The idea of forming a special interest group (SIG) to study Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage originated out of the ATLAS Cultural Tourism SIG group which was headed up by Greg Richards. The initial interested individuals were all doing some sort of work on religious topics and had been trying to fit their research within the realm of Cultural Tourism. At the ATLAS Conference in Savolinna 2000 it was proposed to set up this new organisation. Thus, the ATLAS Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Special Interest Group was launched in 2003 by a lively and research active group of ATLAS members, most of whom are involved with the group in researching religious and pilgrimage related themes to this day.
According to the ATLAS website, one of the aims at the outset was to increase the relatively little researched relationship between cultural tourism, spiritual tourism, and religious tourism, and due to the combined efforts of its participants, the ATLAS group has been a key international player in expanding the flourishing literature on this little researched topic in recent years.
Carlos Fernandes was one of the main drivers of the new group and took on board the idea of organising the first meeting in Fatima in 2003, with support from Clara S. Petrillo (who has sadly passed away), Victor Ambrosio, Elizabeth Carnegie, Jonathan Edwards, Frances McGettigan and Razaq Raj. At this first Expert Meeting, held at Fátima, Portugal, one of the worlds most renowned religious and pilgrimage sites, an interesting range of papers was presented and proceedings were published through ATLAS in a volume entitled Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage: ATLAS Special Interest Group 1st Expert meeting, edited by Carlos Fernandes, Francis McGettigan, and Jonathan Edwards.
The next publication of note, was not an ATLAS publication per-say, but contained a number of contributions from ATLAS friends and members. Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Management by Razaq Raj and Nigel Morpeth was published in 2007 by CABI, and since then has become a cornerstone of the literature on Religious Tourism.
Revitalising to the idea of an Expert Meeting, the Research Group revisited Portugal in November 2009, holding a successful conference in Nazaré at which twenty papers were presented by members old and new. A subsequent Expert Meeting took the group to its first event outside Europe, being hosted by the Benedictine monastery of New Norcia, Perth, Western Australia and Monash University. 12 papers were presented at that Meeting. The outputs from these two Meetings (Expert Meeting 2 & 3) have been published in Special Editions of the International Journal of Business and Globalisation (2011) and the International Journal of Tourism Policy (2012 - forthcoming).
A number of interesting and valuable papers from Nazaré and New Norcia did not fit the format or themes of the Special Publications and until the creation of this book have remained un-published by the group. These useful contributions provide valuable breadth and depth to the religious tourism literature, exploring a broad range of themes from an overview of Religious travel at a national / diocesan level to case studies in local practice / management of pilgrimage / religious tourism.
Furthermore, as this volume is going to print in June 2012, the Fourth Expert Meeting of the group is being organised for Maynooth, Ireland. Approximately 20 papers will be presented at that meeting, with a broad range of themes in evidence and already a number of journals have expressed interest in disseminating the findings of the group to the wider academic world.
Looking at the global academic calendar, there is an abundance of religious and pilgrimage related tourism research now underway by the international academic community. For example, in 2012, a broad range of Conferences are taking place around Europe.
Within the increasing international recognition for this topic, the ATLAS group is well positioned, and proud of its continued involvement. We are particularly pleased that our Special Interest Group has a dual attractiveness, drawing new friends and colleagues every year, while also having the joy of welcoming our founder members year after year, to share their wisdom and understanding of Religious and Pilgrimage Tourisms. Plans are already under way for future events and activities, with themes and areas of interesting constantly evolving and taking shape. We hope you enjoy this publication, and we are open to suggestions, invitations and partnerships into the future.