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 Northern California Barometer

The Northern California Tourism Barometer developed at Arizona State University with collaboration from San Jose State University is an aggregate measure of the health of the travel and tourism industry in the Northern California Megapolitan Region.  A Sun Corridor Tourism Barometer for the Arizona Megapolitan region was the first of this kind.  Barometers for 18 other United States megapolitan regions are being developed.

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Northern California Tourism Barometer

The Northern California Tourism Barometer showed consistent growth from an average of 93.8 in 1990 to a value of 111.6 in August 2001 when the index dropped more than 14 points, reaching a seven-year low point of 97.1. After this drop the index grew to its historic high of 12.9 in November 2007. The index declined to 110.4 in March 2009, the lowest value in three years.

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The Northern California Megapolitan Area

The Northern California Megapolitan Region is one of twenty megapolitan areas in the United States defined as areas that combine several metropolitan areas and expected to be the predominant geographic units for region planning in the future. These areas tie together cities, towns and counties with broader relationships among them, such as goods movement, business linkages, cultural commonality, and physical environments. Megapolitan regions are a growing force in globalization and drive the integration of continental economies into the increasingly integrated world economy. Travel and tourism is fundamental to this integration and barometers that capture the monthly trends in this industry will be important measurement tools.

The Northern California Megapolitan Region includes parts of two states: California and Nevada and includes 21 counties in California: Alameda, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Marin, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba, and five counties in Nevavda: Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Storey, and Washoe.

This and all Megapolitan regions were defined by researchers at Virginia Tech in collaboration with Brookings Institute.

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Construction of the Barometer

The Northern California Tourism Barometer was developed at Arizona State University in the Megapolitan Tourism Research Center. It is the second tourism Barometer, the first being a barometer for the “Sun Corridor” in Arizona. The methodologies are the same for both barometers. They are meant to give a current, deseasonalized monthly picture of the status of the industry. They each provide an index derived from four equally weighted, seasonally adjusted indicators that capture different aspects of tourism activity. Together these indicators capture trends in four very diverse tourism-related components: jobs, transportation activity, outdoor recreational activity, and international visitation. The reference point of 100 is set at June 1994 is reported on a monthly basis. The four indicators are:

  • Non-resident Arrivals to the United States: to capture the trend in international component of area tourism through national visitation;
  • National Park Visitation in the Region reported by the National Park Service: to reflect changes in the outdoor recreational activities in the megapolitan area;
  • Hospitality and Leisure Employment in the Region: to provide a measure of the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food service  impacts of tourism; and
  • Scheduled Air Carrier Landings as reported by the FAA: to capture trends in air transportation.

These four variables were chosen because they each give a different perspective of the tourism industry, they are reported promptly, they are available monthly and they are available for most if not all the megapolitan regions. Visitors to the Northern California Region travel beyond the county boundaries, therefore visits to 17 national parks and monuments are included in the index. Hospitality and leisure employment is added for all twenty-six counties in the region. Commercial aircraft landings are added for nine airports (MOD, MRY, OAK, SAC, SFO, SJC, SMF, STS and RNO).

Each of the four monthly series is deseasonalized using an X-12, ARIMA seasonal adjustment procedure that includes special treatment for outliers such as the dramatic changes in September 2001. Seasonal adjustment of the data eliminates the annual calendar patterns due to climate, vacations and business cycles. The entire data series are re-adjusted each time new data points are added (or old data points are corrected) to ensure that any new trends and patterns are fully-captured in the seasonal adjustment process. This means that the series of values may change slightly each month. The entire revised series is posted as an Excel file.

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Historical Behavior of the Barometer

Graphs of the four components of the barometer illustrate their contributions to its overall trend. After s significant drop in September 2001, seasonally adjusted commercial air carrier landings have shown a modestly increasing trend through September 2007 and short term peak in October 2007. From January 2008 to March 2009, the number of seasonally adjusted landings has declined by almost 12,000. Seasonally adjusted National Park Visits in the Northern California region remained relatively flat since 2002, hovering around the 2.5 million seasonally adjusted visits. Seasonally adjusted leisure and hospitality employment showed steady growth, reaching a historic high point of 544,000 in April 2008. Since then seasonally adjusted employment declined 4% to 520,000. Seasonally adjusted international arrivals to the United States showed very strong growth since their low point in October 2001 reaching a record high level in May 2008 and remaining near that level through August 2008. Since then seasonally adjusted international arrivals have declined over 12%.

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Northern California Landings

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Northern California Park Visits

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Northern California Employment

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Northern California Arrivals

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