Religious tourism and pilgrimage. ATLAS Special Interest Group 1st Expert meeting

Religious tourism and pilgrimage. ATLAS Special Interest Group 1st Expert meeting

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Delivery weight: 570 g
Carlos Fernandes, Francis McGettigan, and Jonathan Edwards ed.
Fatima, Tourism Board of Leiria, 176 pp.
April 2003
ISBN: 90-75775-19-9

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Translations by:
Teresa Pataco, Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo (Portugal)

Submitted Papers
  1. An Analysis of Cultural Tourism and its Relationship with Religious Sites, Frances McGettigan
  2. Religious Tourism: Contributions Towards a Clarification of Concepts, Maria da Graça Mouga Poças Santos
  3. Religious Tourism-Territorial Impacts in the EU Marian Sanctuary Towns, Vitor Ambrósio
  4. The Interaction of Religion and Tourism: Managing the Visitor Experience at St. Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne, Maureen Griffiths
  5. Regional Interpretation and Symbolic Representation of Religion and Heritage in Respect of Tourism: Exemplified by a Short Portrait of the 'Ciudad De Cultura' (Santiago De Compostela), Martin Scheer and Joachim Willms
  6. Management of Churches and Religious Sites. Some Case Studies from Italy, Clara S. Petrillo
  7. Environmental Crises in God's Adobe: Managing Religious Tourism, Kiran Ajit Shinde
  8. Net Men Walking: Proposal for a Mediatic Net of Personalized Tourist Information, Ermanno Aparo, João Martins and Liliana Soares
  9. "To Be A Pilgrim?" Pilgrimage as a Model for Interpreting the Role and Function of Charity Treks, Elizabeth Carnegie
  10. The Origins of Religious Tourism. Special Reference to the Saint James's Way Tourism, Rafael Esteve Secall
  11. The Hajj: Pilgrimage to Makka, Journey of a Lifetime or a Tourist Phenomenon, Razaq Raj
  12. Spirituality, Pilgrimage and the Road to Santiago. Questions for Cultural Tourism, Chris Devereux
  13. The Importance and the Place of Faith (Religious) Tourism in the Alternative Tourism Resources of Turkey, Ahmet Aktas and Yakin Ekin

In the last few years there has been considerable growth of literature related to cultural tourism. Definitions vary due to the wide scope of meanings implied by the term "culture". The World Tourism Organization (1985) defines cultural tourism as "movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours, travel to festivals and other events, visits to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art, and pilgrimages". Fladmark (1994) suggests that cultural tourism may be defined as that activity which enables people to explore or experience the different way of life of other people, reflecting social customs, religious traditions and intellectual ideas of a cultural heritage which may be unfamiliar".

In spite of the fact that "cultural tourists" have been common in Europe for hundreds of years, it is only in the last two decades that cultural and heritage tourism have been identified as specific tourism markets (Richards, 1996). Bywater (1993) extends this segmentation by including a category of cultural tourist as the spiritually motivated tourist and Murray and Graham (1997) distinguish between the differing tourist sub-markets and their contrasting and conflicting motivations of demands of pilgrims and tourist. Results of the ATLAS Cultural Tourism Survey of 2000 revealed that education and experience has led to a fracturing of demand of the cultural tourist. Thus, the debate is open now because the cultural tourist is becoming more discriminating, specialized and discerning, and looking for the "self improvement" activities (mental component). The religious sites are now in the cultural arena and what needs to happen is:

  1. to research the visitors specifically at religious sites and find out more about their motivations and needs;
  2. to address the issues facing the administrators, be it falling visitor numbers, use by tourists as an incidental holiday experience conflicting with the interests of the pilgrims;
  3. to address the way forward on how to cater for the 21century pilgrims without conflicting with the devout pilgrimage.

Lefeuvre (1980) described religious tourism as " a system that encompasses a range of holy places, from the grandest cathedral to the smallest chapel, the service facilities associated with them and the spectrum of visitors from the devout to the secular "Two key elements of religious tourism are shrines and pilgrimage sites. For Turner (1989), "shrines are usually place where a particular relic or image is venerated. Pilgrimage sites are believed to be place where miracles once happened, still happen and may happen again." Nolan and Nolan (1989) conceptualise the universe of religious tourism attractions into:

  • Pilgrim Shrines (Shrines of relatively low value as tourist attractions, Shrines of high value, Shrines noted for colourful pilgrimage. Shrines combining touristic importance, pilgrimage festivals and cultic significance);
  • Religious tourist attractions are places where secularly orientated tourists and recreationists, religious tour groups visit;
  • Sites of Religious festivals.

For destinations, cultural tourists offer solutions to problems of seasonality, wet weather, the trend towards more active holidays, more environmentally sensitive holidays and more short breaks. For the administrators of the large better visited shrines, there is an increasing awareness that tourists have different needs and expectations from pilgrims. The tourists are seeking something or they would not be there. Tourists are viewed as potential pilgrims. For example, the only purely penitential pilgrimage site in Europe, St. Patrick's Purgatory (Ireland), is soliciting pilgrims in a 21st century way- by targeting those that want to alleviate executive stress and to have a spiritual experience. The issue of decreasing number of pilgrims is affecting religious sites. Undoubtedly, the relationship between cultural tourism, spiritual tourism, and religious tourism are based on religious resources common to all three.

Proposing to increase the relatively little research that has been done in this category and the relationship to religious tourism, ATLAS launched the Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Research Group. The 1st Expert Meeting was held at one of the world´s most renowned religious and pilgrimage sites-Fátima, Portugal. Papers on issues relating to the conference theme, clearly outlining the aims, content and relevance of the paper to be presented were accepted.

The event was hosted and sponsored by the Tourist Board of Leiria-Fátima.

About Fátima

Fátima, located in central Portugal is one of Europe's foremost apparitional shrines. In 1917 three young children reported six appearances of the Virgin Mary the first on May 13th and the last on October 13th 1917. On the last occasion a crowd estimated at 70,000 witnessed the 'Miracle in the Sky'. The children reported that the Virgin wanted to see increased attention to religious ritual, in addition three "secrets" were told to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta which foretold various events of the 20th Century including, for example, the collapse of Communism.

The first Apparitional chapel was constructed in 1919 and the first mass celebrated in 1921 and since that time pilgrimage to Fatima has increased to the extent that it is currently the tenth most important religious pilgrimage site in the world. Current estimates are that 4 million pilgrims a year visit Fatima, approximately 50% of whom are Portuguese nationals. The other major nationalities are Spanish, Italian, French, German and British. The increasing popularity of the site has let to the approval for a new Basilica, with the capacity for accommodating 10,000 pilgrims, to be constructed replacing the existing more modest neo-baroque structure begun in 1928 and consecrated in 1953. The tombs of two of the children, Francisco and Jacinta, are in the Basilica. Lucia, who is still alive, lives in a convent in nearby Coimbra.

The demand for accommodation has resulted in the development of approximately 10,000 bed spaces in the locality. Most pilgrims visit the site for two days, with peak visitor numbers occurring on the 13th day of each month between May and October, with October recording the maximum numbers.

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