Overseas to the U.S. Custom Report Background

The International Trade Administration (ITA), National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) conducts the Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT).  Data from the survey are used by both the private and public sectors.  The survey responses are an invaluable resource for planning and marketing and can be used to analyze behavior of specific visitor segments.  A uniquely valuable aspect of this survey is the expansion of the results to represent a defined visitor population.

SIAT results are expanded to represent the volume of overseas travelers to the United States, based on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) I-94 Form.  This form is required for most non-U.S. resident travelers arriving in the United States, and provides a count of travelers from almost 220 separate countries.  It is the best source of residency data available for travelers to the U.S.1


SIAT Questionnaire Content

A copy of the SIAT questionnaire can be found by clicking here.  It contains thirty-two, multi-part questions, related to trip characteristics and traveler demographics.

The questionnaire was specifically designed to collect information on a traveler's complete trip itinerary, including information on every major destination visited, the length of stay and the type of accommodations utilized.  In addition, information on expenses by category is collected, as well as payment method.  The level of detail collected in these questions is not available elsewhere.


Survey Operations

The majority of interviews are conducted in airport boarding areas, although some international airlines voluntarily conduct the survey in-flight.  The questionnaires are designed to be self-administered by the respondents, and are distributed at the international flight departure gate or onboard flights departing from U.S. airports to international destinations.  Questionnaires are available in twelve languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  The survey is designed to encourage responses from non-U.S. residents and U.S. residents.  Flights between the U.S. and Canada are not surveyed.  Canadian residents are excluded from the SIAT database, but information on Canadian travel is available from Stats Canada.

The SIAT is conducted monthly, specific flights are selected at random, and airlines that participate in-flight receive advance listings of the flights to be surveyed.  These airlines are then sent survey kits which contain instructions and questionnaires in the appropriate languages.  Airline personnel distribute the questionnaire after boarding, and collect the completed forms prior to debarkation.  However, for most airlines, data collection takes place at the airport at the international departure gate.  DHS-badged survey personnel are responsible for distributing and collecting the completed questionnaires in the departure gate area.


Survey Participation

Typically, more than 90 unique airlines participate in the survey.  The NTTO relies upon the voluntary participation of airlines to collect data on international travelers.  While the survey data are weighted to represent all travelers based upon the DHS I-94 data, no visitor volume estimates are possible where no residents of a specific country were surveyed.  This means that if no surveys are collected for a particular market, no weighting scheme can correct for this absence.

When reviewing the estimates developed from a subset of the survey data, users need to carefully review the number of respondents for each column heading, as well as the list of participating carriers.  The absence of an airline and lower sample sizes will impact the estimates developed for the origin and destination figures.

1 Arrival figures by country can be found on the NTTO website: http://travel.trade.gov


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