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Abstract

In recent decades, the number of tourists visiting religious buildings of special cultural attraction, mainly due to their exceptional architecture, has significantly increased. In such cases, it is hard to discern whether it is a question of religious tourism or of so-called secular pilgrimage. This paper analyses this issue by means of a paradigmatic case study: The Basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Catalonia, a Roman Catholic church that receives over 3 million visitors a year; the part of the “unfinished cathedral”, built under the direction of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, was registered in 2005 as a cultural site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List; and the church was consecrated in 2010 as a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. The methodology used consists of two parts: the study of events and circumstances that may have influenced the projected religious or secular image of the basilica, and the analysis of the image perceived by visitors. Perceived image is obtained through a quantitative content analysis of more than 10,000 online travel reviews (OTRs) on La Sagrada Familia, written by foreign tourists from five English-speaking countries. OTRs, as user-generated content (UGC), are a trustworthy source for analysing perceived and transmitted image. To ensure the quality of the results in the case study, the most suitable websites hosting OTRs are selected by applying a weighted formula, and then these OTRs are downloaded, classified, cleaned and debugged so that the HTML pages collected contain only what is written by the user, preserving the original format. Through a quantitative content analysis, we construct a table displaying the frequencies, density and weight of keywords is constructed, which are in turn categorized, and segmented by nationality, to observe in detail the density and weight of keywords related to feelings and religion. Our findings suggest a prevalence of cultural over religious motives for visiting La Sagrada Familia, and that Irish and British OTRs stand out for their content of good feelings while North-American OTRs are notable for containing keywords related to the Christian religion.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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