What is the SIAT?
Publishing and Prices
Frequently Asked Questions
Partnership with CIC Research
What is the SIAT?
Publishing and Prices
Frequently Asked Questions
Partnership with CIC Research
What is the SIAT?
Survey of International Air Travelers is a primary research program which gathers statistical data about air passenger travelers in U.S. - overseas and Mexican air markets (Canada is excluded).
NTTO conducts this program as part of its statistical system* in order to comply with requirements noted in Section 10 of Public Law 104-288, the National Tourism Organization Act of 1996. The Act states that Commerce is to collect and publish comprehensive international travel and tourism statistics and other marketing information. In addition, this program is implemented to enable the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to comply with Section 8 of the Bretton Woods Agreements Act of 1945 (Public Law 79-171, as amended), and implemented by Executive Order No. 10033, which requires them to provide export/import and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data for the country. The Survey data also contributes to BEA’s Travel and Tourism Satellite Account (TTSA) program for the U.S.
More recent legislation, the
Travel Promotion Act of 2009, mandates that NTTO continue and expand its research activities including the SIAT.
*(including DHS I-94 and I-92 data)
The program also serves as the cornerstone for NTTO’s efforts to assist U.S. businesses to improve their competitiveness and effectiveness in the international travel market. Many state tourism offices and convention and visitors bureaus are dependent upon the program as the source for comparable state and city visitation and international traveler trend information. Other stakeholders include participating airlines, airports and other government agencies.
The sample universe consists of all international air travelers to or from the U.S. (except Canadians). However, there are two separate populations being targeted. One population is comprised of U.S. residents departing the U.S. on the originating leg of their flight. The other population is non-resident visitors (specific visa types) who are on their return leg home, who are aboard the same outbound flight departing the U.S.
Sample selection is made , on a random basis, of scheduled flights (clusters) from among all participating airlines that depart the U.S. to overseas or Mexican destinations. A computer program selects a random sample of flights to be surveyed from an electronic database of scheduled airline flights. Major charter carriers are also included in the program. The number of flights sampled proportionately reflects the total number of flights offered by carrier and the dispersion of flights by destination.
Survey data is gathered from self-administered questionnaires. Due to the ‘skip-pattern’ design of the questions, the same questionnaire is used for both resident and non-resident visitors. The questionnaires are distributed and collected in either of two ways depending on the preference of the participating carrier: 1) on-board the flight (hence ‘in-flight’) by the airline flight crew personnel or a 2) boarding-area collection in the airport gate area.
In-Flight: NTTO’s contractor relationship with the carrier’s airport management staff enables the government to distribute the survey kits (nylon bag containing up to 125 questionnaires, pencils and a recap report) on a monthly basis to the flight crews via the airline service managers. An announcement is made to the passengers that the flight crew will be handing out questionnaires to volunteers. The crews collect the surveys before landing, note the number of surveys distributed for the flight. The survey kit is moved to the ship’s cargo hold for the return flight to a U.S. gateway. Then the airline service manager forwards the survey kits back to the contractor.
Boarding Area: At certain airports NTTO’s contractor hires a subcontractor to distribute and collect surveys at the international departure gates for the selected flight. The subcontractor notes the number of surveys completed on a recap sheet and returns the kit to the contractor. New initiatives at several airports have the local tourism organizations working with the airport authorities to distribute/collect the surveys to supplement data collection shortfalls from the in-flight method for certain carriers.
E-Survey Pilot Tests: NTTO and its contractor (CIC Research, Inc.) have tested several electronic approaches to the Survey with the intent of replacing the paper-based system when appropriate. In 2015, 2014 and 2012 the tests were done pre-flight departure; in 2008 the test was conducted during the booking process.
The contractor processes the return of the survey kits. This includes verifying the receipt of survey kits, coding, data entry and editing of the completed questionnaires. Foreign language responses are translated. A quality control process ensures data integrity. The Survey data is “weighted” to census data. For example, non-resident inbound survey responses are weighted to the “100%” population of DHS I-94 arrival records to adjust for over and under sampling. Resident outbound data is weighted based on DHS I-92 U.S. departure data.
The survey instrument (questionnaire) used for this program was designed by the U.S. government, the airlines and travel industry. The questionnaire was designed in 1982, and modified in 1985, 1990, 1993, 1996 and 2012.
Destination/Gateway Information: destinations visited including: True origin-destination, census regions, states and major cities/attractions, countries, main destination visited port-of-entry, use of connecting flights including airport connections used, leisure/recreational activities, nights away from home/in U.S., number of states, destinations or countries visited, types of transportation used while on the trip, accommodations used and rental car.
Trip Planning Information: Purpose of trip (main and other purposes), type of airline ticket (First Class, Business Class, Coach, frequent flyer tickets/upgrade, discount/group fare, non-revenue), traveler seating area, advanced trip decision/airline reservation timing, method of booking trip/lodging, information sources used, prepaid package/inclusive tour usage, and number of days prior departure the package was purchased.
Ratings Information: Factors involved in choosing the airline for this trip, general impression of the airline (provided to airlines only), ratings of 18 elements of the airplane for this flight (provided to airlines only), recommendation rating for this airline for next trip (provided to airlines only), Customs & Border Protection service ratings, ratings of 10 airport attributes, time required to clear Customs, baggage delivery time rating.
Demographic Information: residence and citizenship of traveler, U.S. zip codes, country of birth, gender, age, occupation, income, type and size of travel party, first international trip to/from U.S., number of foreign trips in past five years; & past twelve months, trip expenditures (total and itemized) , use of credit card, travelers checks, debit card use for payment of expenses.
Product Differentiation: Survey data provides information on the entire U.S. – overseas and Mexican-air marketplaces or any sub-region and/or true origin-destination itineraries, unlike individual airline, alliance-only surveys or data-sets that are predominantly U.S. carrier focused. Survey data reveals the nature of the customer, his/her choice patterns and demographics and is not just an onboard service evaluation.
Publishing and Prices
Data are available on a quarterly and annual basis for either non-resident inbound or resident outbound. It can be delivered in a standard national report format or as a custom report, either in print or excel. Data files are also available in SPSS.
Twelve country reports are published for inbound data. Mexican data are reported in a separate country reports (resident or non-resident)
State and city reports (including the top 12 states and top 12 cities) are available.
For more Survey information see the publications section.
Non-Resident Inbound 1 National Reports
Annual Report, in print (All 4 banners)
Annual Report, in Excel (includes print)
Banner 1: All Overseas Travelers (Excel reports)
Banner 2: European Visitors (Excel reports)
Banner 3: Asia/Pacific/Middle East Visitors (Excel reports)
Banner 4: Latin America & African Visitors (Excel reports)
Quarter only 2019 (each) (print)
2nd, 3rd quarter/2019 year-to-date (print)
U.S. Resident Outbound 2 National Reports
2019 Annual Report, in print (All 4 banners)
2019 Annual Report, in Excel (includes print)
Banner 1: All U.S., Purpose, Frequency, Package, etc.
Banner 2: U.S. States of Origin
Banner 3: U.S. Cities of Origin
Banner 4: Overseas Destination Regions
Quarter only 2019 (each) (print)
2nd, 3rd quarter/2019 year-to-date (print)
U.S. Air Travelers outbound to Mexico (print)
U.S. To Mexico in Excel
Country 3 Reports (Annual):
From country, inbound to U.S., i.e. Australia to U.S.(print)
Each country report in Excel
Top State and Top City Reports 4
Top State/City Report in Excel
Country/Sector 1997-2019 Time series in Excel (New Report)
To order any of the “standard” reports, please fill out this form:
1. Non-resident overseas travelers to the U.S. report or Excel file, which provides data on the states and cities visited by overseas travelers from eleven world regions. Up to 20 country profiles are available, along with 11 additional subsets of data on 37 different traveler characteristics, in this data report to assist you in understanding the international traveler market.
2. U.S. residents traveling overseas report or Excel file provides the top origin states and cities of residence and to selected travelers characteristics data, world regions, and a few top destinations. The four sets of 12 columns of data are subset by 40 traveler characteristics table, which provides profiles of the U.S. resident outbound traveler.
3. A Country report provides detail of travelers from the country of origin to the U.S. There are twelve cross tab banner column headings with 37 different tables relating to questions on the Survey. With this report, one can develop profiles of business, leisure, package and other subsets of the traveler to the United States from the country of origin. Reports at the price listed are available for: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico (air only), PRC (China), South Korea and the United Kingdom. Other country reports may be developed for a price of a custom report. If interested, please contact the NTTO staff.
4. These reports provide a profile of the overseas traveler to the top U.S. states and cities visited. Included are 37 traveler characteristics in a format similar to other in-flight survey reports. Also included (and not found in the inbound national report) is an estimate for overall nights in the destination. This report is an excellent way to see what the profile of the overseas traveler is for each of the cities listed to identify possible partners, and see the overall profile of overseas travelers to the top 12 cities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all U.S. gateway airports represented in the monthly survey?
No. However, in 2008 NTTO collected responses in the gate areas of, or on flights departing from, 30 U.S. gateway airports which accounted for 97% of all overseas air traffic. The issue is not the number of gateways, but whether the number of collections in each gateway is optimum. Some gateways are under-surveyed (Miami) and some are over-surveyed (JFK). Our objective is to correct this. See the next question.
Are all international air carriers represented in the monthly samples?
No. However, the 80 + carriers from which we collected responses, either on-board or in the gate area, accounted for about 95% of all air traffic departing the U.S. As with airports, the issue centers on the optimum number of collections per carrier per overseas region served, as well as at each gateway. To date, there is only one carrier that has specifically declined to be in the Survey. Two very large carriers are being under-sampled. So the number of carriers is not the issue as much as the proportionate distribution among the participants. Since the overall participation of the in-flight method has been on the wane we have initiated the Supplemental Airport Survey Program to enhance collections, to match airline traffic levels, at specific airports, i.e. Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando and Denver.
Are the Survey data valid?
The Survey measures what it is suppose to measure (the statistical definition of the term, validity), namely the characteristics and perceptions of international travelers to and from the U.S.
Are the Survey data reliable?
The Survey produces very stable results where we have robust sample sizes, i.e., at the national level and from the top 20 origin countries producing visitors. It is at the sublevel of country/destination, a/k/a the origin-destination level, that the VOLUME estimates get ‘ jumpier’, when compared year-over-year due to smaller sample sizes and normal sampling error.
Are the Survey data accurate?
An estimate is accurate when compared favorably to a known and proven outcome. Currently there is no other known public method that produces an accurate outcome. However, the raw Survey data is modified, through a weighting methodology, to comply with the known accurate census of non-resident arrivals to the U.S., the DHS I-94 Arrival Record and U.S resident departures via the DHS I-92.
Why has NTTO’s Survey methodology remained the same?
In fact it has changed. NTTO has continually sought innovative approaches since the inception of the Survey program in 1983. More recently, in 2005 NTTO issued a Request for Information (RFI) and a follow-on Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP repeatedly emphasized the invitation for new and innovative approaches. That CIC Research, Inc. was awarded the new contract reflects—literally—that either all bidders proposed the same approach or that CIC’s approach was determined best by the judging panel. In 2008, NTTO and CIC conducted an e-Survey trial using the internet and CRS booking engines. While that approach showed some promise it did not prove to be cost efficient. We are currently researching the possibility of using aircraft in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems and/or internet connections to deliver and collect survey data.
Why isn’t a probability sample selected from all foreign residents on each departing flight? It appears that no attempt is made to select a random sample of passengers within each flight. If this cannot be done, questionnaires should be passed out to all adult passengers on the flight or distributed to all adult passengers waiting at the airport departure gate, and high response rates encouraged.
For an in-flight random selection, cooperation would be needed from both airline management and the flight crew. In general, and as an understatement, contract employees are not readily compliant with duties not covered in their labor agreements. Airline managers are openly adverse to actions they perceive to be detrimental to customer service. Of the 15 participating in-flight carriers thirteen are foreign based carriers, one of which does in fact select passengers in a random method. Of the 55+ carriers that we survey in the gate area one could argue that selection is in effect random given the mobility of the passengers in the gate area. Also, it would be impractical to consider surveying the entire population given the magnitude of 25.8 million non-resident overseas travelers on 527,000 flights during 2007. This program operates with funding constraints.
The Survey of International Air Travelers questionnaire was developed in 1982 with revisions in 1985, 1990, 1993, 1996, and 2012. Changes in content were based on input from the travel industry including an airline user group panel. Format and design changes were coordinated through the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The paper-based survey instrument is available in 12 languages including: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. An English version e-Survey and other electronic versions of the survey instrument have been tested over time and so far, the paper version of the questionnaire still obtains more responses than any other version.
Questions are grouped into the relative categories: travel planning, trip data including origin-destination(s), trip expenditures, choice factors and passenger demographics.
As a federal government survey, OMB No. 0625-0227, both the program and any questionnaire changes are subject to clearance by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Although the Survey cannot be changed on demand, NTTO intends to solicit input from the private and public sector stakeholders in advance of making further revisions to the Survey. Since questionnaire revisions will include changes to data processing programs these efforts will be subject to the availability of funds.
OMB clearance covers a period of three years. The program was re-approved in 2021 and the next expiration date is set for September 30, 2024. A Federal Register Notice will be issued in July 2024 with a 60-day public comment period. All letters obtained as a result of the Federal Register Notice must be summarized and responded to. The package is then submitted to OMB for clearance. The entire review and clearance process of the questionnaire by OMB takes between four and five months.
The National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO) relies upon the voluntary participation of the U.S. and foreign flag carriers who fly to and from the U.S. The airlines help NTTO to survey passengers on a select number of departing flights from the U.S. during the third week of each month. For each airline, NTTO coordinates with an airline survey manager who oversees that airlines’ participation at each gateway airport. The airlines also designate a gateway manager to coordinate placing the survey kits on designated flights. The flight crews distribute and collect surveys from the passengers (also voluntary on their part) and respond to questions related to the survey. They are also responsible for ensuring the survey kits are returned to the United States. The gateway managers mail the survey kits back to our contractor for processing.
NTTO thanks each of the airlines for their continued participation. Through this public/private partnership, each participating airline, the U.S. federal government, foreign governments and the travel industry have comprehensive, comparable data on the international travel market to and from the U.S.
From 1990 through 1999 NTTO sponsored an Airline Users Group which had membership from over a dozen global airlines. The group acted as a consulting body for the purpose of improving the air passenger survey program. NTTO expects to re-start the users group in the future.
In addition to the in-flight survey method, described above, NTTO also collects surveys at various airports. A field service contractor is used to distribute, collect, answer questions from survey respondents and then returns the surveys back to our contractor for processing. Airport cooperation is needed along with cooperation from the federal inspections staff at each airport. NTTO would like to thank these partners as well.
Below are lists of the airlines who participated in the 1995-2007 surveys. If you would like a list of carriers who participated in previous years, if you have any questions, or if you would like to participate please send a note to the
Survey of International Air Travelers Program Manager.
Partnership with CIC Research
The National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) conducts the monthly
Survey of International Air Travelers that collects data on passengers departing from U.S. international gateway airports. The survey instrument is a self-administered questionnaire which can be used by either of the two target populations: 1) non-resident visitors to the U.S. from overseas or 2) U.S. travelers going abroad.
There are also two data collection methods. The legacy method involves the direct participation of the airlines, which arrange for their flight crews to distribute and collect surveys on-board. Also, we use sub-contractors or local partners to distribute and collect the questionnaires in the airport departure gate area (“airport intercept”). The airport-intercept method accounted for 60% of all collections, in 2009, while the in-flight method accounted for 40%. NTTO annual funding for 2010 supports the collection and processing of approximately 72,640 passenger surveys. However, it is also our goal to ensure that the number of surveys collected at each airport properly represent the departure traffic levels.
Due to the logistical challenges in administering the survey, certain airlines and airports are not able to produce completed surveys in proportion to their traffic numbers.
The aim of this program is to develop a public/private partnership to survey additional international flights on a monthly basis to improve airport specific and destination collections.
Currently, NTTO is orchestrating this effort in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Dallas/Ft Worth, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington Dulles. Each program is slightly different, but the supplemental collections are being conducted to improve the quality of the data collections at each airport. In most cases the airport authority works in cooperation with its convention & visitors bureau or destination marketing organization.
By participating in this program, the airport/destination will collect a larger and more representative sample of passengers, as well as improve the control over the sample collection. All of the collections obtained from the airport will be combined and used in the national data NTTO releases on international travel to and from the USA. Combined in-flight and airport supplements will result in better representative sample of passengers at the airport, improving all of the estimates provided. The combined sample (national and supplemental) will be weighted to the country-of-residence and port-of-entry travel population figures. This program will also assist in obtaining an improved sample that better matches the count of visitors to the United States.
NTTO (through its contractor, CIC Research) will provide: Analysis of current sample and suggested supplement.
A list of potential flights to target each month.
Questionnaires and pencils to be distributed to departing passengers in the appropriate language mix. There are 12 language versions available.
Prepaid, pre-addressed shipping labels and shipping bags for the return shipment to NTTO’s contractor.
Tally sheet for each flight NTTO requests be surveyed.
Guidance and monitor results of survey collections from main program and supplemental effort to make adjustments if needed.
Processing of all surveys collected
Destination/Airport Authority’s Responsibilities
The survey team will utilize the sample frame provided to them each month. The sample frame will include a list of flights to survey by airline and city pair.
Distribute and collect the self-administered surveys to both US citizens and non-resident international air passengers on a random basis.
Promptly return surveys to our contractor using prepaid, pre-addressed shipping labels and shipping bags provided.
Other options are available, including NTTO/its contractor hiring a survey contractor to collect the surveys. All costs associated will be billed to the parties interested.
We recommend that you work directly with NTTO’s contractor, CIC Research, Inc., which will outline for you the benefits of a custom report that will meet your needs and specifications. Please direct inquiries to:
Mr. Philippe Deschenes, Programmer, CIC Research, Inc., San Diego, CA
Telephone: 858-637-4000, Toll free: 1-888-637-6378
Custom reports are available in Excel and can be purchased for $10,210.00 (first banner), $9,185.00 (second banner) and $8,220.00 (for third and each successive banner). The format for custom reports is a 12-column, 38-table report.
Custom tables can be purchased at $2,720.00 with each subsequent table available for $1,645.00. Data file prices vary by the number of elements selected.
Custom reports and tables can be developed for either population: Travelers to the U.S. (non-resident inbound) or U.S. travelers to overseas (resident outbound).
An actual custom report is available for review, i.e., U.S. to Vietnam 2006
CIC’s main web site
Learn more about custom reports
For program background information you are encouraged to contact the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) at: (202) 482-0140 and talk with Richard Champley, Program Manager.
When using the Survey data please source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Travel and Tourism Office.
Destination-marketing organizations (DMO, i.e. state tourism offices or convention and visitors’ bureaus), interested in knowing how visitors to their destination differ from “average” travelers to the U.S., can compare the results of their custom run to the national report. Are visitors demographically different (younger/older, do they spend more), what activities do they engage in, do they rent automobiles, etc.?
The DMO might consider structuring their custom report format to parallel, use the same column headings as, the national level report. For example, the following 12 columns (banners) could be run for a specific destination and at the national level: (1) all overseas to your state or city, (2) from the UK, (3) UK leisure/VFR, (4) from Japan, (5) Japan leisure/VFR, (6) Japan package travelers, (7) from Germany, (8) from France, (9) all hotel/motel travelers, (10) travelers renting a car, (11) travelers visiting historical places, and (12) travelers going to an amusement/theme park. A comparative analysis would enable a DMO to analyze what is unique about its destination, or how this market could be approached differently since its travelers differ from the national average.
NTTO offers the 12-column banner national level data, in Excel, mirroring your destination banner, for $4,050.00 after purchase of a custom report for your destination.