The future of tourism statistics

How can algorithms and mobile phone data be the future of statistics for tourism and mobility?


Motion Analytica, in collaboration with ISTAT and Vodafone Italia, helped develop an experimental project aimed at investigating some key issues related to tourism and mobility through the use of big data.




ISTAT & Vodafone Italia

This project was the subject of a presentation at the 14th National Statistics Conference (Rome, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2021 –, which is the main research meeting of the National Statistical System where data producers and users are given the opportunity to discuss the role and the future developments of official statistics.



Official statistics data

Provided by ISTAT.


Anonymized data from mobile phone

Derived from traffic on phone cells in the analysed areas and provided by Vodafone italy.


The goal of the project was to test the potential of telephone data in the production of official statistics on domestic, inbound (I.e. foreigners in Italy) and outbound (I.e. Italians abroad) tourism.

The analysis targeted 2 months of data at the municipal level for the areas of the city of Rome and the province of Rimini, which represent two locations in Italy with a strong vocation for tourism.

Research in these areas focused on two main aspects:

Arrivals, I.e. the number of telephone users who spend at least 6 hours between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. at the area.

Presences, I.e. from the sum of nights spent by tourists in the destination during the two months that have been analyzed.

Users were further categorized into:

Tourist (Italian or foreigner), i.e. a user that spends the night outside her usual place of residence.

Hiker/Visitor, I.e. a user who spends at least 3 hours during the day in the area, without spending the night there and without been a resident in the same or neighbouring municipalities.


The project has made it possible to highlight how the methodology based on mobile phone data provides different perspectives than official statistics. Sometimes the numbers are well aligned, but in some cases they can deviate even significantly; these elements will be the object of future extensions of the project.

Concerning inbound tourism (foreigners in Italy), the new methodology has shown important advantages over standard sampling procedures, in particular with reference to the levels of spatial detail that can be achieved.

Concerning outbound tourism (Italians abroad) there still remains a non-direct comparability with official statistics from ISTAT.

You can view the poster presented at the conference containing full details here:

Change the way you interpret human mobility!