Have you ever thought about how ForwardKeys accurately determines the nationalities of travellers? Identifying the nationality of passengers who fly with a specific carrier or travel on a particular route is valuable information for DMOs, brands, retailers, and other organisations in the travel industry. This data can be used for marketing, operational strategy, product development, and other purposes. It might seem like a simple task, but it can be more complicated in practice.

Fortunately, ForwardKeys has developed a unique method that allows us to identify traveller nationality with a high degree of accuracy. In this brief blog post, we aim to clarify this issue and answer some of the common questions we receive about our nationality data.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Don’t official statistics give us the nationality data we need?

Unfortunately, no — privacy restrictions dictate that the nationality of passengers often isn’t publicly available, even where it is recorded by official sources. It’s not even publicly reported at the airport or city level — generally, the best available data is very high-level, including multiple modes of transportation, and heterogeneous in its methodology. Also, not all official statistics include domestic flights or flights within the Schengen area. These factors limit the usefulness of official sources significantly, making it difficult to derive meaningful and actionable insights.

2. How does ForwardKeys’ approach solve this?

With a little data magic. We use a complex and multifaceted approach to reasonably approximate traveller nationality, considering a broad range of data points linked to the travel profile — point of origin, official statistics correlation, itinerary, ticket issuing office, length of stay, and more. We don’t just offer a summary of the top 10 or top 20 nationalities— our data covers all passenger nationalities and is updated weekly, unlike the lead times of up to a year associated with official sources. That includes granular profile data on key consumer demographics such as American and Chinese travellers.

3. Residence, citizenship, or nationality — what’s the difference?

For most passengers, residence, citizenship, and nationality correlate precisely. However, the percentage of individuals with mixed nationalities is increasing, making it challenging to accurately define their “true nationality”. The country stated on a traveller’s passport may not always reflect the full reality of their cultural background and identity — or their consumption and purchasing behaviours. This distinction may be commercially important — for example, for retailers issuing tax refunds, the determining factor is an individual’s country of tax residence, not their citizenship.

Our methodology, which accurately determines the true point of origin and if required correlates it with the ticket issuing office and official statistics figures, provides the most reliable insights into “nationality” in this sense, giving our clients the actionable insights, they need.

Here’s where ForwardKeys goes one step further than other providers.

Estimating Nationality: The trip origin — the starting point of an itinerary — is highly related to a traveller’s country of residence, and therefore a practical starting point to estimate nationality.

Future Traffic Analysis: Using trip origin allows our analysts to segment future traffic by nationality, offering insights into upcoming trends rather than just reporting past statistics.

Inclusive Analysis of Transit Traffic: In major hub airports, transit traffic can represent as much as 60% of total throughput, and as transiting passengers don’t usually need to pass through border controls, official sources don’t capture this traffic. By analysing the full itinerary, we can accurately approximate the nationalities of transit passengers — providing a more comprehensive picture.

Passport-Free Travel: Where passport checks are not required, such as for intra-Schengen traffic, using trip origin gives us a reliable approximation for determining nationality without requiring passport information.

Statistical Method Variations: Different countries employ varying statistical methods for outbound traffic calculation. For example, China counts outbound traffic based on the first destination — so PEK-DXB-CDG will be counted as traffic to UAE, not France. By taking the full itinerary into account, we ensure a more accurate representation of traffic volume — including for multi-stop trips.

Being able to accurately segment air travel passenger data by nationality gives the brands we work with greater confidence in their decision-making when it comes to marketing and operational strategy. By understanding the geographic and cultural makeup of air passenger traffic across 4,750 airports, 900+ airlines and 71,000 unique routes, our clients can maintain a competitive edge over their rivals, analysing, interpreting, and forecasting key metrics with ease.

“Nationality is pivotal for travel retailers. Traveller Statistics offers essential air passenger traffic insights, including nationality breakdown for departure and transfer traffic. These invaluable insights empower travel retailers and brands to tailor offerings based on cultural preferences,” says Xu Li from ForwardKeys.

Traveller Statistics is our data solution for brands, retailers, and media agencies keen to uncover new business opportunities at the airport level based on traveller trends and nationalities. Learn more about Traveller Statistics and contact us.

Jerome Goldberg

At ForwardKeys, we get many questions for forecasts of the total number of travellers, given that businesses often must make decisions on selecting the right airports and terminals to launch a new product or to find the best touch-points to target specific nationalities

Jérôme Goldberg

Retail & Travel Retail Customer Success Manager


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2023-09-27T12:53:04+02:0020/09/2023|All, Travel Retail|
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