Tourism these days is not only a fast-growing industry worldwide, which carries blessings as well as undesired effects, it is also a field that is receiving more and more attention from a myriad of academic perspectives. It is no secret that travel and tourism are of a cross-disciplinary nature, since they have impacts at all levels: ecological, cultural and social, economic and political. Of course, this works in both directions.
Religious tourism is one of the earliest forms of tourism and is a fast growing market. Here, Peter Wiltshier, Lecturer in Tourism and Spa at the University of Derby, explains what it is and why it is so important.
Back in the 1980s, in the midst of Sri Lanka’s civil war, an initiative by the NGO Save the Children Norway, sought to promote ethnic and religious harmony through what they called ‘walkshops’ and ‘talkshops’ on the holy mountain, Adam’s Peak.
Up until the 1960s, Adam’s Peak – also known as Sri Pada (the sacred footprint) – was the greatest interfaith pilgrimage site on earth, attracting Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Christians and others in vast numbers. Prior to the civil war, members of these faith groups would climb together and worship by the imprint in the rock that they recognize as the mark of Buddha, Shiva, Adam (after he was expelled from paradise), and the apostle to the world, St Thomas. The indigenous god of the mountain, Saman, was also venerated. Except for perhaps Jerusalem, there is no other site with such widespread religious significance.