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Dear Ed,

As you will be aware, one of the sources of data used in the production of NISRA’s Northern Ireland Tourism Statistics is unavailable. The source in question is “The Household Travel Survey (HTS)” conducted by Central Statistics Office (CSO), which provides an estimate of overnight trips to Northern Ireland by visitors from the Republic of Ireland (ROI). In the most recent annual and quarterly publications, this estimate accounted for approximately 12% of all overnight trips and 11% of the
overall tourism spend.

CSO has suspended the HTS due to underlying data quality issues (see Annex 1 for further detail), which they are currently in the process of addressing. It was expected that it be will summer 2020 before they would be in a position to determine if the matter has been satisfactorily resolved, thus facilitating the release of the information to NISRA. However, the COVID-19 global pandemic has meant that CSO surveys have been suspended which ultimately means that these indicative timings will be pushed back further. The impact of this is that NISRA is currently unable to produce and publish its National Statistics publications (Northern Ireland annual tourism statistics).

In view of this and as an interim measure, I propose to suspend the publication of the National Statistics until the ROI data become available and move to publish the tourism information that we have in appropriately tailored and caveated releases (information relating to quarters 2 and 3 of 2019 will constitute the first release).

These will focus on the place of origin of visitors (clearly differentiating each market), highlight the information that is missing and include appropriate data coverage and quality guidance for users. The information in the new format releases will account for the vast majority of overnight trips in NI and will include domestic tourism within NI, visitors from GB and visitors from overseas areas.

I consider that this approach is in the public interest and provides the best compromise until normal business can resume. While it has been discussed and agreed with key stakeholders including tourism policy leads, all of whom are content, I would welcome your views on this proposed way forward.

In addition to the above, the COVID-19 global pandemic will undoubtedly continue to cause major disruption to the tourism sector for the foreseeable future. In accordance with government guidance, I have taken the decision to temporarily suspend NISRA’s face-to-face survey field operations resulting in the cessation of interviews conducted through the NI Passenger Survey. Clearly this will have a further impact on NISRA’s NI Tourism Statistics, which will also need to be managed.

Yours sincerely

Registrar General for Northern Ireland & Chief Executive NISRA


Related Links:

Ed Humpherson to Siobhan Carey (March 2020)