The complexities of religious tourism motivations

Unfulfilled vows can question sacred places.

Yangon, Myanmar view of Shwedagon Pagoda at dusk
Yangon, Myanmar view of Shwedagon Pagoda at dusk Image: Shutterstock

In today’s secular world, the relationship between tourists and their belief plays a major part in influencing individuals visiting religious sites. The visitation patterns of pilgrims depend on the strength of their religious beliefs.

Most of the previous studies only explored the understanding and motivation of visitation patterns of religious tourists. In a new study, scientists focused on the complexity of travel motivations to sacred places.

Human-sacred interaction affects motivations. Scientists particularly used ethnographic techniques within the Greek Orthodox context to understand travel motivations to sacred places. They even argue that while motivations are institutionally constructed, they are fragile, dynamic and progressive; being embedded within everyday performances of religion.

Sacred or holy places are found in different cultures, past and present, all over the world. Since ancient times, sacred sites have had a mysterious allure for billions of people around the world. Such places are frequently marked or embellished by architectural structures and art.

During the study that published in Annals of Tourism Research, scientists call into question the fixed centeredness and predetermined sacredness of religious sites. As Travel motivations become directly influenced by believers, religion also has a great influence on some aspects of people’s traveling behavior.

The meaning of places being based on lived experiences of doing religion and interacting with the sacred, as exemplified in vows and visions. Scientists suggest that such understandings are crucial in predicting the effects of failing pilgrimages and the processes of authentication of places, which can help explain visitation patterns.