Accurate measurement of the economic significance of tourism has become increasingly important over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. Within Australia, attempts by government agencies began in 1979 and have developed over time with increasing sophistication related to improvements in modelling techniques and data sources.
The economic measurement of tourism is complex since it cannot be defined as an industry in the national accounts. The principal reason for this is that tourist expenditure covers a range of industry output and tourist consumption is only defined by the nature of the transactor, that is, a visitor.
With improving and expanding systems of national accounts, the economic measurement of tourism has found a home by expanding the boundaries of traditional national accounts into a construct called a satellite account. A satellite account allows the integration of nonconforming data or market segments with the usual measures of national income and expenditure, allowing their effect and contribution to be estimated.
The concepts and issues with tourism satellite accounting are covered and related to input-output accounting. An attempt is made to construct, from limited data sources, a tourism satellite account for a region, Queensland, a state of Australia. The economic significance of tourism in Queensland is calculated from the tourism satellite account and compared to measures from other sources.
Discussion is then extended to incorporate the theoretical concepts of how the tourism satellite account can be applied to sub-regions and modelling applications. A discussion of the limitations of the techniques is included as well as the implications for policy and an agenda for further research.
In conclusion whilst tourism satellite accounts may not increase the accuracy of calculating the economic significance of tourism to an economy, they can provide a framework for the collection and integration of tourism statistics into the national accounts. It is this framework which is the greatest advantage of the tourism satellite account over other methods.