The paper contributes to exploring the intersection of tourism and migration, an emergent niche area of research. South Africa hosts a large number of transnational migrants, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from the African continent. Little is known about the travel patterns and touristic aspirations of these groups, as they are mostly believed to be too poor to travel. The current study focuses on the temporary return journeys home undertaken by these migrants. The literature around Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) tourism is reviewed, but it is argued – in line with other scholars – that the VFR classification is insufficient for an analysis of migrant return trips. Based on a qualitative research approach and in-depth semi-structured interviews with migrants and refugees based in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the research finds how these travellers organise their journeys, what their motivations and experiences are, and what significance they attach to the home visit. It is found that travel to the home land is not always motivated by VFR. Beyond the emotional support from family and friends, for many migrants, the home land is an important, multifarious resource for present and future needs. Pointing out differences with similar studies conducted in various socio-geographic contexts, the paper emphasises the need for locally grounded research and the limited generalisability of extant literature in the field.


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pp. 25-47
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