The Bank of Italy conducts a sample survey on international tourism at the country's main border crossings for balance-of-payments and analysis purposes. Each year a sample of international travellers (both foreigners in Italy and Italians abroad) who have crossed Italy's borders is interviewed; counting operations are carried out in order to determine the size of the reference population. Between 1997 and 2012 international tourism produced a surplus in Italy's balance of payments. Nonetheless, the tourism balance fell from 1.1 to 0.6 per cent of GDP, mainly due to the fall in real terms of foreigners' expenditure in Italy, whereas expenditure by Italians abroad remained practically unchanged as a share of GDP. As a result, the market share of Italian receipts decreased from 6.8 per cent in 1997 to 3.7 per cent in 2012. During the first years of the recent crisis, Italian international tourism receipts fell at a slower pace than those of its two main European competitors, France and Spain; but in 2011-12 their recovery was faster.