1. Tourism is an activity which in some way touches on an increasing proportion of the world's population. Its impacts are both social and economic. Most individuals are likely to be 'tourists' at some stages of their lives, possibly as participants of long distance mass tourism or as visitors to friends or relatives back in the town or village of origin. They usually derive some social benefits from this role, while at the same time the community derives economic benefits from the activity.
2. In recent times the social and economic benefits of tourism have become accessible to an increasing number of people as a result of the growth in disposable income and leisure time and the development of the technology, in particular the 'jumbo' jet, which has led to a rapid expansion in mass tourism. The growth of tourism as a world wide phenomenon is reflected in the fact that it is now arguably the largest single component of the world's traded goods and services. For an increasing number of countries it is a major income earner and provider of employment. It is likely that in the long term these trends will continue, or very possibly accelerate.
3. Accompanying the social and economic benefits accruing from the growth in tourism is the possibility of unnecessary social, economic and even environmental costs. Rapid growth can lead to the destruction of the very attractions that bring tourists to a destination, and can also lead to social tensions from perceived or real conflicts of interest or cultural differences. Economically, rapid growth can potentially lead to a modern day 'cargo cult' mentality which can result in neglect of development of other economic sectors. Countries which are in the early stages of developing a tourism industry are particularly vulnerable to these negative effects.
4. The potential benefits and costs of this rapidly increasing activity require that growth be monitored, directed and, at times, controlled. This requires the availability of good data which allow industry and government policy makers, planners and operators to monitor developments, and enable the necessary decisions to be made to ensure that future development will maximise the benefits and minimise the costs.
Collecting tourism statistics
5. The two major producers of tourism statistics in Australia are the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Bureau of Tourism Research (BTR). These organisations produce tourism and related statistics on a regular and an ad-hoc basis. The most important of the statistical collections cover arrivals and departures of international visitors, activities and characteristics of international visitors, activities and characteristics of domestic visitors, and supply of and demand for tourist accommodation. A considerable amount of data which are produced primarily for purposes other than tourism are also widely used, such as population census, employment survey data and service industry surveys.
6. In addition, the various State government tourism organisations commission collections to meet specific State data needs. Increasingly in recent years, the number of academic institutions developing an interest in various aspects of tourism have been contributing to the statistical research, usually on a fairly narrowly focussed basis. A number of the larger private sector consultants specialising in tourism also collect some statistical data.
Need for a statistical framework
7. The relatively recent rapid growth in tourism has tended to outpace recognition of its importance in the economic and social life of a country. This lag has contributed to the uncoordinated and ad hoc manner in which tourism statistics have generally been developed. The decentralised development of the statistics has been further compounded by the diversity of interests and perspectives of the users of the statistics. The users' needs are often inconsistent with and/or contrary to each other. This characteristic of tourism statistics differs from statistics of more traditional and established industries where the activity, products and statistical needs are relatively homogeneous.
8. The result has been that the development of statistical concepts and frameworks for tourism has not kept pace with changes in the nature and significance of tourism worldwide and its potential for future growth. Moreover, the traditional measures of tourism have not kept pace with significant developments such as the increasing economic interdependence of countries and the reduction of political and economic barriers between them.
9. This situation has tended to hinder the development and adoption of generally accepted tourism statistics' concepts and definitions. This problem applies both at the international and national levels. The use of different definitions makes both international comparisons and linkage, or comparisons of data from different collections within a country, difficult or impossible. The adoption of common concepts and definitions in collections within Australia would very substantially increase the value of data from current collections, without the need for additional resources. A co-ordinated approach is needed, using a common set of standards and a model within which collections can be 'mapped' according to an established structure. This has led to the development of this Framework which aims at providing the structure and the standards.
10. The development of the Framework is seen to provide benefits in two areas, that is:
- to the users of tourism statistics, by maximising the value of data through ensuring comparability, or at least compatibility, of the data from the various collections; and
- to the collectors, by facilitating the design and development of statistical collections through the provision of an accepted set of definitions, data items and classifications (i.e. to eliminate the need to 'reinvent the wheel' each time a new collection is being developed).