Religious and Pilgrimage Tourism - International - February 2012
Religious tourism is a significant and rapidly growing segment within the tourism industry. It is sometimes referred to as faith tourism, faith-based travel, Christian travel, Muslim travel, or any other religious denomination linked with the words ‘travel’ or ‘tourism’. However, regardless of the name, the inference is that this is a form of tourism that is driven by a given faith.
As a sector, religious tourism is not well researched and documented. Few reliable statistics are available regarding its size and value within the tourism sector as a whole, mainly because only a few countries measure tourist arrivals using a classification that refers to ‘religion’ or ‘pilgrimage’. Consequently, most religious tourists are combined with ‘other leisure’ visitors, with most European countries classifying international inbound tourists into three purpose-of-visit groups: leisure/holiday; other leisure; and business/conference.
There are some exceptions to this, mainly in destinations where religious tourism is highly popular such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. In Saudi Arabia, religious tourism is the most significant type of tourism, and consequently the authorities measure it as a clearly defined activity.
Another common problem with the measurement of religious tourism relates to the inconsistent definition of the segment. Many statistics quoted by destinations and appearing in publications do not clearly identify whether they include only international religious tourists (ie those travelling from one country to another) or domestic religious tourists (ie those travelling to destinations within the same country in which they live) also. This probably generates the greatest misunderstandings when attempting to measure the volume and value of the sector.
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