About the Feasibility Study

Objective and output | Background | Scope


The objective of the current feasibility study is to assess different aspects of using passive mobile positioning data for tourism statistics.

The output of this feasibility study consists of five reports that address the main objective from various aspects. These reports are:

  1. Stock-taking contains an up-to-date description of the state of the art in using mobile positioning data in research and applications in tourism statistics and related domains. Stock-taking provides examples of methodological insight from the described use cases.
  2. Feasibility of access provides a description of the regulatory, business and technological aspects of data accessibility. Technological and some methodological aspects are provided that are relevant to the current task specifically concerning the data source, plus the characteristics and preparation of the data before tourism-specific processing of that data is carried out.
  3. Feasibility of use, methodological issues provides a methodology for the production of tourism statistics by using mobile positioning data. A detailed description of the production process is given. An evaluation of the quality of the described methodology is made.
  4. Feasibility of use, coherence assesses the coherence of tourism statistics acquired from various sources (mobile positioning data, accommodation statistics, household and individual surveys, transport statistics, etc.). Tourism statistics from several countries will be analysed. An evaluation of mirror statistics will be carried out and possible usage of mobile positioning data to increase coherence will be analysed.
  5. Opportunities and benefits concentrates on the potential opportunities and benefits the usage of mobile positioning data can bring to tourism statistics. In Report 4, the consortium does not collect or research new data and information, but rather integrates the results from previous tasks into a structured and coherent assessment of the potential usage of mobile positioning data in the field of tourism.

You can access the results on the Reports section of this page or on the projects section of Eurostat's tourism domain site.



Two primary sources of tourism statistics are accommodation statistics and statistics about participation in tourism, tourism trips and visitors. Although there is quite a large range of harmonised tourism statistics indicators, some topics are still not covered or could be improved. For example, the total volume of inbound tourism (tourism supply), including the volume of accommodation below the threshold and accommodation without charge (non-rented accommodation), border-crossing, regional tourism data, reliable detailed tourism demand data, same-day visits, efficient production and the high quality of tourism statistics, etc.

At the same time, the pace of change in the tourism industry has created new or changed user needs:

  • Demand for new variables and breakdowns
  • Need to drop some existing variables
  • Improve timeliness of the data

One of the ways of studying the movement and behaviour of tourists is related to the use of mobile telephones. A country with 10 million subscribers (the size of Sweden) produces 15 billion location data points each month. This data can and has been successfully used for tourism studies and statistics in several countries, such as Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Israel and other countries.

Figure 1. Proposed simplified scheme of joint data processing for tourism and other domains of statistics.


This study

The scope. As mobile positioning covers a wide range of location-based services (LBS) and technologies, a specification is required to limit the technological scope of the study. This study will concentrate on massive anonymous data stored and/or processed in mobile network operators’ internal systems (passive mobile positioning). The study will not focus on technologies that require endorsement of phone users (subscribers – active mobile positioning), any phone-based applications, systems that do not require MNOs’ direct participation or methods that require any additional functionalities or devices on subscribers’ mobile phones. Although some parts of the project will cover such systems, only the methods of producing statistics from a massive amount of subscribers’ data will receive primary attention.

The consortium consists of six partners and two subcontractors from four different EU countries: Positium LBS Llc, the University of Tartu, Statistics Estonia, Statistics Finland, the Institute for Tourism and Recreational Research in Northern Europe (Germany) and the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks. Innopolis Consulting and Attorneys at Law Borenius are involved in the project as subcontractors.

The study deals with barriers for MNOs to providing mobile positioning data in research and applications such as tourism statistics, which can be grouped into three major categories:

  •  Privacy and regulation-related barriers: Privacy protection issues of subscribers, ownership questions of the data, national legislation
  •  Financial and business-related barriers: Business secrets of network operators, Public opinion about surveillance and tracking, Small or no revenue and considerable technological investment for mobile operators
  •  Technological barriers: Differences in network systems (hardware and software) patents and intellectual property rights, continuity of data access.

There are a number of source databases and registries within the systems of MNOs that can provide data related to tourism statistics. Based on the source of the data different methodological issues and techniques are required to process the data. The study covers the following:

  •  Identifying and collecting all official statistical indicators that are available for consortium countries from Eurostat and national offices including the alternative statistics from surveys, ICT data and mobile positioning data;
  •  Comparing the tourism statistics from non-mobile positioning sources to available mobile positioning-based data;
  •  Analysing the coherence of specific indicators like the individual accommodation number versus the number of multiday trips; the number of accommodation nights versus the number of nights spent by multiday visitors; the domestic travel number from surveys versus the number of trips conducted outside everyday activity spaces, etc.;
  •  Analysing the mirror statistics between different countries in the EU. How standardised mobile positioning-based statistics can resolve differences in mirror statistics;
  •  New indicators that mobile positioning data may provide. How existing (official) tourism statistics can be compared to new indicators like repeating visitors, travel patterns, cross-border commuting, etc.;
  •  Comparing tourism statistic sub-domains, such as measuring event-visitor statistics and the effect of organised events on local tourism, national or regional tourism marketing campaigns, etc.

The project was in progress from January 2013 to June 2014. You can access the results on the Reports section of this page or on the projects section of Eurostat's tourism domain site.