U.S. Department of Commerce

International Trade Administration

Office of Travel & Tourism Industries

Survey of International Air Travelers (IFS)


Request for Information (RFI)











Section 1:    Introduction                                                          Page  2


Section 2:    Background and Description of Current Program    Page  4


Section 2a:   Questions on the Current Program                          Page  24


Section 3:    Ideas to Improve the Current Survey Program        Page  33


Section 4:    An Alternative Methodology of Data Collection      Page  40


Section 4a:   Questions for Alternative Methodology                   Page  45


Section 5:    Open Area for Suggestions and Ideas                     Page  50



Section 1:  Introduction


The U.S. Department of Commerce has conducted an international air travel survey since 1982. This program has changed dramatically over the years to adapt to changes in the global economy and the travel industry. Commerce requests that the industry review information on the current program, review proposed options to improve it, respond to alternative methodologies, and provide comments on the several proposed changes to this program. Your input will be used to assist Commerce with the development of the next contract for this program. Industry input is also being requested because in order to assist the industry, Commerce needs to know what industry needs and what concerns exist.

While the program has been in existence for 20 years, few in the industry have a complete understanding of the In-Flight Survey. For the purposes of this RFI Commerce has provided background on the program. OTTI expects that the industry will review the information and provide feedback, i.e. questions or comments will result. Commerce will respond to all questions and post questions and responses on the FEDBIZOPS at: www.fedbizopps.gov

It is important to know that all comments and responses and ideas should be submitted to the following points of contact no later than June 11, 2005:

Ron Erdmann, ron_erdmann@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4554; Fax: 202-482-2887

Richard Champley, Richard_champley@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4753; Fax: 202-482-2887

Rubie B. King, Contracting Officer, Rubie.B.King@noaa.gov

Interested parties are also encouraged to provide the Department of Commerce with information on their company along with detailed information on how they would approach conducting this program.

Any ideas the industry may have to assist the Government improve the data on international travel to and from the United States will be considered by OTTI before writing the next statement of work for its survey program on international travelers. There is also an open area for suggestions, comments, concerns, issues, questions, other methodologies OTTI should consider using, and/or any other ideas the industry may want to share with Commerce. Please provide them in this open area.


Section 2:  Program Background




The U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration (USTTA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation all contributed to the development of an in‑flight survey of international air travelers, which was implemented in the fourth quarter of 1982.  The initial technical survey planning, design and operations through calendar year 1983 were conducted by the Transportation Systems Center of the U.S. Department of Transportation.  USTTA administered the program from 1984-1996 and in1996 the agency was closed by Congress. 


The research functions of USTTA were moved to the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, and Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI).  The primary purpose of the survey has been to provide the USA, via primary research methodologies, with travel and passenger fare export and import figures. Also, a goal was to provide timely, accurate, and detailed data on international air travelers to and from the United States.  The data collected from this survey describes the characteristics and behavior of overseas and Mexican visitors traveling to the United States and of U.S. residents traveling abroad and to Mexico.  Canadian travel data is not currently included.


This information is designed to assist the various agencies of the government (specifically, the International Trade Administration, and Bureau of Economic Analysis), participating airlines and the travel industry in defining international travel patterns and calculating the economic impact of international travel.  Other uses of this data include developing appropriate target markets, to compare visitation to different destinations, to assist in planning and marketing strategies, and to develop an overall profile of the international traveler [see section F. Data Output].  The survey results also serve as a valuable technical assistance tool enabling the OTTI to reliably monitor U.S. international travel and tourism trends and respond to information requests.


The travel research program has been developed to support the major goals and sub goals of the Department of Commerce.  The three salient Departmental goals include:

·        Increasing America's competitiveness in the world economy

·        Increasing U.S. exports of goods and services (international travel and tourism is a service export)

·        Increase the U.S. market share of the total global travel market. 


It also supports the Department goals related to the National Export Strategy report issued in October 1996 (and updated yearly) by the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC).  Goals related to the TPCC include:  “Providing timely and accurate international tourism statistics” and “Providing the foundation for economic policy decision making by assuring the travel and tourism industry is accurately measured.” 


Data from this program are also used to support the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Industry & Analysis, Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.  The other main Commerce user of this data is the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the In‑Flight Survey (data files and reports ‑ inbound and outbound) to develop its "International Travel and Passenger Fares" estimates for travel and passenger fare exports and imports issued in the Survey of Current Business.  F


To understand the overall statistical results of the In‑Flight Survey it should be kept in mind that the sample was originally designed around the specific airlines willing to participate in the survey. It evolved to include boarding area surveys. Determination of airlines and boarding areas was performed through an analysis of U.S. and international traffic to/from world regions and countries. 


Survey data are gathered from passenger self‑administered questionnaires, which are primarily distributed and collected in‑flight by airline flight crew personnel. Certain participating carriers prefer not to use the in‑flight approach to the Survey.  Thus, a boarding area methodology is used.  Participation is voluntary, and thus the contractor and OTTI rely heavily on the cooperation of the airlines.  The 1990-2003 carrier participation in this program is provided on the OTTI website.  A great deal of emphasis is placed on developing a working relationship with the contacts at each airline to ensure they actively participate in this program.  In return for their cooperation and participation, the carriers receive confidential reports, on a quarterly basis, profiling the characteristics of travelers aboard their flights as compared to the aggregate responses of all other carriers.  The participating carriers also receive non-confidential inbound and outbound “national” reports on a quarterly basis, if requested. 




A.  Survey Population and International Airline Participation


The population of potential Survey respondents consists of all international revenue air passengers who travel on a participating airline’s departure leg from the United States. Overseas and Mexico air markets are included, however the Canadian travel market is currently excluded.  OTTI uses the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Immigration Statistics I-94 (inbound non-residents) and I-92 (departing US-citizens) databases to develop the population estimates. It should be noted that non-residents are surveyed on their return flight and US-citizens are surveyed on their originating flight. Therefore the two segments are essentially surveyed on the same flight departing a US gateway.  These databases are integral to the expansion of the survey results to ensure they are representative of the entire US-international travel population.  See the travel population time line from 1990-2003.  The April 2004 projections for 2004-2007 indicate a five to six percent growth rate each year. 


The selection of an airline for participation in the survey includes the following factors: the airline's market share in the geographic area under consideration, the desirability of representing both U.S. and foreign flag carriers for each area, a carrier's willingness to participate and the necessity to keep administrative and operational costs to a minimum. 


In 2003, over 60 U.S. and foreign flag carriers participated in the survey.  While the survey is conducted monthly, airline participation varies by carrier and is based on individual verbal airline agreements with the ITA, Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.


Between 1996 or 2003, OTTI has requested a maximum of 6,449 flights to be sampled to a low of 2,522.  The airline response rates (flights requested to be surveyed compared to actual flight kits returned with completed surveys) have been between 73% and 41%.   Based on information from cabin crews the passenger response rates have been as high as 62%, and as low as 41%. 


The primary geographic units of analysis are both the “true” origin and destinations (O&D) of the survey population.  The primary world units are based upon nine world regions.  The United States is primarily divided into 11 modified Census Divisions. Statistics are also developed for states, large metropoli­tan areas, and selected major tourist attractions to the extent that response frequencies for these places permit.  Mexico is treated separately, and Canada is not included in the survey at the present time.  Click on the links to see the states that comprise each census region, and the countries included in each world region used for this program. 


B.  Sampling


The sample universe consists of all international air travelers, but selections are made on a ‘cluster basis’ based on a random sample number of scheduled flights (clusters) from among all participating airlines that depart the USA to overseas or Mexican destinations. Certain charter carriers are included in the program at Orlando Sanford Airport, which reports 99% of its total traffic from charter airlines.  (Charter carriers at other airports could be added in the future. Charter traffic accounts for less than four percent of all international overseas and Mexican arrivals to the USA.) 


The flight clusters for each participating carrier are identified from the electronic Official Airline Guide (OAG) database of scheduled airline flights.  A computer program draws a random sample of flights from among the survey week's flight list. 


The survey period is defined as the seven-day week beginning on the third Monday of the month each month. The week of the month varies during holiday periods. OTTI and the contractor strive to ensure that the survey operation mirrors the airline’s own system as much as possible. 


The total population consists of two strata.  One stratum is comprised of U.S. citizens departing the United States on the originating leg of their flight. The other stratum is defined as non-resident visitors (per the I-94 record) on their return leg home who are aboard the same outbound flight.  The number of flights sampled from each stratum is determined on an individual airline basis.  Consideration is given to the number of passengers carried, volume of flights to foreign destinations, number of participating U.S. and foreign carriers serving the area, and airline cooperation.  The stratum covers all airlines participating in the survey.  An airline which is the sole participating carrier serving a particular country or region would have proportionately more of its flights selected than an airline which is one of several serving an area.


Therefore, the sample design is a stratified cluster sample. From the population of total international passengers the flight clusters (flights departing the U.S.) are randomly selected from the OAG list of participating carriers. Travelers in each stratum (resident v. non-resident) are asked to complete questionnaires, all passengers 18 years of age and older are eligible to respond to the survey.  Since questionnaires are distributed to passengers throughout all aircraft cabins (first, executive and main) the responses are considered to be representative of all passengers on the flight.


Random selection by flight (cluster) and stratification of the population, based on residency, help to ensure that all participating airlines and all travelers, regardless of residency and carrier ‘flag’ have an opportunity for selection into the sample. Regarding the passenger mix by airline flag (i.e., U.S. or Foreign), OTTI observed that, not surprisingly, citizenship appears to be a factor in the choice of airline. For example, from 2003 I-92 data (Table IId.): 67% of all passengers flying on U.S. flag carriers were U.S. citizens (even though they comprised only 58% of the total market) and 50% of all passengers on foreign flag carriers were non-U.S. citizens (even though they comprised only 42% of the total market). This ‘share gap’ phenomenon needs to be factored in during the sample selection process.  


Due to the voluntary nature of this survey, a pure random sample selection process of passengers on a flight would be logistically difficult for a flight crew to administer.  Therefore, OTTI relies on the flight crew’s judgment in distributing surveys to eligible (over 18 years old) passengers. Also, since various participating airlines conduct their own in-flight surveys from time to time OTTI has adopted a standardized, but yet flexible approach with each carrier so as not to unduly burden the flight crew.  OTTI works with each carrier to ensure the survey operation fits into its system.  Most of the carriers distribute 50 to 125 questionnaires among all classes of service; the number of surveys provided is set by each airline. 


Statistical reliability and validity of the data are dependent on many variables – the amount of bias in the selection process, sample sizes and the ability to quantify results. For example, how reliable are the estimates (degree of confidence, i.e. 95%) and with what precision (given an error rate of +/- percentage points). OTTI believes that the reliability of information and output data from the Survey is dependent on relative sample sizes and data validation and quality control. The latter process is described in detail in section E. ‘Data Entry, Editing,’ OTTI policies require that information will be released only if it meets the minimum acceptable standard for a sample size, i.e., 100 occurrences. Information presented at summary levels is assessed to be very reliable. For example, in 2003, of the 29,114 non-resident respondents from overseas, much can be said about the travel characteristics and travel patterns of the 46 percent who visited from Western Europe. However, there is little data and much less certitude about the characteristics of a visitor from Bhutan.  In 2003, OTTI collected over 100 respondents for non-resident inbound travelers from 43 countries, 35 states/territories as destinations, 58 cities as destinations, and 20 U.S. airports.  The sample collected for U.S. residents traveling abroad in which at least 100 respondents were collected were for 60 countries visited, 38 states of origin, 47 U.S. cities of origin, and 20 U.S. departure airports.  To learn more about which states, cities, countries or airports are reported, visit the OTTI website and click on the “Inbound Travel to the U.S.” or “Outbound Travel from the U.S.” links. 


The number of responses received those sampled among all travelers originating from overseas markets in 2003 was 29,114. This represents approximately 0.2 percent of the total population of travelers, which was over 18 million. The question is “How much is enough given a specific objective?” For example, how large a sample would need to be drawn to allow for a reliable conclusion to be made about the characteristics of a traveler from Paris who visited St. Louis? OTTI would appreciate the industry’s perspective of this issue as part of the response to the RFI. 


Once the appropriate sample sizes are determined the real challenge will be to implement a more effective administration of the sampling process to: 1) dynamically adjust the number of survey kits distributed to the airlines, 2) improve the return rate from the carriers, and 3) increase the response rates from passengers. (More in section D.)


C.  Questionnaire Design and Content


The In‑Flight Survey is in the maturity phase of its program life cycle.  The questionnaire is a government document controlled by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  The survey instrument, OMB No. 0625-0227 must be submitted to OMB for renewal every three years. Its next expiration date is 7/31/2005.  During this process OMB will also assess the viability of the program. It is expected that the resulting assessment will be positive.


The questionnaire developed was guided by industry standards of primary research survey instrument design to encourage accurate and maximum responses by the surveyed passengers.  The airlines and other travel industry sectors have historically provided input on the content of this survey.  The advice of airlines participating in the program is particularly appreciated, since without them there would be no in-flight survey research program.  The survey instrument has been re-designed with travel industry input in 1990, 1993, and 1996.  OTTI will work to obtain industry input on any changes made to the current survey instrument.  When the survey was last revised, over 100 industry representatives provided input on the survey re-design.  OTTI’s airline advisory board, several private sector representatives and staff from the U.S. Census Bureau Questionnaire Unit were used to develop and review the existing survey instrument.    


To reach the majority of non‑English speaking travelers, the questionnaire was translated into eleven additional languages ‑ Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin mix), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  There is an English‑only version and eleven versions with English on one‑half and a foreign language on the other.  Other language adjustments are possible. 


The survey questionnaire is designed to obtain responses from both U.S. as well as non-U.S. residents and can be self-administered by the respondent.  An announcement at the bottom of each survey informs the respondents of the availability of other versions.  The language mix of questionnaires used on selected routes is determined by the destination served. The questionnaire design facilitates easy distribution and collection by eliminating the need to determine the citizenship of the passengers. 


Click here to view the questionnaire.  


The distinguishing features of the current questionnaire are:

·        Trip itinerary - complete origin and destination (O&D) itinerary (questions 2-5 and 14) including U.S. and foreign port data. Destinations visited requested includes up to seven places visited in priority order (question 14). Many airlines have found this information useful for route planning purposes, as well as question two, main destination. 

·        Trip specific data - trip purpose (main and other), type of airline tickets purchased, aircraft cabin, reason for airline choice, travel party composition, nights away

·        Expenditure detail (question 15 – 16) and

·        Information on stays at specific hotel chains, type of credit cards used (note: credit card numbers are not asked), and name of the rental car agencies used.  Currently, none of this data is released to the public.  Should OTTI?  Should limits be put on who could obtain this type of data?  Would hotels, credit card companies, or rental car firms want their competitors or partners to have access to this type of data?

·        Traveler characteristics: age, gender, family income, residency, and country of birth, previous international travel history


An industry standard coding system is used to identify airports, counties, cities, and states within the USA, as well as all international cities and countries. The system enables OTTI with the ability to use data-mining techniques to search and select-targeted data elements to identify a variety of destinations (cities, states, zip codes, countries, attractions, and National Parks) and ports (U.S. and foreign).  The coding system for this program is extensive.  There are over 130 airline codes, over 400 U.S. port codes, over 370 foreign airport codes, over 200 inbound and outbound country codes, there is a code for every U.S. state and territory, OTTI uses the Census FIPS codes for U.S. cities and counties, there are over 860 attraction codes, over 160 credit card codes, over 350 hotel codes, and over 60 rental card codes. 


D.  Field Administration


The Survey is administered in either one of two ways: on- board during flight (or ‘in-flight survey’) or in the airport gate boarding area.


The basic monthly survey cycle, starts 30 days before the actual survey week (generally the third week of the month), and is as follows: OTTI’s contractor selects the flights to be sampled, based upon a computer generated stratified random sample using the flight information from the Official Airline Guide.  The proposed flights to survey for each airline are sent to an Airline Service Manager (ASM).  The ASM is appointed by a participating airline and acts as the contractor’s primary contact for each airline. The objective of using an ASM is to minimize the costs and workload of airlines and to handle any problems as they arise (for example ‑ schedule changes affecting the flight selected for survey).  The ASM will approve the flights and notify the contractor if any changes need to be made.  Ideally, the ASM would also assist the contractor in tracking down flights that were requested to be surveyed that were not.  The ASM also serves as the central contact points for each carrier should anyone at that airline have a question about the program. 


The contractor then express mails the designated flight kits to each airport.  At each airport, there is a gateway manager (GM).  They are local contact used on the boxes of surveys sent to each airport.  Within each box, a flight survey package containing the questionnaires, pencils, and instructions for the flight crew for each sample flight. Each flight kit is packaged as a nylon zippered bag that is 19 inches by 14 inches and weighing between six (6) to twelve (12) pounds, which has cost implications for the program. 


The contractor follows up to ensure the kits were received and to handle any problems, regarding lost survey kits, or issues that may arise. In 2003, the loss of survey kits was approximately 12 percent. This was on par with previous years, but much less than in 1989 when the loss rate was 24 percent. (The experience of fewer losses appears to be a result of the shift of methodology from primarily in-flight to more of an airport intercept method). 


The gateway manager notifies the crews of which flights are to be surveyed, ensuring the flight crews distribute the survey kits.  The flight crews carry the flight survey packages to their airplane.  Included in the flight kit package are instructions that the crew distribute the surveys to passengers throughout all cabins, answer any questions, provide pencils to passengers who may need them and collect the surveys back from the passengers. Flight crews are to place the surveys – both completed and not completed - back into the survey kit bag. They are asked to ensure that the survey kit is returned to the same USA gateway on the next flight (usually in the cargo hold of the plane) to the attention of the GM. The gateway manager then mails the kits back, postage pre-paid, to the contractor for processing    


Currently, there are 59 ASMs, and 83 GMs. In 1995, there were 72 ASMs, 25 ASM/GMs, and 180 GMs.  The lower number of contacts today is a result of the shift from an in-flight method to more airport intercepts being conducted.  An airline may have more than one ASM if their company has divided the USA into regions, and they require that the contractor’s staff contact the regional ASM for approval of the sample, etc.  Since each airline has different gateways and procedures for administration of the survey, the number of GMs per airline varies greatly.  


Currently, over 60 carriers voluntarily participate in the program.  A list of the airlines participating in the In-Flight Survey can be seen on the OTTI web site



In 1995, the two survey administration methods were divided as follows: forty-seven (47) U.S. and foreign participating carriers used the in‑flight method and thirteen (13) airlines required the surveys to be administered to their passengers in the pre-departure boarding areas.  While 22 percent of the carriers used the boarding area method, only six percent of the total surveys for the program were collected using the boarding area methodology.  This difference reflects the fact that many of the larger carriers are still cooperating with the in-flight method.


By 2003, the survey distribution method was divided into 20 U.S. and international carriers participating in this program use the in‑flight method, and 40 airlines the surveys to be administered to their passengers in the boarding areas.  The shift has had major cost implications.  There are positives and negatives for both methodologies, and OTTI has used both methodologies since 1987.  OTTI’s goal is to keep the survey representative of world travel patterns, and if an airline will not participate using the preferred. In-flight survey method, the boarding area survey method is then used.   .


OTTI’s goal is to survey an appropriate number of travelers that will allow reliable statistical inferences to be made about destinations visited.  In actuality the sample size will probably have to be increased to accomplish this goal, i.e., from the current 0.2 percent to something approximating one percent sample of the travel population. However, that percent is yet to be determined. In the near future steps will be taken to improve on the efficiency of the current process by:


·        Increasing the return rate of the survey kits

·        Increasing the response rates of the surveys distributed


Accomplishing these steps will effectively increase the sample size from the current 0.2 percent. However, funding has been a major issue for this program, and until a dramatically larger funding base is obtained, OTTI will have to survey the same, or even a lesser, number of travelers as has been the experience in the past. 


The number of flights surveyed by the in‑flight methodology or the boarding area (or airport intercept) methodology has varied over time, as has the number of flights surveyed.  A table with the number of flights surveyed per year and the airline response rate is provided, along with the number of surveys collected each year.  The number of flights surveyed per carrier on a yearly basis it ranges from 24 to 280.  To obtain the target sample each carrier’s sample frame will be adjusted on an individual airline basis. Over the years, approximately 17,500 to 22,500 (plus or minus 2 percent) questionnaires are considered completed and usable for analysis per quarter, although the goal is to collect questionnaires from 70-90,000 or more respondents over the year. Because of the seasonal travel patterns of international travelers, the third quarter tends to be the largest survey period.  The ratio of resident to non‑resident questionnaires has historically been 1.2 to one. 


Since the inception of the boarding area methodology in 1987, OTTI has surveyed at the following airports: Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Guam, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (JFK), Newark, Orlando’s Sanford, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington’s Dulles airport.  In 2003, flights were surveyed at the departure gate for specific fights following airports: Chicago, Dallas, Guam, Houston, Miami, New York (JFK), Newark, Orlando’s Sanford, and San Francisco’s airport. 


After the acts of terrorism on September 11, 2001, airport security has become a major issue in terms of obtaining access to airports so that the surveys may be conducted at the international departure gates.  Additional clearances from the airport authorities and the DHS, Transportation Security Administration had to be obtained.  This increased both the time to gain access and the total costs of conducting the surveys at the airport.  It is expected that OTTI will continue to work closely with the above-mentioned government agencies; the airlines and other industry sectors to better facilitate the surveying process at the airports. This will also require time and effort from the private sector, which has proven difficult to obtain. 


E.  Data Entry, Editing, Verification, Weighting & Processing


Once the survey packages are returned to the contractor, they are processed.  It is the contractor's responsibility to verify collection, code, edit, and input data from questionnaires.  The contractor has personnel proficient in translating the responses in the different languages from the questionnaires for coding and editing purposes.  Besides the data entry program, the contractor verifies the processing and integrity of the database.  Finally, steps are performed to check the survey returns that have been processed.  These steps include identifying the survey returns by control number and cross-tabulating returns as they are entered on the computer.  Returns are crosschecked by day, airlines, and flight number to ensure the tally for all control numbers.  The contractor has implemented an approved method to verify data entry and processing.  The monthly data processing and review cycle includes the following tasks:  Check the completed survey packages against the flight survey list and log them in; notify ASMs of any flight surveys not returned; manually edit and enter responses on questionnaire coding sheets, enter the data into the computer, perform verification of the data and wait for the I-94 or I-92 data so the quarterly data may be weighted.  The entire process, excluding waiting for the control totals, normally takes two months. 


The next step in the processing of the data is to expand the survey estimates by giving each respondent a weight that corresponds to the known number of international travelers entering the country, or the number of U.S. residents traveling abroad.  To compute estimates of total international travel to and from the USA, OTTI uses information from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) forms I‑92 and I‑94 flight records. The I-92 form is the only source in the world that provides information on the citizenship mix on international flights to and from the USA.  The I-94 data collects information on non-residents and non-citizen inbound to the U.S.  When OTTI processes the raw I-94 data, the data output is based upon the residency of the traveler.  The World Tourism Organization’s recommendation is that travel to and from all countries be reported by country of residency.  OTTI assumes the I-92 citizen data is equivalent to residents.  The individual airline reports contain unweighted data, and therefore only include the items that do not require the expansion process.   


The I-94 is the DHS Non-Immigrant Arrival Data Base.  Tabulations of the I‑94 entry cards by DHS provide total arrivals into the United States by residence of other countries.  They receive a monthly hard copy report (entitled Summary of International Travel to the U.S.) and data tapes from this database.  OTTI ensures that the tapes/e-mail and reports are delivered to the contractor.  The I‑92 is a DHS form that is also processed by OTTI.  The tabulations of international air travel volume are based upon the I‑92 cards submitted by the airlines, providing numbers of U.S citizens and foreign citizen arrivals and departures between international gateways.  The contractor receives a data tape/email from OTTI on a monthly basis.  Only the data on U.S. citizens is used from the I-92 database.  This data is published in a report entitled the U.S. International Air Travel Statistics Report.  OTTI works with DHS to process the I-92 data.  When OTTI reports U.S. outbound travel from the USA, OTTI assumes citizens equals residents.  The contractor sends the OAG file to the Commerce Advanced Data Processing contact each month.  A schedule of when the contractor expects to e-mail the OAG file is developed and sent to OTTI.  This file is required by DHS so their contractor who keypunches the I-92 data can complete its work.  Timely delivery of the OAG is crucial to the program. 


These sources provide the input to the weighted ratio estimating procedures that expand the sample information to represent all visitors to the United States and all U.S. travelers to Mexico and overseas countries, and to ensure it is representative of world travel patterns.  The use of both the survey responses and these independent data sources in the estimation process yields more reliable estimates than if only the survey responses and sampling rates were used.  This is extremely critical because of the voluntary nature of this research program whereby certain carriers and world regions/countries have more respondents than their share of arrivals or departures.   


The survey responses are the primary data source for computing estimates.  The survey responses also provide information on distributions of variables and relationships among survey items as well as information relating the country of debarkation to the residence of the passenger. 


A weight is calculated for each survey respondent.  This weight represents passengers departing from the United States via scheduled international air carriers.  Calculation of the weight for the U.S. residents based on the I-92 is a multi-step process.  Briefly, it entails:


a.         The initial weight of a respondent is one, unless children are part of a travel party.  If children are included, the initial weight has a value greater than one, depending on the number of children and the size of the travel party.


b.         Although 100% sampling is performed on a flight, there is usually non-response.  The respondents are considered a random sample of the passengers, and each weight is increased to cover the non-response on the flight.


c.         Each weight of a respondent in a stratum is increased to represent all travelers on all flights on the stratum.


            d.         The I-92 data are incorporated into the weights by port of debarkation to represent not only the participating, but also the nonparticipating, airlines in the survey.


The weights are then used in standard weighted ratio estimation formulas for calculating the distribu­tions, means, and medians found in the published tables.


The survey responses are also the primary data source for computing estimates for the non-resident data.  Here, information developed from the Immigration and Naturalization Service Form I-94 forms the basis for the expansion process.  Similar to the responses weighted using the I-92 data; the calculation of the weight is a multi-step process.  Briefly it entails:


a.         The initial weight of a respondent is one, unless children are part of a travel party, in which case, the initial weight has a value greater than one, depending on the number of children and the size of the travel party.

b.         Both the I-94 data and survey responses are sorted and summarized by country of residence and port of customs information. 


c.         The weight computed for individual survey responses is the result of directly proportioning the I-94 data to the surveys.


d.         The weights determined by the limiting variables in the survey responses match the corresponding control totals from the I-94 data summarized in the same manner.


The weights are then used in standard weighted ratio estimation formulas for calculating the distribution, means, and medians found in the published tables in the OTTI National Reports, as needed.  The contractor is responsible for ensuring statistical reliability, validity and integrity of the survey data.  The contractor is responsible for implementing this methodology, so careful attention should be given to this attachment.


Processing:  IT System Requirements

The following is a description of the computer system and software that have been developed for the current program to load, edit, and process the survey data (this equipment is not required, but is provided to illustrate the bidders of the magnitude of this program and to ensure they have the computing capability to handle this project): 


1.         For the sampling procedure, a series of FORTRAN and DCL programs are used on a HP DS10 AlphaServer.


2.         Currently, the coded questionnaires are keypunched interactively using an error and editing program written in FORTRAN.  This program checks for permissible ranges, codes, skip patterns, logical consistency, etc.


3.         After data quality assurance, the necessary tables are generated using a VAX/ALPHA 3600 computer using VMS 6.2.  Statistical processing, cross tabulations, and weighted estimates are performed using the SAS version 6.12.  To process one quarter of data, with year‑to‑date tables (i.e., third quarter, 1995 nonresidents), at least 300 to 400 megabytes of disc storage and 35 hours of CPU time are required.  In contrast, in 2003, after data quality assurance, the necessary tables are generated using an HP DS10 AlphaServer computer using VMS 7.3.  Statistical processing, cross tabulations, and weighted estimates are performed using the SAS version 6.12.  To process one quarter of data, with year‑to‑date tables (i.e., third quarter, 1995 nonresidents), at least 300 to 400 megabytes of disc storage and 25 hours of CPU time are required.


F.  Information/Data Outputs


OTTI is able to make the information/data, processed from the In-Flight Survey program, available in a hierarchical approach: 1) Summary level profiles, published on the OTTI website which are a ‘roll-up’ of information found in 2) standardized “reports” and a 3) database that can be “mined” on an ad-hoc basis for specialized inquiries.


Profile of International Travelers


OTTI annually publishes the following two summary profiles on its website in html format, available to the public at no charge:


·        Profile of the Overseas Travelers to the U.S.- Inbound (2003) https://travel.trade.gov/view/f-2003-07-001/index.html 

·        Profile of U.S. Travelers to Overseas Countries – Outbound (2003) https://travel.trade.gov/view/f-2003-101-001/index.html


Standard Reports


OTTI also publishes a much more detailed version of the above, following a standardized format and available in both print and Excel versions, for a fee. Both national reports provide information about international visitors to the U.S. and American residents traveling abroad, respectively. These reports are produced quarterly and annually with the same format. Confidential information is only released to the appropriate parties (see below).  Currently, only annual reports are made available to the public.    


Click on the links underlined in this sentence to view the introduction and appendices the Non-resident 1 & 2 and Resident 1& 2 reports. Examples of an annual country and the inbound and outbound national reports are available on the OTTI website.  Both the non‑U.S. resident and U.S. resident reports are offered as separate reports on travel to/from Mexico.  


Each participating airline receives a ‘Confidential Airline Report’ presenting information specific only to the respective carrier with all other participating carriers grouped and their summary data presented as “all other”.  


Customized Reports


A customized report is a non‑standard request for special data profiles based upon a subset of, or a specified data relationship within the In-Flight Survey database.  It varies in length and specifications depending on the needs of a user.  A sample of some of the column headings selected for custom reports can be found on the OTTI website.  The custom reports are generally similar in format to the published national reports and the quarterly OTTI reports, although they can take any form.  Usually, the task starts with a sample size query of the contractor, and then the client selects the 12 columns they wish to use based upon the sample and their data needs. Individuals requesting a special run are charged at a rate determined by OTTI.


Currently, the main clients of custom reports are the state tourism offices and city convention and visitors bureaus. On occasion certain airlines look to expand their understanding of an origin-destination (O&D) market through use of the custom reports. It is possible to design a custom run for a hotel chain. OTTI always keeps specific competitor data confidential. The types of clients for the OTTI In-Flight Survey have been posted to the OTTI web site.


To learn more about obtaining custom reports view here.



OTTI expects to expand its reach to other businesses, including other federal government agencies.  The goal is to increase the number of users so that OTTI has a broader base of support for this program.  Included could be: US-VISIT, Customs & Border Protection, State Department, National Park Service, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and others. 


The Contract Structure 


For information on OTTI’s contractor, CIC Research, Inc., view this link:



Base Program


All of the information provided above comprises the base contract, with the exception of custom reports/data files, which are described in the information that follows.  Since 1990, the program sample has ranged from 59,000 surveys to more than 94,000 surveys per calendar year. 


In addition to the base program, there are numerous contract options that may be purchased if funding is available and OTTI determines there is a need to implement them.  Below is a summary of the contract options available.  All of the items below are to assist OTTI in dealing with changes to the program or to implement options to improve it.  Their implementation is solely dependent upon the availability of funds to conduct the program.  Included in these options are: 


1. Sample Size Increases


As a result of discussions with different government agencies, airlines, travel industry users, there is a strong interest in obtaining additional survey responses.  To accommodate this, OTTI has built in a series of options that allows for the purchase of additional respondents.   OTTI’s goal, as well that of the airline advisory board, when active, was to obtain a sample of 1% of total overseas and Mexican air passengers.  In 2003, a one percent sample was approximately 484,000 travelers.  To achieve the one percent (1%) sample goal today OTTI would have to dramatically increase the Survey of International Air Travelers respondent base, which has never exceeded 95,000 surveys.  OTTI would like to systematically increase the sample size on an annual basis over several years to reach this goal.  Increasing the sample size will enable OTTI to provide all interested parties with more accurate and reliable data.  Tied to this increase would be the need to survey additional international airlines.  The additional airlines would improve world regional representation. 


2. Industry Investment Program


OTTI has been approached by a number of industry groups to enhance the sample for their state, city, airline, airport, etc.  In the past, OTTI implemented this program as a pilot test with Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois State Division of Tourism offices, as well as another attempt with the Capital Region, USA.  OTTI expanded this program to increase the sample so other travel businesses/groups can obtain the sample required to provide quality estimates for visitation to their destinations.  In addition, the increased sample would also allow these businesses to better understand the international traveler so they can improve the services and products offered to the visitor.  A more detailed description of the investment program may be found on OTTI’s web site.  This program was implemented in 2001 and 2002. 


3. Custom Reports/Data Files


OTTI makes available special reports and data files for users based upon a fixed price scale for each request.  Orders are placed for the custom reports and/or data via email files.  These reports/files are sub-sets of the entire database as requested by individual clients.  The sale of custom reports was also described in the data output section.   Sales of the reports are used to generate revenue for this program to increase the sample or implement improvement options for this program. 


Due to declining sample sizes for the overall program, OTTI has started to pool multiple years of the data to increase sample sizes for a particular destination, airline, airport, etc.  It is also possible to pool like regions to gain an improved sample size.  The pooled data is weighted to the current year, or the year requested.  The benefit of the pooled data comes from larger sample sizes that tend to provide more statistically reliable estimates.  There is no additional cost for combined year data.  Custom reports have been purchased every year.


4. Adjustments to the Weighting Procedures


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) I-92 and I-94 databases have had problems over the years.  Adjustments to the weighting procedures have been or may be required to correct problems that occur with these two data bases.  In addition, DHS is currently looking into developing an electronic collection of the international traveler data.  As DHS changes the information collected, OTTI will adjust the methodologies to accommodate these changes.  OTTI staff will provide guidance and support to the contractor to work through the corrections that may be needed.  OTTI will approve the final corrections and defend work required to ensure accurate total population data is issued to weight the survey data collected.


The following provides examples of corrections that were made to deal with are with the DHS I-94 database.  OTTI processes a subset of this database for non-residents.  DHS also collects citizenship, visa type, port-of-entry, age and gender on the form.  In 1996, the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS), (now DHS) delivered tapes to OTTI that had 2 million missing residency records.  An analysis was performed to correct for the missing residency data.  An analysis was implemented using the citizenship and historical data to produce estimates that correctly allocated the country of residency and port-of-entry to the missing records.  A similar problem occurred in 2001.  Because of a change in DHS policy, transit passengers were added to the arrival counts.  Additional steps were required to delete the transit passengers from the arrival figures.  Acquiring authorization to obtain access to records that would allow OTTI to determine the extent of the influence of these transit passengers proved to be extremely time consuming.  Data users were understandably anxious to determine the impacts of 9-11 on their markets.  OTTI made the decision to run and release "preliminary" data inclusive of the transit passengers.  Once a valid methodology for excluding the transit passenger data was implemented, OTTI re-ran and re-released all of the 2001 data and most of the 2002 data.  As a result, all of the 2001 and most of the 2002 data had to be re-run to exclude these travelers.  Since that time, the data quality and timeliness of these programs have improved dramatically.  The lag time has been reduced to less than 3 months after the reported month.  This means OTTI’s international travel data is now released at the same time or before the major vendors of domestic data issue their data on domestic travelers. 


Monthly I-94 data processing


Each month, the government supplies two data files to the contractor for processing the I-94 arrivals data.  The raw data file sent to the contractor is processed to provide monthly arrivals to the country, which are used in the non-resident weighting system for this program.  To process the monthly data, the contractor must review the data file for duplicate records and search for missing codes.  These records cannot be used.  Then, a match is performed using the arrivals records and departures records for the monthly I-94 data received.  The contractor removes all records with 0 or 1 night stay based upon the raw data file.  The remaining data processed by residency to provide country specific data that is sent to OTTI to review.  This file also includes any unknown country codes.  OTTI works with DHS to try to identify any of these codes and add them to the database.  Additionally, a port-of-entry run is issued that includes all known and unknown codes.  The data with known codes will be used and the others will be put an unknown code area.  OTTI will work to resolve the missing codes as possible.  Once the data has been approved by OTTI, the contractor adds the Canadian arrivals summary data that usually is received by the third week each month.  This information is added to the database to create a report file for OTTI.  The format will follow the format developed in 1996.  In addition to the print file, an excel file of this report is also provided.  The database is maintained and used monthly to create a monthly and year-to-date report and file.  The numbers of records processed each month are around 2.1 to 3.6 million. 


5.  IFS Airline Users Group and Workshop


Beginning in late 1991, the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) met with a core group of the airlines that participate in the In-Flight Survey.


Why an Airline Users Group?


The OTTI In-Flight Survey is a partnership between the U.S. Government and the airline industry to foster the development of travel to and from the United States. Because of the heavy reliance upon the airlines for cooperation and support to collect this data, OTTI wants to ensure they continue to receive useful information in return for the effort. The Group allows the airline industry input on how the survey is conducted, and a means to exchange ideas on how to improve this research program.


Duties of the Airline Users Group:


The Group was used as a consultant for ideas OTTI had for this program. It was used to receive airline input on ideas before all of the airlines in the survey were informed of any changes. The Group was also used to guide both participants and non-participants on the survey. The composition of the Group tried to have representatives from the different world regions: the North Atlantic, the Pacific, Latin America, and the United States. The work included helping OTTI find ways to improve the administration and participation rates for each carrier. With regard to non-participants, OTTI requested advice on enticing these airlines into the program. The overall goal is to cooperatively work together to improve the In-Flight Survey.


The Group met up to two times per year, dependent upon the airlines, OTTI, and the availability of funding.  The meetings covered selected topics related to In-Flight Survey (IFS) performance and activities.  Meetings were usually held in Washington, DC and at the contractor's home city of San Diego, California.


After developing the Airline Users Group in 1991, Commerce held several Users Group Meetings/Conferences. These conferences were held to help inform the industry of OTTI's largest research program, the In-Flight Survey. In addition, OTTI also featured presentations on the aviation and travel industry related to the international travel market to and from the U.S.  Due to budget cuts, the last In-Flight Survey Users Conference was held on March 30, 1998.


Current Status of the Airline Group:


Due to budget cuts for the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI), the airline users group has not met since early 1999. While OTTI would have liked to rejuvenate this group, a very difficult decision had to be made. The choice was to continue to meet with the airlines to improve the program, or to devote the resources available to survey as many travelers as possible. Given that the sample size is crucial to providing a representative, reliable sample to the industry, OTTI had no choice but to suspend the meetings.  OTTI would be very interested in resuming regularly scheduled meetings with the airlines.


6. Expanded Foreign Market Coverage


Airlines agreeing to participate in the survey currently total over 60, with the potential of additions in the future.  The new carriers added to the survey would be used to help expand world coverage so all regions have proportionally appropriate representation. 


The mix of flights for airlines currently in the survey would also be examined to ensure appropriate representation of world travel patterns. 


To ensure the survey is representative of international travel to and from the United States, both in-flight and boarding area methodologies are used.   Certain critical airlines prefer not to participate in this research program using the in‑flight methodology.  Thus, the boarding area methodology was developed. 


To enlist carriers, the program budget was developed to cover the travel required to meet with the airline home office staffs to instruct them of the merits of this program.  This program component was completed several times, but has not been active for the last several years due to budget considerations. 


7.  Airline Participation Enhancement Program


OTTI believes that if the airlines fully fathom all the benefits of the In‑Flight Survey and use it to complement their own research, some of the challenges with response rates and cooperation would be eliminated. 


This program entails domestic travel to meet with the corporate headquarters staff of the U.S. based airlines and the USA offices for foreign flag carriers. Meetings have been held with airline staff that represented different functional areas within each airline. This program component was implemented several times, but again, has not been active for the last several years due to cost considerations. 


8. Gateway Manager Appreciation/Education Program


The gateway or station manager at each airport is a key link to the success of the Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT) distribution and return of the questionnaires to the contractor.  The gateway manager is responsible for receiving the flight kits, ensuring they get on the selected flights, working with the contractor to ensure the flight kits are returned to the United States and then mailing them to the contractor for processing.  Two areas in this respect require closer scrutiny:  the return of flight packages with completed questionnaires, and the return of the flight packages for flights not surveyed. 


This program was developed to show OTTI’s, and the industries’, appreciation for the gateway managers’ efforts.  At the meetings, the gateway managers were provided with information on the importance of the survey.  Obtaining support from the travel industry to implement this program is part of this option.  At the meetings, the airline stations managers were informed why their airline participated, how the government as well as the industry used the data in an effort to impress upon the gateway managers that their efforts were crucial to the success of the program.  Where possible, airport specific results were presented to the gateway managers.  Another element of these meetings was to explore any issues, concerns or challenges regarding survey compliance.  Numerous issues were resolved as a result of these meetings.  In years when funding was available for this program, meetings were arranged at each airlines' airport office with available staff.  Because of DHS security measures following 9-11, alternate arrangements would now have to be made.




9.  Flight Crew Appreciation/Education Program


This program focuses on the flight attendant's portion of the process.  An educational seminar on the IFS would be developed for flight attendants.  It would include information on who the flight crew should distribute the survey to, why they are distributing it, when they should be distributing it, how they should return it, and what uses their airline makes of this data.  Additionally, it would include an element to improve the instructions on the flight packages and the message delivered to the passenger, develop information pieces on the In-Flight Survey for airlines to use in flight attendant newsletters, and develop a better tracking system for each flight being surveyed so OTTI knows who was supposed to be responsible for its administration.  The emphasis here is to streamline the process to ensure maximum cooperation from the passengers.  OTTI is looking for useful creative ideas that can also be used in this area.  Lack of funding has prevented this program from ever being fully developed and implemented. 


10.  Questionnaire Re-Designs


The survey instrument has been re-designed numerous times, most recently in 1996.  With the last revision, OTTI developed a list of users, mailed information on the questionnaire to them, and then asked for input on the survey related to what changes they would like to see implemented.  For the last revision, work started towards the end of 1994.  Significant lead-time was needed to obtain industry input and approval of various “in progress” versions of the survey by the advisory users group and others developing a proposed survey.  The proposed survey was sent to the Census Bureau’s Administration and Publications Services Division.  This team of professional survey designers assisted OTTI in developing the layout and appearance of the current survey.  The survey was pre-tested in English only, and as a result of the pre-test data, changes were made.  The survey was then translated into each of the languages and translated back into English to check the translation for accuracy, and then each foreign language was pre-tested as well.  Once the final format was obtained, the final negatives were developed.  OTTI submitted its Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearance package for the new questionnaire.  The time required for the OMB process was approximately 150 days. Once the approval was obtained, Commerce printed the surveys and they were then shipped to the contractor. 


11.  Translation Service


This contract option required that the contractor work with a firm that could translate the English version into the numerous languages used for the program.  The contractor would provide the translation service company with the final English version of the survey instrument.  The firm then translated and typeset the questionnaire into each language.  All of the questions and responses were to be in the exact same format and location as found on the English version.  Once translated, the contractor then worked with OTTI to have the translations reviewed to ensure they matched the English version.  If the translation needed any changes, the original firm secured to produce the typeset-ready translations was informed of what needed to be changed.  The firm then provided OTTI with a set of negatives so the survey could be printed. 



12.  Programming and Report Changes Required to Accommodate New Questionnaire


This contract option was available to change the report formats when the questionnaire was redesigned.  This option was needed because a new survey instrument would collect different data points.  The new programming was implemented to accommodate modifications that must be made to the coding procedures, data entry, processing, and data outputs for each report issued.


13.  Development of a Short Questionnaire/Supplemental Survey


Response rates for surveyed flights of less than two hours duration are far lower than the average rate for all of the data collected.  OTTI developed this option for use in developing, pre-testing and using a shorter version of the survey instrument for flights under two hours long. 


OTTI tested and implemented a shorter version of the survey.  Unfortunately, at the time, the airlines missed the data that had been eliminated in the shorter version of the survey.  Therefore, the effort was abandoned.  This could be reinstituted, however, if it is deemed valuable for destination use. 


14.  Data Analysis to Develop Executive Summaries for Country Reports and Customized Reports


OTTI has historically issued reports that only provide cross-tab tables.  No data analyses have been offered.  Several clients have approached OTTI for this information, but due to the workloads of all staff, no time is available to develop analyses for the client.  OTTI would like to offer a data analysis consulting service to clients who are willing to pay for customized analysis of the data findings.  The analysis would include text, graphs and tables, and comparative and complementary data sources to explain the results of the survey.  Ideally, the client would pay a fee for the analysis above and beyond the fee paid for the data.  Revenue collected from the analyses would be used to help fund the program and pay the contractor for their work.  Potential clients are airlines, airports, tourism regions, states, cities, foreign national tourism offices, and others.  This option has never been implemented. 


15.  CD ROM/Electronic Delivery of the Data as Excel files


This option was developed to offer clients an alternative to standard paper report copies.  The hard copy reports were converted into an Excel format, and then sold to the clients along with a paper copy of the report for an additional fee.  This option has been used numerous times for a majority of the reports issued by OTTI.



OTTI also has questions for the travel and tourism industry related to the program.  The questions have been structured in this section to ask specific questions to the airlines, and then questions for the rest of the industry, including airlines in some cases.  Please review the questions and provide Commerce with your comments.  The responses obtained from the industry to these questions will be used to assist OTTI to determine the future direction of this program.  Please respond to the following questions: 


Questions for Airlines


A.  Introductory Questions on Airline Contacts/Functional Areas/Awareness: 


1.  If you are a participating carrier in the IFS, do you know who your current key airline representative (to the US DOC and its contractor) is?


2.  Other than your airline key representative do you know which functional areas in your airline use, or should use, the information your carrier receives back from the IFS?     If yes, please provide us with information on how you use the data. 


3.  Are you aware of the type of information that your carrier receives from the IFS system?


4.   Do you perceive that the information received is of potential value for your airline?   If so, how?


5.  Do you view it as a ‘corporate’ system with information that could help different areas of the airline company: international planning, route/schedule planning, consumer research, product planning, in-flight services, pricing, alliance planning, distribution, etc.?


6.  For most airlines, Commerce only has one contact.  How could we improve the awareness of this program for the numerous areas that may benefit from this program, for your airline? 


7.      What else could OTTI do to entice your airline to continue participating in the program? 


8.  Are there any questions you have for OTTI that would help you better understand the program?

B.  Reports/Data Outputs: 


1.      Currently, in return for an airline’s participation, they receive a paper confidential airline report, and if requested, the quarterly national inbound and outbound reports issued in a printed report from the data collected.  Is this sufficient?  Yes ____ No ____.  Should OTTI provide more to the airlines in return for their participation in the program?  Yes ____ No ____.  If Yes, what?


2.      One option would be to provide the existing reports in a more useful medium, i.e. excel files.  Would you prefer this format?  Or, would you prefer some other format and, if so, please let us know what this would be. 


3.  Are you aware that your carrier can access the IFS database for special inquiries on an adhoc basis? For example, would demographic information on a true O&D basis (origin-destination) be useful? Would a fee be acceptable for ad-hoc inquiries? Would a bartering arrangement be viable (i.e. OTTI data in exchange for airlines tickets, or something else)?


4.  Would you be interested in knowing more about how non-airline groups use the IFS data (note: they do not have access to an airline’s Confidential Report) and how it actually may benefit your carrier?


5a.Would there be any interests in having the contractor for this program have staff that would be assigned to a select number of airlines to help the carriers use the data? 


5b.Would the airlines use this service? 


6.  Are you aware of other sources of information that could supplement the IFS to enhance the usefulness of both?  If so, would you please provide OTTI with information on these resources?


C. Survey Instrument/Questionnaire Enhancements:


1.      Currently, the questionnaire has 29 questions.  In your experience what is the optimum number of questions to ask on an international traveler survey?


2.      OTTI would like to request that you review the current survey instrument.  Upon reviewing the survey instrument, does OTTI ask too many questions, too few?  What is the rationale for your assessment?  (Please note:  This is a tourism survey as well as a survey to assist the airlines). 


3.      Are the questions asked on the Survey pertinent?


4.      Are there questions you feel OTTI does not need to ask?  If so, please indicate which questions are not needed.  (Again, please note, there are questions for the U.S. government as well). 

5.      Are there other questions you would like to add?


D.  Ideas to Improve Data Collection by Crew


1.      Currently, the flight crews distribute and collect the surveys.  Do you have any ideas on how to increase the crew's participation in the survey process?

2a.  OTTI has often thought of meeting with the flight crew unions to talk to them about the importance of the survey and to ask that they inform their members that when asked to conduct the Commerce international traveler survey, that the crew distribute and collect them. 


2b.  Do you think this would work?  If so, what types of information would Commerce need to present to the flight attendants unions? 


2c.  Would your airline assist Commerce in developing such a presentation? 


3. Are there other mechanisms that could be used to educate the flight crews about the program to enlist them to support it? 


4a. Do you have a flight crew-training seminar on conducting in-flight surveys for your airline? 


4b. Could a component related to the survey be added to your program? 


4c.  Or, do you have a flight crew newsletter that OTTI could use to provide information on the program to the crews? 


4d.  Or, are their meetings in which airline management meets with the crews to provide information in which Commerce could provide the airline management with text for their use and their crews? 


5.  Do you have any other ideas you would be willing to provide OTTI to improve flight crews’ participation in the survey program? 


E.     Improve Response Rates/Cooperation:


1.      Many airlines conduct their own in-flight surveys, or survey their passengers.  Would your airline be willing to provide OTTI with in-depth information on how you conduct your own passenger surveys so that OTTI could learn from them?


2.      Improved response rates are a goal of this program.  Would you please provide OTTI with ideas you have used for your airline that have allowed you to improve response rates for your own survey efforts?


3.      Would you let OTTI know what other surveys your carrier participates in (on-line and/or and the scope of those surveys compared to what you know about the IFS?


4.  What do you think the trade-offs are in using the current approaches (in-flight vs. boarding area) vs. a possible ‘airport-intercept’ approach?


5.  What actions should OTTI take to improve the response rate to the IFS?


5a. Distribution of survey kits to gateway airports?


            5b.  Flight crew administration of Survey on-board, or by boarding area interviewer?


            5c.  Collection and return of completed survey kits from the airports to contractor?


5d.  Show of appreciation by OTTI for airline participation and cooperation?


            5e.  Training programs for airport and flight crews?


6a.  If you received a letter from each of the gateway cities you served asking your airline to participate in the Commerce survey, would it mean anything?  


6b.  Would the letters from industry partners have any influence on whether or not you participated in the program? 


7.  Do you have comments on OTTI’s surveying/sampling methodologies?


F.  Meetings with Airlines:


1.      Would representatives from your airline be interested in meeting with OTTI staff and/or the contractor for the program to learn more about it? 


2.  What could OTTI do to make these meetings effective? 


3.  OTTI has a program in which the contractor/OTTI staff would meet with the airlines at their corporate headquarters.  But, the cost of airfare has proven to be an impediment to implementing this program.  Would your airline be willing to swap free data for free airline tickets and hotel rooms for meetings between Commerce/the contractor and your airline?


G.  Airline Advisory Users Group: 


1.  Would your carrier be interested in participating in an Airline Users Group, the purpose being to enhance the survey methodology and increase the usefulness of the information to all carriers?


2.   How often would you want the Users Group to meet?


3.  Who from your airline would be involved? (In-flight services, market research, international planning, route planning, marketing, others)?


4. What would Commerce need to do to obtain your involvement in an Airline Users Group?


H.  Alliances


  1. If your carrier is a member of a global airline alliance several other members of that alliance most likely are participants in the IFS. Would you find an ‘alliance report’ or information accessible about alliances useful?


  1. There are several major alliances worldwide.  If a majority of the alliance partners participate in OTTI’s survey, would the other alliance partners assist OTTI to enlist the cooperation of the other alliance partners who do not participate?


  1. Would the airlines that are part of an alliance be interested in an alliance report they could develop for their alliance?


I.  Sample and World Regional Representativeness: 


  1. With the goal of conducting a survey program that is representative of world travel patterns, would airlines be willing to assist OTTI enlist other carriers?


  1. OTTI has a goal of surveying one percent of all international flights.  Would your airline cooperate if OTTI requested that OTTI survey one percent of your international flights? 


J.  Final Airline Specific Questions:


  1. Is there anything else OTTI could do to improve the participation from your airline?


  1. If your airline does not participate, what would it take to enlist your participation in this program? 


  1. Would you be interested in having OTTI present the IFS program to members of your airline and recommend ways to for your carrier to find more value in its information?


  1. Does your airline have any performance measures it uses to assess the usefulness or value of your own internal In-Flight Survey?  If so, would you be willing to share them with OTTI?  Conducting research programs with performance measures is a new area the government is moving toward. 


PART II:  QUESTIONS FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY (this may include the airlines)



1a.  The current sample has been around 60,000-90,000 travelers for the past 10 years.  Is this too many?  Too few? 


1b.  What would you consider the optimum sample size for this program to be? 


2.  For which markets would you like to have a statistically reliable visitation estimate?  Please be sure when you respond to provide OTTI with the state or city you represent. 




1a.  Please take a look at the current questionnaire.  What questions do you think OTTI should cut? 


1b.  Are there questions you think OTTI should add?  If so, what would they be? 


2. How many questions do you think Commerce should ask?


3. If the questionnaire was to be revised, would the industry be willing to provide funding support to pay for the redesign, pre-test, new translations (if needed), and the programming costs that would be incurred to accommodate the new questionnaire?


4a.  OTTI collects data that provides the name of the hotel chain a visitor stayed at while within the USA.  In addition, data is collected on rental car firms used and the name of the credit card used to purchase items while on the trip is also collected.  Should this data be released to the public?  Or, should OTTI stop collecting this data? 


4b.  Should OTTI require specific limitations be put on who could obtain this type of data (i.e. Would hotels, credit card companies, or rental car firms want their competitors or partners to have access to this type of data)?




1.  Currently, OTTI relies upon the sale of data from this program to assist in funding it.  The current prices for reports are on the web site.  Knowing this, do you feel OTTI prices for the printed reports are too high, too low, or about right? 


2.  What do you feel OTTI should charge for reports and/or data?


3.  OTTI also develops custom reports for clients that are specific to a destination or sector.  The current price for this report in 2004 was $3,575 (for a 12 column, 35 table report).  Is this price too high, too low, or just about right? 


4.  What do you feel OTTI should charge for custom reports and/or data?


5.  For clients who have purchased a custom report.  What could OTTI do to improve them?   


6. Are there other types of reports you would like to see OTTI release?  If so, please describe them. 


7a. Would there be any interest in having the contractor for this program (or a group of consultants) is available to analyze the data from the custom report(s) for your destinations for a fee?  If so, what would you like this report to look like, what would be included? 


7b.  How in-depth would you want the analysis to be? 


7c.  What would be a fair price for this service (above and beyond the cost of the custom report)? 


7d.  Would your organization use this service? 


In-Flight Survey Users Meeting


1.  OTTI has hosted industry user meetings for this program in the past.  The costs of hosting these meetings have prevented us from doing more of them.  So, to help OTTI reduce the costs to host a meeting to inform users about the program and how they could make better use of the data, etc.  Would your business be willing to sponsor parts of the meeting (the meals, AV equipment, the meeting space, provide hotel rooms for speakers, provide airline tickets for sponsors, copies of the handouts, badges, etc.)? 


2.  What would your business want in return for sponsorship? 


3.  Would a representative from your business be willing to speak to the group on how you have used the OTTI data? 


4.  How long should this meeting be?  (One-half day, a full day, a day and a half)? 


5.  Should OTTI charge a registration fee to assist in paying for the cost of the meeting to educate users on how the program may help them? 


6.  What do you feel would be a fair registration fee for this type of meeting? 


7.  Would you, or a representative from your business attend this type of meeting?




Response rates


  1. Do you have any suggestions on what OTTI could do to improve response rates for the program?


  1. OTTI has used letters from the industry to entice airlines to join or to not drop out of the survey.  If asked, would the industry be willing to send a letter to targeted airline staff to ask for their cooperation?


  1. Letters to the airlines may be more effective if they were received from all of the gateways the airline serves.  Would your organization be willing to assist OTTI entice the other destinations served by a targeted airline to write letters to a designated contact? 


Meetings with airlines


  1. Would the state tourism offices or CVB staff be willing to attend meetings with airlines to help Commerce and its contractor entice the carrier to participate or improve its cooperation?


2.      In the airport education and/or improvement program section of this document, OTTI proposes meeting individually with port authorities.  If Commerce/the contractor visited an airport in your area, would you be willing to assist Commerce and/or the contractor for this program to facilitate meetings with the airport authority staff?


3.      Do you have special arrangements with the airlines that serve your city and hotels that provide complimentary airline tickets or rooms, which could be shared with Commerce staff to facilitate meetings with the airport in your area and the contractor in trade for data?


4.      Would you be willing to attend these meetings with OTTI to either learn more about the program, or if you are a user of the data, to help impress upon the port authority contacts the need for this survey?


5.      OTTI has proposed setting meetings with the airport authorities.  If Commerce held a meeting in your city, would you be willing to obtain meeting space for OTTI and the contractor, if needed? 


6.      For Hotel chains:  To improve this program, there are several programs in which travel is required and staying in a hotel is needed.  Would your hotel be interested in exchanging free hotel rooms for free data on international travelers who stayed in hotels/motels? 




Travel Industry Users Group


  1.  The Federal Advisory Committee Act restricts formations of Advisory Boards.  Would you support the formation of an Industry Users Group? 


  1. Or, can you suggest a way in which Commerce could obtain industry input at no cost to the government?


Final Industry Questions:


1.  Do you have ideas that you feel would help OTTI improve this program?


2.  Do you have any questions on the current program?


3.  Obtaining funds to run this program has always been a major problem.  Do you have any ideas on how funds could be obtained to support this program? 


4. Do you have any other ideas on how Commerce could reduce costs for the program?



OTTI would like to thank the industry members who have reviewed this information.  The responses you provide to Commerce will be used to guide us in the development of the next contract for this program. 


Again, please provide your responses and comments to:


Ron Erdmann, ron_erdmann@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4554; Fax: 202-482-2887

Richard Champley, Richard_champley@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4753; Fax: 202-482-2887

Rubie B. King, Contracting Officer, Rubie.B.King@noaa.gov


Also, please put “Response to RFI” in the subject line.

Section 3:  Ideas to Improve the Current Survey of

International Travelers Program


OTTI hopes you have had a chance to review the background section on this program that covered problem areas, challenges, concerns and other issues related to the program.  OTTI has numerous ideas that may help improve the existing in-flight survey and details a potential airport intercept methodology (see section 3) to be used for this program.  OTTI would like the industry to review these ideas.  Additionally, OTTI would like to encourage the industry to submit their ideas to help improve the quality of this program.   A major area of interest for OTTI is in reducing the costs to the government or for the program.  If you feel you have any ideas that may help reduce the costs of this program, or generate additional revenue for it, OTTI would like to hear from you.  Finally, along with the ideas to improve the program, OTTI also has some questions for the industry. 


To make this program more useful to the airlines, OTTI feels that it may need to provide additional items to the airlines in return for their participation.  Currently, the airlines receive quarterly confidential reports for the responses from passengers on their flights compared to all travelers surveyed.  The airlines are also provided with the option to obtain free quarterly national reports for inbound and outbound travel based upon the survey.  Is this sufficient, or should OTTI offer more to the airlines in return for participation?  Please note, that this program is administered by a contractor.  All reports generated from this database require programming to develop them.  This means that with each report developed, there is a cost to the program to pay the contractor. 


Ideas for the Airlines related to the data from this program: 


  1. Instead of providing printed reports only, the reports could be provided as an excel file that could be e-mailed to the designated airline contact.  Or, the reports could be provided on CD-ROM disks, or diskettes. 


  1. Currently, there is only one confidential airline report developed by the airline advisory board and sent to the participant airlines.  But, this report probably only meets the needs of a select group of airline staff.  OTTI feels other reports could be developed for the airlines to meet the needs of other operating units for each airline.


  1. Another method would be to deliver a data file of the airline’s specific responses about the airline in return for their participation.   If the airline wanted aggregate results of travelers who flew the same city pairs, or other ways of sub setting the data for the other airlines, OTTI would propose this could be accommodated based upon the agreement of the participating airlines.  OTTI would also like to suggest that a fee be charged and set by the airlines for the aggregate data to generate additional revenue to the program. 


  1. At one time, OTTI provided regional reports to the airlines for a fee.  The regional reports were developed by representatives of the airlines within each region.  They chose the variables that would be included in the report.  These reports were different from all of the other airline reports in that airline specific data was shared by those carriers who agreed to show their data to others within their region.  OTTI would like to know if the airlines would be interested in this type of report again. 


  1. Another report that could be developed from this database would be an alliances report.  This report would be developed for each of the major alliances.  The airline partners within the alliance would design the report and it would be sent to the alliance headquarters for distribution to the partners, or sent directly to a designated contact at each airline.  For the alliance reports to work, the alliance partners would need to entice non-participants to cooperate in this survey program. 


Which of these ideas would the airlines be interested in, or are there other things the airlines would like from this program? 


Possible Mandatory Participation:

            Participation in the program has been and is a challenge.  If certain airlines or airports are not part of the program, Commerce’s ability to provide a truly representative sample of the travel population is be compromised.  There are numerous mandatory federal government surveys conducted by the Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and others.  OTTI would like the industry to consider a mandatory survey of international travelers.  The mandatory survey approach would assist this program in that all airlines and airports must allow the government to survey international travelers at departure gates.  It does not mean Commerce would want to survey every flight or from every airport.  A systematic, representative sample of the travel population, dependent upon funding, would be selected each month for surveying.  OTTI does not anticipate this would ever exceed one percent of the travel population or flights.  OTTI would also work with the industry to develop the mandatory survey status ruling.  In fact, to obtain a mandatory survey would require action by Congress.   It is anticipated it may take several years to obtain.  So, before investigating this possibility, OTTI would like to hear from the industry about pursuing a mandatory survey program.  What do the airlines feel about this idea?  What about the rest of the industry?  Would the industry support this idea? 


Access to Airports: 

Obtaining access to U.S. international airports has been obtained as needed, but, if OTTI were to expand the number of airports it would use to conduct airport intercept surveys, OTTI may need the industry’s help to ensure the Transportation Security Administration, and the airport authorities understand the need for this program and work with Commerce to ensure OTTI has access to the departure gates and international travelers.   OTTI feels that it may need to approach TSA and selected airports to obtain permission to survey at U.S. airports.  If either TSA or an airport is not receptive to this request, OTTI would like to ask that the industry would write letters, or possibly accompany OTTI on meetings to see TSA or a specific airport authority.  Another possible source of assistance would be to work with OTTI to enlist the cooperation of other industry partners to write, call or meet with who ever is needed to obtain permission to survey travelers.  It is felt that if a large cross section of the industry supports this initiative, it will be much harder for TSA or an airport to deny Commerce access to the international travelers.  Would the industry support OTTI in these efforts? 


Funding Issues:

The lack of adequate federal funding has always been a problem for this program.  It has limited the sample size and it has prevented OTTI from implementing program options written for this project that can help Commerce improve the quality of the data.  Other than federal funding, money for this program could be raised several ways.  One, OTTI could increase the sales of the data for this program.  This could come from increased prices, an increase in the types of products available, or the movement to other clients who have not traditionally purchased this data in the past.  Potential federal government agencies who may be able to use the OTTI data by purchasing the data set include:  the Department of Homeland Security (US-VISIT & Customs & Border Protection), the State Department, National Park Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and others.  OTTI would be interested in hearing from the industry on how OTTI could increase sales.  Have any of the state agencies had success in enticing other state agencies to use data the state may have been able to collect?  We would also like to hear from the federal partners.  Is there data on the international market that would be of use and interest to you?  How would OTTI go about approaching your agency to enlist their support and purchase of the data from this program?


Potential Industry Partnerships: 

OTTI would also be interested in knowing if any of the travel related associations would be willing to work with OTTI to educate their members of the data that is available from Commerce.  Another possible joint venture with associations would be the development of sector reports from this data.  Are there associations that would be interested in a joint report from the database (IACVB – a city report, AH&LA – a hotel report, USTOA – a package traveler report, ACI-NA & AAAE – an airport report, IAAPA – an attractions report, etc.)?  TIA has produced sector reports with industry partners for the domestic market.  OTTI would be interested in learning how they developed these partnerships.  Is there data on the international market that would be of use and interest to you?  How would OTTI go about approaching your association to enlist their support and purchase of the data from this program?


Potential Industry Investment: 

OTTI launched an “invest in your international travel estimates program” in 2001-2002.  What could OTTI do to improve this program?  Would the industry be interested in working with Commerce like they do with TIA’s domestic traveler survey program, TravelScope, to help Commerce increase the sample size? 

Improved Cooperation from Flight Crews: 

Cooperation from flight crews to administer, collect, and return in-flight surveys are an industry issue.  OTTI would like to work with the airline industry to develop a Flight Crew Education Program.   This program would develop an education program to show why the federal government and industry need the cooperation of the flight crews.  It would also focus on how their own airline uses the data, and answer typical questions the flight crew may have about this program.  OTTI hopes that airlines that conduct their own in-flight surveys would share with Commerce ideas that have worked and not worked.  It is also hoped that airlines would provide OTTI with information on how they conduct their own surveys and send us copies of their questionnaires so OTTI may learn from their programs on additional ways to improve IFS.  Does the industry feel this program would work?  Would they support it? 


Adding Airlines with Industry Support: 

OTTI would like to investigate ideas on how it could work closer with the industry to add airlines (scheduled and charter) to the program and improve participation of existing airlines.  Ideas OTTI has thought of include working closer with the Air Transport Association or other international airline associations to see if the data Commerce has would be of interest to the members.  OTTI would like to know if the airline associations would be interested in assisting us.  OTTI would also be interested in learning what the associations would want in return for their assistance to enlist the participation of carriers in their sphere of influence.  OTTI would also like to explore other ideas with the numerous international airline associations to see if there are ways OTTI could help each other.  Does the industry feel this program would work?  Would they support it? 


OTTI would like to investigate other ideas on how it could work closer with the industry to add airlines (scheduled and charter) to the program and improve participation of existing airlines.  OTTI has used letters from the destinations that are served by specific airlines to convince them not to drop out of the survey.  We have also had industry clients accompany OTTI and the contractor on visits to the airline station managers at selected airports.  We have had airline alliance partner’s talk to non-participants from their alliance to entice other carriers in the group to join the program.  Would the industry be willing to work with OTTI to formalize these ideas or others to improve airline participation in the program? 


Potential Support from the Commerce Travel & Tourism Team:
OTTI has also worked with the Commerce Commercial Service staff in country to present the survey program idea to that country’s carrier on the U.S. government’s behalf.  The Commerce Travel & Tourism Team (within the USA, and around the globe), may also be able to assist OTTI obtain the participation of airlines in their market.  OTTI would also like to explore other ideas in which the Commerce Travel & Tourism Team could assist OTTI improve the survey.  Would the Team members be willing to assist in selling the data?  Would the Team members be interested in assisting OTTI disseminate the results via presentations, expand the purchase of the survey data for their own use with clients in their market, or pursue other ways in which Commerce could save money, improve the program, and provide better services to the mutual clients Commerce shares?  OTTI would hope to hear from the Team related to ideas they may have concerning this program, and what they would like in return for their assistance.


Potential Cooperation with other National Tourism Offices: 

OTTI has worked with National Tourism Offices from other countries to enlist the participation of their flag airline.  OTTI would be interested in ideas the industry may have to further these kinds of ideas into a more formal process.  Or, if clients have other ideas on what they think they could do to assist Commerce in obtaining the support of the airlines, please send them to OTTI.  Would the industry support these ideas? 


Questionnaire changes

The OTTI questionnaire has not changed since 1996.  As a government agency, Commerce does have limitations on what we can do, ask, and the time it takes to change the survey instrument.  The last time OTTI changed the survey; it worked with its Airline User Groups and obtained input from over 100 industry clients on what they would like to see Commerce ask international travelers.  OTTI would like to expand on the past efforts to enlist the cooperation of the travel industry to take an even greater role in the   Work with the industry to redesign the program’s questionnaire.  OTTI would like to hear from the industry how OTTI should obtain this cooperation, what types of things would the industry be willing to do to assist Commerce and what they would like in return.  What would the industry like OTTI to do related to the questionnaire?  Would there be industry interest in working with Commerce to change the survey?  Would there be industry support to pay for the changes?


Gateway Managers Program

In the past, OTTI has implemented a successful Gateway Managers Program.  Commerce is interested in working with the industry to expand the successful program.  The problem OTTI faces is funding this program.  With the reductions in the budget available for the program, OTTI has not implemented this option in years.  In addition, with the new security regulations in place, the meetings that took place beyond security pose a severe challenge, that could be overcome with cooperation from the industry.  OTTI would like to explore how to obtain additional industry support for this successful program.  OTTI envisions an expanded gateway mangers program would encompass the following: 

A.  Each year visit top parts on a rotation basis

B.  OTTI would require the contractor to set-up a report on response rate by port program so the return rates by airline, by airport could be monitored. 

C.     OTTI would hope that City/State tourism office and/or port authority staff people would go with OTTI on visits to airports.  At the meetings there would be a discussion of how OTTI uses of the data, what the gateway manager’s role is in the program, and their airline’s use of the data.  The industry representative would address their uses of this data.  The meeting would also be used to thank them for past cooperation, and ask for increased participation.


D.  OTTI would also like to work with members of the group to offer thank you gifts for the gateway managers.  This could include:  tourism guides, attraction tickets, hats, pens, other promo items, vouchers for meals at restaurants, etc.   Or, OTTI would be interested in obtaining industry input on ideas they have to assist in this effort. 


Airline Appreciation/Education Program:

OTTI would also like to develop an Airline Appreciation/Education Program to improve airline response rates for the program.  This program would be similar to the gateway managers program, but target a different group of airline executives.  With almost 30 questions in the existing survey, OTTI feels there is data to assist route planners, in-flight service managers, the alliance’s division, marketing staff, flight schedulers, strategic planners for the airlines, and so forth.  With a small staff, and extremely limited funds for the contract, contact with numerous areas within each airline has proven impossible.  OTTI would like to explore how to change this dilemma.   It is hoped OTTI would be able to work with the travel industry to assist the agency in obtaining the attention of the airlines.  At a very minimum, OTTI would like to see a coordinated effort in which the industry writes letters to each of the airline’s Airline Service Manager to thank them for their past participation and encourage them to continue to work with OTTI to collect the IFS data.  In the future, this could be expanded to involve having OTTI, and/or OTTI's contractor and private sector partners developing a schedule to meet with the key airline contacts to thank them for their past cooperation and to ask them to continue their participation.  The private industry partners could stress their need for the OTTI’s In-Flight Survey data, and ask the airlines to cooperate so they can put more people on that carrier’s flights.  This could occur around quarterly or annual report releases to the airlines.  OTTI would also be interested in hearing from the airlines, airports and industry users how they think this program could be expanded at minimum or no cost to the government.  Would the industry support this idea? 


Expanded Market Coverage Program:

OTTI has also implemented an Expanded Market Coverage Program for the current contract.  This program entails having the contractor visit the foreign airlines at their headquarters to improve the participation of currently participating carriers and to enlist the participation on non-participating carriers.  A way to expand upon this program would be to involve the Commercial Service officers in the market country as well as the Visit USA Committees in country.  Would the industry support this idea? 


Brand Data Releases: 

For years, OTTI has collected brand data on hotels, rental cars, and the methods they use to pay for travel.  OTTI has never released this data, but would like to work with the industry to determine if there would be any interest in this type of information by users.  What limitations would companies want on what is released and how it is released?  One mechanism to do this would be to issue a federal register notice to discuss how, what and when OTTI would issue the brand data collected on the survey.  The brand data could be used to assist OTTI dramatically increase sales and value-added for the program users.  Prices for the brand data could be more than the existing data to raise additional funds for the program.  OTTI would be interested in learning if there is any interest from the industry related to this issue.  Would the industry support this idea?


Again, please submit your comments, responses and suggestions to:


Ron Erdmann, ron_erdmann@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4554; Fax: 202-482-2887

Richard Champley, Richard_champley@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4753; Fax: 202-482-2887

Rubie B. King, Contracting Officer, Rubie.B.King@noaa.gov

Also, please put “Response to RFI” in the subject line.

Section 4:  An Alternative Methodology of Data Collection


The Airport Intercept Method


As referred to in the Background section, OTTI’s Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT) was administered in the airport gate boarding areas on behalf of 70% of the participating carriers in 2003.  This is a reversal from 1996 when flight crews administered the Survey on-board the aircraft, during flight, for 70% of the participating carriers. The origin of the nickname, ‘In-Flight Survey’ was derived from having the survey administered in-flight.  While the number of airlines using the boarding area survey method has increased, the number of surveys collected using the in-flight survey method was 48,500 in 2003, or 73% of the surveys collected.  Given the program has two methodologies already; one option to consider would be to switch to an airport intercept method exclusively.  Before making the switch, OTTI would need some additional information from the industry. 


The on-board survey method even in its reduced state still saves the U.S. Government and the federal taxpayer a considerable amount of money since the carriers disseminate and collect the surveys, during flight, on behalf of the federal government. Many, but not all of the participating airlines have requested OTTI to shift to a ‘boarding area’ approach. Consequently, this has increased the program costs since OTTI has had to hire contractors to administer the surveys in specific airport boarding areas.     


The Airport Intercept Alternative Methodology appears to offer several improvements to the IFS program. However, OTTI estimates that by switching to a boarding area only survey methodology may double the direct labor costs of administering the program at current respondent levels (OTTI would be required to hire additional survey contractors to administer the surveys). Also, the airlines would be minimized in their participation in the IFS program. This could mean that the survey questions, which focus on airlines, could be reduced and replaced with airport-centric questions. Several ideas will be presented in this document to reduce this potential doubling of costs, but industry may be called upon to provide services or financial support to reduce program costs. 


To ensure improved participation in the program, OTTI recommends that its survey contractors be allowed access to airport international gate boarding and departure areas, for the purpose of surveying international travelers on an as needed basis.  A systematic, representative sample of the travel population would be selected each month to be surveyed.  OTTI does not anticipate this would ever exceed one percent of the travel population or flights.  Essentially this assumes that any airline, airport, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or any other group, will not prevent OTTI, or its contractors, from having access to departing international passengers, nor establish barriers to access. Security clearances will be obtained and rules established by individual airport authorities and/or TSA will be complied with as they are currently in boarding areas.


As mentioned, under an airport-intercept approach, the current Survey could be modified to reflect airport and security related questions rather than airline-centric questions. For details, refer to section 8 below, Revisions to Questionnaire, and Pre-Tests.


As with the existing program, the airport intercept approach will have a base program and optional elements of the program to be implemented based upon need and the availability of funds. 


Base Program of Survey Collection.  This will entail most of the elements currently asked in the current contract.  The only change will be the switch from an in-flight and boarding area mix to an entire boarding area survey methodology.  So, if you have not reviewed the background section, to understand the basics of this program, one will need to go though this document as well.  A goal of the program using either method would be to increase the sample to at least 0.25% of the travel population (or 121,000 respondents in 2003) and then over several years increase the base to a 1% sample of the travel population.  To fund the program, OTTI would rely upon government appropriations and proceeds from the sale of data, as is currently the case.  To increase the sample, an investment program may be offered.  To find out more about this potential program, please view the write-up on the investment program to this methodology on the website https://travel.trade.gov/research/programs/ifs/invest.html.


OTTI proposes to keep the same survey population, U.S. to/from international destinations/origins, and the sampling methodology would be very similar, with a focus of selecting flights to be surveyed by airport.  OTTI has posted the top airport traffic for 2003 on its website.  The questionnaire would initially be the same as the one currently in use.  With the input of the industry, the survey would be re-designed to accommodate the airport intercept method and focus.  The field administration would follow the boarding area survey methods now employed by the existing program.  Data entry, editing, verification, weighting and processing would not change significantly.  The data outputs would be similar to those provided now, and when the questionnaire is revised; the outputs would be modified to accommodate the changes to the new survey instrument.  Please review the current methodology for questions, issues, and/or concerns related to transferring the process from the current program. 


Like the existing program, the airport intercept would have a base program and optional elements of the program that would be implemented based upon need and the availability of funds. 


The Optional Elements of the Airport Intercept Method may include: 


1.  Sample Size Increases.  This option would enable OTTI to add survey respondents to the program, as funds are made available, thereby increasing the number of international travelers surveyed.  OTTI would expect to maintain a respondent level of at least 70,000 travelers annually, with the goal of building the sample to a 1% sample of the travel population over time, dependent upon the availability of funds. 


2.   Custom Reports, Files, Data Tables, Excel Files and/or CD-ROM.  Subsets of the data for specific states, cities, airlines, airports and other travel businesses is expected to be an ongoing part of the program.  OTTI will work with the contractor to provide printed reports as well as Excel files, the data as an electronic file in ASCII, SAS or SPSS files, or printed reports, excel files or reports on CD-ROM. 


3a.  Processing of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) I-94 Data.   This is part of the current contract and will need to be continued.  Currently, the I-94 serves as the weighting mechanism to expand the survey estimates of the non-resident questionnaire responses to the travel population.  Each month, the Government supplies the required data files to the Contractor for processing.  The contractor develops a print file, and an excel file of this report.  The database is maintained and used monthly to create a monthly and year-to-date report and file.  To learn more about the current weighting system, please see the section on the I-94 in the survey background part of the RFI. 


3b. Revised Weighting System to Accommodate Electronic I-94.  Likewise, an option in this contract would be needed to allow the contractor to accommodate the changes that would occur once DHS implements the electronic version of the I-94 data.  To accommodate this change, funds will be needed to modify the programming required to process and use this data.  In addition, it is hoped that other data elements obtained may be used to strengthen the weighting system.  These changes would be made at the same time.  This may be a one-time cost.


4.      Improve Passenger Response Rate Program.  To comply with OMB requirements on survey response rates for any government collection OTTI will embark on an outreach program to educate travelers on why it is important to complete the survey.  The program would entail writing articles for use in airport/airline magazines, for airing information segments on the airport TV networks, for informational flyers for the flights that would be surveyed if response rates are starting to drop at a particular airport, etc.  Other methods to inform the public would also be developed and used as needed. 


5.      Airport Education and/or Improvement Program.  A plan will be developed to meet with airport authorities to illustrate how this data can benefit their operations.  This program would entail meeting with several airport authority contacts each year on a rotational basis.  Discussions with airport authorities would include discussing problems the survey teams have encountered.  Many of the airport authorities conduct ad hoc surveys at their own airports and OTTI should be able to learn from their experiences.  


6.      Federal Government Education Program & Data Access.  OTTI currently has clearance, from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), allowing OTTI survey contractors to access secure areas (boarding gates) of the respective airports where the boarding area methodology is used. Under an airport-intercept method, said clearance would need to be extended to all U.S. gateway airports. As a result TSA will benefit from feedback information gathered from passengers regarding TSA performance. Information sharing precedence has been set with other federal agencies, which have benefited from IFS data. Agencies include:  U.S. Commercial Service Officers involved in travel and tourism, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Homeland Security, State Department, FAA, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Park Service, Amtrak, Customs & Border Protection, and others.


7.      Expanded Data Access for the Airports.  OTTI hopes to secure the cooperation of the airport authorities so they become advocates for this program.  It is felt that improved access to the data may assist in this effort.  OTTI also hopes the airports will assist Commerce in collecting the data to reduce the operating costs.  So, OTTI would be interested in hearing from the airports on what types of data they would wish to obtain.  Would it be only for their airport?  Would there be interest in access to other airport’s data, or the entire data set?  Currently, the sales of data are used to provide funding for the program.  So, some type of agreement would need to be developed that would benefit the program as well as the port authorities.  In fact, depending upon the interest by the airports, this may be part of the base program rather than an optional element of the program.  Please see the questions at the end of this section for more on this issue. 


8.      Revisions to Questionnaire and Pre-Tests.   The current survey was designed when the in-flight approach was at its peak; hence several of the questions are airline-centric. Input is requested from the industry regarding the possible re-design of the questionnaire.  If the airport-intercept approach is adopted the airline-type questions, specifically #20 – 23 could be eliminated and replaced with an expanded airport section, currently covered by question #24 (a. – j.). Also, question #25, which focuses on “INS processing”, could be revised/expanded to cover TSA (Transportation Security Administration) procedures.  OTTI would like to use a team of industry specialists to assist in developing a survey that meets the needs of the users.  When the revised survey is developed and formatted, it will be pre-tested to ensure appropriate responses from passengers.  Once the English version of the survey is final, then the survey must be translated into the many different languages and pre-tested again.  OTTI would like to hear from industry on their use of scannable questionnaires and use of hand held devices for administering questionnaires. 


9.      Translation of the Surveys.  The contractor would provide the translation service company with the final English version of the survey instrument.  The firm would then translate and typeset the questionnaire into each language.  All of the questions and responses would be in the exact same format and location as found on the English version.  Once translated, the contractor would work with OTTI to have the translations reviewed to ensure they matched the English version.  If the translation needed any changes, the original firm secured to produce the typeset ready translations would be informed of what was needed to be changed.  The firm would then provide OTTI with a set of negatives (digital/electronic) so the survey could be printed.  This option would pay for the cost of the translation and a separate party to proof the translation.  This extra step is required to ensure the translation obtained provides the industry with the data meant to be captured.   


10.  Programming Changes to Reports.  Once the questionnaire has been changed, the coding sheets developed to assist the data entry specialists will need to be revised. The programming to enter and verify the data, and the program users to generate the reports or data files issued will need to be modified.  While this option would only be implemented when the questionnaire is changed, over the course of the 5-year contract for this program, OTTI feels the survey may change more than once over the life of the next contract.  This is based upon the fact that previous revisions to the survey occurred in 1985, 1990, 1993, and 1996. 


11.  Airport Users Group and Users Meeting.    A strategy to ensure the success of the airport-intercept method, if adopted, would be to create an Airport Users Group.  The Group would serve as a consultative group to OTTI regarding such topics as:  questionnaire design, and rigorous use of the data/information from the IFS by the airport community. 



12.  Data Analysis to Develop Executive Summaries for Country and Customized Reports.  OTTI historically issues market profiles, standard national reports and ad-hoc customized reports, and the latter based on customer requests. OTTI offers basic explanations and data analyses via TINews, responses to general public inquiries, presentations at conferences and seminars, and consulting to custom report clients. Several clients have approached OTTI to provide in-depth consulting services, but due to budget and personnel restrictions, there is no current capability to develop analyses for clients.  OTTI would like to offer this service to potential clients on a fee basis. Potential clients are airlines, airports, tourism regions, states, cities, foreign national tourism offices, and others.  This option has not previously been implemented.


This ends OTTI’s write-up on the potential airport intercept method.  Like the background section and improvements section, OTTI again has questions for the industry so it may decide on which option would be best suited for the next statement of work issued for this program.  Please review the following questions and respond to as many that apply or interest you. 

Section 4A:  Questions for Alternative Methodology


For Airport Authorities


A.  Administrative – Access:


1.                  What does OTTI need to do to obtain access to your airport? The goal is to survey passengers at the departure gate beyond the security screening area.


2.                  Would Commerce also need TSA clearance to survey at your airport?


3.                  Pending clearance from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), what barriers to access do you envision for a survey team attempting to survey departing international travelers in or near the gate area?


4.                  Once OTTI has TSA clearance, if needed, would having a support letter from TSA influence a positive decision?


5.                  Do you feel OTTI would need airline permission to survey international passengers at the airport, or could they simply be informed?


6.                  OTTI discussed the possibility of developing an Airport Users Group.  Is there interest in the development of a Group?  Do you have any suggestions on alternatives?


7.                  In the proposal, OTTI discusses the possibility of implementing a mandatory survey.  Not all flights or passengers could be surveyed but OTTI would survey as many passengers as the budget would allow. The goal would be to start with approximately 121,000 surveys and increase that number as industry demand warrants and budgets allow.  The U.S. Government or OTTI does not want certain airports to not allow surveying to be done at their airports or for certain airlines not to allow their passenger to be surveyed.  If this was to occur, OTTI would not be able to achieve a truly representative sample of the travel population.  Would your airport support a mandatory survey?  Or do you feel this would not be necessary, and why?


B.  Current Airports Surveys:


1.                  What types of data or information does your airport require to help you understand the international air travel marketplace? (i.e., surveys, ACI, U.S. government data, etc)


2.                  How do you currently collect this data? (i.e., survey teams, third party data vendors, airport consultants, etc.). How often are surveys conducted and for what purposes?


3.                  Does your airport already conduct survey research in the airport?


4.                  If yes, would it be possible to become an add-on to your survey program if, OTTI provided a list of flights to survey and copies of the IFS questionnaire, so that the airport authority’s contractor would distribute and collect the self-administered surveys for the government?


5.                  Would it be possible to use your survey team to distribute and collect the surveys for this program?  This could be cost-shared.  Would that help?


6.                  Does your airport have any performance measures it uses to assess the usefulness or value of your own internal airport survey(s)?  If so, would you be willing to share them with OTTI?  Conducting research programs with performance measures is a new area the government is moving toward. 



C.  Information/Data Needs:


1.                  Who are the stakeholders in your airport in addition to the airport authority and the air carriers? (taxpayers, traveling public, local businesses, convention and visitors bureau, state tourism office, vendors, etc.)


2.                  Is the data you currently collect and/or receive sufficient for decision-making purposes regarding the development of your airport in the international market? 


3.                  Is the data adequate to assist you when your airport undergoes a management assessment process by the various bond rating agencies (i.e. Fitch)?


4.                  Does the information you receive allow you to serve, and enter into meaningful dialogue with, your other stakeholders? (i.e., can you effectively sell your airport to international carriers at such high impact venues as the annual ROUTES airline/airport conference?)


5.                  Do you think your airport is getting its fair share of local and/or connecting international travelers?


6.                  In the expanded data access for the airports program, providing free data/reports to the airports is proposed.  While this could be done, there would be a cost in doing so as the contractor would have to be paid to provide these reports to you.  If a standard airport report for all airports were developed, would your airport be willing to pay for other custom subsets of the data set for your own airport?


7.                  Would there by any interest in seeing other airports’ responses?  If so, would guidelines have to be developed of what could be released?


D.  Trade Association Assistance: 


1.                  Should OTTI try to work with ACI and/or AAAE to develop this idea further with airports?  Which association do you recommend?  What approach should be taken?


2.                  Do you think your airport, via ACI and/or AAAE, would be willing to assist in the development of an airport users group or advisory group to the Survey process?


3.                  Would you be interested in learning more about the Survey, through a program or conference set up via ACI and/or AAAE?


4.                  Do you think ACI or AAAE would be willing to develop, administer and coordinate an airport users group?


E.  Questionnaire: 


1.                  Many airports conduct their own surveys.  Would you be willing to send a copy of the questionnaires you have used to the U.S. Government/OTTI so they could be used to improve the current survey instrument?


2.                  The Survey has been designed as an in-flight survey.  If airline questions were replaced with airport specific questions, would your airport be willing to work with OTTI to develop the survey questions?


3.                  Would the airport authorities want specific questions added to the survey?  If yes, what questions would you like to be added?  Before submitting questions, please refer to the existing survey instrument at www.tinet.ita.doc.gov/research/programs/ifs/question.html .


4.                  Based on the results of a cost/benefit analysis do you think airports would help to underwrite the expense of questionnaire re-design and implementation of survey teams?


F.  Program Support Questions:


1.                  The OTTI program has listed several program options that may or may not be funded because they are listed as an option.  Do you think any of these options should be included as part of the base program for the survey?  If so, which ones and why? 


2.                  In the airport education and/or improvement program outlined herein, the development of airport reports is discussed.  Do you think OTTI could work with a core group of airports to develop a standard report, or would the reports have to be tailored to each airport?


G.  Response Rate Improvements: 


1.                  Please see the ideas outlined in the improved passenger response rate program section of this document.  Would the airports be willing to implement the ideas proposed at no cost to the government?


2.                  In reviewing the proposal, do you have any ideas that may save the government money so additional travelers may be surveyed, or the money from the savings could be invested in the programs outlined?


3.                  Are there other things that could be done to improve response rates?


H.  Funding Questions:


1.                  Are there any other funding sources that could be tapped to help supplement the funding for this program?


2.                  Could part of the money collected from Passenger Facilitation Costs (PFCs) be used to help fund surveys at the airport?  The data could be used to help airports better understand their international travelers and thus serve as a planning tool for airport improvements.


3.                  Would the airports be willing to provide funding to allow OTTI to collect more surveys?


4.                  In return for funding support, what would the airport authorities want from the program?



This ends the airport authorities specific questions.  Airport Authorities are also encouraged to continue reviewing the other questions we have of the entire travel and tourism industry and respond as appropriate. 





1.                  In the airport education and/or improvement program section of this document, OTTI proposes meeting individually with port authorities.  Would you be willing to attend these meetings with OTTI to either learn more about the program, or if you are a user of the data, to help impress upon the port authority contacts the need for this survey?


2.                  If Commerce/the contractor visited an airport in your area, would you be able to facilitate meetings with the airport authority staff by offsetting costs using shared complimentary airline tickets and/or hotel rooms?


3.                  Do you have any other ideas on how Commerce could reduce costs for the program without jeopardizing the data quality?


4.                  If the questionnaire was to be revised, would the industry be willing to provide funding support to pay for the redesign, pre-test, new translations (if needed), and the programming costs that would be incurred to accommodate the new questionnaire?


5.                  OTTI has proposed developing a contract modification in which the contractor would not only provide data, but they would analyze the data and develop executive summaries to help you understand how to use the data.  Is this something you would use?  How in-depth would you want the analysis to be?  How do you think this type of analysis should be sold? 


Again, please provide your responses and comments to:


Ron Erdmann, ron_erdmann@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4554; Fax: 202-482-2887

Richard Champley, Richard_champley@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4753; Fax: 202-482-2887

Rubie B. King, Contracting Officer, Rubie.B.King@noaa.gov

Also, please put “Response to RFI” in the subject line. 



Section 5:  Open area for suggestions, comments, concerns,

issues, questions, etc.


This section is an open area for suggestions, comments, concerns, issues, questions, other methodologies OTTI should consider using, and/or ideas to improve the federal government data on international travel to and from the United States.   


In this section, OTTI would like to hear from the industry.  Included could be: 


Vendors are also encouraged to provide the Department of Commerce with information on their company along with detailed information on how they would approach conducting this program.


Universities are encouraged to provide research methodological considerations or ideas on how they could assist in this program.  Any ideas the industry may have to assist the government improve the data on international travel to and from the United States will be considered by OTTI before writing the next statement of work for its survey program on international air-travelers. 


Please provide your input.  We cannot help you or consider your ideas if you do not provide them to us. 


Again, please provide your responses and comments to:


Ron Erdmann, ron_erdmann@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4554; Fax: 202-482-2887

Richard Champley, Richard_champley@ita.doc.gov

Phone: 202-482-4753; Fax: 202-482-2887

Rubie B. King, Contracting Officer, Rubie.B.King@noaa.gov

Also, please put “Response to RFI” in the subject line.