French shrine towns report a 'strong rise' in spiritual tourism.
March 17, 2012:
A spokesperson for the French Association of Shrine Towns has said that there is 'definitely a solid trend towards spiritual tourism' with increasing numbers of visitors coming to French sacred sites from countries further afield.
According to Geraldine Ballot, head of the Association of Shrine Towns (Association des Villes Sanctuaires) in France, more than 4.5m foreigners touring France every year are visiting the country for spiritual or religious reasons, with almost one-third of pilgrims to the country's leading shrines coming from abroad.
The Association represents thirteen of the most popular French pilgrimage sites (outside Paris) including Lourdes, Mont St Michel and Chartres who receive an annual 6m, 3m and 1.5m visitors respectively each year. "There is definitely a solid trend towards spiritual tourism," Ms Ballot is quoted as saying. "Whatever their views on religion, people today need to take breaks, to stop shopping and recharge their batteries."
While the majority of foreign visitors to these French shrines come from other European countries, the Association reports a 'strong rise' in visitors from countries such as Russia, China, South Korea and India.
Though exact figures are impossible to establish, ARC estimates have shown that, worldwide, a staggering 150 million-plus spiritual journeys are undertaken every year to the major shrines and sacred sites of the world's religions. As a response to the potential environmental cost of all this travel the Green Pilgrimage Network was launched in November 2011 at an ARC organised conference in Assisi, Italy. The network comprises twelve pilgrimage destinations from different religious traditions each of which has committed to take steps to reduce the carbon footprint created by visitors and, if possible, to create a positive impact on the environment instead.
Find out more about the Green Pilgrimage Network Click here .
Ms Ballot's comments were reported in an article by Tom Heneghan in Catholic newspaper The Tablet (March 17, 2012).
You can visit the English language version of the Association of Shrine Towns website here.