Background and redevelopment of the International Visitor Survey

When the International Visitor Survey (IVS) started and how it has developed since, including a major update in 2013.

International Visitor Survey (IVS) background

The International Visitor Survey (IVS) started in 1984 with the International Survey of Visitor Expenditure. Prior to 1984, international visitor expenditure information was collected from Bank of New Zealand travel receipts. From 1984 onwards, the IVS was conducted at varying intervals, becoming a bi-annual survey through the late 1980s and early 1990s. In January 1995, the IVS became a continuous ongoing survey, with the questionnaire changing in January 1997 to accommodate more expenditure details as well as activity and attraction information.

Throughout this time different organisations have had responsibility for the IVS, and various market research companies have been contracted to conduct it.

  • NFO New Zealand Limited conducted the survey from 1997 through to 2002 in conjunction with the then client, Tourism New Zealand.
  • In July 2002, in line with the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010, responsibility for the IVS was transferred to the Ministry of Tourism.
  • The Nielsen Company took over the contract at the beginning of 2003 and ran the survey to September 2008.
  • From July 2008 the Ministry of Tourism directly managed the International Visitor Survey, with the data collection outsourced to Covec Limited.
  • In 2010 the Ministry of Tourism was merged into the Ministry of Economic Development.
  • Responsibility for the IVS passed on to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) when it was formed on 1 July 2012.

IVS redevelopment 2013

Over an 18 month period from late 2011, we redeveloped the International Visitor Survey (IVS) as part of the Tourism Data Improvement Programme, implementing the Tourism Domain Plan.

Problems had been highlighted in the IVS methodology, which led to the following improvements being introduced in July 2013:

  • The sample size was increased from 5,200 to 8,900 per year. This increase has led to a reduction in the relative margin of error for total spending and spending by country, and has likely led to an overall better representation of international visitors to New Zealand.
  • The survey data collection method was changed to online. This has reduced the time burden of completing the survey — from an average of 45 to 20 minutes — and has enabled visitors with less than 20 minutes to spare to be included.
  • Departees in business lounges and Queenstown airport were included within the IVS visitor sample, meeting the survey’s target population definition
  • Significant improvements were made to the expenditure, reason for travel, accommodation, transport and activities questionnaire components.

Related documents

The following information papers provide further information on the July 2013 update of the IVS.

International Visitor Survey Revision 2013 – Information paper [PDF, 271 KB]

Redevelopment of the International Visitor Survey: Frequently asked questions [PDF, 189 KB] (external link)