Comprehensive Restructuring of the International Economic
Accounts: New International Guidelines Redefine Travel
In 2009 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the sixth edition of the Balance of
Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6), which included a definitional
change for 'travel' and the trade of travel-related goods and services.
As a result, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) embarked on a path towards a
comprehensive restructuring of the U.S. international economic accounts, the most extensive
restructuring since 1976, in an effort to bring our international accounts into closer conformity
with international guidelines.
The new presentation of these accounts not only conforms more closely to IMF's guidelines, but
also brings our nation's international accounts into closer alignment with those of other countries
who have already adopted the changes originating from BPM6.
This is particularly important for international economic statistics where international
transactions between any two countries should be mirrored in each other's bilateral statistics; for
example, country A's exports of services to country B should be mirrored in country B's imports
of services from country A. Bilateral comparisons can provide valuable insights into the
completeness and quality of the statistics and help identify areas of concern, but only if the two
countries' statistical methodology and data sources are comparable.
So what exactly has changed with regards to travel and tourism-related statistics?
Travel - International standards recommend using a broader definition of travel than that
previously used by BEA. The broader definition includes education-related and health-related
travel and expenditures on goods and services by border, seasonal, and other short-term workers.
In the new presentation, these transactions, which were previously included in "other" private
services, have been reclassified to travel. To distinguish the new broader category from the old
measure, the new category is now called "travel (for all purposes including education)".
The new presentation breaks out business travel expenditures and personal travel expenditures.
Under business travel, the new presentation provides expenditures by border, seasonal, and other
short-term workers and "other" business travel. Under personal travel, the new presentation
shows health-related travel, education-related travel, and "other" personal travel.
This new presentation provides two benefits. First, education-related travel, previously shown as
education under "other" private services, will remain available to BEA's data users. Second,
users will be able to reconstruct the old measure of travel by adding "other" business travel and
"other" personal travel.
The new presentation also improves the comparability of BEA's travel statistics with those of
other countries. The broader definition of travel was recommended in earlier versions of the
international standards, and it was widely adopted by other countries then.
U.S. Department of Commerce | National Travel and Tourism Office
Put simply, moving health- and education-related travel to the travel services category brings the
U.S. international accounts into closer harmony with data produced by our trading partners.
These changes improve the overall comparability of international economic statistics and provide
policymakers and others with a stronger statistical foundation for understanding and responding
to international economic events.
The National Travel and Tourism Office will publish preliminary data each March (so 2014
year-end data will be published in March 2015), subsequently revised data in June, and countryspecific
data in October. As a result of the reclassifications, all travel and tourism-related trade
data have been revised back to 1999.
Here is a look at the new presentation of travel and tourism-related data:
Total Travel and Tourism-Related Exports
Total Travel and Tourism-Related Exports(1)
Travel (for all purposes including education)(2)(3)
Expenditures by border, seasonal, and other
Other business travel
Other personal travel
Passenger Air Transport(4)
1 Total Travel and Tourism Exports/Imports represents the sum of 'Travel' + 'Passenger Air Transport'
(what international visitors spent while here + what they spent to get here).
2 Travel: These accounts cover purchases of goods and services by U.S. persons traveling abroad and
by foreign travelers in the United States for business or personal reasons. These goods and services
include food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the country of travel, and
other items incidental to a foreign visit.
3 All travel purposes include 1) business travel, including expenditures by border, seasonal, and other
short-term workers and 2) personal travel, including health-related and education-related travel, along
with spending on day-trips (less than one night).
4 Fares received for the transport of nonresidents by U.S. air carriers between the United States and
foreign countries and between two foreign points (exports), and the