The dangers of getting your dates wrong..and tourism data

Regular readers will know that we are in no way politically aligned but that we will take issue with “facts” being touted by pollies that are (at best) misleading.
On Wednesday Minister for Tourism in QLD, Jann Stuckey, put out a press release spruiking the pick-up in QLD tourism data outlined in the latest State Tourism Satellite Account report from Tourism Research Australia. The release was picked up by Member for Cairns, Gavin King, who quoted from it on his Facebook page and in a speech in state parliament. Unfortunately Stuckey’s interpretation of the data in the TRA report was mistaken and hence misleading.

She claimed “Today’s data shows that since the LNP came into Government two years ago, the tourism industry has seen economic growth of more than $3.5 billion,” The LNP government did indeed come to power 2 years ago, and the TRA report does show State Gross Product from Tourism at $23bn, which is an increase of $3.5bn in 2 years. So far so good. The problem comes when we realise that the TRA report relates to the fiscal year (i.e June to June) and as such includes data only up to end June 2013. The $3.5bn increase claimed by Stuckey as being “since the LNP came into Government” is actually since end June 2011; well before the LNP victory in March 2012.

So what is the real picture? Well, we can’t use the State Gross Product figure from March 2012 since TRA only produce it on a FY basis. However, TRA do produce two quarterly publications (the Domestic and International Visitor Surveys) which contain data on tourism expenditure. Although this metric is not strictly the same as Gross State Product it will certainly be a close approximation if we consider trend changes. Using this data for the quarter ending March 2012 (i.e. when the LNP came into power) we see that total visitor expenditure was $21.1bn. By June 2013 that had increased to $22.5bn; an increase of 6.6% and broadly in line with the TRA State Gross Product figure ($23bn).
At end June 2011 the visitor expenditure figure was $18.1bn (compared to a State Gross Product figure from TRA of $19.5bn). What we see is the increases in visitor expenditure are very similar to the shifts in State Gross Product (as we would expect).

Year ending Visitor Exp SGP
Jun-11 $18.1bn $19.5bn
Mar-12 $21.1bn na
Jun-12 $21.5bn $22.0bn
Jun-13 $22.5bn $23.0bn

Given that similarity we can feel confident in suggesting that a derived State Gross Product figure as at end March 2012 would have been in the order of $21.6bn. In other words the actual increase “since the LNP came into Government” should actually be about $1.4bn (not $3.5bn as claimed). Indeed the bulk of that $3.5bn increase ($2.1bn) actually occurred before the LNP took over.
Since June 2013 we only have complete expenditure data for the Sept 2013 quarter (Dec 2013 data has been delayed until end Apr). This shows visitor expenditure actually fell a little to $22.3bn.
The pity here is that such sloppy reporting of data can (presumably deliberately) happen but also that the actual story (that tourism spending is up 6.6% since March 2012) would be a good one in itself without the need to mislead.

Thanks to Mark Beath at Loose Change who originally commented on this data and has kindly allowed me to “piggy-back” on his post with my own analysis.

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