International Passenger Survey update

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Following concerns raised,  by the Home Nation Tourism Ministers, the Statistics Regulator has conducted an early review of the International Passenger Survey (IPS) which is managed and delivered by ONS.  The planned reviews of other national tourism statistics, including GBTS, will be conducted as intended next year.

Although we indicated an interest in the IPS review and submitted informal comment on the National statistics base in general, it was agreed with the Regulator’s office that given our wider interest it would be more appropriate for us to formally comment on the domestic statistics base during the forthcoming 2020 review.  I will let you know more when we have a date for it to take place.  The Regulator’s finding on ONS’s handling of IPS and ongoing and proposed remedial actions are detailed in the report below.

I am reluctant to try and summarise the key points because, in defence of ONS, it is important to understand the full context which can only be properly gleaned by reading the one page summary report (and the Ministers’ joint letter) yourselves.  Not necessarily something that everyone needs to do but a must for those interested in the background to National tourism statistics and in the detail behind international visitors’ value and volume figures, in particular:

https://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/correspondence/compliance-check-ons-overseas-travel-tourism/

The headline detail for International Passenger Survey (IPS) for July and the quarterly summary to May to July 2019 have just been published.  These show static year on year volume and a very small growth in UK total value. Within that there are significant National and Regional variation and, potentially, some marked anomalies from: questionable high levels of growth or decline to unexplained variation between the rise or fall in volume and the rise and fall in value which don’t necessarily match, as perhaps logically they should? For example, in one English Region in the quarter to July a 48% rise in value off the back of an 8% fall in volume or, expenditure up 9% in Scotland for the same quarter on a fall of 16% in visits.

The IPS  July figures are available, as ever, from the National Tourist Boards:

https://www.visitbritain.org/inbound-research-insights

At the moment they probably best serve to illustrate why the Ministers and National Boards may have felt it necessary to question the current IPS outputs, why remedial action is already in hand at ONS and why the Regulator has directed that more remedial work is undertaken. Hopefully normal high quality service from ONS will resume shortly and that any necessary revisions to past trend data can carried out without undue disruption.

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