The service economy is driving growth in most OECD countries. It represents a large part of economic activity and its importance continues to grow. Tourism, a large, complex and fragmented industry which is still very difficult to define and measure, is a key component of the service economy (30% of international trade in services in the OECD area). In terms of revenue, OECD countries generate about 70% of world tourism activity. Tourism, which has expanded dramatically over the past 30 years, looks set to continue growing as societies become more mobile and prosperous.
Obtaining better information on services, the least developed side of statistics, is an important challenge for statistical agencies and a necessity for political analysis. Measuring tourism is part of a wider move to improve our knowledge of how economies work, what they produce and what changes occur over time. It is no longer enough to measure physical flows (arrivals and overnight stays) and monetary data (revenue and expenditure relating to international tourism).
In the early 1980s, the OECD began work to set up a model acceptable at international level which gave rise to the OECD Tourism Economic Accounts, which measure certain socio-economic aspects of tourism. While developing this tool, the OECD produced a more precise definition of tourism, visitors and tourist expenditure [Note: OECD (1996), OECD Tourism Statistics - Design and Application for Policy].
Despite its economic importance, governments, especially in developed economies, still do not adequately recognise tourism. For this reason, the OECD has developed and recently approved the OECD Guidelines for a Tourism Satellite Account and an Employment Module . These integrated statistical tools aim to measure the economic aspects of tourism (value added, jobs, revenue, investment, profits) in order to provide a more convincing demonstration of this activity's economic significance.
Furthermore, together with the United Nations, the World Tourism Organization and the European Commission (Eurostat), the OECD has developed a "UN-WTO-OECD-EUROSTAT Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework", approved by the 25-member United Nations Statistical Commission on 1 March 2000.
Other work undertaken in this area includes statistical research. OECD and Eurostat regularly organise international forums on tourism statistics to share ideas, experiences and concepts with member and non-members countries, the scientific community and the tourism industry. The United Kingdom, with the support of Eurostat and the OECD, organised the 5th International Forum on Tourism Statistics (Glasgow, 20-23 June 2000). Similar forums have been organised in Vienna (1994), in Venice (1995), in Sintra (1996) and in Copenhagen (1998).