Planning the future of accommodation data in New Zealand

MBIE is working with industry and local government to identify alternative and innovative means of gathering accommodation data. This follows Stats NZ's announcement that the Accommodation Survey will end in November 2019 with publication of September 2019 data.

The Accommodation Survey is funded by MBIE and produced by Stats NZ. It provides:

  • a census of hotels, motels, holiday parks and backpackers
  • occupancy rates, establishments and guest nights on a monthly basis.

It provides this information for both international and domestic visitors at regional levels.

In 2014, a joint review undertaken by Stats NZ and MBIE identified several issues with the Accommodation Survey:

  • Poor coverage of the commercial accommodation sector. It excluded holiday homes, bed & breakfasts, and luxury lodges as a result of the design.
  • Many respondents stated that completing a paper-based form on a monthly basis was time-consuming. Accommodation providers who used paper or excel-based booking systems found it particularly onerous.

How is Accommodation Survey data currently used?

Information from the survey is used to address 2 distinct stakeholder groups:

  • Regional Tourism Organisations, local and national government

    Primarily use the data to understand visitor volumes and trends at regional and sub-regional levels.
  • The wider accommodation industry

    Predominantly use the data to understand market share in the accommodation sector and to benchmark business performance.

Where does the Accommodation Survey fall short?

Non-traditional forms of accommodation, such as peer-to-peer, are becoming more popular (Airbnb is an example of peer-to-peer accommodation).  This means that visitor volume estimates of guest nights for the Accommodation Survey are increasingly partial. Growth is likely to have been significantly underestimated.

In March 2019, MBIE carried out a stakeholder questionnaire in order to better understand stakeholder’s usage and needs regarding Accommodation Survey data.

Responses to the questionnaire show that that the survey does not provide a comprehensive picture of accommodation supply. Two-thirds of Regional Tourism Organisations and half of all central and local government respondents identified the lack of coverage of the entire accommodation market as an issue. This is an issue particularly in areas that are popular for unmeasured types of accommodation.

Overall feedback from the questionnaire indicates that while the industry values and relies on the insights that the survey provides, there is a clear need for improvement.

We understand that organisations need a more comprehensive view of visitor volumes. If they don’t have this, they face mounting difficulties in determining where they should prioritise their investment, management and planning efforts.

In June 2019, Stats NZ released an experimental measure of accommodation-sharing in New Zealand. The results showed a sharp increase in guest nights for shared accommodation. It grew from 2.9 million guest nights in 2013, to 8.8 million guest nights in 2018. This represents 18.1 percent of the total accommodation industry in 2018.

Accommodation and the sharing economy in New Zealand(external link)

Stats NZ have stated this work is experimental and is by no means definitive. Until a well-tested and robust methodology has been confirmed, these figures should be treated with caution.

How will MBIE ensure new data sources address the gaps?

Central government, local government and industry must make decisions based on sound evidence. Feedback from stakeholders indicates there is reduced confidence that the survey provides enough information to make good planning decisions.

The survey does not provide a comprehensive picture of the accommodation sector, as it excludes non-traditional forms of accommodation. It also cannot be used as an accurate proxy for visitor volumes or flows without that coverage. To ensure new data products address these aspects, MBIE is:

  • partnering with Data Ventures and investigating existing data products (e.g. Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates) for the potential to produce accurate data on visitor volumes at regional and suburban levels
  • working in partnership with industry and local government to:
    • assess market-based solutions for alternative sources of accommodation data
    • explore more sustainable funding solutions.

We expect that a robust and enduring solution to this information gap will need a partnership approach between:

  • central government
  • local government
  • the accommodation industry.

This approach could consider alternative funding models and mix of potential providers. These could be government, industry or private sector.