National Visitor Survey (NVS) Methodology 2019

With 97% of the Australian population aged 15 years or more owning a mobile phone, Tourism Research Australia has transitioned NVS sampling to 100% mobile phone interviewing and discontinued landline sampling.

This change will improve the accuracy of national, state and territory estimates.

However, the transition from the 50% mobile phone/50% landline split will result in an unavoidable break in series between 2018 and 2019 NVS data. Please use caution when making comparisons between 2019 and previous estimates, as the methodology change is likely to affect results.

Note that 2017 and 2018 estimates have also been revised to align with the latest release of ABS population projections that are used to benchmark NVS results to the Australian population. Therefore, new estimates will differ from previously published figures.

For further information, see our Changes to the National Visitor Survey in 2019  fact sheet.

NVS methodology overview

The NVS commenced in 1998 to provide an official measure of travel by Australian residents. Interviews are conducted with 120,000 residents aged 15 years and over each year (up from the annual sample of 80,000 prior to 2005).

Respondents are interviewed through a Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) system with phone numbers selected using random digit dialling. Over time, the CATI approach has evolved in response to changes in telecommunications and their usage.

  • Up until 2013, all interviews were conducted via household landline.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, interviews were evenly split between household landline (50%) and mobile phone (50%).
  • From 2019, all interviewing has been conducted via mobile phone.

The survey runs continuously with interviews taking place on each weekday and on weekends (excluding national public holidays). Residents classified as ‘in scope’ for interviewing include those who:

  • are aged 15 years and over who have their usual address in Australia
  • have lived at their contact address for at least three months
  • live in a private dwelling.

The survey uses specific recall periods to collect information on recent travel experiences. This includes details on overseas trips returned from in the last three months, overnight trips returned from in the last four weeks and day trips returned from in the last seven days.

Overnight trips must include at least one night away from home and be a minimum of 40 kilometres from the respondent’s usual place of residence. Day trips must have a round trip distance of at least 50 kilometres from the respondent’s usual place of residence and a minimum duration of four hours. Day trips taken as part of an overnight trip, or those that are routine (for example, from home to work/school, or an intrinsic part of a person’s job), are not collected.

The survey contains over 70 questions related to:

  • destination
  • purpose
  • transport
  • travel package
  • sources to obtain information about the trip
  • activities
  • spend
  • accommodation
  • travel party
  • demographics.

NVS definitions are based on those provided by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Interviews are conducted with people who have travelled for purposes including holiday, visiting friends and relatives (VFR), business, education and employment. To be included, travellers must not have been away from home continuously for more than 364 days, or 365 days in a leap year.

Respondents interviewed in the NVS are randomly sampled to be representative of the Australian population.

The NVS is co-funded by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments under the auspices of the Australian Standing Committee on Tourism (ASCOT).

Results from the NVS are published quarterly and are available from tra.gov.au.

Weighting and benchmarking

Weights for the NVS are calculated on an individual trip basis. They take into account:

  • age of the respondent
  • sex
  • place of origin
  • month of travel
  • recall period applicable to the trip (for example, seven days for day trips, 28 days for overnight trips and three months for overseas trips)
  • the number of interviews with a return date in this recall period.

The NVS is benchmarked to population estimates of those aged 15 years and over.

Determining domestic visitor spend in regional Australia

The NVS provides information on travel activity and spend by domestic visitors. Spend is only collected for the respondent’s entire journey, not for individual stops. In order to determine the impact that the visitor activity is having on a particular region, Tourism Research Australia uses a model-based approach to allocate visitors’ spend to Australia’s tourism regions.

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