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1. Introduction


This guidance note is produced as part of a series by the Tourism Intelligence Unit at ONS with the aim of providing a consistent framework within which to measure and collect data on various facets of tourism activity. The guidance notes produced to date are: 

This is the second version of Guidance Note 1 and the aim of this update, and the updates for all the other notes in the series, is twofold:

  1. To incorporate developments, or changes, in the definitions and concepts which underpin the series of guidance notes and to have regard to current usage of terms by all concerned in the UK with tourism defined as the activities of visitors.

  2. To add more practical guidance relating to the various topics which might include examples of best practice in the UK and elsewhere and worked examples where the guidance refers to particular measurement techniques.

The reason for developing this series of guidance notes has always been to try and develop a more consistent framework for the measurement of the tourism sector of the economy at all spatial scales in the UK.

The achievement of this consistent framework is determined to some extent by an understanding of the concepts and definitions of tourism and how these are understood internationally, nationally in the UK, regionally, and at local levels. Setting out this conceptual framework is a particular aim of this guidance note.

The concepts and definitions relating to tourism are used at a national level within ONS and find their way into definitions and classifications used in the National Accounts and Balance of Payments, International Trade in Services, and Household and Migration statistics.

It is important, therefore, that these standards are adopted more widely at the subnational level to promote a cohesive approach to the measurement of tourism. It is very important that this conceptual framework is adopted by users when undertaking data collection or analysis on tourism, particularly at the local level.

ONS, through the work of the Tourism Intelligence Unit has referred to, and used, the concepts and definitions highlighted in this guidance in the development of its outputs.

It is recommended that data collection and measurement of the various aspects of tourism highlighted in this series should also be based on the same conceptual underpinning in order to achieve a consistent approach to the analysis of tourism in the UK.

In this sense the guidance seeks to develop a ‘bottom up’ approach to data collection across the various aspects of tourism that the guidance covers. Adopting this approach would ensure more comparability across areas which will be useful for planning purposes.

It would also make feasible a more uniform approach to the analysis of the local economic impact of tourism if local authorities are collecting tourism data following this consistent framework.

The framework that we have adopted is based on the UNWTO’s System of Tourism Statistics (STS), the components of which are outlined in Table 1.

Throughout this guidance we make reference to the International Recommendations on Tourism Statistics (IRTS, 2008) from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Eurostat and OECD. This is the most authoritative source of information on defining and measuring tourism.

We also make reference to the Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework (TSA: RMF, 2008) also from UNWTO, Eurostat and OECD.

Table 1: Components of a System of Tourism Statistics (UNWTO, 2010)

Concepts Observation Units Main Related Characteristics

Visitor              {

Travel Party          

Classes (Overnight visitor-tourist-/same-day visitor-excursionist)
Country of Residence/Regions

Trip Tourism Trip (or visit) Main Purpose
Main Destination
Modes of transport
Types of accommodation used
Tourism Industries
(business enterprises or units)
Establishments Monetary
  -Intermediate consumption
  -Gross value added
  -Compensation of employees
  -Gross Fixed Capital Formation

Non Monetary
  -Non-monetary characteristics specific to each  tourism industry


Establishment (in the
tourism industries)
Status in Employment
Duration of Work
Full Time Equivalent Jobs

Within this framework it is clear that we can distinguish between a demand side of tourism defined by the visitors who take tourism trips and the characteristics of those trips, and a supply side which details the characteristics of those industries that provide goods and services to visitors (including the characteristics of employment in those industries).

We highlight the definitions of both the demand and supply sides of tourism in this guidance.

1.1 English Tourism Research and Intelligence Partnership (ETRIP) work on definitions and concepts

Before describing the demand and supply side definitions of tourism, we highlight here specific work undertaken by the English Tourism Research and Intelligence Partnership (ETRIP - formally the English Tourism Intelligence Partnership) who undertook a study of tourism terms and definitions in the Autumn of 2011.

This piece of work was instigated by Prof Victor Middleton and led by David James (GTS UK) working with a group of experts from various organisations, public and private, from within the UK tourism sector.

In this version of the guidance note we highlight the work undertaken in defining various tourism terms from the UK perspective and include these alongside current international recommendations on the definition and measurement of tourism.

In Appendix One we include a tabular summary of the definitions compiled by this ETRIP working group. This is organised around the following themes:

  1. Generic Terms

  2. Visitors

  3. Measurement Specifics/Requirements

  4. Destination Related

  5. Responsible/Wise/SustainableTourism

Where relevant, we also include elements of the short report produced by the ETRIP working group in the body of this report and we reference this as: ETRIP Tourism Terms Paper, 2011.

Some of the terms referred to in this work sit outside current international recommendations on tourism statistics and, therefore, are less well defined in many cases.

However, as some of these terms are being widely used by tourism professionals in the UK, it is a useful exercise to propose an appropriate definition of them grounded on the UNWTO overall definition of tourism. This aids in identifying overlaps with existing international definitions of tourism, which are the main focus of this guidance, and where there are differences.

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