Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Lies, Dammed Lies, and Tourism Statistics

“The number of people visiting Jersey increased last year - with arrivals from Gatwick Airport and St Malo providing the biggest boost. A total of 1,069,265 people came through the Airport and Harbour between January and November 2014, a rise of 3.7 per cent on the previous year, according to figures released by the Economic Development Department.” (JEP)

My correspondent, Adam Gardiner, is suspicious about those figures. He comments:

“The total that came through the harbour and airport DOES NOT equal the number of people visiting Jersey. Subtract the locals travelling (and returning) also the business ‘visitors’ who simply fly in and fly out - they are NOT tourists - and business travel generally which in many cases relates to multiple journeys by the same person(s) over the course of the year.”

“I have had a bee in my bonnet for years about this so called ‘visitor numbers’. The numbers in inaccurate and misleading. I daresay numbers of tourists were up - and I may even accept 3.7% but that is not on a base number of 1.07m visitors. For a start where would that stay? We don't even have that number of bed nights available and I cannot believe day-trippers from France are increased significantly - not with the state of the Euro.”

“Until they introduce a system of counting exact number of actual visitors not just travellers in and out of the island we shall be none the wiser, and be fed these drivel statistics for political expedience and to make it look as if EDD/Tourism have been doing great job. They haven’t. I just hope this new 'tourist supremo’ will be more honest and tell us as it is - out tourism industry is all but on it’s knees. As we pull put of recession I am sure things will improve quite naturally but a renaissance it will not be without some real blue sky thinking and a huge amount of work on the strategy.”

" For what is worth (and only pure guesswork) I would estimate actual visitors ie: tourists number around 600,000 - which makes more sense with regard to the accommodation the island can provide, the number of hire cars registered and obvious lack of private investment in the general leisure economy - a sure sign in itself that tourism remains pretty stagnant."

I wondered how Guernsey does this. Do they just count arrivals? They have several documents which show how they analyse the data.


This is the 2011 Travel Survey Research Report, which gives an idea of their methodology. Their numbers of departures, for instance, gives a figure of 775,500 for the tear 2011, of which it is broken down into 358,700 (46.3%) from visitors leaving the Island, and 349,800 departing residents (who would return (45.1%), along with 67,000 returning visitors leaving (8.6%).

Returning visitors are those who are counted twice in passenger numbers because they visit elsewhere during their stay in Guernsey (e.g. visitor day trips to Sark, Herm or Jersey).

Those are very useful figures, and that is the kind of data we need to know regarding Jersey. But the Jersey report (for example comparing 2014 with 2013 says “Arrivals include returning residents, visitors for all purposes including day-trippers, and returning visitors e.g. visitors to the island returning from a trip off-island.” And it gives no breakdown.

The Guernsey statisticians even have a breakdown of departing residents giving the purpose of their visit away from Guernsey.

So how do they come up with such impressively detailed figures?

“The only way to accurately measure total tourism volume is by undertaking a comprehensive exit survey in order to break down (or calibrate) passenger departure figures from the Airport and Guernsey’s Harbours. This detailed information helps the Commerce & Employment Department, Guernsey Tourism, its marketing partners and other interested parties in allocating resources, planning and refining product development and marketing strategies, and acts as a benchmark to review future progress against marketing and strategic objectives.”

And the methodology explains:

“As with previous exit surveys, face-to-face interviews were conducted with departing passengers throughout 2011, with interview shifts planned to reflect passenger throughput and to cover all routes, all days of the week and all times of the day. It is very difficult to achieve a completely randomised approach when predetermining interview shifts, but the Passenger Calibration Survey used a random sampling methodology as far as possible. Interview shifts were planned to broadly represent passenger movements throughout the year, but the selection of respondents within those shifts was random, with departing passengers being interviewed immediately after checking in at the Airport and Harbours, with the next passing person/car being selected for inclusion as soon as the previous interview had finished. This provided a randomised approach to interviewee selection, while ensuring that interviewer time was used as productively as possible.”

For more recent figures, I’ve found the 2013 Travel Survey which can be seen here.

The surveys are actually done by Island Ark Ltd, which is a Jersey based company! Why doesn't Jersey make use of them?

Guernsey has decided that the quality of information – and there’s a lot more in those surveys than my brief selections, including charts and comparison – is much more important than mere numbers. The survey also takes the visitors place of origin, purpose of visit, length of stay, etc.

Any serious planning for tourism needs good quality information, and simple arrival numbers, while they may have been fine during the heyday of tourism in the 1960s and 1970s, now look increasingly blunt as a means of measuring data, and giving the granular demographic information which a tourism strategy needs.


roger benest said...

Tony its simple bed nights only, as with London which of course "suffered" from misleading business in and outs. WE can't blame EDD this is a statistics setup difficulty. It would be impossible to interview every traveller so just count the "full beds". Quite how the new push back to tourism will work with out a dramatic increase in beds remains to be seen. Yes Event lead Tourism but even these visitors need to sleep some where aka Glastonbury Tented Village?

TonyTheProf said...

Nonsense - Guernsey uses sophistical sampling techniques on departing visitors. Why can't Jersey?

And the Jersey figures are for airport and harbour arrivals not beds.

robert parker said...

Hi I agree with Tony and this last year saw a significant increase in cruise ships. The conference figures were over 50% down and the trend is to shorter stays. Also tourism do capture statistics on bed nights and its interesting that this figure wasn't released in this context !!!
The industry has been keen to incorporate yields as rates achieved have been stagnant for years and GST has had to be absorbed as a cost by the industry.
We are in the same way as finance an export industry but where ISE's were created and we applied we were told that this vehicle only applied to finance.
There are significant issues to be resolved within tourism and accurate figures rather than manipulating data for spin would be a significant step forward in establishing some integrity to EDD at long last.