The Central Statistics Office (CSO) conducts three tourism surveys:
the Country of Residence Survey (CRS)
the Passenger Card Inquiry (PCI) and
the Household Travel Survey (HTS).
The data collected is used to meet the national and EU requirements in compiling tourism statistics.
The CSO estimates the number of overseas visitors to Ireland using passenger numbers supplied by the airport authorities and shipping companies combined with the large scale sample survey conducted in Irish airports and seaports.
The Country of Residence Survey is a continuous sample survey which interviews incoming and departing passengers. This provides country of residence breakdowns for passengers, which are then applied to the total passenger numbers, giving estimates of overseas visitors to Ireland as well as Irish visits abroad.
The Passenger Card Inquiry is also a sample survey of selected overseas flights and sailings. Data is collected from travellers through a self completion form. The journey purpose, nights spent away from home, expenditure and other trip details are collected from arriving and departing passengers.
The Central Statistics Office estimates the number of overnight domestic trips in Ireland using the Household Travel survey. Households are sampled from the electoral register and the data is collected using a self completion postal form.
Data on the purpose and destination of the journey, nights spent, expenditure and other trip details are collected. Data on cross border tourism to Ireland is not currently collected by the CSO.
The most recently published figures for overseas visitors to Ireland from the CRS relate to quarter 3, 2010. The next release is scheduled for February 2011 and will contain data for October, November and December 2010 as well as 2010 annual data. Journey purpose is important when determining whether a trip to or from Ireland qualifies as a tourism trip. A Visitor is defined as
‘any person travelling to a place other than that of his/her usual environment for less than twelve months and whose main purpose is other than the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited'.
Where the purpose of journey of a trip can be determined to fall outside of the definition, these trips are then excluded from overall tourism estimates.
The purpose of journey is also important for expenditure estimates. Trips for holiday and business purposes would often have a higher daily expenditure than trips spent visiting friends and relatives for example.
Length of stay is closely correlated with purpose of visit and expenditure. For instance business trips often have a shorter average length of stay than holiday trips, while expenditure on trips is closely related to length of stay, with longer trips on average having a lower average daily spend.
Tourism surveys are also conducted on behalf of Fáilte Ireland (FI). These include the survey of travellers (SOT), which collects additional detail from overseas visitors to Ireland to that collected in the CSO's PCI survey. FI's Hotel Survey collects information from accommodation establishments on bed nights sold and residency of guests.