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The development of consistent measures of tourism has challenged tourism statisticians and economists since the 1930s (Smith 2004). The challenges arise, in part, from the nature of tourism as an economic activity. Although tourism is often referred to as an industry, it is fundamentally different than conventional industries; it is these differences that complicate the measurement of tourism (the definition of "tourism" and the nature of a "tourism industry" are discussed below). Further, the development of tourism statistics consistent among nations has required extensive negotiations among national statistical agencies as well as other international organizations to reach a consensus on the definition of tourism and associated concepts.
These concepts have been operationalized through new analytical tools, particularly the Tourism Satellite Account (UNWTO 1999). International agreement on core definitions and measurement techniques has now been achieved in principle.