Julie Leones, Extension Economist
Arizona Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture
The University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721
Table of Contents
Suggestions on Visitor Surveys
- Steps in Visitor Survey Design
- Step 1. Deciding on the Feasibility of a Survey
- Step 2. Setting Objectives
- Step 3. Deciding on a Survey Methodology
- Step 4. Writing Questions
- Step 5. Formatting the Questionnaire
- Step 6. Writing Instructions for Completing the Questionnaire
- Step 7. Pretesting the Questionnaire
- Step 8. Estimating Your Visitor Population and Selecting
- Step 9. Administering the Survey
- Step 10. Training Interviewers
- Step 11. Analyzing Visitor Data
- Step 12. Reporting Visitor Information
Questionnaire (PDF file)
Questionnaire (PDF file)
Adequate Sample Size (PDF file)
Interviews (PDF file)
This publication was written after reviewing a publication on
community survey efforts written by Dr. Mike Woods of Oklahoma
State University and Mr. Gerald Hall of the Oklahoma Department
of Commerce. Some of the same material covered in their guide is
also covered here and I am indebted to them for ideas about organizing
and presenting this information and for some of the topical material.
However, there are some special aspects of visitor surveys that
require additional discussion and that are not covered in their
publication. For this reason, I decided to write this publication
on surveying visitors.
This bulletin has been reviewed by Professor Mike Woods, Agricultural
and Resource Economist, Oklahoma State University, Mr. Douglas
Dunn, Cochise County Cooperative Extension Director, University
of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Professor Lay Gibson, Geographer
and Regional Scientist, The University of Arizona, Dr. Ed Carpenter,
Rural Sociologist and Multimedia and Video Coordinator, The University
of Arizona. I thank them for their helpful suggestions and comments.
However, any remaining errors in this publication are strictly
the fault of the author.
Although most leaders and officials concerned about tourism in
Arizona recognize the value of information from visitor surveys,
the cost of such survey efforts generally restricts their use to
larger metropolitan areas and major rural tourist attractions such
as the Grand Canyon. Using powerful statistical methods, survey
data can provide very accurate and useful information. However,
if the survey is not carefully designed and conducted following
certain guidelines, it can provide information that is inaccurate
and even misleading.
The purpose of this bulletin is to provide basic information about
conducting visitor surveys. It can be used by community leaders
who are interested in tourism either to design and conduct their
own surveys or as a basis for putting together a request for proposals
for others to do such a survey. It can also be used by private
consultants, economic and development professionals and others
who conduct visitors' surveys.
Through visitor surveys and careful counts of total visitors,
communities can better estimate the total expenditures by visitors
in their community and can learn much about visitor characteristics
and preferences. This information can be used to better promote
tourism in the community and to make strategic decisions about
community improvements and additions likely to appeal to visitors.
II. General Suggestions
on Visitor Surveys
III. Steps in Visitor Survey Design
Step 1. Deciding on Feasibility of a Survey
- Make sure that you really need to conduct a survey: they are
expensive and time-consuming to do.
- Keep the survey as short and interesting as possible.
- Pretest the survey before starting the actual survey.
- Look at the survey questionnaires that have been used by others
to get ideas about questions to ask and ways to phrase them.
- Get advice and comments on your survey instrument and survey
design from several different sources. The advice of a statistician
or someone with extensive survey research experience can be especially
- Make sure that you collect data from a random sample of visitors.
- Make sure that your sample size is large enough to give you
the accuracy you desire.
- Design your survey so that the data is easy to enter into a
computer using programs such as QPL (Questionnaire Programming
Language), a public domain software. Working with the data on
the computer will save significant amounts of time when it comes
to organizing and analyzing the data.
- Consider offering a small incentive or conducting a raffle
using the names of respondents to encourage response.
- To monitor for nonresponse bias, collect several basic pieces
of information from the visitor when distributing the survey,
including the city and state they are from, whether they are
in the area on business or for leisure, how many days (and nights)
they plan to stay in the area, their level of education.
- Keep a log with information concerning how the survey was conducted
such as who helped with the survey; where, how and when it was
distributed; important decisions made along the way, etc.
Because surveys are so expensive to conduct in terms of time and money, you
need to be sure that a survey is necessary before you begin. You also need
to be sure that you have adequate resources to complete the survey process.
Some questions you need to answer are:
- What is it that we hope to learn from this survey? Is there some other
way of answering these questions?
- Are there existing data on visitors and their expenditures in nearby communities
or for the county that could be used in place of survey data for our community?
Is there a county level or state level study that can provide the information
- If our resources are limited, would we be better off collecting data to
improve estimates of total visitors or conducting a visitor survey?
- Over what period of time will the survey run? A year, several months, a
- Who will be responsible for supervising the survey process? How will they
be compensated? Who will help them make visitor contacts, conduct surveys
or distribute questionnaires?
Although the costs of doing a survey will vary according to many factors,
you can expect the cost of each returned questionnaire to run anywhere from
$7.00 to $50.00. For a sample of 1,000 visitors, you can expect a cost for
collecting the data of least $7,000. Much of this cost is for labor, although
depending on the type of survey, postage, paper and telephone costs may also
be a factor.
Step 2. Setting Objectives
1. What is the main purpose of the survey?
Examples of goals might include:
- to know more about visitor characteristics for marketing purposes.
- to identify the importance or size of tourism activity relative to other
economic activity in the region.
- to learn how visitors view our area and what improvements they feel are
important. This will help guide our tourism development efforts.
- to find out how important different types of visitors are to our community
(for example, business versus leisure visitors, overnight versus day trip
visitors, foreign versus out of state versus in state visitors). This can
help us choose where to advertise.
- to find out how visitors spend their time and money while in our area.
- to find out what percent of visitors' total trip expenditures are made
in our area. This can help us identify potential business opportunities to
increase expenditures in our area.
- to identify where else visitors go outside of our area to help us identify
who we should collaborate with regionally for marketing, packaging and other
2. Break big or complex questions down into smaller questions.
- What are the characteristics of visitors?
- How old are they?
- What is their educational attainment?
- What is their income level?
- What are their hobbies and interests?
- What have they come to do in the community?
3. Outline how you will use the information you collect.
Step 3. Choosing a Survey Methodology
1. Decide whether it is best to collect the survey through:
- mail, with or without short contact with visitor at the site
- self administered survey conducted while in the community
- interviews in the community
- interviews over the telephone
Each of these techniques has advantages and disadvantages:
The most popular approach to mail surveys is that used by Dillman. It involves
sending out one copy of the survey. If no response is received, then a reminder
postcard is sent to the respondent. If still no response is received, the respondent
is contacted by phone. Finally, a second survey is mailed to the respondent.
Alternatively, if the phone number of the respondent is not known, a third
copy of the survey may be mailed to the respondent in place of a phone call
follow-up. It works best when a comprehensive list of visitors' names and addresses
are available so that a random sample can be drawn from this list. Mail surveys
also work well when targeting a specific geographic or interest group where
lists of total populations exist.
- Least expensive option.
- Can be mailed out to respondents in wide spread locations.
- Doesn't require interviewers.
- Requires fewer workers to administer.
- Gives the respondent time to think about the questions before responding.
- Can potentially allow for input from more than one family member.
Self Administered Surveys
- Can result in low rates of response.
- Some questions may be misunderstood.
- Requires that a mailing list of all visitors to the community exists, or
that a representative list can be compiled.
This technique requires contacting a visitor and giving them a copy of the
survey questionnaire to answer immediately or to complete and mail in later.
If the visitor is completing it on site, it has the advantage over a mail survey
of allowing them to ask the surveyor about questions that they may not understand.
If the survey is to be returned by mail, some of the same techniques used to
increase response rate in mail surveys can be used (i.e. follow up postcards
and a second copy of the survey). In either case, since a surveyor has contact
with the visitor, they can collect key information that will allow assessing
the amount of non-response bias from the survey. Such key information includes
purpose of trip, time spent in the area, and the origin of the visitor. This
technique works best when local front desk employees are helping to distribute
the survey or when dealing with large groups of people at specific locations
and times (ex., at festivals or events).
- Response rates may be higher than in mail surveys.
- Less expensive than personal interviews or telephone surveys.
- Do not require a list of visitor names and addresses before conducting
- More expensive than mail surveys.
- Possible bias is introduced when visitor is contacted.
This technique is feasible in many visitor surveys, especially if they are
designed to be answered in a few minutes time. Visitors can be interviewed
as they are leaving an attraction or accommodations and it is possible for
an interviewer to enter responses directly into a laptop computer. This eliminates
the need for data entry at a later time and can reduce the cost of using personal
interviews. This method works best when dealing with large volumes of people
in a concentrated area. For example, at festivals and events, at hotel checkout
lines, airports, border crossings, car rental return lines. Unless people are
not in a hurry or are waiting anyway, response rates can be low because visitors
at the end of their trip are anxious to leave, to catch flights, or begin driving
- Tend to have higher response rates.
- Can ask more complex questions since the interviewer can explain them further.
- Skillful interviewers can pick up information that might be missed through
mail or self administered surveys.
- Can enter response directly into a computer saving data input time and
reducing potential inputting errors.
- The cost will tend to be higher.
- Bias may be introduced by the interviewer.
- It may be difficult to identify locations and times to interview if the
volume of visitors to an area is relatively low.
- Visitors may not be at the end of their visit and may have to give expenditure
estimates and information on what they plan to do rather than completed expenditures
and what they actually did.
This is a popular approach used by market research firms. Since most people
do have telephones it is a viable option. It requires a well defined system
for randomly selecting numbers to call, and for handling numbers where there
is no response or the line is busy. It requires an accurate current listing
for the entire population from which visitors come. Clearly, it is not well
suited for surveying international visitors. It is least expensive when used
to survey in-state visitors. It is a very viable method if you are interested
in a specific tourist market only (for example, visitors to your community
from the Metro Phoenix area). It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach
people by phone because of widespread telemarketing and telephone surveys.
Many people use answering machines and caller ID to screen their calls and
refuse to pick up the phone if someone they do not know is on the line. Because
of this use of answering machines and other devices to screen calls, it is
quite difficult to estimate actual non-response rates for this type of survey.
- Relatively easy to supervise staff.
- Information can be collected rapidly.
- Can enter response directly into a computer saving data input time and
reducing potential inputting errors.
- Requires a reliable database of residential phone numbers.
- Requires a phone bank and substantial expenditure on phone service.
- People who have no phones are excluded.
- People with unlisted numbers may be excluded.
- Some household members are more likely to answer the phone than others
and this may bias the results.
- Respondents may be less honest.
- People may use their answering machine or caller ID to screen your call
and not respond.
- Actual response rate is difficult to estimate.
- Bias may be introduced by the interviewer.
Step 4. Writing Questions
1. Characteristics of well written questions:
- neutrally worded to avoid bias
- short and concise
- ask only one thing at a time
- easily understood
- require simple responses
- relate to the study objectives
- open ended (when possible)- the respondent writes in the response and does
not choose a response from an existing list.
- Use specific, precise wording to avoid double meanings.
2. Organizing the questionnaire:
- Group questions together according to the following:
- the questions use the same response category (ex. excellent, good,
- the questions are related in subject matter (ex. group all demographic
questions together, all expenditure questions together, all questions
relating to characteristics of this trip together, etc.).
3. Tips for writing questions:
- Describe what units of measure are involved (hours, days, number of people,
dollars, cents, percentages).
- Indicate the time period referred to, if appropriate (in the last week,
month, year, five years).
- Describe the geographic area to be covered (ex. in this town, in this county,
in this state).
- Use standard census content and format for demographic questions (i.e.
questions about age, income, education, race and ethnicity). This will allow
you to compare responses from the survey to census data (for example, to
examine the income level of visitors as compared to that of local residents).
- Include 'undecided', 'don't know', 'other' or 'none' as an option in questions
as appropriate. This is important so that you can tell these responses from
cases where a question was not answered at all.
- If a question provides categories for responses, try to think of all possible
responses and then group them. Make sure that the categories needed to meet
the objectives of your study are included. For example, if you are trying
to identify people who are coming to your community to buy antiques, you
may want to ask specifically if they are antiquing.
- Always include 'other (please specify)' as an option when providing categories
- Leave space at the end of the questionnaire for comments. You can often
gain valuable insights from these additional comments concerning the questions
you have asked and others you have not asked.
- For written questions that ask for dollar amounts or percentages, use dollar
signs or percentage signs in the space for the response. If you ask the respondent
to provide percentage responses that total to 100%, put 100% below the spaces
for all the responses.
- Keep in mind that although open ended questions produce the richest data,
these questions are the most costly to enter, code and later analyze.
- Borrow well constructed questions from other surveys when appropriate.
Example survey questions are included in Appendix
Step 5. Formatting the Questionnaire
1. Suggestions for the questionnaire format are:
Step 6. Writing Instructions for Completing the Questionnaire
- Start with fairly simple and interesting questions. For example, visitors
often enjoy talking about where they have been and where else they are going
on this trip. Make sure that the most important questions come soon after
a few warm up questions so that they are less likely to be affected by respondent
- End with easy questions such as demographic questions about age, education
- Keep the survey as short as possible. If it is a mail survey or self administered,
keep in mind that people's willingness to respond will be affected by how
many pages they see in the survey. Interviews, whether by phone or in person
are best kept to under 10 minutes to avoid respondent fatigue.
- Eliminate questions that do not meet your objectives.
- Make sure that there are no redundant questions (i.e. a question that asks
basically the same thing as another question).
- Make sure to include a place in the questionnaire for a survey number.
You may also want to mark where the survey was distributed and the date and
- Set up a coding system to use when entering responses in the computer before
you start using the questionnaire. In a survey on paper (not directly entered
in the computer), these codes might be included on the questionnaire itself
next to each response. A simpler way to handle coding is to use a program
like QPL that allows entry of the responses as they appear on the page, and
in the case of multiple choice and checklist questions, is coded by the program.
This reduces the likelihood of mistakes in entering data of this type.
1. There are five important pieces of information that need to be included
in the instructions:
- the purpose of the survey.
- who is sponsoring and who is administering the survey.
- how confidentiality is being protected. Setting up a system to safe guard
confidentiality is an important way to increase the likelihood of honest
- whether or not there will be a follow-up questionnaire.
- who the respondent can call or write if they have questions, concerns or
want a copy of the survey results.
In mail surveys it is important also to:
- indicate when the survey should be returned (i.e. in two weeks or by a
- personalize the cover letter or instruction sheet.
2. Specific Question Instructions:
Step 7. Pretesting the Questionnaire
- Make sure it is clear which set of instructions accompany which questions
by using appropriate numbering, indentation, etc.
- Explain how the question should be answered (i.e. should the respondent
write in an amount, check a response, circle a number).
- Indicate whether you want the individual to respond for him or herself
or for the entire visitor party.
Step 8. Estimating Your Visitor Population and Selecting Your Sample
- You may want to have several knowledgeable people critique your questionnaire
before you pretest it.
- To pretest the survey choose a small sample of people who are representative
of the type of people you will be surveying. For example, you might want
to include people of different ages, different marital status, with or without
children, different income and education levels, different race or ethnicity,
depending on the factors that you think will affect an individual's ability
and willingness to respond to the survey.
- Encourage pretest respondents to make comments on each of the questions,
on the order and format of the questions, or on the nature of the questionnaire.
Sometimes this is best done with a phone call to the individual after they
have filled out the questionnaire, but before they have returned it. Having
several people complete the survey at once and then discussing it in a small
group setting can also provide useful insights.
- Take notice of any questions that are frequently unanswered or are frequently
misunderstood and answered incorrectly. These questions may be poorly worded,
in the wrong place in the questionnaire, too difficult to answer, or too
sensitive to answer.
- If possible, time how long it takes for respondents to answer the questionnaire.
One indication that a mail survey is too long is if many of the respondents
don't complete the entire survey.
1. Sources of errors in surveys
Sample selection is one of the most important determinants of the quality
of information you collect through your survey. Failing to select a random
sample can result in high levels of coverage error and biased results. Coverage
error results from not randomly sampling from the entire population. In visitor
surveys, one common type of coverage error is caused by surveying visitors
during only a portion of the year and then estimating annual totals from these
surveys. Coverage error can also be caused by not sampling from certain sub-populations,
such as visitors who stay in small hotels or motels, visitors who do not visit
area attractions, or day trip visitors.
Every survey (unless it is actually a census- a survey of the total population)
will also have sampling error. Sampling error can generally be reduced by increasing
sample size. There are two other important sources of error in survey research.
One critical source is measurement error, when the answers on a survey are
incomplete, imprecise or inaccurate. This type of error may be caused by poorly
worded questionnaires, poorly trained interviewers (who don't understand the
questions) or by error or deception on the part of respondents. Some surveys
build in consistency checks as one way of dealing with measurement error once
surveys have been collected. For example, they may compare expenditures on
fees and admissions to the specific attractions that visitors claim to have
visited. They may also decide to omit outliers, or observations that are much
different than the average.
A final serious source of error is from nonresponse. This is especially important
if certain sub-sets of the population are likely not to respond (for example,
less educated or lower income visitors or alternatively, very wealthy visitors).
The best way to reduce nonresponse error is to use methods to increase the
response rate as much as possible (such as the Dillman approach to mail surveys:
see description under step 3). If the names, addresses and phone numbers of
non-respondents are available, it may be possible to follow up with at least
a sample of non-respondents to check to see if key characteristics such as
income, education and expenditure levels are similar to those of respondents.
2. Selecting a sample
For most statistical analysis, it is necessary to select a random sample.
A sample is just a collection of people from the general population that you
wish to learn something about. A sample for a visitor survey generally needs
to be a randomly selected group from all of the visitors to a site, community,
county or other geographic area. By random, we mean that selection is designed
so that every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected.
Sample selection becomes even more important when collecting expenditure data
from visitors. There is wide variation in the total amount and the per person
per day amount that visitors spend. Because of this variability, larger sample
sizes are required. If sample selection is biased towards visitors who spent
a lot, then total estimates of visitor expenditures will overestimate the total
amount that visitors spent in an area.
Sample selection is difficult in visitor studies. If you sample only from
people visiting major attractions, you miss people who do not visit attractions.
If you sample only from commercial accommodations, you miss visitors to private
homes and day trip visitors. If you sample from visitors who left their address
at the visitors' center, you are sampling from a distinct subset of visitors
in the community. Often sampling from a mix of locations (attractions, accommodations,
gift shops, malls, restaurants, airports) may help reduce the risk of biasing
your sample if you are interested in a sample of all visitors to your community.
Alternatively, you may decide that you want information only on visitors staying
at hotels and motels in town. This simplifies your sampling strategy, but still
presents challenges. Most communities offer a range of lodging alternatives
and you will want to be surveying visitors from a variety of different types
of accommodations (i.e., resorts, bed and breakfasts, budget hotels, airport
hotels, RV parks and campgrounds, etc.).
To avoid increasing the probability that people who stay longer are more likely
to receive a survey, be consistent about when you contact visitors. For example,
give surveys to visitors either as they check in or as they check out. Do the
same when sampling at campgrounds and RV parks.
3. Estimating total visitor population
Identifying your visitor population is a major challenge in visitor surveys.
Visitor populations are easiest to identify in the case of attractions that
have a limited number of entrances where the visitor either pays an entrance
fee or has to go through a turnstile or drive over a traffic counter to get
into the attraction. Visitor populations are extremely difficult to identify
and estimate in areas where there are many entrances into the area, no entrance
fees to pay, no turnstiles or traffic counters.
Traffic counters are used extensively in studies of visitors but are
limited in their reliability because:
- They detect the number of vehicles not number of people, thus an estimate
of the average number of people per vehicle must be calculated from survey
- They can not tell between a visitor and a local. In areas where local traffic
is also heavy, it can be hard to estimate what percent of the total traffic
is due to visitors. License plate counts can be misleading because even if
you are interested in only out of state visitors, you will miss many of the
out of state visitors who are driving unmarked rental cars with in-state
- They can be run over several times by the same visitor during a stay.
Door-counters are also used effectively to keep track of people visiting
attractions or retail establishments, but also suffer from the following limitations:
- More than one person may come through a door at a time.
- If the same door is used to enter and exit, then the door count number
must be cut in half.
- A door counter will not indicate whether a visitor or a local has come
through the door. This information will have to be collected through other
means. Similar to the periodic license plate counts, you may want someone
to keep track on random days how many people come through the door each time
it is opened and how many of the people coming in are local and non-local.
When available, the following types of data can be very useful in either estimating
total numbers of visitors or for benchmarking estimates from the survey combined
with visitor population counts:
Step 9. Administering the Survey
- Average lodging occupancy rates and total number of commercial rooms. These
figures tend to be more useful in communities where the percentage of overnight
visitors is large compared to day trip visitors.
- State and local revenue data for specific establishments such as commercial
lodging and restaurants and bars. In Tucson, Arizona, there is a city tax
of one dollar per room night that is extremely useful in estimating total
overnight visitor numbers. In addition, there is the standard percentage
of total room rate tax. Some states and communities give tax breaks to visitors
who spend a longer time (such as more than 30 days) in commercial accommodations.
If your community does waive bed taxes for long term visitors and you have
a lot of long term visitors in commercial accommodations, then you need to
make sure that you don't underestimate visitor numbers and expenditure figures
based on bed and room night taxes.
- Traffic count data from a typical and an event day and police crowd estimates
can be useful if the survey is of visitors in the community for an event.
- Visitor counts from paid attractions and/or attractions with turnstile
counters are especially valuable. However, if survey respondents go to more
than one attraction while in the area, this must be adjusted for in estimating
total visitors to the area. This is why asking about local attractions visited
is a key question on any visitor survey.
1. Administering the survey involves:
- Making key decisions at the outset concerning when to survey, where to
survey and how long to survey.
- Managing interviewers and any businesses or other organizations that are
cooperating in the survey.
- Managing databases of respondent information.
- Arranging follow up calls and mailings.
- Selecting a data inputting system and managing survey data input.
2. Deciding when to survey:
- Because there are usually pronounced seasonal differences in visitors to
an area or community, it is best to try to contact visitors over the course
of a year.
- Tourism seasons are not necessarily the four seasons. Some communities
have only a high and a low season. Others have high, low and shoulder seasons,
yet others have high, shoulder, low, and second shoulder seasons.
- These seasons may vary significantly in length and in terms of the number
of visitors who are in the community. It may actually take more labor to
reach low season visitors than high season visitors because there are fewer
of them to contact.
- Shoulder seasons exist where numbers of visitors taper off or increase
slowly rather than dropping off or rising suddenly from one month to the
3. Deciding who should distribute or administer the survey:
- Because of the high level of interviewer fatigue from running a survey
daily for a year, you may want to consider randomly selecting a three to
six week period (depending on the length of the season and the ease of contacting
visitors) in each season to interview intensively. This works best if you
are using staff who are employed doing other things the rest of the time.
It could prove costly in terms of training time if you have to hire different
surveyors for each of these survey periods. If there were unusual weather
patterns or other events during the survey periods, it could bias your data.
- Doing visitor surveys frequently requires the cooperation of local businesses
and attractions. In some communities, local businesses and attractions have
been enlisted to give surveys to their customers or visitors. However, without
compensation, the people involved often tire quickly of giving surveys to
customers and of keeping track of the number of acceptances and refusals.
You could use a similar strategy as mentioned above and only survey visitors
over short periods during each season.
- Local businesses and attractions may allow a paid interviewer to contact
their customers or guests on site. This requires good coordination between
the staff at the business or attraction and the interviewers in arranging
dates and times to contact guests.
- Using volunteers to survey works best if done for short periods of time
during the year, rather than continuously.
4. Respondent information to track:
- Lists of respondents (with their addresses and phone numbers) and when
they returned their survey.
- Total distributed, returned and completed surveys, possibly by where and
when the visitor was contacted to complete the survey. This information is
useful to monitor whether you have collected enough surveys by season and
by type of location.
- Respondent acceptance and refusal of the survey. There are several types
of refusal that should be noted: is the refusal due to language (the visitor
is not fluent in English if this is the only language in which the survey
is available), is the refusal due to the respondent being a local not a visitor
or is the refusal simply because they do not want to complete the survey.
If you know that there are a significant number of foreign visitors to your
area, it would help to have versions of your survey available in other languages,
particularly German, Spanish, French and Japanese. However, translating the
surveys well can be expensive as can translating the response received to
5. Arranging for follow-up calls and mailings:
- If possible, survey visitors as they leave the community or very soon after
leaving the area, so that visitors will be better able to recall details
of their visit. Likewise, if mail back surveys are not returned within a
few weeks, it is important to send out a reminder postcard or a second survey
- Set up a routine system of sending out reminder postcards and additional
copies of the survey if a mail back questionnaire is used.
- Keep records of when postcards, additional questionnaires or phone calls
6. Selecting a data input system and managing data input:
Step 10. Training Interviewers
- Select a system before beginning the survey. A variety of software programs
are available for this purpose. A free U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO)
program called Questionnaire Programming Language (QPL) is available on the
Web at http://www.gao.gov/qpl/qpl.htm.
- Test the selected system with pretest data. Both enter and do some analysis
with the pretest data.
- Enter data as it is collected when possible. This will make any serious
problems with the questionnaire apparent early.
- If this is a year long study, consider doing an interim report so that
you start the task of editing and analyzing the data early and can catch
problems with the data early. For example, you may discover that one key
question was left off of the questionnaire. If the survey is still going
on, it may be possible to revise the questionnaire.
- If possible, have the data entered twice and checked. Or have one person
enter and another person check the entered data against the original questionnaire.
This is not possible for data that are entered directly into a computer from
a face to face or telephone interview.
1. In hiring interviewers look for candidates who:
- Have good communication skills: enunciate well, use language appropriate
for interviewing visitors.
- Have good interpersonal relations skills.
- Are socially mature.
- Are friendly and outgoing.
- Are good at keeping conversations on track.
- Are good independent workers with a strong work ethic.
- Are able and willing to work irregular hours (such as evenings or weekends).
- Are comfortable using computer programs for data entry and record keeping
if this will be part of their work.
2. In training interviewers make sure that you:
- Explain the objectives of the study and what the main questions are that
you wish to answer.
- Go through the survey instrument thoroughly.
- Have the interviewer practice interviewing you and other interviewers before
interviewing a visitor.
- Train interviewers in the use of the data entry program you are using and
have written instructions on how to use the program.
- Show interviewers how to save data files and help them understand how and
why to make back up copies of data files.
- Teach interviewers about the different components of an interview.
- Explain to interviewers that how they ask questions will affect response.
- Train them in good interviewing technique (see appendix C for an introduction
- Show the interviewers what records they must keep and why these are important
3. In supervising interviewers make sure that you:
Step 11. Inputting and Analyzing Visitor Data
- Meet with interviewers regularly.
- Collect and check their data files regularly.
- Monitor them at work periodically.
- Encourage them to find ways to do the survey more efficiently or effectively.
- Praise and reward them for good work.
- Warn them and then help them if they are having trouble doing the work
- Give them some flexibility with regard to the days and hours that they
At this stage, you find the answers to the questions that made you decide
to conduct a survey. However, this is not always easy in a visitor survey because
of the diversity of visitors that may be in your area. The process involved
in analyzing data includes:
- Having data entered as it is collected and then compiling it and checking
it for any obvious errors will save time later during data analysis.
- Editing the data to make sure that missing responses are properly coded,
expenditure data makes sense on a per person per day basis, there are no
easily detectable errors in data entry.
- Deciding how to handle outliers such as visitors who stay unusually long
periods of time or make single very large expenditures (for a major piece
of art, a car, an RV, repairs on a vehicle, etc.). Generally, these observations
should be handled separately, or if they are a very small percent of the
total, removed from the data set. For example, in a study of visitors to
Tucson, Arizona, one visitor purchased an $ 80,000 recreational vehicle.
Including this visitor's purchase increased average expenditures by over
100%. Since RV dealers were reluctant to provide information concerning how
many RVs they sell to out of town visitors, it was decided that this observation
should not be included when estimating average expenditures.
- Deciding on weighting and summarizing scheme. For example, if business
visitors are under represented in the sample, should they be weighted? Should
the data be summarized by season? Should it be summarized separately for
distinct types of visitors such as day trip and over night visitors, leisure
and business visitors? By separating data into subgroups, the measure of
error on each group increases because you have fewer observations.
- Summarizing and exploring data using a statistical package or statistical
options in a spreadsheet using such statistics as:
- means and standard deviations
- The mean or average is the sum of all values given for a variable
(such as age) across all surveys divided by the number of observations
or surveys that provided a value for the variable. The standard
deviation is a measure of how much variation there is around
the variable mean. It is equal to the square root of the squared
difference between the variable given in each survey from the
survey mean summed across all surveys and divided by one less
than the total number of surveys providing data on this variable.
- cross tabulations and matrices
- Cross tabulations and matrices are ways of organizing data
in tables with rows and columns. For example, you might want
a table that shows the percent of all visitors, of business visitors
and of leisure visitors by origin.
- t-tests, F-tests, Chi squares, etc.
- These are all statistical tests that are used to determine
if there are significant differences between groups of data.
T-tests and F-tests are used for continuous data and chi square
is typically used for categorical data (ex. yes or no responses).
For example, we may want to know if there is a statistically
significant difference between the income of day trip and overnight
visitors. A paired t-test can help us determine this. Alternatively,
we might want to know if there is a statistically significant
difference between the percent of business and leisure visitors
who play golf during their stay in the community. A chi-square
test can help determine this.
- regression analysis
- Is another statistical analysis used to determine if variables
are correlated or may affect the value of other variables. For
example, regressions on expenditures are often used to determine
if visitor characteristics such as age, income, distance from
home, interests or hobbies, purpose of trip affect how much they
spend while on a trip.
- Checking the summarized data to see that it makes sense. Do percentages
total to 100 percent? Are some of the standard deviations unusually large,
and if so, did you miss an outlier for that variable?
- Examining the summarized data to look for patterns and answers to key questions
and to begin writing up the results of the study.
If you do not have the in-house capability
to handle the analysis of the survey data, ask for help early on. Most individuals
who analyze data prefer to be involved right from the survey design and sampling
stage so that they know how the data were collected. A variety of organizations
may be able to offer help including Universities, Community Colleges, state,
federal and local agencies, EDA development centers, economic development
staff affiliated with your local utilities, and non-profit organizations.
Step 12. Reporting Visitor Information
- Choose a variety of ways of reporting the results:
- formal report
- executive summary of report
- press releases
- talks and slide presentations
- workshops and seminars
- documents on your Website
- Consider including the following in your report:
- an executive summary with the highlights of the study
- an introduction
- the results presented in text, tables, and graphs
- conclusions and recommendations
- an appendix with sampling methodology and analytical methods
- an appendix with a copy of the survey instrument
- Some tips for how to present information in the report are:
- Use graphics if they make the data easier to interpret.
- Use tables to organize data.
- Compare survey data to other data. For example, you might compare visitor
income to local income levels, or the age distribution of visitors compared
to the U.S. age distribution.
- Compare the information between different types of visitors in your
study. For example, between day trip and overnight visitors or between
business and leisure visitors.
- Use a recommendation section to interpret the results of your survey
and share what you think are the implications for the community and for
local businesses. For example, if visitors consistently rated customer
service in the community as low, there may be a need for an intensive
hospitality training effort in the community. If visitors are not in
town during the times that shops are open, perhaps shops need to reconsider
their hours of operation if visitors are important customers.
- Make enough copies of this report to share or sell to not only people and
businesses currently interested in tourism in the community, but also for
individuals who may be inquiring about opportunities for tourism related
businesses in the area and for key contacts outside the community (the state
office of tourism, university recreation and tourism departments, non-profit
- Enlist the help of your local media people to get the word out to the general
community. The individuals and businesses affected by tourism are often widespread
in a community and the mass media may be a good way of reaching them, particularly
if the survey covers a large area or is conducted in an area with a large
population. Also, consider breaking out information from the report into
small chunks for press releases. This way you can inform people without overwhelming
them with too much detail at once.
- Consider preparing a set of slides with information from the survey that
you or others can use in presentations related to tourism in your area. Interspersing
survey results in graphic and bullet form with pictures of the area and major
attractions can enhance the appearance of your presentation and remind people
in your audience of why visitors come to your area.
In this bulletin, twelve steps to conducting a visitor survey have been described
in some detail. The ideas for this bulletin come from various published sources
listed in the reference section and from the author's experience. The purpose
of the bulletin is not to be a bible for visitor surveys, but rather to give
the reader a quick overview of the survey process and to provide tips for conducting
an effective and useful survey. The author recommends that if you are planning
a visitor survey, that you seek out people with experience and training in
survey design and implementation to advise you. If you are planning to hire
someone else to do a survey, this bulletin will give you an idea of what steps
they will need to complete to be successful.
Several appendices were mentioned earlier in the bulletin. These include Appendix
A with two
example visitor surveys, Appendix
B with information on calculating
the necessary sample size to get accurate results from your survey, and Appendix
C with interviewing tips.
Dillman, Don A. Mail and Phone Surveys: The Total Design Method. John Wiley & Sons,
New York, NY. 1978.
Mendenhall, William and James E. Reinmuth. Statistics for Management and Economics.
Fourth Edition. Duxbury Press, Boston, MA. Chapter 15. 1971.
Ritchie, J.R. Brent and Charles R. Goeldner. Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality
Research. A Handbook for Managers and Researchers. Second Edition. John Wiley & Sons,
Inc., New York. Chapter 12. 1994.
Salant, Priscilla and Don A. Dillman. How to Conduct Your Own Survey. John
Wiley and Sons, New York, NY. 1994.
Snedecor, George W. and William G. Cochran. Statistical Methods. Seventh Edition.
The Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA. 1982.
Woods, Mike D. and Gerald Hall. A Guide for Local Community Survey Efforts.
Circular E-895. Cooperative Extension Service, Division of Agriculture. Oklahoma
State University, Stillwater, OK. 1990.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension
work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, James A. Christenson, Director, Cooperative Extension,
College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona.
The University of Arizona College of Agriculture
is an equal opportunity employer authorized to provide research, educational
information and other services only to individuals and institutions that
function without regard to sex, race, religion, color, national origin,
age, Vietnam Era Veteran's status, or disability
This document located at http://ag.arizona.edu/arec/pubs/guidevisitorsurveys/az1056.html