Original Research

Examining intra-African tourism: A trade theory perspective

Adam H. Viljoen, Andrea Saayman, Melville Saayman
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 22, No 1 | a2860 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v22i1.2860 | © 2019 Adam H. Viljoen, Andrea Saayman, Melville Saayman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 October 2018 | Published: 22 July 2019

About the author(s)

Adam H. Viljoen, Tourism Research in Economics, Environs and Society, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Andrea Saayman, School of Economics, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Melville Saayman, Tourism Research in Economics, Environs and Society, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Background: Around the world, domestic and regional travel is considered the backbone of the tourism industry, with as much as 80% of international visitors within the same region, however, various factors permit or deter tourists to move around freely. The arguments of tourism promoting trade and vice versa, are both valid. Since trade can promote tourism in Africa it implies that regional integration is necessary to foster regional tourism.

Aim: This article seeks to determine whether trade theory is able to explain intra-African tourism. This was done by applying four theoretical models of international trade to bilateral African tourism flows.

Method: Using panel data from 25 African countries over a 10-year period, this research shows that intra-African tourism flows can best be explained by the gravity theory.

Results: Cultural and geographic proximity, as well as the development of the destination country, dictates intra-African tourism. Additionally, African countries that already have an advantage in worldwide tourism receipts also benefit from intra-African tourism.

Conclusion: This research contributes to a greater understanding of the determinants that attract African travellers to other African countries, which holds important implications for both policymakers and destination managers.


Intra-African tourism; trade theory; Heckscher-Ohlin model; comparative advantage theory; Linder’s hypothesis; gravity model.


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