Are Bolivians “unfriendly” to tourists?! Part 2

In my last post I discussed a recent CNN article claiming that Bolivians were the people most “unfriendly” towards tourists.  I traced a game of telephone through the reports, where asking local businesspeople about attitudes of the national population to foreign visitors, was translated into “affinity for tourism,” was then translated by CNN into which people are “friendliest” towards tourists.

Of course, it makes a great headline for CNN.  You thought the French were rude to tourists (following one common stereotype), but no!  It’s Bolivians.  Except my experience tells me that’s not true, and the data presented don’t seem to support that claim either.

There are those who will argue that this doesn’t matter that much.  After all, some of my interlocutors (here and on Facebook) have pointed out that media sources misuse data all the time for better headlines, and that the Bolivian tourism industry faces many challenges anyway.

I would argue this is precisely why it does matter.  Bolivia — both the government and individual Bolivians — are desperately trying to increase tourism revenue in a context of global economic crisis which has hit the industry hard, and the last thing they need are false rumors about the people being “unfriendly” being circulated in the international press.

I know from experience the disproportionate effect media reporting can have on the fickle industry of tourism.  I was in Costa Rica in 1996 when a German tourist and her Swiss guide were kidnapped out of a hotel.  Although they were released, the perpetrators were captured, and this was an isolated incident rather than part of a pattern of tourist kidnappings, German media sources reported widely on the event, and German tourism to Costa Rica tanked for several years.

Media coverage absolutely matters, and we ignore it at our peril.

I promised an update on the methodology of the survey conducted among Bolivian businesspeople that produced this data.  Here’s another WEF report with some details about the 2011 survey.  I’ll summarize the information presented about Bolivia specifically.

79 people completed the survey in Bolivia, 100% of them online.  Of those, 92% worked in businesses of less that 101 employees, and none worked in businesses with more than 1000 employees.

Using statistical methods, they then weighted the responses received so they match the distribution of economic sectors in the nation (in terms of % of GDP):

Once the data have been edited, individual answers
are aggregated at the country level. We compute
sector-weighted country averages to obtain a more
representative average that takes into account the
structure of a country’s economy. The structure is
defined by the estimated contributions to a country’s
gross domestic product of each of the four main economic sectors: agriculture, manufacturing industry, nonmanufacturing industry, and services.

For Bolivia, this weighting is Agriculture 14%, Manufacturing 14%, Nonmanufacturing 22%, and Services 50%.  What is included in each of these is not outlined here (although it is fairly standard).  Tourism falls under “services,” but it isn’t the only business represented there.  I assume this means than fewer than half of the weighted responses come from individuals working in tourism in some capacity.

In other words, the businesspeople asked about “attitudes of the population towards foreign visitors” no doubt included some people who work in tourism, but was absolutely not a survey aimed exclusively, or even primarily, at tourism professionals.

I’m still looking for a full description of the methods used in this survey.  More to  follow if I find it.

 

 

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