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D e c emb er, 2008
E t h ic a l / R e l i g iou s : Faith Tour i sm – Big Bu sine ss
THE RELIGIOUS OR NOT
SO RELIGIOUS TOURIST IN 2030
of existing religions, nearly 75% of the planet's population
belongs to the five most influential religions in terms of
global impact: Christianity (2.1 billion), Islam (1.3 billion),
Hinduism (900 million), Buddhism (370 million) and Judaism (18 million).
Christianity and Islam are found in more regions than
all other religions. Together they encompass more than
half the world's population. Add Hinduism, and two out
of every three people belong to one of only three faiths.
Clearly, religion is one of the major driving forces of the
future. Looking at the trends in detail, it is noted that Islam
is the fastest-growing major religion in the world and the
number of practicing Muslims is forecasted to overtake
the practicing Christians by 2040 in the United Kingdom.
Britain's churches could be redundant by 2040, with just
over 2% of the population attending Sunday services.
By 2040, there will be nearly twice as many Muslims at
prayer on a Friday compared with Christians on a Sunday.
Professor Thomas McFaul, writing in The Futurist, believes that most probably the direction of religion in the
future is greater Exclusiveness and Pluralism. Between
now and 2025, Exclusiveness will increase, whereas between 2025 and 2050 Pluralism will gradually replace it.
Exclusivist based on a global village is integrating into
an uncompromising clash of ‘I'm right and you're wrong';
much of the blame for this is placed at the door of religion.
Christianity and Islam will turn their backs on the quest
for a common ground, which would transcend their differences, and this will create barriers between religions
and block co-operation, whereas Pluralism will mean living together despite the differences. With the sprawling
electronic communications, homogenous regions will become more heterogeneous which will drive the religious
Pluralism to such an extent that religion and spirituality will
become blurred.
The
World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has reported that the number of tourism arrivals in the
Middle East and the Asia Pacific region has increased at
a much faster rate over the last decade than in the rest of
the world. The average annual increase in the Asia Pacific
region was some 13%, whilst it was 10% in the Middle
East. There are several factors behind this growth, including affordable flights and the increased focus on tourism.
Religious tourism has played its part, especially when one
considers that Buddhists and Hindus regard India as the
most spiritual country on earth, that Saudi Arabia is home
to the two holiest sites in Islam and that Israel and Palestine comprise the Holy Land, a destination of immense
importance to Christians, Jews and Muslims throughout
the world.
World Tourism and Religion
The Changing Face of World Religions
According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, there
were 39.1 million international arrivals to the Middle East
in 2005, this according to Dr Ian Yeoman is forecasted to
rise to 158.9 million by 2030. The region of the world associated with religious tourism is the Middle East because
this is the centre of pilgrimage for Islam, Christianity and
Judaism. Tourism in the Middle East earned more than
US $26 billion from international tourism in 2005. Egypt is
the biggest earner in the region, with US $6.9 billion from
The centre of any civilisation is its culture and the core of
culture is religion. More than any other factor, religion infuses a culture with a perception of reality in the broadest
sense of the term by offering explanations for the origins
of the universe and giving a deeper meaning to historical
events, as well as to humanity's place within history.
At present, no single religion dominates among the
6.5 billion million people on earth. Despite the hundreds
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D e c emb er, 2008
E t h ic a l / R e l i g iou s : Faith Tour i sm – Big Bu sine ss
international tourism, followed by Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Leisure, recreation and holidays appear to be the most
common purpose of travel. The second most important
category of purpose of travel is visiting friends and relatives (VFR), or for religion, health or other purposes–
currently accounting for 34% of arrivals. In 2004, 43%
of international arrivals to Saudi Arabia were for pilgrimage or religious reasons, making pilgrimage the numberone reason for visits. Saudi Arabia is clearly out in front
compared to other countries; even in Israel pilgrimage
accounts for only 10% of international arrivals. As a result of the problems of collecting statistics in Palestine,
year-on-year figures are not comparable. However, in
2000 there were 1 million international arrivals, 66% of
which were for pilgrimage and religion. This number was
reduced to 9453 in 2002 because of the ongoing geopolitical situation.
Mecca is important to Muslims because they believe it
is the place where Mohammed was born, where he established Islam and where he received from Allah the
messages recorded in the Quran. The Quran requires all
Muslims, to visit Mecca once in their lifetime during the
Hajj–if they can afford it and if their health allows it. According to the UK governments 2001 census there were
1.6 million Muslims in the United Kingdom, with 25% actively practicing their faith. In 2005, 2.56 million Muslims
took part in the Hajj, an 8848% increase since 1930 or a
33% increase since 2004. Between 20,000 and 40,000
UK pilgrims travel to the Hajj every year.
Outside the Middle East–where statistics are available–
the main reason for visits attributed to pilgrimage and religion as a percentage of all visitations was as follows:
Bangladesh – 0.01%
Bolivia – 0.01%
Burkina Faso – 0.014%
Ireland – 0.0005%
Micronesia – 0.03%
Nepal – 11.8%
Poland – 0.007%
Pakistan – 0.01%
Turkey – 0.004%
Clearly, outside the Middle East, pilgrimage and religion are not the main reasons for visitation. However, in
advanced western destinations churches do play an important role in a range of tourism products, such as weddings, Christmas, genealogy, interest in architecture or
simple curiosity.
western world. This, combined with the fact that one in five
people do not assign to themselves any religion according
to research by the Future Foundation, leads us to ask why
is then there an interest in religious tourism per se.
Religion is defined as a group of beliefs or attitudes concerning an object, person or system of thought considered
to be supernatural, sacred or divine, whereas spirituality
is a ‘sense of connection to a much greater whole which
includes an emotional experience of religious awe and
reverence'.
There is a growth in the number of people who wish that
their lives had more spiritual content, more of a sense of
higher purpose. We need to look only at the appearance
of the word ‘spirituality' in practically every area of selfhelp, inspirational literature and advertisements for many
products, from deodorants to jewellery, fashion to holidays
to see how the yearning for some kind of ‘spirituality' has
become ubiquitous.
Spirituality appears to be less about attending formal
ceremonies and services associated with religion and
more about incorporating a generalized sense of belief
into daily life. Spirituality is best exemplified in the Chicken Soup series of books which promote greater time for
contemplation, whether an exploration of who you are,
what goals you can achieve or how you ‘connect' to other
people.
Spirituality manifests itself in terms of self-fulfillment,
arguably the search for the quintessential authenticity in
modern society and well-being, in which spirituality is an
extension of our concern for longevity and health and fitness.
From a tourism perspective, spirituality manifests itself
as the desire to get away from daily life, and holidays provide the avenue and the environment for mediated experiences. The appetite for ‘getting away from it all' or ‘getting
in touch with one's true self ' is strong and is growing.
Holidays certainly seem to provide the right environment
for these kinds of ‘unmediated' experiences, the idea that
‘It's just me and the mountain' and, of course, for some
people, the great outdoors has a strong spiritual dimen-
Why Spirituality Not Religion
Is the Future for Western Consumers
Religion is playing an increasingly less important role
in people's lives especially the younger generation in the
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D e c emb er, 2008
E t h ic a l / R e l i g iou s : Faith Tour i sm – Big Bu sine ss
accessible and niche products emerge, an interest in the
rich culture which surrounds religion can be viewed only
in a positive manner.
Religion manifests itself at many stages of life, from birth
to death, from marriage to times of tragedy, so it is very
likely to be present in the tourism landscape for generations to come. At present, pilgrimage per se is not a core
driver for travel; this is evident in many countries such as
Poland or Ireland where less than 0.001% of visits are
made for purely religious reasons. However, places of
worship or the function of religion in tourism activities, that
is, weddings, means that religion is an important part of
the product.
Outside religion, the consumers' demand for a more authentic, spiritual and cultural experience will result in an
increased number of itineraries, including religious sites
and places of worship; these will become places of escapism, relaxation, meditation and well-being. Spirituality is
just one element of the religious experience outside faith
itself. Religion and spirituality have a part to play in future.
That is only natural.
sion and satisfies some inner yearning. Hence the growing desire to find authenticity within ourselves, through
rejecting fake destinations and attractions.
The search for one's inner self is about self-actualization
which focuses on the altruistic and self-development experiences. Volunteers can gain these experiences when
working on projects. For example, the Church of Scotland
supports a number of projects in several countries such as
Malawi and Scotland. In these projects people volunteer
their time and skills to help those who are less fortunate.
Spirituality is also connected to our participation in a cultured society driven by rising disposal income, which is
illustrated by the consumer taking more short breaks and
trying out new experiences. People in today's society participate in a wide variety of leisure activities, including a
search for non-material, inner experiences, learning new
skills or even going back to traditional activities and putting a modern, techno friendly twist on them. This means
that spirituality is becoming an important motive for travel
and many destinations are promoted in connection with
spiritual motivations.
Concluding Thoughts...
(text shortened)
The outlook for religious tourism is good, especially for
Islamic sites, given the strength of faith in that religion.
Countries like Saudi Arabia will see considerable growth.
On the downside, the geopolitical environment in the Middle East is a barrier for development, especially for countries like Israel and Palestine. Religion whether we like it
or not, is a consumer product. As the world becomes more
By PhD. Ian Yeoman
http://www.tomorrowstourist.com
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