The domain of the ‘religious’ / ‘spiritual’ has become a significant source of revenue production for the tourism industry . Faith-based tourism seems to draw increasing numbers of people who wish to travel not just for leisure, or pleasure, but in search of personal meaning and fulfilment in a postmodern capitalist world.

Though undertaken as a physical journey, pilgrimage seems to be embedded in the traveller’s wish for some kind of personal transformation. The journey is often distinguished from regular travel through its inherent call for a letting-go, be it of mental constructs, pathologies, personal and social conditioning, artefacts, logic or behaviour. Perhaps the faith-based ‘tourist’ sustains an attitude of veneration to the place and the path, and becomes sensitive to the environment as well as its inhabitants.

One could then ask: does the commercial appropriation of faith-based journeys by the tourism industry contribute positively to the industry and, in larger terms, to humanity in general? Can faith-based tourism lead to a crucial, empathetic shift in awareness, enabling humans to accept one another without prejudice? Can faith-based tourism help to build deeper and permanent trans-class, trans-racial, trans-ethnic and trans-religious connections? Can it transform the tourist from a consumer-voyeur to a responsible participant in the larger ideals of social equality and cultural / environmental preservation?

This paper suggests that pilgrimage tourism could in different ways sensitize pilgrim-tourists to ongoing social and environmental crises, and how tour organisers and administrators could promote this wider consciousness by illustrating the religious beliefs and sentiments of faith-based tourists.



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