Religious tourism

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel according to tradition is the site where Jesus was crucified and resurrected
Center of Mecca city, Saudi Arabia. In the background: the Great Mosque.
Mashhad city, Iran. Holy Shrine of Imam Reza.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima, in Portugal, is one of the largest religious tourism sites in the world.
The Sanctuary of Christ the King, in Almada, has become one of the most visited places for religious tourism.

Religious tourism, also commonly referred to as faith tourism[1], is a type of tourism, where people travel individually or in groups for pilgrimage, missionary, or leisure (fellowship) purposes. The world's largest form of mass religious tourism takes place in India at the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage, which attracts over 100 million pilgrims.[citation needed] North American religious tourists comprise an estimated $10 billion of the industry.[2]

The Way of St. James (el Camino de Santiago), is a religious tourism route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where legend has it that it holds the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987.

Holy Sites[edit]

Many religious tourists attach spiritual importance to particular sites: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed", or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers.

Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit.

Religious tourism has existed since antiquity. Modern religious tourists are more able than ever to visit holy cities and holy sites around the world. The most famous holy sites are the Great Mosque of Mecca, the Holy Shrine of Imam Hoseyn in Karbala, the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, the Holy Shrine of Lady Fatima Masuma in Qom, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima in Cova da Iria, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Motivations of religious tourists[edit]

A study in 2011 found that 2.5 million people visited Karbala on the day of Arbaeen in 2013.[citation needed] Pilgrims visited Jerusalem for a few reasons: to understand and appreciate their religion through a tangible experience, to feel secure about their religious beliefs, and to connect personally to the holy city.[3]

The motivations which draw today's visitors to religious sites, can be mixed. This diversity has become an important factor in the management of religious tourism, as recent research has shown.[4]

Tourism segments[edit]

Religious tourism comprises many facets of the travel industry including:


Although no definitive study has been completed on worldwide religious tourism, some segments of the industry have been measured:

  • According to the World Tourism Organization, an estimated 300 to 330 million pilgrims visit the world's key religious sites every year.
Qom city, Iran. Holy Shrine of Lady Fatima Masuma: The Imam Reza Courtyard.
  • According to the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, Americans traveling overseas for "religious or pilgrimage" purposes has increased from 491,000 travelers in 2002 to 633,000 travelers in 2005 (30% increase).
  • The Christian Camp and Conference Association states that more than eight million people are involved in CCCA member camps and conferences, including more than 120,000 churches. [1]
  • Religious attractions including Sight & Sound Theatre attracts 800,000 visitors a year while the Holy Land Experience and Focus on the Family Welcome Center each receives about 250,000 guests annually. [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gannon, Martin Joseph; Baxter, Ian W. F.; Collinson, Elaine; Curran, Ross; Farrington, Thomas; Glasgow, Steven; Godsman, Elliot M.; Gori, Keith; Jack, Gordon R. A. (11 June 2017). "Travelling for Umrah: destination attributes, destination image, and post-travel intentions". The Service Industries Journal. 37 (7–8): 448–465. doi:10.1080/02642069.2017.1333601. ISSN 0264-2069.
  2. ^ Washington
  3. ^ Metti, Michael Sebastian (1 June 2011). "Jerusalem - the most powerful brand in history". Stockholm University School of Business. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  4. ^ Ralf van Bühren, The artistic heritage of Christianity. Promotion and reception of identity. Editorial of the first section in the special issue on Tourism, religious identity and cultural heritage, in Church, Communication and Culture 3 (2018), pp. 195-196.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ralf van Bühren, Lorenzo Cantoni, and Silvia De Ascaniis (eds.), Special issue on “Tourism, Religious Identity and Cultural Heritage”, in Church, Communication and Culture 3 (2018), pp. 195-418
  • Razaq Raj and Nigel D. Morpeth, Religious tourism and pilgrimage festivals management: an international perspective, CABI, 2007
  • Dallen J. Timothy and Daniel H. Olsen, Tourism, religion and spiritual journeys, Routledge, 2006
  • University of Lincoln (Department of tourism and recreation), Tourism – the spiritual dimension. Conference. Lincoln (Lincolnshire) 2006
  • N. Ross Crumrine and E. Alan Morinis, Pilgrimage in Latin America, Westport CT 1991

External links[edit]