8602.0 - Tourism Newsletter, Nov 2008  
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Statistics Tourism | news

OECD International Standards and Concepts- What is Tourism?

When using a set of statistics about a given topic, it is very important to be aware of the boundaries of the topic area, in order to know what is, and is not, being counted.

This is particularly important in the case of tourism. In everyday conversation, the term tourism usually refers only to leisure activity. This concept of tourism is rather more narrow than the definition that is used in tourism statistics. In international standards governing tourism statistics, tourism also includes travel that is undertaken for other reasons such as business and education, provided the destination is outside the person's usual environment.

Tourism is a subset of a broader category, travel. Travel is a broad concept which includes commuting to a place of work, migration, and travel for business or leisure. The OECD international standards describe the concept of tourism as comprising:
    '...the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited.' (Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework, para 2.1).

If a person stays in the one place for longer than one year, their centre of economic and social interest is deemed to be in that place, so they no longer qualify as a visitor.

Visitors are the 'persons' referred to in the tourism definition. The OECD defines a visitor as:
    '...any person travelling to a place other than that of his/her usual environment for less than twelve months and whose main purpose of trip is other than the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited' (Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework, para 2.4).

Visitors fall into two categories. National or 'domestic' visitors travel outside their usual environment within their place of residence, including both overnight (staying one or more nights at a location) and same day trips. International visitors are those who travel to a country other than that in which they have their usual residence.

There are, however, a number of types of persons, who are not considered to be visitors:
  • persons for whom travel is an intrinsic part of their job, e.g., bus driver, air crew
  • persons who travel for the purpose of being admitted to or detained in a residential facility such as a hospital, prison or long stay care
  • persons who are travelling as part of a move to a new permanent residence
  • persons who are undertaking military duties
  • persons who are travelling between two parts of their usual environment.

Finally, usual environment refers to the one or more areas in which a person undertakes their regular activities such as their place of residence, place of work, place of study and other places frequently visited. The usual environment criterion has two dimensions; frequency and distance. Places that are visited on a routine basis (at least once a week) are considered part of a person's usual environment, even if the place visited is located a considerable distance from their place of residence. Further, locations up to 40 kilometres from home for overnight trips and up to 50 kilometres from home (round trip) for day trips are included in a visitor's usual environment in the Australian TSA.

Although some tourism spending will usually take place within the usual environment (i.e. purchase of air tickets, tour packages, prepaid accommodation), the consumption of most tourism services occurs outside of the usual environment. Visitors thus have a positive economic impact on their destination by generating additional consumption at the destination over and above that generated by the resident consumers.
(Sourced wholly from the explanatory notes of Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account 5249.0)