What Is Religious Tourism?

K. Kinsella

Religious tourism usually involves followers of particular faiths visiting locations that some people regard as holy sites. In many instances, religious tourists journey to these sites on the anniversaries of events that are of importance to followers of specific religions. Traditionally, those involved in religious tourism were referred to as pilgrims but in modern times that term that is not as widely used since many non-religious individuals also embark on trips to holy sites because many of these sites are of cultural or historical as well as religious interest.

Many sites in Israel are of religious significance to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Many sites in Israel are of religious significance to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Some travel companies arrange all inclusive trips to temples, churches, sites where religious figures were reportedly martyred, and various other locations that hold some kind of historical or mythical significance. These trips often take the form of guided tours, sometimes visiting a number of sites in one day or during one tour. Many sites in Israel are of significance to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Many sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and elsewhere are linked to historical figures or events associated with just one of these three major religions. Many travel firms also offer package tours to locations in India that are of importance to Buddhists and Hindus, while other tour companies cater to followers of other religions.

Jerusalem, Israel.
Jerusalem, Israel.

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Religious communities located throughout the world sometimes arrange trips to holy sites. These groups often organize events to raise funds to cover the cost of the trip so that members who lack the means to cover their own costs are able to go on the trip. In some instances, religious groups contact other members of the faith who live close to the holy sites and arrange for travelers to stay in monasteries or other properties that are operated by members of the religious faith.

The Hajj is a Muslim pilgrimage that leads to the Ka'aba in the Saudi city of Mecca.
The Hajj is a Muslim pilgrimage that leads to the Ka'aba in the Saudi city of Mecca.

While religious tourism often takes the form of lengthy group trips, in other instances it can take the form of a day trip or a brief visit to a holy site. There are many locations throughout Europe, Africa, Central and South America that are regarded as holy by some Christians because people claim to have seen visions of religious figures at these sites. During religious holidays and celebrations, many people from the surrounding areas visit these sites and religious ceremonies are held to mark particular occasions. Similarly, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and believers in other faiths often embark on brief pilgrimages to holy sites in Saudi Arabia, India or other parts of Asia. Therefore, religious tourism can involve both formal travel arrangements or impromptu trips to nearby sites.

Religious tourism attempts to recapture some of the more spiritual moments of the Bible.
Religious tourism attempts to recapture some of the more spiritual moments of the Bible.
Hasidic an praying at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem.
Hasidic an praying at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem.

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Discussion Comments

Melonlity

In my neck of the woods, it seems that people who could be considered religious tourists want to go to Israel. For Christians, the significance of a trip to Israel should be obvious.

A good number of pastors around here, in fact, have been sent to Israel by their churches in hopes that they'll bring back some insight and an better understanding of the history of our faith.

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