Researcher From UAEU Studied The Effect Of Migration On International Tourism Flows:
The Role Of Linguistic Networks And Common Languages
In an increasingly globalized world, the flow of individuals across borders has increased
dramatically over the past three decades. Since the 1990s, the number of international
migrants has risen at an average rate of about 2.58% per year. Meanwhile, approximately
1.4 billion tourists crossed international borders in 2018 alone. Given the increasing
flows of both migrants and tourists, this study investigates whether bilateral migration
rates enhance bilateral tourism flows from 166 countries to 30 OECD countries between
1995 and 2010 using a gravity framework. Earlier studies suggest that migration could
influence tourism flows via various overlapping social, cultural, and economic channels,
including the presence of personal social connections, lower transaction costs resulting
from improved information access, and the affective support provided by cultural similarities.
The findings of this study support the hypothesis that bilateral migration tends to
increase bilateral tourism flows between country-pairs. The results show that migration
rates have a strong positive impact on international tourism flows. The results also
show that linguistic networks and common languages have a significant positive impact
on tourism flows. This finding suggests that linguistic networks and common languages
lower the transaction costs of tourism services by facilitating the flow of information.
A common language allows tourists to more easily navigate the destination country’s
economy and access its full range of tourism opportunities, while the presence of
a linguistic network enables immigrants to act as intermediaries between tourists
and local tourism service providers. In addition, the presence of immigrant communities
from the origin country may provide affective support to tourists, who may be more
likely to “feel at home” in a destination country with a large linguistic network
and a concomitant degree of cultural familiarity.
The findings of this study have important policy implications for countries that rely
heavily on tourism or that aspire to develop more robust and diverse tourism sectors.
The results show that increased tourism flows are an important, but often overlooked,
economic benefit of migration. In a world where anti-immigrant sentiments are on the
rise, this study shows that destination countries stand to benefit not only from the
labor, capital, entrepreneurship, and cultural value that immigrants provide but also
from their second-order impact on tourism source markets of their countries of origin.
In addition to its direct effect on job creation and economic activity, a robust tourism
sector can provide a valuable source of foreign exchange earnings while catalyzing
the growth of other economic sectors through multiplier effects. Diversifying across
tourism source markets can stabilize the sector, while targeting specific source markets
can enable destination countries to enhance their market positions. In this context,
the strategic use of migration policy to boost tourism development can have a highly
positive impact on the long-term economic growth of the destination countries.
The results also suggest that immigrant communities act to enhance the attractiveness
of destinations to international tourists, both from the immigrants’ country of origin
and from elsewhere. Permanent immigrants can enrich the cultural life of the destination
country and create attractions that boost the overall value of the tourism sector.
These findings imply that countries that adopt multiculturalism may be more successful
in developing their international tourism attractiveness. The findings of this study
are especially relevant following the sudden halt of international tourism flows worldwide
due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because countries with enlarged linguistic networks,
as well as those sharing a common language with other countries, are better equipped
to recover faster from the downturn in international tourism flows. As soon as the
international travel restrictions imposed owing to COVID-19 are lifted, tourists from
migrants’ origin countries are likely to be the first to travel to destination countries
to visit their family members, friends, and/or relatives. This is consistent with
the notion that the rise in the number of individuals living outside their birthplace
helps to promote tourism as tourists from origin countries are more likely to visit
their family members, friends, and/or relatives in the destination countries and vice
versa. Therefore, governments could design targeted immigration policies aimed at
attracting foreign workers with needed skill sets from several countries to enlarge
linguistic networks. Enlarged linguistic networks will help to reduce pressure on
resources as tourists are more likely to stay with their relatives, friends, or family
members when they visit. Governments could also provide incentives that will induce
citizens to study at least two foreign languages as a way of promoting international
tourism. Tourism operators could also employ a more diverse workforce and provide
in-house foreign language training for their employees to enhance their competitive
advantage and promote international tourism flows.
The research is conducted by Dr. Usman Khalid, an Assistant Professor at the Department
of Innovation in Govt. & Society, College of Business and Economics, UAE University.
He received his PhD in Economics from Lund University, Sweden, in 2016. His research
interests include empirically exploring the relationships that exist at the cross-section
of Economics, Politics and other disciplines. In particular, his research agenda can
be broadly organized around four major themes: (1) exploring the socio-economic and
political determinants of international tourism; (2) investigating the impact of international
tourism and tourism development on socio-economic outcomes; (3) examining the linkages
between energy policy, energy consumption, economic outcomes, and environmental degradation;
and (4) understanding the impact of economic outcomes on institutional development,
and institutional change.