A scathing review into the legitimacy and reliability of the New Zealand government’s official visitor statistics has left alarm bells ringing across the country’s tourism industry.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa led industry-wide calls to carry out the review of the International Visitor Survey late last year following concerns of the credibility of expenditure data and how this figure was being collated, displayed and communicated.
Following agreement from the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the review carried out by Stats NZ uncovered “significant failings” with the process behind the collection of data and subsequent oversight from government officials.
“The review has uncovered some deeply concerning shortcomings, including a failure to carry out the survey as it was designed, no training manual for survey interviewers, insufficient supervision and monitoring, and a lack of interaction between the survey company, MBIE, and Stats NZ, which has allowed sampling and data processing problems to build up,” said TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts.
“As an example, there have been too many Australians surveyed and not enough Chinese. This means the Chinese visitor data has a confidence level of plus or minus 23% – against a design target of plus or minus 10%.”
Roberts praised Stats NZ for its thorough review and turned his attention to the NZ government to implement 10 recommendations put forward to remedy the matter. These include improving survey design documentation and online questionnaires as well as refining the governance process while boosting engagement with stakeholders and customers.
The ten areas recommended for action must all be implemented to restore industry trust. It is encouraging that MBIE has already made improvements in a number of areas,” Roberts said.
The tourism industry in New Zealand’s biggest export and is a $99 million per day equation made up of foreign exchange from visitors and economic activity.