Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions are divided into 4 topics. Click on the corresponding question to view the answers. For all other questions and comments, please contact us at stat@unwto.org

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  1. WHAT DO WE DO? 
    1. Why focus on tourism statistics?

      Accurate and comparable statistics represent the basic information for decision-makers (both government and business) to understand tourism needs, and thus to devise adequate policies, and finally to evaluate the results of those policies. Appropriate policies based on correct statistics are necessary for tourism development and link tourism with growth and employment.

      UNWTO, as an international organization, saw the necessity to create the basis which all countries and territories could rely on to collect the same data and indicators in the same way.

       

      UNWTO, jointly with the United Nations, developed a standard methodology for tourism statistics, allowing all countries and territories to have a common tool and reference.

       

      Implementation of this standard methodology (identified as International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 and Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework 2008), which is aimed to be followed and applied by all countries and territories, guarantees data reliability and permits international comparison. UNWTO helps countries to produce statistics according to the standard methodology, in turn contributing to the credibility of tourism in these countries. (For more information see Promoting Excellence).

       

      You manage what you measure...

       


       

       

    2. What are the Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account (STSA) Programme main contributions to the tourism sector?

      It:

       

  2. LOOKING FOR A DEFINITION OR CONCEPT?
    1. Where can I find the definitions of tourism statistical terms?

      UNWTO, in close cooperation with the international community, has been developing concepts, definitions and classifications of tourism statistics.
      International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 (IRTS 2008) provides the main concepts, definitions and classifications for the measurement of tourism.

      Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework (TSA:RMF 2008) provides an updated framework for constructing a TSA. It also contains main concepts and definitions of tourism statistics.

       

      Methodological Notes to The Tourism Statistics Database include conceptual references and technical notes for a better understanding and application of statistics related to the following datasets: Compendium of Tourism Statistics, Yearbook of Tourism Statistics and Outbound Tourism Data.

       

      The following glossaries also contain  relevant information:

       

       

    2. What does ‘inbound tourism’ mean?

      Inbound Tourism comprises the activities of a non-resident visitors within the country of reference on an inbound tourism trip. The corresponding expenditure of such a visitor is identified as inbound tourism expenditure.

    3. What does ‘outbound tourism’ mean?

      Outbound tourism comprises the activities of resident visitors outside the country of reference (either as part of a domestic tourism trip or part of an outbound tourism trip).

    4. What does ‘domestic tourism’ mean?

      Domestic tourism comprises the activities of resident visitors within the country of reference (either as part of a domestic tourism trip or part of an outbound tourism trip).

    5. What are the differences between the “tourism sector” and “tourism industries”?

      The tourism sector is the cluster of production units in different industries that provide goods and services typically demanded by visitors. Such industries are called tourism industries because visitor acquisition represents such a significant share of their supply of goods and services (in the economy of reference) that, in the absence of visitors, their production of these goods and services would cease to exist in meaningful quantity.

      Tourism industries include: Accommodation for visitors, Food and beverage serving activities, Passenger transportation, Travel agencies and other reservation activities, Cultural activities, Sports and recreational activities, etc. (See the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008.)

       

    6. What is the difference between ‘travel’ and ‘tourism’?

      Travel refers to the activity of traveller while tourism refers to the activity of visitors:

      • A traveller is someone who moves between different geographic locations for any purpose and any duration;

         

      • A visitor is a traveller taking a trip to a main destination outside his/her usual environment, for less than a year, for any main purpose (business, leisure or other personal purpose) other than to be employed by a resident entity in the country or place visited.

       

    7. What are the differences between a ‘traveller’, a ‘visitor’, a ‘tourist’ and an ‘excursionist’?

      A traveller is someone who moves between different geographic locations, for any purpose and any duration. Tourism has to do with the activities of visitors, which is a subset of travellers.

      A visitor is a traveller taking a trip to a main destination outside his/her usual environment, for less than a year, for any main purpose (business, leisure or other personal purpose) other than to be employed by a resident entity in the country or place visited. Visitors can then be subdivided into tourists (or overnight visitors) if his/her trip includes an overnight stay, and excursionists (same-day visitors).

       

      Tourism includes visitors that come from abroad (inbound tourism) and also resident visitors taking trips within the country (domestic tourism).

       


      See also FAQ nº32.

    8. What are the classified main purposes of a trip?

      The main purpose of a trip is defined as the purpose in the absence of which the trip would not have taken place. It helps to determine whether it qualifies as a tourism trip and the traveller qualifies as a visitor. For instance, as long as it is incidental to the trip, a visitor might earn some income during his/her stay (for example, youths backpacking). However, if the main purpose is to be employed and earn an income, then the trip cannot be a tourism trip and he/she cannot be considered as a visitor but as an “other traveller”. The classification of a trip according to its main purpose should be related to the main activities undertaken while on the trip. Below is the resulting hierarchical structure recommended in the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008:

      1. Personal
        1.1. Holidays, leisure and recreation
          1.1.1. Visiting vacation homes
          1.1.2. Incentive trips
        1.2. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR)
        1.3. Education and training
        1.4. Health and medical care
        1.5. Religion/pilgrimages
        1.6. Shopping
        1.7. Transit
        1.8. Other
      2. Business and professional
        2.1. Attending meetings, conferences or congresses, trade fairs and exhibitions
        2.2. Other business and professional purposes

       

      ;

    9. What are the main differences between MICE and the Meetings industry?

      The acronym MICE comprises the grouping of “Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions” activities. Conceptually speaking, in the classification of tourism trips according to main purpose, the activities of attending “meetings”, “conferences” and “exhibitions” stem from the sub-group “Business and Professional”, whereas “incentive” trips stem from “Holidays, leisure and recreation” which is part of the sub-group “Personal” (see FAQ nº10).

      This is part of the demand-side perspective, where we consider expenditure by participants at meetings on services supplied by the meetings industry and other industries (accommodation industry, transport industries, etc.). Non-monetary variables to be related to the expenditure data include: number of participants, lengths of meetings, number of nights in hotels or other accommodation, distance travelled to get to the meeting and number in the travel party. In order to obtain a complete picture of the meetings industry, both demand and supply side dimensions need to be considered.

       

      From the supply-side perspective, variables like income, costs, value added and employment are considered. The new revision of the international classification named ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification, rev.4), incorporates a UNWTO proposal to include the code “8230 Organization of conventions and trade shows”. This class includes the organization, promotion and/or management of events, such as business and trade shows, conventions, conferences and meetings. Thanks to this identification in ISIC, we can identify all establishments that undertake these activities (as their main activity). Yet, this is only a part of the meetings industry as these activities may be undertaken by a business as a secondary activity.

       

      The term meetings industry is preferred by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and Reed Travel over the acronym MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) which does not recognize the industrial nature of such activities.

       

      It should be noted that not all participants in meetings, conferences and exhibitions are “visitors” as some of these participants may not have travelled out of their usual environment.

       

    10. What about SICTA?

      The Standard International Classification of Tourism Activities (SICTA) was replaced by the United Nations-approved international recommendations on tourism statistics: International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008. Consequently, it is no longer valid.

    11. Where can I find a didactic explanation of the Tourism Satellite Account?

      Please see the Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account Factsheet.

    12. What is the benefit of having a Tourism Satellite Account in a country?

      The Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) should be viewed as a means to understanding tourism as an intrinsic part of an economy and to describe it as an activity that has important impacts on other economic activities and sectors. A TSA, based on a robust System of Tourism Statistics, can become a reliable instrument to monitor and to orient public policies on tourism development while serving as a powerful lobbying tool for National Tourism Administrations (NTAs) to advocate the cause of tourism. It does this by, for the first time, providing a National Accounts measure of tourism, which is objective and credible.

      Consequently, the TSA has also paved the way for a new leadership for NTAs. Initiatives such as:

       

      • the exploration of new venues of public-private cooperation: the measurement of government income derived from tourism activity, the role played by tourism industries, the improvement of tourism related infrastructure, etc.;

         

      • a new approach to marketing: there is growing evidence that more complete statistical information (regarding both domestic and inbound tourism) can contribute to a more precise design of marketing policies, strategies and programs, to ensure a more efficient management of the resources allocated to NTAs, and to improve analysis;

         

      • stimulate the empowerment of NTAs in the medium term.

      Having a TSA permits greater internal consistency of tourism statistics with the rest of the statistical system of a country, as well as increased international comparability of these data. The TSA allows tourism to be seamlessly integrated into macroeconomic analysis, and thus makes it possible to incorporate tourism policy within general macroeconomic policies.

      Apart from being a new and especially relevant statistical instrument to analyze the economic importance of tourism, the development of a TSA is considered a strategic project for UNWTO. The document The Tourism Satellite Account (TSA): A strategic project for the World Tourism Organization summarizes the components of this strategy.

       

      Within the TSA development process, it is essential to develop the System of Tourism Statistics, in which NTAs must play a key role. The document General guidelines for National Tourism Administrations (NTAs) relative to the development of the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) outlines the fundamental characteristics of this process as proposed by the UNWTO.

       

      The UNWTO has prepared the following documents explaining the content of the TSA:

       


      For more information, please visit our webpage on TSA: http://statistics.unwto.org/en/content/conceptual-framework-tsa-tourism-satellite-account-recommended-methodological-framework-tsar

       

  3. LOOKING FOR DATA?
    1. What Statistics can UNWTO provide?

      UNWTO provides annual tourism statistics per country, at a national level, since 1995.

      UNWTO gathers together into a vast database data and indicators on inbound, outbound and domestic tourism, on the numbers and types of tourism industries, the numbers of employees by tourism industries, and macroeconomic indicators related to international tourism. This database comprises the following datasets:

       

      UNWTO has also published some data from countries’s Tourism Satellite Accounts in TSA Data Around The World - Worldwide Summary and Positioning Tourism in Economic Policy: Evidence and Some Proposals. Please refer to FAQ nº 22.

    2. Where can I find statistics relating to inbound tourism?

      The Compendium of Tourism Statistics contains statistical data on inbound tourism, per country and per year. Data is available since 1995 for the following indicators:

      • Arrivals of Overnight visitors (tourists) and Same-day visitors (excursionist)
      • Arrivals by geographical region
      • Arrivals by main purpose (personal; business and professional)
      • Arrivals by mode of transport (air; water; land)
      • Accommodation
      • Expenditure


      This data is complemented by The Yearbook of Tourism Statistics which focuses specifically on the following indicators (per country and per year):

      ° Arrivals
        A. Border statistics
          Arrivals of non-resident tourists at national borders
          Arrivals of non-resident visitors at national borders
        B. Statistics on accommodation establishments
          Arrivals of non-resident tourists in hotels and similar establishments
          Arrivals of non-resident tourists in all types of accommodation establishments
      ° Overnight stays
        Overnight stays of non-resident tourists in hotels and similar establishments
        Overnight stays of non-resident tourists in all types of accommodation establishments

    3. Where can I find statistics relating to domestic tourism?

      The Compendium of Tourism Statistics contains statistical data on domestic tourism, per country and per year. Data is available since 1995 for the following indicators:

      • Trips by Overnight visitors (tourists) and Same-day visitors (excursionists)
      • Trips by main purpose
      • Trips by mode of transport
      • Accommodation
      • Average length of stay



       

    4. Where can I find statistics relating to outbound tourism?

      The Compendium of Tourism Statistics contains statistical data on outbound tourism, per country and per year. Data is available since 1995 for the following indicators:

      • Departures of Overnight visitors (tourists) and Same-day visitors (excursionist)
      • Expenditure

      This data is complemented by the dataset Outbound tourism data which focuses specifically on trips abroad by resident visitors to countries of destination (basis: arrivals in destination countries) per year.

    5. Where can I find statistics relating to tourism industries?

      The Compendium of Tourism Statistics contains statistical data on Tourism industries, per country and per year. Data is available since 1995 for the following indicators:

      • Number of establishments, by tourism industries
      • Accommodation for visitors in hotels and similar establishments
      • Occupancy rate (rooms; bed-places)
      • Average length of stay
      • Available capacity



       

    6. Where can I find statistics relating to employment in the tourism industries?

      The Compendium of Tourism Statistics contains the Number of employees by tourism industries per country and per year. Data is available since 1995.

    7. Where can I find statistics relating to macroeconomic aggregates?

      The Compendium of Tourism Statistics contains the following (macroeconomic) indicators per year and per country, available since 1995:

      • Gross travel propensity
      • Carrying capacity
      • Macroeconomic indicators related to international tourism, such as:
        • Inbound tourism expenditure over GDP
        • Outbound tourism expenditure over GDP
        • Inbound tourism over exports
        • Outbound tourism over imports

      TSA Data Around The World - Worldwide Summary gathers a selective set of TSA data produced by different countries around the world: basic aggregates, TSA related indicators, internal tourism consumption, domestic tourism consumption, inbound tourism consumption, tourism gross value added by industry, tourism gross value added by components and domestic supply.

    8. Where can I find TSA data?

      TSA Data Around The World - Worldwide Summary gathers a selective set of TSA data produced by different countries around the world: basic aggregates, TSA related indicators, internal tourism consumption, domestic tourism consumption, inbound tourism consumption, tourism gross value added by industry, tourism gross value added by components and domestic supply.

    9. How to obtain the Compendium of Tourism Statistics, the Yearbook of Tourism Statistics or Outbound tourism data?

      Please refer to the section “How to obtain the data” in their respective webpage:


      (Students at the post–graduate level or university researchers will also find the special arrangements)

    10. How to obtain data on a single country or group of countries?

      In the UNWTO elibrary (please see Tourism Statistics), you can acquire statistical information for one or more countries. It includes the most up to date information from The Compendium of Tourism Statistics, The Yearbook of Tourism Statistics and Outbound tourism data for each country as it is updated continuously.

      If you are a student at the post–graduate level or a university researcher, you may obtain data free of charge provided certain conditions are met. Please consult the special arrangements.

    11. How to obtain a single indicator or group of indicators for all countries and territories?

      In the UNWTO Elibrary, you can acquire selected basic indicators for all countries (i.e. arrivals of tourists/visitors, overnight stays, expenditure...) in Excel format. For a list of all available indicators, consult The Compendium of Tourism Statistics webpage (Index of data and indicators).

      If you are a student at the post–graduate level or a university researcher, you may obtain data free of charge, please consult the special arrangements.

    12. How to obtain data since 1995?

      The Compendium of Tourism Statistics, the Yearbook of Tourism Statistics and Outbound Tourism data are compiled together in a CD-Rom. Data is available per country in separate Excel files, since 1995. You may acquire this CD-Rom through the UNWTO Infoshop.

    13. Do you have projections / forecasts data for tourism?

      The UNWTO Tourism Market Trends Programme is responsible for identifying and analyzing tourism market trends; for developing short and long term tourism forecasts; and for increasing and disseminating knowledge on specific market segments and generating markets. To learn more, visit its webpage at http://mkt.unwto.org.




       

  4. UNDERSTANDING THE DATA (METADATA)
    1. What are the sources of data? Where do the data come from?

      The figures compiled in The Compendium of Tourism Statistics, The Yearbook of Tourism Statistics and Outbound tourism data are drawn from official sources: national tourism administrations, national statistical offices, central banks, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The figures have undergone various checks by UNWTO’s Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account Programme, which consults the reporting entity in the event that discrepancies are detected.

      As of today, each country has its own methodology for collecting data. The International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 (IRTS 2008) is a part of the efforts of UNWTO and the United Nations Statistics Division to strengthen countries and territories in the methodological and operational foundations of tourism statistics in an integrated manner. UNWTO is working with member states through its Statistics Capacity Building Programme in order to help them to reach the IRTS 2008.

    2. Where can I find explanatory notes of the items compiled in The Compendium of Tourism Statistics, The Yearbook of Tourism Statistics, and Outbound tourism data?

      Methodological Notes to the Tourism Statistics Database includes conceptual references and technical notes for a better understanding and application of statistics related to these datasets.

    3. I have acquired Outbound Tourism Data and I have a doubt about the concepts…

      This dataset provides information on trips abroad by resident visitors to countries of destination (basis: arrivals in destination countries).

      Outbound tourism by country corresponds to arrivals in destination countries. The information is obtained on the basis of data supplied by each of the destination countries (not as provided by the source countries, as is done in the Basic Indicators of the Compendium: items 3.1-3.3) and therefore corresponds to arrivals in these countries (and thus only the countries that provide the information of arrivals from other countries are included).

    4. I have acquired Outbound Tourism Data and I have a doubt about the totals…

      The information sources can vary from country to country and for that reason, the table is provided without totals. In the table, the methodology used by the destination country is indicated for each country (see series column):

      • TF: Arrivals of non-resident tourists at national borders, by nationality or country of residence
      • VF: Arrivals of non-resident visitors at national borders, by nationality or country of residence
      • THS: Arrivals of non-resident tourists in hotels and similar establishments, by nationality or country of residence
      • TCE: Arrivals of non-resident tourists in all types of accommodation establishments, by nationality or country of residence

      Hence, the data do not correspond to information obtained from the visitor source countries. Differences in coverage depend on the methodology of each destination country. For example, if a country provides the data on arrivals of non-resident tourists at national borders by nationality, the information would include only people according to their nationality. However, if the country provides the information by country of residence, the data would comprise to people with nationality of X country residing in X country + people with other nationalities residing in X country.

    5. I have acquired Outbound Tourism Data and I have a doubt about the abbreviations (TF; VF; THS; TCE)…

      Please refer to FAQ nº 31.

    6. I have a doubt about the concepts of Inbound/Outbound Tourism expenditure, travel and passenger transport …

      For the purpose of international comparability, Inbound/Outbound Tourism expenditure is approximated by the sum of two Balance of Payments (BoP) items: “travel” and “passenger transport services”.

      Being a record of cross-border economic flows, the BoP is often used to approximate the expenditure by inbound or outbound visitors. The BoP is an accounting record of the transactions and positions between a national economy and the rest of the world. It provides data on the economy's international transactions in goods and services, income, capital and finance, as well as changes in its financial assets and liabilities in relation to the rest of the world. The most recent edition of the BoP international standard manual, published by the IMF, is the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 6th edition (BPM6).

      The BPM6 has clarified the relationship between tourism and travel and recommends, for those countries where international tourism is relevant, that estimates of tourism-related expenditure be developed. It states: “an approximation to tourism expenditure may be shown as a supplementary item that identifies relevant tourism-related goods and services in the travel and passenger transport items”.

      Often, however, simply the sum of these two BoP items (of the Current Account) is used to approximate inbound and outbound tourism expenditure:

       

      Travel + Passenger transport services ˜ Tourism expenditure
      credits   debits credits   debits inbound   outbound

      Such figures do not show the correct total of tourism-related expenditure because:

      • As only international cross border flows are considered, the BoP can only approximate inbound and outbound tourism expenditure. Domestic tourism (happening within national borders) needs to be measured using other sources (mainly by addressing household surveys to the resident population).

         
      • Being an approximation means that several elements conceptually part of tourism are not included in BoP while other elements, not part of tourism, are included (see the table below for a summary of these differences):

         
      BoP Item Description Remarks
      Travel (credits) Covers the goods and services for own use or to give away acquired from an economy by non-residents during visits to that economy Includes the expenditures of  travellers who are not all visitors (e.g. seasonal workers, frequent border-crossers,  long-term students and patients outside their country of residence)
      Excludes expenditure by certain categories of visitors (like nationals residing abroad).
      Travel (debits) Covers the goods and services for own use or to give away acquired from other economies by residents during visits to those economies
      Passenger transport services (credits) Covers the services provided in international transport of non-residents by resident carriers Includes passenger services provided to travellers who are not visitors (e.g. long term students and patients outside their country of residence).
      Includes passenger services performed within a territory by non-resident carriers.
      Passenger transport services (debits) Covers the services provided in international transport of residents by non-resident carriers

      Balance of Payments figures for inbound tourism expenditure can be a reasonable approximation of the evolution of inbound/outbound tourism expenditure and are definitely valuable for international comparison purposes.

    7. Why is the concept of “expenditure” more appropriate than the “receipts” one in the economic measurement of tourism?

      “Inbound tourism expenditure” is preferred over “tourism receipts” as well as “Outbound tourism expenditure” is preferred over “tourism expenditure” because:

      • If we consider tourism as an economic phenomenon we need to consider the broader economic context and not only the Balance of Payments (i.e. international trade) perspective. In the economy, various groups generate expenditure (e.g. there is consumption expenditure by households, by government, etc…). As an economic phenomenon, tourism also brings about expenditure that in turn brings about various direct and complementary effects in the economy. This is the economic reason.

         
      • In addition, the term “expenditure” enables the consideration of domestic tourism. The Balance of Payments (international trade) dichotomy of a country’s expenditure/receipts by definition can not consider domestic tourism – it can only be used when national borders are involved and so speaking of domestic tourism receipts makes no sense as the country is not “receiving” anything from abroad.

         
      • For tourism, there is an additional, more conceptual reason. Tourism is a demand-driven phenomenon brought about by visitors who spend money (expenditure) in the economy, thus bringing about a range of economic activity. For this reason, we prefer to speak of the expenditure of visitors (who may be inbound, domestic or outbound) and thus their (inbound, domestic or outbound) tourism expenditure.

      This is also the reasoning adopted in the UN international recommendations, both the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 and the Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework 2008