Developments in official tourism data in New Zealand

Many of the readers of this blog are keen users of official statistics on tourism – produced by Statistics New Zealand, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, or Tourism New Zealand.

With a few significant changes coming in the next couple of months, I thought I’d update you on progress in the Tourism Data Improvement Programme.

The key issues are:

  • Release last year of the Tourism Domain Plan a after consultative review and development process, available on our website at
  • The release in  the next few weeks of new tourism forecasts for 2012-2018
  • The release in December 2012 of new regional tourism indicators
  • Redevelopment of the International Visitors Survey
  • New forms of engagement with stakeholders
  • Changes within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Tourism forecasts 2012-2018 – release 13 November 2012

The methodology has been completely reworked to make the most of new econometric techniques that can draw on a full range of international economic and demographic data.  After the forecasts are released we will facilitate an “engaging with the tourism forecasts” process with the industry and other interested stakeholders, and we look forward to some lively debate.

Regional Tourism Indicators – launch 13 December 2012

This new series is based on regional analysis of electronic card transactions.  These will be the most significant addition to source data on tourism in New Zealand since the introduction of the International Visitor Survey.  They will allow us to report in a reliable and timely fashion for each Regional Tourism Organisation on trends in both international and domestic tourism.

Redevelopment of the International Visitor Survey

We are doubling the sample size, adding Queenstown airport to the data collection, shortening the questionnaire to increase reliability, incorporating the Visitor Experience Monitor, and moving most of the data collection on-line.  The net result will be more reliable estimates of international spend, for less cost to the taxpayer.  So far we have designed and tested the new questionnaire and sample design, contracted out the data collection and processing work, and conducted pilot data collection.  The next big milestone will be a “dual run” of both the existing and the new methodology simultaneously in the first six months of 2013.

Engagement with stakeholders

Overseeing the overall change programme is a steering group with officials from interested government agencies as well as industry representatives.  But we have also cooperated with Tourism New Zealand and the Tourism Industry Association to create a new series of monthly tourism data analysis seminars.  These seminars are open to all those who work closely with tourism data – contact me if you’re interested.  The aim is to share techniques, develop skills and knowledge, and increase mutual understanding about what the data can and can’t tell us.

In a couple of weeks we will also have the first meeting of the Tourism Data Industry Reference Group.  This will be a less technical group, aimed at providing the Ministry with strategic advice on the overall tourism context and providing feedback and suggestions on our analysis and interpretation of data.

Changes in the Ministry

Finally, 2012 has been a big period of change for my team.  We have invested heavily in new software and techniques and been learning to apply new tools to old problems.  We’ve taken big steps forward in increasing our capacity in statistical modelling and data visualisation.

We’re well aware of disappointment with the online databases on the Ministry’s website and are doing what we can to improve this in the short term; but more significantly, in the medium term looking to invest in new web dissemination tools that will hopefully make a wider range of data available in user-friendly flexible formats by mid 2013.

By early 2013, tourism data in MBIE will be managed by the new “Sector Performance (including Tourism)” team in the restructured Ministry – an exciting opportunity to make the most of synergies with the Ministry’s wider data and monitoring efforts.  The evaluation functions of the current tourism evaluation team will continue but be moved to a separate group.

I welcome comments and feedback on any of the above.

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