By Maria Casado-Diaz et al.
A general trend in the study of international retirement migration has been the increased attention paid to the social contacts and network connections of the migrants in both the destination and the origin areas. These studies have examined the extent to which migrants build social relationships with their neighbours and the host society while also maintaining social links with their countries of origin, addressing the central role that leisure travel plays in sustaining increasingly dispersed social networks and maintaining the social capital of these networks and of the individuals involved in them. Using a case study approach to examine British retirement migration to Spain, we explore the relevance of transnational social networks in the context of international retirement migration, particularly the intensity of bidirectional visiting friends and relatives (VFR) tourism flows and the migrants’ social contacts with friends and/or family back in their home country. Building on the concept of social capital and Putnam’s distinction between bonding and bridging social capital, we propose a framework for the analysis of the migrants’ international social networks. The results of a study conducted based on a sample of 365 British retirees living in the coast of Alicante (Spain) show both the strength of the retirees’ international bonding social capital and the role of ‘VFR’s travel and communication technologies in sustaining the migrants’ transnational social practices and, ultimately, their international bonding social capital. It also provides evidence for the reinforcing links between tourism-related mobility and amenity-seeking migration in later life.