The Pilgrimage of Our Lady of the Agony (Romaria de Nossa Senhora d ́Agonia), in the north of Portugal, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. Fernandes and Sampaio (2014) suggest that through the years, this event has served to connect residents and visitors alike with the heritage of the region in which the Pilgrimage has become what is arguably one of the biggest regional icons. However, no field research has ever taken place to confirm these claims.

In 2014, a pilot study was carried out using a questionnaire as a basis to evaluate the impact of this event in various sectors - environment, culture, economy and tourism. This paper analyses the results from the perspective of tourism. A total of 490 usable questionnaires were collected using a randomly selected sample of residents and visitors alike, which resulted in a sample of 159 residents and 331 visitors. The question is whether visitors are obtaining more knowledge regarding the texture of culture and understanding (Cohen, 2004) and a meaningful experience, which is highly valued in today’s society.

Overall, results suggest that the event attracts essentially the local / regional market and has difficulty attracting foreign tourists with 90% of respondents being domestic residents and 38% residing in the Viana do Castelo geographical area. Findings are expected to lead to a more detailed study, building on the strengths and weaknesses of the methodology applied for the pilot study and possibly extending it to the policy context as well as service providers and the planners of the pilgrimage and processions.



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