Palma, from 23 to 25 October 2013
Celebrating and Enhancing the Tourism
Knowledge-based Platform: A Tribute to Jafar Jafari


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Friday 25 October, 2013 15:00 to 15:20 Oral Communication
Can Religion Affiliation Determine International Tourist Flows?
Speaker: Jaume Rosselló, Universitat de les Illes Balears

Authors: Johan Fourie, Jaume Roselló and María Santana


Many religious beliefs encompass rules for many aspects of daily life. It is therefore plausible to assume that religious beliefs also affect tourism. This paper investigates the role of countries’ religion affiliation in destination choice for international tourism flows. A gravity model for international tourist arrivals is estimated by using bilateral tourism movements between 172 countries from 1995 to 2010, allowing the evaluation of how the different five main religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jewish) induce or constrain international tourism flows. Results provide evidence to support the hypothesis that the religious affiliations in both the origin and destination countries have significant explanatory power in global tourism flows simultaneously to other cultural factors. Religion is a factor that explains tourist behavior, whether it acts as a motivating force or a constraint in relation to both aspects of the tourists’ destination choice or visitation patterns. The contribution of religion to tourism attractiveness of a region has received attention by the literature although with scarce formal and quantitative attention and focused mainly on particular case studies of sacred spaces. Using a standard gravity model, we show that religious affiliation is a significant factor in determining global tourism flows. These large preferences cannot only be explained by a focus on religious attractions or events, i.e. Mecca-events. Instead, our results suggest that over and above religious reasons, tourists, perhaps subconsciously, exhibit a religious affinity in their choice of travel destination. This supports new evidence which shows that tourists prefer to travel to destinations that share some cultural and historical similarities in their home countries. Our main contribution is to suggest that this cultural linkage may be through religious affiliation. We show that these religious linkages are global and applicable to all major religions. Moreover, they cannot be explained by controlling for any of the standard gravity variables or other cultural and historic linkages between countries. While it may not surprise that tourists tend to prefer travel destinations that share the same religion as their own country, the inter-faith religion dummies suggest that there is large variation between religions: Christians tend to prefer visiting Buddhist and Jewish countries rather than Muslim and Hindu. In contrast, tourists from Muslim countries have a much higher propensity to visit countries that share the same religion relative to countries with a different religion. Future research, perhaps using more micro-data at the country-level, should begin to investigate why religion matter even when religious events, destinations or pilgrimages – Mecca-events – are not a factor in the choice of destination. The limitations in the database used in the study restrict also the range of this study. Then, it has not been possible to evaluate the intensity in which religion is implanted in the destination country. In a similar way we have no considered the relationship between government and its official religion policy. Thus, it would be possible to think in differences between countries whose government declares officially its adscription to a particular religion, if religious freedom exists, if there is no official religion in a particular country, or if religion practices are simply not allowed. Future research would explore these matters in deep in order to provide more information about religion policy and its consequences on encouraging or limiting international tourist flows.
Further information:

Submited paper (25 KB)

Session 7 – Destination development and management (2)
Place: Room SB03

Other activities in Session 7 – Destination development and management (2)
15:20 h. to 15:40 h.Oral Communication

The touristic capital of resorts. Rethinking resort development

Speaker: Christophe Clivaz, University Institute Kurt Bösch (IUKB)
15:40 h. to 16:00 h.Oral Communication

Prioritizing decisions: destination choice versus travel mode

Speaker: Francisco  Sastre Albertí, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
Speaker: Natividad  Juaneda Sampol, Vice-Chancellor, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain