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Background

The Great Britain Tourism Survey (GBTS) and Great Britain Day Visit Survey (GBDVS) are national consumer surveys measuring the volume and value of domestic overnight tourism trips and domestic day trips taken by residents of Great Britain. They provide detailed information about trip and visitor characteristics covering all aspects of tourism such as holidays, visits to friends and relatives and trips for business and other purposes. They are the largest and most comprehensive surveys of domestic travel by the GB population.

Whilst the domestic travel statistics have been produced in a broadly similar way since 1989, there have been changes in GBTS/GBDVS survey methods and the information collected via these in response to changing circumstances. Prior to 2020, they have operated as separate stand-alone surveys with GBTS running as a continuous in-home face to face survey since 2006 and GBDVS running as an online survey since 2011.

Uses of the information

The surveys provide information for the following purposes.

  • To provide official estimates of GB residents domestic tourism.
  • To track changes in destination performance over time, including GB nation, NUTS1, County and LA geographies.
  • To uncover market trends and changing visitor needs.
  • To enable analysis of performance by relevant trip types.
  • To enable analysis of trip behaviour by key demographic and market segments.
  • To ensure data comparability across GB as a whole.
  • To provide Destination Management Organisations and local authorities with the relevant data to compile economic impact assessments.
  • To provide statistical inputs into various models for the visitor economy including Tourism Satellite Account.
  • To provide information for reporting in official publications by UK and inter-governmental bodies such as UNWTO.

Information from the surveys is used by the UK and devolved governments and a wide range of public and private sector organisations in the UK tourism industry. The insights and trends are used to enhance understanding of the domestic market helping to inform their strategies, policies and activities.

Summary of recent changes

In 2019/20, the sponsors of the GBTS and GBDVS surveys; Visit England, Visit Scotland and Visit Wales commenced a review of the surveys scope and methods, prior to issuing a new contract tender covering both domestic overnight and day visitor surveys.

The review has resulted in a number of changes that will help future-proof the surveys and provide greater consistency with information for other destinations, whilst maintaining the reliability and robustness of the information reported.

A list of these changes is below with further information in the sections that follow.

  • Integration of the surveys into a single combined survey.
  • Change in survey methods, with both using an online methodology.
  • Revised definitions for the key trip measures.
  • Updated questions and enhanced information collection.
  • Updated data validation and revised methods for trips and expenditure estimation.
  • Enhanced reporting to meet user needs including meeting accessibility requirements.
  • Change in designation of the survey estimates.

Justification for change

The sponsor led review identified a number of factors that together provided a strong rationale to update the methods and content of the two domestic surveys.

A combination of falling response rates, higher fieldwork costs and the limited number of suppliers offering a suitable in-home omnibus survey meant the previous face-to-face survey for GBTS was no longer viable. This provided the opportunity to combine the two surveys into an integrated online survey providing cost and survey efficiencies and enabling better comparison of the results from the two surveys. At the same time, there has been an opportunity to develop the questionnaire to make it easier for users to complete and to align with changing travel behaviours. The online methodology provides flexibility to collect additional information over time to meet changing user requirements.  We anticipate the new survey will provide richer information on trip and travel profiles, more timely reporting of outputs and an enhanced ability to analyse and interrogate the results.

Survey method and sample

The two surveys have been combined into a single online survey method, representing a change in survey method for GBTS, but a continuation of an online survey method for GBDVS. The survey uses a new questionnaire, with shared sections on overall trip taking and responder profiles and respondents routed to complete either the detailed section on day trips or the section on overnight visits. The use of the same sample source and questionnaire provides an opportunity gain better insights into the relationship between day trips and overnight stays

The sample for the combined survey is sourced from 5 ESOMAR accredited online panel providers and includes quotas for key demographic variables and region of residence to make the overall sample as representative as possible of GB population. The aim is to maintain the robustness of the previous surveys, with the following target number of contact interviews.

Target number of contact interviews
Survey GB England Scotland Wales
GBDVS annual 35,000 25,000 5,000 5,000
GBDVS monthly 2,696 1,924 384 384
GBTS annual 60,000 42,000 9,000 9,000
GBTS monthly 4,616 3,232 692 692

The survey runs weekly with the same recall periods previously used with GBTS responders asked about overnight trips taken during the previous 4 weeks and GBDVS responders asked about day trips asked taken in the previous week. 

Trip definitions

The survey includes new questions to help align the key measures of trips, nights and expenditure with internationally agreed definitions for same day and overnight tourism trips. This work is ongoing but may result in an adjustment to the definitions of day and overnight trips to exclude trips that are part of people’s normal daily life routine. This will enable more accurate reporting of tourism specific trips and improve comparability with trips reported by other destinations using the internationally agreed definitions.

Information collected

The question set, script and routing of the new survey needed to change for the new combined online survey method. The questionnaire is re-designed to make it easier for responders to complete the survey and to improve the reliability of the data collected. As far as possible, there is consistency with previous information collected, but new questions capture information on trips taken outside of the UK, more detailed information on activities undertaken, more detailed information on booking methods and timescales and enhanced information on responder profiles including protected characteristics.

A list of information collected is in appendix A.

Estimation and weighting

The data collected via the survey is quality assured during processing to remove invalid records and to correct for missing, incomplete or outlying data. A revised weighting scheme has been introduced to improve efficiency, whilst making the results as representative as possible of the GB population. However, the use of a non-probability online sample limits the extent to which the survey responses are truly representative of the full GB population, a limitation of all online sample surveys.

Quality assurance

Given the changes to the surveys, the sponsors have sought an independent review by the Method and Advisory Service within the Office for National Statistics, which looked in detail at the new survey method, sample design and estimation and weighting approach.

The main recommendations suggested further analysis to support the weighting and estimation approaches, to check for potential bias in the sample sources and to make clear for users the impact of changes in the survey methods and the resulting limitations of the data. This work is ongoing but is expected to be completed before end of 2021.

Reporting

The start of the new survey in 2020 was delayed by COVID-19, but data collection took place from July to December 2020. There was a further break in data collection from January to March 2021 due to national COVID-19 restrictions, but data collection has resumed fully since April 2021.

As data for 2020 is severely limited, we propose to treat it as a trial phase  and are considering what, if any, of the data could be published that is useful. Full reporting of the new survey findings will based on data collected from April 2021 onwards. The aim is to start publishing data for 2021 early in 2022, following quality assurances.

We are producing a new improved set of reporting deliverables including enhanced monthly and annual reports to be published by the sponsor bodies and a new data viewer to enable users to undertake their own analysis of the data.

Comparability

The substantial changes in survey method and information collected from the surveys is likely to create a step change in reported trip and spend measures, further impacted by any changes in trip behaviour resulting from COVID-19. This will limit comparability of the results from the new survey with GBTS and GBDVS data reported for 2019 and proceeding years. We are therefore recommending that 2021 is the start of a new trend series. However, reports and data for the surveys prior to 2019 will continue to be available via the websites of the survey sponsors. We shall also explore if it is possible to recalibrate the results from the new survey with the previous survey.

Designation

The previously published GBTS and GBDVS statistics are designated as Official Statistics reflecting their importance to users and the quality of methods and outputs. Due to the significant changes to the statistics they will be designated as Experimental Statistics to enable further survey development, quality assurance and to ensure the new survey deliverables meet user needs. This is a standard procedure for any change in Official Statistics and the aim is to move back to designation of Official Statistics within two years.

Further information

Great Britain Tourism Survey

Great Britain Day Visits Survey

Alongside the new reporting deliverables, the survey sponsors will publish background quality reports for the new surveys. They will set out further details of the survey methods, quality assurance procedures and guidance for users of the surveys.

In the meantime, for further information please contact:
David Stephens
Senior Research and Insights Manager
Visit Wales
Email: tourismresearch@gov.wales

Appendix 1: survey questions

Great Britain Tourism Survey

  • Trips taken last 4 weeks in GB
  • How regular trip taken
  • Trip Purpose
  • Length of Stay
  • Type of location stayed
  • Type of accommodation
  • Party composition and size
  • Travel party impairments
  • Transport to an around destination
  • Detailed activities undertaken
  • Importance of activity in trip decision
  • Was it part of package trip
  • How far in advance booking made
  • Booking channel
  • Expenditure breakdown by category

Great Britain Day Visits Survey

  • Participation in leisure activities last week
  • How regular day trip taken
  • Day trips involving specified activities
  • How long trips lasted including and excluding travel time
  • Type of location visited
  • Where did trip start from e.g home
  • Party composition and size
  • Travel party impairments
  • Main transport used
  • Detailed activities undertaken
  • Time spent travelling during the trip
  • Expenditure breakdown by category

Demographic

  • Gender
  • Region of residence
  • Age
  • Occupation level
  • Children in household
  • Marital status
  • Car ownership
  • Time spent online
  • Educational attainment

Protected groups

  • Ethnic group
  • Health conditions and impairments
  • Sexual orientation

Outbound travel

Trips taken outside of UK last 4 weeks by purpose of visit

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