Saturday, November 21, 2009

Economics 21/11/2009: Travel figures

Just the facts... so as not to be too controversial.

CSO's travel to Ireland data for September 2009 released yesterday:
Chart 1: 

The above shows a significant month-on-month fall in September. But it does not show the underlying trends:

The difference between trips to Ireland less trips from Ireland revels two things. First - a general downward trend in the series over time. Second, in terms of annual averages: a drop from pre-2008 average to 2008 average was followed by a further drop in 2009 average to date. If the correction was due to a recession, one would expect to see some stabilization in 2009, especially per summer months. This would have pulled the average line for 2009 above 2008 line. But it did not happen. Something other than a recession is working through our travel data. May be, just may be, it has to do with the overall cost of traveling here?.. If so, the Rip-off-Republic surely starts at the point of entry - the taxes and charges feeding into airfares (not airfares themselves, with or without baggage fees, Irish airfares are relatively cheap compared to other countries).

The same patterns are showing through in trips taken to Ireland by main countries of origins. Note that I did not show linear trend lines, but it is negatively sloped only for Great Britain, while sloping up for Other Europe and North America. The fact that current annual averages are completely out of line with general longer term trends and that 2009 represents continued deterioration on 2008 suggests once again that something more sinister than a recession is working through our figures.

I can't resist doing some analysis here. Chart below shows linear trends in travel data (difference between trips to Ireland and from Ireland) over time periods concerned.

So what do these lines tell us? The blue line reproduces the results from the second chart above - this is the historic trend toward secular decline in net trips from abroad to Ireland. Yellow and pink lines show linear trends for 2008 and 2009. These lines are parallel, but 2009 line is below 2008 line, which means that the rate of change in the number of trips to/from Ireland did not change between 2008 and 2009, but the intercept declined year on year. In other words, this deterioration in trips to/from Ireland has nothing to do with continuous recession (slope effect), but everything to do with a consistent travelers' selection against Ireland as a destination. The same is confirmed by comparison of the yellow line (2009 trend) against the green line (2008 & 2009 trend), as well as by comparison of pre-2008 trend line (blue) against the 2008&2009 trend line (green).

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