Office of Travel and Tourism Industries’ Statistical Policy for Visitation Estimates Of International Travel to the United States

Prior to the release of the 2006 year-end visitation data, the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) implemented a new policy for the public release of the international visitation estimates. The policy is to release visitation estimates only for those destinations in which the sample of 400 or more respondents is collected from the Survey of International Air Travelers, based upon a single year’s data. OTTI’s previous sample minimum was 100 respondents and multiple years’ data was used when the country sample was fewer than 250 respondents.  A random sample of 400 respondents (rounded) meets the criteria of a 95 percent confidence level with a plus or minus 5 percent variance. OTTI’s survey methodology is based upon a stratified, two-stage cluster sample. The new statistical policy is being implemented to raise the level of confidence in the estimates. This standard also takes into account input from the National Council of State Travel Directors, State Researchers Group, and other industry clients. With the release of the 2006 data, OTTI will also adjust the 2005 estimates. There will be no revisions to other pre-2005 historical data.

The new policy impacts visitation estimates for countries, census and tourism regions, states, and cities, for which 400 or fewer travelers were surveyed. With the implementation of this policy, OTTI will only issue 12 country profiles and eight world regional profiles; 14 fewer profiles than in 2005. For states and cities, OTTI will report overseas visitation estimates in 2006 for 15 states/territories and 16 cities, down from 28 states and 49 cities in 2005. Furthermore, there will be profiles issued in 2006 in which no visitation estimates will be provided.

OTTI recognizes that providing visitation estimates is the most difficult and volatile piece of information it releases and that it is the only source for the majority of the international travel data available for the United States. The impact of its estimates is not only felt at the national level, but throughout the world. This policy is being implemented for inbound travelers to the United States, outbound travel, and the Canadian and Mexican visitation estimates. It is expected that the new policy will enlist an enhanced level of the cooperation from the travel and tourism industry to further improve the programs implemented by OTTI. By working together, all parties will obtain better information on the international travel market to and from the United States.

This policy will be reviewed annually under the guidance of the OTTI staff and in consultation with travel and tourism industry stakeholders. OTTI’s international visitation data public release is available through its website, www.tinet.ita.doc.gov