International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 Compilation Guide (IRTS 2008 Compilation Guide)

The International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008 Compilation Guide (adopted by UN Statistical Commission in its 45th session, 4-7 March 2014) is a companion document to the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics (IRTS 2008). The primary purpose of this Compilation Guide is to provide further clarifications and practical guidance for using sources and methods to compile statistics on tourism. It is designed to support the production of a high quality set of basic data and indicators in each country, and to strengthen the international comparability of tourism statistics.

The Compilation Guide discusses new data sources and the application of statistical methods to changing circumstances. Statistical methods evolve over time and the Compilation Guide does not present a prescriptive or definitive approach to compiling tourism statistics.

The Compilation Guide includes comments and explanations on the different concepts introduced and used in IRTS 2008, orientation on the issues behind these recommendations, guidance on how to compile the recommended variables and aggregates, and examples of how some countries have solved specific problems. Some of the solutions can be considered best practices; others, while geared to particular national circumstances, may nevertheless be interesting as illustrations of how countries can overcome obstacles encountered in the compilation process.

The Compilation Guide is structured similarly to the IRTS 2008 and provides extensive explanations and country examples of typical compilation issues, as follows:

Chapter 1 discusses how the System of Tourism Statistics (STS) has been designed, describing the basic information framework developed to promote the international comparability of tourism statistics, and introduces the importance of institutional aspects for developing a STS.
Chapter 2 provides a general overview of the demand-oriented conceptual framework of IRTS 2008, and the key concepts in the context of related observation issues.
Chapter 3 describes issues that arise in measuring visitor flows and in observing their characteristics, the processes that countries can follow in doing so, and the ensuing basic data and indicators.
Chapter 4 focuses on tourism expenditure, describing the measurement issues, the measurement instruments available, and the ensuing basic expenditure data and indicators.
Chapter 5 discusses the classifications used in tourism statistics, in particular those related to products and activities.
Chapter 6 describes the measurement of tourism supply in different forms of accommodation and also briefly discusses tourism supply from transport service providers, food and beverage service providers, and travel and reservation agencies.
Chapter 7 focuses on employment and describes the concepts, definitions, basic categories and indicators of employment in the tourism industries from both a labour and an industry statistics perspective.
Chapter 8 covers a number of cross-cutting topics which are relevant to the tourism statistics production process and meeting user needs, including quality management, the compilation of metadata, data dissemination and institutional aspects.

Additional information on compilation issues is provided in four annexes.

Annex 1: Proposed basic questions to measure flows and expenditure associated to inbound tourism.
Annex 2: Tourism expenditure vs tourism consumption.
Annex 3: Labour Force Survey Questionnaire of Lithuania.
Annex 4: Australia: Survey of Employees Earnings and Hours, 2012 - Help Page.

In order to keep the Compilation Guide as accurate as possible and to facilitate its update as new best practices are identified and countries provide the latest information on different statistical issues, is being issued in two different formats:

  • As an e-document with hyperlinks to IRTS 2008, other documents, country case studies and complementary material, as deemed appropriate, which will be regularly updated to reflect new experiences considered useful for the statistics community. While the e document will be available in English only, the links will in some cases direct readers to case studies in other languages and in the United Nations official languages of the wherever possible.
  • As a document in PDF format for printing and translation into other languages (except for hyperlinks material case studies and other complementary material), so as to facilitate dissemination to other interested audiences, particularly users of tourism statistics.


The general guidelines proposed by UNWTO are intended to promote the configuration of national tourism statistical systems with a view to:

  • obtaining sets of data that are sufficiently accurate and based on sufficiently homogeneous principles to allow for more advanced international comparability;
  • enabling countries to identify their statistical gaps and providing guidance on how to fill them; and
  • improving the design and monitoring of tourism policies (especially in the area of marketing).