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January 23, 2017

Makeover Monday: Domestic & International Tourism Spend in New Zealand


Already four weeks into another fun year of Makeover Monday. As it’s an even numbered week, it’s Eva’s week to pick the topic. I’m really enjoying her helping out with picking topics because it allows me to participate like everyone else. I don’t see anything ahead of time and have to read the article, interpret the data and build a viz all at once. When I pick the topics myself, I tend to think weeks ahead about what I want to create.

This week, Eva chose two charts that are basically the same. There’s one for international tourism spend and one for domestic. Here’s the international spend chart:

What works well?

  • Title and subtitle make it easy to know what I’m viewing
  • Source is clearly documented
  • Colors are distinct enough that it’s clear we’re supposed to look at them individually
  • Legend is out of the way
  • Axes are clearly labeled
  • Minimal gridlines that aren’t distracting
  • Removing the vertical axis line
  • Nice crisp font (Founders Grotesk)

What could be improved?

  • Packed bars make it harder than necessary to follow a year across its months
  • 100 is the baseline (see the subtitle), so why isn’t the chart the difference from the baseline?
  • Overall too cluttered
  • Are there more years that could be used for comparison?
  • What was spending like before 2008? How do 2013-15 compare?
  • Are we trying to understand the change within each month or the change across the years?

I must admit that I got sucked in by all of the detail Eva provided in the data set. I started by creating a view of the change in spending by year compared to the 2008 average. After all, this is the baseline, so we should be comparing to that. Anything above 100 is an increase compared to 2008; anything below 100 is a decline versus 2008. I wonder how many people are going to catch that subtlety in the data. I understood it after reading the notes that accompanied the chart.

This is what I came up with first. It show the change versus 2008 for each region. Click on the image for the interactive version.

But was I really doing a makeover of the original? No, I wasn’t. The original was look at the country total, so back to the drawing board I went. I really liked the look of the lines I had created so it wasn’t like I was completely starting over. What I wanted to show was:

  1. How did the overall spending change compared to 2008 for each visitor type?
  2. What was the change by year within each season? This would help me understand any seasons where tourism spending has decreased.

Overall, a really fun data set to play with and a lesson learned to not get sucked into the data too quickly. I need to think more holistically, think about the story I want to tell, search for idea, do some sketching, and move away from Tableau when I start. Basically, practice what I preach.


  1. Andy I love this. Which Version on tableau are you in? I think I need to upgrade to be able to open.

  2. Great article and challenging set of data!
    Can you explain how did you get to the values of the last graph? For Summer Domestic in 2016 I get 24.5, not 18.0 as depicted. Thanks!

    1. Bruno, first, you should remove 2016 as it's not complete and therefore not valid for comparing to prior years. Also, my seasons are based on the seasons in the southern hemisphere.