Millions opt for religious tourism
While there are no official statistics to confirm it, recent estimations have calculated that religious tourism in Portugal attracts several million tourists every year, generating around €700 million in revenue and representing 10 percent of the overall tourism in Portugal.
The lack of official figures is explained by the fact that ‘religious tourism’ (visits to places of religious interest) is not categorized as such, but is in fact classified as ‘cultural tourism’.
This has been criticized by researchers and tour operators who believe Portugal’s current Strategic Tourism Plan should be reformed to include an 11th tourism category, Religious Tourism.
Entities such as the Portuguese Tourist Board and the World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) have also complained about the lack of statistics relating purely to this sector in Portugal. Kevin Wright, head of the WRTA, said “there is no specific data relating to Portugal in this sector with the exception of those relating solely to visitors to the Fatima Sanctuary”.
On a global scale, every year between 300 and 330 million people embark on a religion-based trip, which overall generates revenue of between 15 and 18 billion euros.
Portugal is believed to generate around two percent of that traffic. Of the seven million people who visit Portugal for religious purposes, around five million of those head for Fátima.
Internationally, Lourdes, in France, is one of the main religious destinations, with six million visitors every year. However the record goes to Kumbha Mela (India), whose celebrations take place every 12 years and saw 75 million people gather in 2001
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