics of international trade in services, when services providers (principally, international transportation and accommodation providers) use the services of a travel agency that is resident in an economy different from their own to make their supply available to the public, a resident/non-resident service transaction must be recorded; that transaction, however, is not included in travel, but in trade-related services.

6.75.        As a consequence, and in the case of mainly travel agencies, the following two recommendations should be followed:

(a) Data should be collected on the volume of travel agencies’ business as intermediaries in the sale of international transport, accommodation and package tours for travel abroad (arranged either by them or by specialized tour operators who, in turn, might be resident in any country). This might be used as an indicator on the trend of travel (debit) and outbound tourism consumption. The information to be collected may refer to the type of client (business/personal), destination, the number of operations and the total value of transactions, treating separately those that correspond to travel with a package or without a package.  Nevertheless, such a measurement might be fragile as households and persons are increasingly using the Internet to plan their trips, and thus have direct access to online travel arrangers that might be resident in other economies, and escape from that measurement;

(b) Because, within the perspective of international trade in services, travel agency services and, more generally, reservation services paid for by international transport companies or accommodation service providers are treated as the purchase of services, those fees should be measured separately in order to be included in data corresponding to trade-related services, if they correspond to resident/non-resident transactions. 

6.76.        In the particular case of international transport, obtaining information is complicated because of (a) the multiplicity of travel agents and international carriers worldwide, (b) the different modes by which payment is collected from the final client by travel agencies and apportioned among the different stakeholders and (c) the complexity of arrangements among airlines (in particular code sharing and interlining, by which the party that sells the service might not be the one that provides it).  The result of such complexity is that the value of services sold to non-resident service providers reported by resident travel agencies might not be accurate, although it may represent useful information to be possibly combined with other sources. Improvements in the measurement of resident/non-resident reservation services could be gained through the use of databases generated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regarding the clearing system between airlines and travel agents (the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP6)) and from a better understanding of the roles and modes of remuneration of the Central Reservation System (CRS) and the Global Distribution System (GDS).


Next: C.7. Construction surveys


[1] This subsection deals only with the “supply side” of tourism statistics; the demand side is covered in chapter 7.

[2] See Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework  2008, Studies in Methods, Series F, No. 80/Rev.1 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.08.XVII.27), para. 2.36.