The conceptual framework for tourism statistics - International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 (IRTS 2008)

The International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 (also known as IRTS 2008) provides a comprehensive methodological framework for collection and compilation of tourism statistics in all countries irrespective of the level of development of their statistical systems.

The IRTS 2008 provides the main concepts, definitions and classifications for the measurement of tourism in a standard way across countries. The core of these concepts and definitions are included in Understanding Tourism: Basic Glossary (arabic), (english), (español), (français) and (russian). An extended version of the glossary is available in English only:  Glossary of tourism terms.

Its primary audience is the staff of national statistical offices and national tourism administrations involved in the compilation of tourism statistics. The publication also contains a wealth of information that may be of interest to data users who would like to better understand the nature of tourism data. In addition, it provides general guidance with respect to data sources and data compilation methods.

Quick overview of contents:

Chapter 1:    Development and needs for tourism statistics
Chapter 2:    The demand perspective: basic concepts and definitions
Chapter 3:    The demand perspective: characterization of visitor and tourism trips
Chapter 4:    The demand perspective: tourism expenditure
Chapter 5:    Classifications of products and productive activities for tourism
Chapter 6:    The supply perspective
Chapter 7:    Employment in the tourism industries
Chapter 8:    Understanding tourism in its relationship with other macroeconomic frameworks
Chapter 9:    Supplementary topics


The IRTS 2008 was approved by the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) at its 39th session (26-29 February 2008). It revises and replaces the previous 1993 Recommendations on Tourism Statistics (1993 RTS) adopted by the Commission in 1993 and published in 1994 (the IRTS 2008 – Annex 1 shows the main differences between the 1993 RTS and the IRTS 2008).

The IRTS 2008 has real implications for the way policy-makers and other stakeholders understand and manage tourism; see Papers.