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Tourism statistics and unobserved tourism: empirical evidences in Sicily


Despite its strategic importance, accurately measuring visitor attendance has been a challenging and problematic exercise for tourism managers for decades. Consequently, the primary aim of tourism statistics of accurately quantify tourism flows has been only partially achieved; indeed at a lower territorial scale tourism statistics appear less precise and accurate. The aim of this paper is: to introduce the concept of unobserved tourism, by highlighting the main limits of official statistical systems (with a special focus on the European statistical system on tourism statistics; to formalize a theoretical model in which tourism nights and trips in a given destination are decomposed intoobserved and unobserved components, according to the current systems of tourism statistics. We define unobserved tourism, in terms of overnight stays, the sum of two components: the set of all the nights spent by tourists in unofficial establishments (unmeasured tourism), and the set of nights spent by tourists in official establishments, but deliberately concealed from public authorities, mainly for fiscal reasons (underground tourism). Some empirical evidences derived from surveys aimed at quantifying the magnitude of unobserved tourism in Sicily are described in order to illustrate the different approaches which can be adopted to explore the issue of unobserved tourism.