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Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2022

According to research carried out by Mohammad et al, tourism and recreation represent some of the most valuable businesses across the world. The two practices are considered important forms of leisure activities. Tourism normally provides people with an opportunity to relax, however, people at times may become a threat to natural resources and cultural heritage.

In most cases, the idea of tourism is associated with beaches, hotels, visiting historic points and no links with religion at all (Mohammadiet al 220-223). When concepts of religion are combined with tourism, people tend to attach negativity to it especially from the church’s perspective. Religious tourism is, however, considered an important part of cultural phenomenon despite having numerous constituents.

A number of researches reveal that traditional religion is gradually fading due to destruction of traditional values within the society. However, modern religion is vital crucial since it plays an important role in the promotion of tourism. Most of tourist trips are usually made to places, buildings, events and objects that are associated with religion without any underlying spiritual motivation (Ministry of Culture and Tourism).

According to researchers, tourism and pilgrimage are closely related. Reasons for traveling as tourists and the nature of activities involved, are important areas of interest in the tourism industry. Religious tourism involves engagement of tourists in some kind of spiritual experience within the religious context.

This helps in defining a specific definition of religion and its role within the society. The experiences of tourists are likened to pilgrim behaviors since interactions are based on religion and travel destinations within various countries. Spiritual tourists have a unique aim of their traveling, in particular, to see the religious sites and get imbued with their atmosphere.

However, on the contrary, tourism aims at fulfilling some social and functional curiosity since most of tourism experiences involve sightseeing (Kreiner 259-270). Despite highlighted differences in meaning, some sense of commonality can be identified since tourists have almost similar experiences as pilgrims and vice versa.

Spiritual tourists are regular visitors to religious destinations and monuments in search for divine experiences. They differ from pilgrims in the way that their journeys are motivated from different religious backgrounds (Deloitte).

Spirituality and religiosity are represented through different modes within different contexts. Such context finds relevance in the field of tourism especially when considered in the perspective of pilgrimage. Differences occur in the motive behind many travels. However, at some point many tourists engage in the same activities as pilgrims or spiritual tourists.

Spiritual tourists emerge as a result of changes and uncertainties that appeared nowadays. The term is used to create a clear distinction between tourists and pilgrims, and at the same time define the place of religion in the field of tourism (Kreiner 259-270).

According to opinion on BBC news, the religious tourism has been on the rise in Wales due to frequent visits by tourists from all over the world to historic places, namely, churches of Wales. The news reveals that current generations have deep and renewed interest in holy sites (Bourne).

According to reports by Welsh government, there was an increased percentage of United Kingdom ‘staying tourists’ within the last two years in the country with an aim of visiting various places of interest, mostly places of worship.

People of all creed and denominations have been identified within St Winefride’s Holy well owing to their heritage or religious interests. Influx of visitors over the last decade has risen from thirty thousands to thirty six thousand as shown by 2011 statistics which is an indication of expanding market within religious tourism (Bourne).

Gladstone Library in Hawarden reported rise in tourists visiting the religious center known as theological station. Apart from the college, some of the places attracting interest in Wales include the statute of Lady of Penrhys, the holy well representing one of the oldest Christian sites in Rhondda.

People from all walks of life including those with no religious affiliations attend spiritual retreats at St Beuno’s Ignatian Spirituality Centre. At the same time, the majority have been seen making pilgrimages to well waters of St Dyfnog since it is believed to possess a curative power. The church of Wales has in the recent times declared 2012 as the year of pilgrimage since several events are anticipated in religious places including Rome and St David in Pembrokeshire (Bourne).

Many comparisons have been made in attempt to compare religious tourism with pilgrimage. Most publications define pilgrimage as the concept where masses travel to shrine for purposes of performing religious rites and rituals. Religious tourists at the same time are often motivated by cultural reasons where religious historic sites are the subject of interest.

In both cases the travelers prefer comfortable travel and accommodation despite at times rejecting aesthetic display in physical and natural resources (Egrest et al 64-77). Most of the pilgrimages get involved in activities considered the same as those of tourism since services provided are of the same quality.

Many of the pilgrimage places have been secularized by informal and formal sectors since such sites have been commercialized. In many instances, secular tourists are found at religious sites majority visiting places for education purposes while only some for personal or religious needs.

In the current society, only a fraction of travelers visits religious sites for sacred reasons; a bigger percentage is motivated by cultural and education reasons. The majority currently view religious tourism as a significant part of cultural tourism based on the experiences in the remote sites.

In broader terms, religious tourism also involves travelling for religious conferences and music concerts. Religious attractions can be distinguished in various ways.

These include pilgrimage shrines with strong religious affiliations hence there are less secular tourists expected than there are shrines open for both secular and religious tourists, and finally there are attractions from religious festivals. During such visits, the chances of religious tourists being involved in local activities within the target destinations are high (Egrest et al 64-77).

Tourism presents means through which individuals can enrich their social lives by appreciating diversities within culture and other resources. The kinds of recreation brought alongside tourism are utilized for the purposes of nourishing relationships amongst different cultures and individuals.

Various countries have considered of prime importance all developments within tourism sector based on the fact that the sector is the major source of revenue. However, in most instances several barriers are created with potential of restricting group of individuals such as those physically challenged and those without any religious affiliations from accessing crucial points.

However, current tourism industry considers religion as one of the major sectors capable of enriching tourism since most of the historical sites are associated with ancient religious cultures which were incorporated in design processes of buildings and heritage centres. A part of leisure activities in tourism is also enjoyed by religious masses since they help in enriching social life (Egrest et al 64-77).

Numerous benefits are realised from excellent management culture within tourism industry. Despite negative impacts within tourism, religious aspect of tourism carries less social evils compared to good ones. Religious historic sites enable individuals to think innovatively in the plight of encouraging transfer of knowledge from past to present within various groups of people.

Management of diverse cultural background proves beneficial in the process of restoring the diminishing societal values. At the same time, tourist destinations find it easy to market their various heritage centres through historic festivals and conferences organized by various religious groups (Tester).

Different religious backgrounds ensure availability of more people with diverse behaviours and societal beliefs. This calls for various governments to implement rules and regulations capable of accommodating people from different religions to avoid discriminative actions.

Managing cultural and religious diversity assists in knowledge transfer since tourists enjoy free interactions within such religious destinations and festivals (Tester). However, there is a need of creating commonality in language for the purposes of enriching communication amongst individuals.

This enables easier transfer of information as well as knowledge on various historical descriptions. Such scenario reduces the level of misunderstanding and misinterpretation brought by diverse religious backgrounds in the world, hence increased efficiency and productivity within tourism industry (Tester).

According to Tester, the tourism industry in China and Hong Kong has experienced a tremendous development within the last five decades. Destinations differ based on their strategic geographical locations and the kind of historical monuments, natural resources available for leisure.

China is known for its diverse religious background and at the same time operates based on open door policy which has created easy access channels to the country. This has assisted in the rise of inbound tourists within the last two decades. The industry has much been affected by recession experienced in the late 1990s and mid 2004 including outbreak of contagious diseases (Tester).


High growth within the tourist industry has led to an improved economy within various destination countries due to high foreign exchange earnings received from tourism and associated activities. Religious tourism has been promoted by low-cost air travels within the Southeast Asia, which encourages lots of pilgrimage travels.

Pilgrimage travels at certain times of the year have promoted further development of infrastructure such as well-established carriage ways capable of improving visitor experiences during frequent travels. Due to the mass numbers of pilgrimage, sometimes movement is made difficult within short-haul markets.

At the same time such destinations have introduced an individual visiting scheme for the purposes of minimizing congestion, hence, encouraging frequent visits by religious tourists. These arrangements are specially arranged to promote free movements and travels without visas.

Most tourist destinations promoting spiritual tourism such as Wales realized a high growth in income generating activities. Competition amongst tourist destinations seems stiff in the 21st century due to technological improvements across the world. Several concepts and theories have emerged towards the explanation on the role of tourism to environmental, social issues and religious issues.

A the same time countries and regions acting as tourist destinations have pledged an utmost vigilance on negative activities associated with tourism and only promote positive aspects. This should be given extensive consideration due to detrimental effects tourists have on the mental, moral, social and physical dimensions within the society.

Works Cited

Bourne, Nick. “Religious tourism on the rise, Says Church in Wales”. BBC News, 2012.

Deloitte 2010, Turkish Tourism Industry Report. Web.

Egrest, Istvan, Busra, Bayram, Kara, Fatih and Kesik, Ozan. “Unlocking the potential of Religious tourism in Turkey.”GeoJournal of Tourism and Geosites, 9 (2012):64-77. Print.

Kreiner, Collins.“Current Jewish Pilgrimage Tourism: Modes and Models of Development,”Tourism:Preliminary Communication, 58 (2010): 259-270.

Ministry of Culture and Tourism 2012, Turkey: Tourism Statistics. Web.

Mohammadi, Mostafa, Zainab, Khalifa and Hasan, Hosseini. “Local People Perceptions Toward Social, Economic and Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Kermanshah, Iran.”Journal of Asian Social Science, 6 (2010):220-223. Print.

Tester, Hank 2010, . NBC Miami. Web.

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