Developing Religious Tourism in Northern Portugal
Paper later published as a chapter in the book Cultural Tourism: Global and
local perspectives (Richards, G. ed, 2007).
Greg Richards and Carlos Fernandes
Tourism related to religious sites and festivals, pilgrimage or spirituality is a long
established and extremely important sector of the tourism market. For specific
sites, such as the major pilgrimage sites of the major world religions, religious
tourism may be the primary activity of a city or region. But religious sites provide
an important underpinning to the basic tourism product even outside pilgrimage
destinations, as cathedrals, churches and monasteries often generate
significant numbers of visitors, including those not travelling directly for religious
Perhaps paradoxically, the decline in churchgoing in recent years has been
paralleled in many cases by a growing interest in religion and religious travel.
The reason for this seems simple: people are searching for meaning in their
increasingly uncertain lives. Many people have not been able to find this
through traditional forms of worship, so they are now taking to different forms of
experience to find it. This includes the re-discovery of pilgrimage or journeys to
Like anything else in life, pilgrimage can be a routine experience, but in its most
authentic expression it is thought to be a spiritually transforming journey. These
journeys can involve extremely large numbers of people. There are also new
forms of pilgrimage being developed alongside the traditional, ancient forms.
This indicates that religious tourism has the potential to grow in future. But one
issue that has to be tackled before analysing the market any further is the
question of definition.
What is Religious Tourism?
In view of the fact that such journeys are obviously a combination of a religious
experience and travel, it would be easy to characterise all journeys to religious
sites as religious tourism. But definitions of religious tourism based simply on a
combination of ‘religion’ and ‘tourism’ are of little help in understanding the
phenomenon. It is far more useful, for example, to try and understand what
concepts such as ‘religion’ or ‘pilgrimage’ mean. In this way, one can also
understand more closely what drives the tourist to travel.
Although it's not easy to define in simple terms, religion can best be described
as a system of beliefs in a higher being that are held with great faith and
commitment. There is a universal belief in a higher being in all religions,
including those of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faiths.
The religious sense is nothing more than man’s original nature, by which
he fully expresses himself by asking ‘ultimate’ questions, searching for the
final meaning of existence in all of its hidden facets and implications.
The fact that religion is so hard to define is one reason why religious tourism
has had a relatively low profile in the past. Although people may be travelling for
reasons related to religion or spirituality, such as a quest for meaning, they may
not see this as being directly religious. These religious or spiritual travelers are
therefore also not picked up by traditional tourism surveys and much domestic
religious tourism also goes unnoticed.
The number of tourists travelling purely for religious reasons is relatively small.
Many studies conclude that spiritual motivations for engaging in pilgrimage
outweigh religious ones. For example, even the pilgrims travelling to Santiago
de Compostella do not all see themselves as travelling for religious reasons.
Santos (2002) reports that the proportion of pilgrims indicating a religious
motivation is about 50%, with perhaps a further 20% having a mixed ‘religious-
Another problem with quantifying the religious tourism market is that much
religious tourism bypasses the traditional distribution channels of the tourism
industry. Specialist religious travel companies cater for the needs of pilgrims,
dealing directly with accommodation providers at the major pilgrimage sites.
Because pilgrims have been seen as a market that is difficult to influence, they
have also been overlooked in terms of tourism marketing, except in the case of
major pilgrimage destinations. Not surprisingly, this relative lack of attention by
the tourism industry has also led to a relative dearth of academic research in
the area. This situation is now beginning to change as the significance of
religious tourism is recognised in academic circles. The staging of the ATLAS
Religious Tourism Expert Meeting in Fátima in April 2003 is a clear indication of
this growing interest (Fernandes et al., 2004).
These problems indicate that a new approach is needed to defining and
analyzing religious tourism, which gets away from the very narrow definitions
used in official statistics.
It is clear that not all religious tourists are the same. This is also a fact
recognized in many academic studies of religious tourism, which often identify a
continuum of motivations related to religious travel. Cohen (2001:14) discusses
the distinction between ‘pilgrims’ and ‘tourists’, and points out that the simple
dichotomy between the two is no longer tenable. He suggests that one needs to
distinguish between domestic and foreign tourists and that religious tourists
form a separate category between pilgrims and tourists. This distinction
between pilgrimage and tourism is one repeated by many other authors. For
example, Murray and Graham (1997:514) define pilgrimage as: ‘a religious
phenomenon in which an individual – or group sets forth on a journey to a
particular cult location to seek the intercession of God and the saints of that
place in an array of concerns’. However, this definition of pilgrimage tends to
ignore the importance of the journey in pilgrimage. For many pilgrims, travelling
to the shrine may be just as important or even more important as the shrine
itself. This is because pilgrimage is not just an external but also an internal
journey. For other tourists, the shrine may be the only thing they are interested
in, and many may see the shrine more as a cultural monument than a religious
one. One of the additional complications may be that the transformation
involved in undertaking a pilgrimage may change the type of tourism involved. A
person starting out with purely cultural motives may become aware of an inner
change as they travel, and may actually become pilgrims or religious tourists
along the way (Haab, 1996).
Many authors also see religious tourism as a part of cultural tourism. In so far a
religion is part of culture, this seems to make sense. Religious sites are also an
important element of cultural tourism, so there is also a degree of overlap
between the two. Petrillo (2003) for example reports in the case of Italian sites
that 93% of religious tourists report cultural motivations. Montaner (1996) also
suggests a link to cultural tourism, with a continuum ranging from ‘pilgrims’ to
believers’ to ‘cultural tourists’. A summary of some of the main dimensions of
this continuum is given in figure 1.
Figure 1: Dimensions of religious tourism
Smith (2003:103) argues that there is a current trend towards spiritual tourism,
‘focusing on the quest for the enhancement of self through physical, mental and
creative activities’. She sees many tourists rejecting the relatively hedonistic
travel styles of the past and travelling in order to find meaning in other cultures,
religions and philosophies.
This review of studies of religious tourism indicates that the concept is far from
clear. A number of different concepts may be grouped under the term ‘religious
Pilgrimage Cultural tourism
Inner journey Journey to attractions
tourism’ or may be closely related to it. These include pilgrimage, pilgrim-
tourists, spiritual tourism, holistic tourism, cultural tourism and creative tourism.
The following sections consider some of the wider factors affecting the current
and future demand for religious tourism. Firstly, the role of religion in
contemporary society is analysed and then a broader view is taken of the rise of
spirituality and the quest for meaning and transformation.
Spirituality and the quest for meaning
The growth of spirituality has important implications for the development of
religious tourism in future. Many analysts of religious tourism have pointed to a
shift away from traditional religious activities towards a much broader view of
‘spirituality’ or ‘holistic’ reasons for travel (Smith, 2003).
Pilgrims also seem to be increasingly seeking a spiritual rather than a religious
experience. For example, Digance and Cusack (2002) note the growth of
Christian and ‘new age pilgrimage’ to Glastonbury in the UK. They estimate that
the June pilgrimage attracts between 8000 and 10000 visitors to a town with a
population of 8000 during one weekend. The New Age movement has drawn on
a wide range of influences, which include not just other religions such as
shamanism or Buddhism, but particularly specific sites held to be sacred by
prehistoric or indigenous peoples. The New Age movement therefore
represents a more diverse approach to spirituality, which presents a challenge
to traditional religions, but also opens up new perspectives, such as linking
religious activity to appreciation of nature and landscape.
This shift towards more individualistic forms of activity and the addition of
spiritual and holistic motivations to religious tourism has a number of
implications. It suggests that the needs of the individual traveller need to be
considered more closely, and that small groups or custom made tours will grow
alongside ‘mass’ forms of religious tourism. It suggests that people may be
looking for different kinds of authenticity and for more contact with local people.
The basic reasons for this shift in the nature of tourism demand from traditional
passive cultural tourism towards more active creative or spiritual tourism stem
from broader social and cultural trends. One of the most important of these is
the quest for meaning and the desire for personal development rather than
materialistic possessions. As societies in Western Europe have become
materially richer, so more people are able to concentrate on immaterial and
spiritual matters. For example, Scitovsky (1976) has identified a shift away from
'outer directed' consumption (materialistic consumption based on goods) to
'inner directed' consumption (based on learning and development of self).
Essentially the growing emphasis on the consumption of 'inner-directed'
experiences reflects the experience hunger of modern society. Stripped of the
reassuring structures of modernity, such as the family, a job for life and religion,
people increasingly face an uncertain existence. Initially the apparent freedom
of choosing experiences offered by the market may be seductive, but ultimately
these separate, commodified experiences can prove unsatisfying. As a result
many people begin to seek alternative structures that can provide a more
holistic understanding of an increasingly fragmented human existence.
If one identifies this search for meaning as being central to religion and
spirituality, it is probably also central to religious tourism. In order to harness
this essential drive for cultural tourism development, however, it is important to
analyse the nature of religious tourism demand and to identify those resources
that are important as religious and cultural attractions. The following section
therefore looks in more detail at current patterns of religious tourism demand
and supply in general terms, prior to a more detailed analysis of the situation in
Religious Attractions – supply and demand
The most widely-quoted study of religious attractions is Nolan and Nolan’s 1989
survey of religious tourism in Europe, which indicated that there were over 6000
Catholic shrines in Western Europe, over half of which are dedicated to the
Nolan and Nolan characterised the sites they studied as either pilgrimage
shrines, religious tourist attractions or religious festivals. Real pilgrimage
shrines may not be particularly popular, since some are visited purely by
pilgrims. On the other hand, the major pilgrimage sites are very important in
terms of attracting all types of visitors.
Pilgrimage sites can therefore be put into different categories depending on
their importance. Global centres include the major Christian sites, based on
history and tradition (Jerusalem, Rome, Athos), or the special nature of the sites
(e.g. Fátima); international centres, have a range not exceeding one continent;
superregional centres are known outside their own region but attract few foreign
visitors (e.g. Braga in Northern Portugal) and regional centres (e.g. Peneda in
the Alto Minho, Portugal).
Digance (2003) states “indications are that pilgrimage is still as popular as ever,
experiencing a marked resurgence around the globe over the last few decades.
Long established shrines still continue to act as magnets for those in search of
spiritual goals, and new ones, such as Medjugorje in Western Herzegovina in
the former Yugoslavia (with its estimated 3,000 to 5,000 daily tourists) are also
attracting the faithful from all parts of the globe”. This certainly seems to be
reflected in the available figures for the numbers of pilgrims. Attix (1992)
reported estimates of an annual total of 200 million pilgrims worldwide in 1992,
of which a large proportion visited the major sites. More recent estimates
produced in 2000 (Documento de la Santa Sede sobre el Peregrinaje en 2000)
estimated an annual total of 220-250 million pilgrims, of whom 150 million are
Christians. Assuming these figures are reliable, this indicates a growth in the
pilgrimage tourism market of over 25% in 8 years, an annual increase of over
3%. This is significant, but still lags behind the growth in tourism as a whole. In
Europe it is estimated that about 30 million Christians dedicate all or part of their
holidays to pilgrimage. In Poland alone between 5 and 7 million people are
involved in pilgrimages every year, more than 15% of the population. Jacowski
et al. (2002) estimate that there are about 300 million pilgrims who take part in
journeys to supra-regional religious sites in Europe each year. Of these, they
estimate that about 50 million are Christians travelling during their holidays.
These journeys tend to be concentrated at 20 major sites.
Nolan and Nolan (1989) also point out that only 25% of cathedrals in Europe
are pilgrimage destinations, so the potential of developing new pilgrimage
streams is limited for most religious sites. Jacowski et al. (2002) relate the
popularity of pilgrimage sites to the number of followers of a given religion
(which means there is a large potential for major religions such as Catholicism),
the geographical location of the site, available transport infrastructure, wealth,
awareness and pilgrimage tradition.
One major new product that has become important for some religious sites is
the development of cultural routes and itineraries related to pilgrimage routes or
religious sites. The most famous and perhaps most successful example is the
route to Santiago de Compostella. As Santos (2003) notes, religious
motivations were by no means paramount in the revival of the Santiago route.
He identifies a number of significant factors:
– A recovery of religious spirit related to uncertainty at the Millennium
– Recovery of the European spirit
– Tourist strategy of Galicia
– Global events in Spain in 1992 (Olympics, Seville Expo).
Murray and Graham (1997) illustrate how the Camino has become ‘a cultural
resource’ as well as a tourist attraction, being used by all four northern regions
of Spain through which it passes as a means of tourism promotion. They also
see the Camino as a prime example of ‘green tourism’, since Compostellas
(certificates given to Pilgrims reaching Santiago) are only issued to those
travelling either on foot or bicycle. However, the emphasis on physically
travelling the route means that ‘pilgrims essentially qualify on the grounds of
physical achievement rather than any necessarily spiritual motivation and are
distinguished from secular tourists by their mode of travel’ (p. 519).
The success of the Santiago route has spawned a range of other cultural routes
based on religious themes or containing significant links to religious themes.
Examples include the Baroque Route in France, the Via Francigena from
Northern France to Rome and the Monastic Influence Route across Europe, all
of which are supported by the Council of Europe.
Religious tourism in Portugal
In Portugal, most attention has been paid to a few major shrines and pilgrimage
locations across the country. The prime example is Fátima in Central Portugal,
one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the world. Research by
Ambrósio (2001) indicates that Fátima has also developed rapidly as a major
tourist destination, although the town itself remains relatively small. In 1931
Fátima had five hotels with 55 beds, but by 1997 there were 31 accommodation
establishments with a total of 4261 beds.
In the North region of Portugal, the development of individual shrines has also
been important in recent years. Pinto (2002) for example has studied pilgrims
visiting the shrine at Peneda. In interviews with pilgrims, he found that almost
half the participants in the Romaria da Peneda were aged over 50. The vast
majority of the pilgrims came from relatively low socio-economic groups
(agricultural workers or labourers) and only 5% had completed some form of
higher education. About 23% of the pilgrims interviewed at Peneda had visited
the shrine before in the last 5 years, but almost 30% of repeat visitors had not
visited within the last 15 years. This indicates a fairly low level of repeat
visitation. Over 80% of the pilgrims came from within the North region itself, the
vast majority of these being drawn from the immediate area, and only 13%
coming from Spain. This indicates a relatively low level of ‘tourism’ at this
At the moment, therefore, it seems as if the potential for religious tourism in the
north of the country is not being fully developed. This was the stimulus for the
Chamber of Commerce of Braga and the Diocese of Braga to initiate a project
entitled Religious Tourism as a Motor for Regional Development: The potential
for religious tourism in the Northern Region. Co-funded by the ERDF
Programme (the EU Structural Funds), the project aims to make more effective
use of the local religious heritage investigating how it can be integrated into the
The main objectives of the research are:
– To analyse the tourist supply and demand in the North of Portugal;
– To analyse the specific supply and demand for religious tourism;
– To create a database of religious tourism supply in the North of Portugal;
– To present religious tourism development proposals for the North of
– To identify the international potential of religious tourism, in line with the
promotion strategy already developed under the brand ‘Oporto and the
North of Portugal’, and in accordance with the strategies of the destinations
that may be partners in commercial strategies.
The data reported here concentrate in particular on the supply of tourism and
religious tourism resources in the North of Portugal. An analysis of demand will
form the focus of future publications.
In order to carry out the analysis, a mixture of primary and secondary research
was employed, including surveys of visitors, travel industry intermediaries and
policymakers, and collection of existing data on the supply of religious tourism
attractions. By combining data on the demand for and the supply of religious
tourism, the sites which have the greatest potential for religious tourism
development can be identified.
One of the first steps in the research was to identify the ‘anchor-sites’, or the
key resources (and/or localities) around which the Religious Tourism product of
the North of Portugal can be structured. The identification of these anchor-sites
resulted from the analysis of a range of parameters that included not only the
importance of the religious sites or events, but also visitor flows, the available
services, the visibility of the resources and districts, as well as other indicators
linked to the tourist supply and demand in the North of Portugal. Conceptually
speaking, the notion of anchor-site implies a degree of territorial specialisation,
which should create products that are more competitive in national and
international markets. However, having identified the major anchor-sites for the
region, a range of complimentary facilities can then be identified which can
strengthen the product as well as benefiting from the spin-off effects created by
Figure 1: Municipality Spreadsheet
The first step in the identification of the anchor-sites was to develop a
‘Municipality Spreadsheet’ for each of the northern municipalities, with the aim
of carrying out a detailed analysis of the region. The municipal level was chosen
because it allows for a deeper and, at the same time, more even analysis of the
development criteria. However, the municipal spreadsheet also included more
local information, namely the resources and important festivities of the
municipalities. The spreadsheet therefore compiles local information (resources
and religious festivities) with the municipal information (indicators of tourist
supply and demand). Moreover, a third component was inserted, ‘regional
importance’, that implies the comparative analysis of the main locations in each
sub-region, identifying the more visible ones in a positive manner. As a result,
each municipality can be positioned within the sub-region and the region
according to its classification as an anchor-site, the complementarity of other
products and the potential for the development of the religious tourism product.
In order to measure the level of importance of each municipality, a number of
criteria were established, and each group of criteria contributed a fixed
proportion of the final score. The resources and festivities contributed 40% of
the total score for the municipality, the tourism supply indicators 20%, the
tourism demand indicators 20% and the ‘regional importance’ the remaining
20% of the final score. Finally each major religious site or event in the
municipality was given a further 5%, with the aim of giving maximum value to
concentrations of resources and festivities of a religious character. The final
‘religious tourism potential’ index which was calculated for each municipality
could therefore add up to more than 100% for those areas with high potential
and significant concentrations of religious heritage.
The following section describes the different elements of the index in more
Criteria based on locality
Heritage relevance – In order to systematise the information, in this first phase a
survey of the buildings with a religious architecture and classified as ‘National
Monuments’ and ‘Buildings of Public Interest’ was carried out. Then, using the
Tourist Resources Inventory, buildings of a religious character that were not
previously mentioned were added to the survey. In short, there is a five-point
score within this criterion. The buildings classified as ‘National Monument’ were
given the maximum score (five), followed by the ‘Buildings of Public Interest’
and the ‘Buildings with a Municipal Value’ were scored four and three,
respectively. Those buildings still to be classified were given a score of two,
and those that have no classification scored one.
Importance given by the Church – An initial contact was made with the
Dioceses with the aim of carrying out the diagnosis of the current situation of
the valuation of the religious heritage. As a criterion for the definition of the
anchor-sites, the Dioceses were asked to point out the main resources in the
pastoral point of view, either in terms of architectural heritage or in terms of
festivities. With two possibilities of scoring, cross tabulation was conducted with
resources included in the database with those identified as important given a
score of 5, whereas the sites which were not mentioned were given a score of
Saint James’ Pilgrimage Routes – Presently, the ‘Inland Route’ and the ‘Central
Portuguese Route’ are the signposted pilgrimage routes in the North of Portugal
created by the Association of Friends of the Saint James’ Pilgrimage. The
signage of the route is vital to carrying out this type of religious activity. This
was a decisive factor for determining whether or not to include it in the survey. A
two point scale was used for this criterion. The maximum score (five) was
reserved for the resources associated with the route, i.e. the resources located
near the routes mentioned earlier will be given more consideration. The
minimum score (one) was allocated to the resources that are not linked to any
of the routes.
Availability – The scope of the resources inventoried by the survey, especially
the material ones, do not offer the same potential for visitors due to the varying
conditions of access. A church that is closed or where it is necessary to go
looking for the person responsible for opening it does not have the same
tourism potential as another that is open both for worship and visits during the
day. In this section, the scoring criteria are based on the two extremes—on
being ‘open’ or ‘closed’. A supplementary factor was introduced regarding the
level of interpretation, to assure that this heritage is not accessible and
understood only by specialists. Thus, the possible scores were as follows:
1 – non-accessible (closed) resources (in ruins, in need of repairs, under
repairs, privately owned, once-a-year worship);
2 – conditioned access (open on request, sporadic or regular worship);
3 – partial access (open in the morning, in the afternoon or during the
4– open all day (even if it is closed for lunch or for the weekly break, in case of
5 – open all day with guided tours.
Accessibility – The accessibility of the resource in question was one of the
criteria for calculating the potential of each registered resource present in the
religious patrimony inventory. The distance between the resource and the
nearest motorway was used to allocate scores: 1=over 50 kms; 2=between 21
and 50 kms; 3=between 11 and 20 kms; 4=between 5 and 10 kms; 5=below 5
Visitation levels – Even though data on the number of visitors to religious
monuments is virtually non-existent, it was decided to use those data that do
exist. A total of 20 annual visitation records were obtained from IPPAR (the
national institute for heritage protection) and other entities responsible for the
monuments. The scores established were: 1=less than 1000 visitors; 2=up to
10.000 visitors; 4=up to 100.000 visitors; 5=more than 100.000 visitors per year.
National tourism reputation – The promotional publications produced by the
ORLT’s (regional and local tourism organisations) were thoroughly analysed for
references related to religious tourist resources (built heritage, moveable assets
and intangible heritage). That promotional material consisted of brochures,
guide books, leaflets, folders and maps produced by tourist organisations,
municipalities and Development Associations. This approach is justified by the
need to measure the degree of projection of the religious tourist resources in
each of the municipalities.
All the resources were compared with the results of the analysis of the
promotional material. The scores of 1, 3 and 5 were given to instances where
there was no reference to the tourist resource, where there was reference to
text or image and text with image, respectively. It was also decided that any
references made in the ADETURN editions should be attributed the maximum
score for this criterion (5), due to its institutional importance and range,
regardless of whether it was a textual or pictorial reference.
International tourism reputation – This criterion was based on the presence of
religious sites in the programmes of International tour operators (packages). A
total of 518 programmes for the North of Portugal were analysed, including tour
operators from eleven countries (Germany; Brazil; Canada; Spain; Netherlands;
Italy; USA; UK; Poland; Ireland; France).
Using this measure, it was possible to establish a more precise definition of the
tourism interest, as tour operators use the reference to the resources as a
classification factor in their products. This was the reason why the analysis of
these inclusions was considered relevant to the survey. The analysis of the
programmes had the following aims:
– To assess the current situation of the programmes in the North of Portugal,
with special reference to the Religious Tourism and Cultural Tourism
– To define the scores that could be allocated in the evaluation grid of the
After collecting and analysing the data, a rigorous assessment of the scores
was undertaken so as to make the scores comparable. Eventually it was
decided to allocate scores according to the range of resources included in the
programmes:. 1= up to 2 resources; 2=up to 4 resources; 3= up to 6 resources;
4= up to 8 resources; 5=more than 8 resources.
Associated resources – For evaluating the resources and festivities included in
the database, taking into consideration the importance of tourist packages
associated with festivities and the religious architectural heritage, situations
where a link was present were scored most highly. This criterion had the parish
as the territorial association, with the following scores: 1=no association; 5=with
Municipality based criteria
Accommodation – In this criterion there were 4 fundamental sub-criteria,
– Number of beds per municipality. The established categories were: 1=0
beds; 2= up to 200 beds; 3= up to 500 beds; 4=up to 1000 beds; 5=more
than 1000 beds.
– Percentage of accommodation for groups, based on the lists of hotels, and
taking into consideration the accommodation units that, regardless of
typology, have more than 60 beds (and therefore, have the capacity to
accommodate groups with a number equivalent to the number of seats of a
– Percentage of superior accommodation, based on the listings of hotels, and
taking into consideration the offer of the following typologies: 4 and 5-star
hotels, 5-star boarding houses, 4 and 5-star apartment hotels and inns.
– The dynamic of the supply, based on the absolute value variation of the
number of tourist beds per municipality in the period 1998/2001. The
established categories were: 1= -500; 2= -50; 3=0; 4=50; 5=200.
Restaurants – This criterion was analysed from the information made available
by the several ORLT’s present in this survey. This information was then
compared, in a qualitative perspective, with the information gathered from
publications/ suggestions made by well-known national critics on
recommendations of certain restaurants. The use of this criterion is justified by
its relevance in the characterisation of the municipal tourist offer, determined by
their potential for income and expenditure per capita. On the other hand,
restaurants represent a potential for the creation of indirect wealth, as the
products used to prepare meals can be obtained in a local market. The scores
were: 1=0 restaurants; 2=up to25; 3= up to 50; 4= up to 75; 5= more than 75.
Activities – The sub-criteria for this item of the tourism supply considered the
difficulty of obtaining information relative to their demand. Thus, the number of
planned activities was reduced to four, namely:
– Number of museums. The data presented corresponds to the museums that
respected the following criteria: the existence of, at least, one room or area
for exhibitions; open to the public, permanently or seasonally; the existence
of at least one curator or senior technician (including managing staff); the
existence of a budget and of an inventory. Here, there were the following
scores: 1=0; 2=1; 3=up to 3; 4=up to 5; 5=more than 5.
– Tourist entertainment enterprises. Because of the very small numbers of that
type of enterprise in the country, the following scores were allocated: 1=0;
2=1; 3=2; 4=3; 5=more than 3.
– Tourism and travel agencies, based on a Yellow Pages consultation in each
municipality. The scores were: 1=0; 2=up to 3; 3= up to 5; 4=up to 10;
5=more than 10 agencies.
– Tourist information, based on the information provided by the ORLT’s
(2003). The confirmation of the existence and functioning of such
information points was done by telephone for each municipality. The scores
were: 1=0; 3=1; 5=more than 1 information point.
Supplementary services – The sub-criteria for this item were:
– Health services. The indicator was the number of doctors per 1000
inhabitants. The scores here were: 1=0 doctors per 1000 inhabitants; 2=1;
3=2; 4=3; 5=more than 3.
– Safety level, which corresponds to the number of annual crimes on the
number of districts grouped in the North of Portugal, and excluding the
district of Oporto. The scores were: 1= -100; 2= -50; 3= -30; 4= -25; 5= -20.
– Banking services. Here the number of ATMs per 10000 inhabitants were
considered. The scores were the following: 1=0; 2=2,5; 3=5; 4=7,5; 5=more
Hotels – Here we established four fundamental sub-criteria, namely:
– Overnight stays per municipality in the licensed hotels. The scores were:
1=0 overnight stays; 2= up to 20000; 3= up to 50000; 4= up to 100000;
5=more than 100000.
– Number of guests per district staying at the licensed hotels, with the
following scores: 1=0 guests; 2= up to 20000; 3= up to 50000; 4= up to
100000; 5=more than 100000.
– Room revenue per capita. This option had the objective of eliminating other
revenues coming from subsidiary activities of tourist accommodation. The
scores were: 1=€0; 2=€1; 3= up to €20; 4=up to €30; 5=more than €30.
– Dynamic of the demand, based on the absolute value variation in the
number of overnight stays in hotels per municipality. The scores were: 1= -
100000; 2= -20000; 3= -5000; 4=5000; 5=20000.
Visitors – We included two levels of visitation in this sub-criterion, one linked to
the cultural facilities and the other to the tourist information services, namely:
– Number of museum visitors, based on the sample already mentioned.
Here, the following scores were defined: 1=0; 2=up to 10000; 3=up to
20000; 4=up to 30000; 5=more than 30000.
– Visitors to tourist information points. Whenever there was a doubt about
the existence of adequate control, no values were given. The scores are:
1=0; 2=up to 10000; 3=up to 20000; 4=up to 30000; 5=more than 30000.
National tourism reputation – The reputation of the municipalities was measured
through the references made to the municipalities themselves, as well as its
resources in the promotional material published by ADETURN. The
municipalities that were mentioned were given a score of 5, and the rest a score
International tourism reputation – The analysis carried out specifically for the
resources was thoroughly used in the municipal level approach. The scores
followed these parameters: 1= up to 2 % references in the total number of
packages; 2=up to 5%; 3= up to 10%; 4= up to 25%; 5=more than 25%
The combination of these elements into a single score for each municipality
enabled us to identify those regions with the greatest potential for religious
tourism development in terms of current and potential supply and demand for
religious attractions and supporting facilities.
Results of Supply and Demand Analysis
Even though the results in this survey are still provisional, it was possible to
identify basic patterns of religious tourism potential, which have contributed
greatly to the definition of a strategy for the territorial structuring around the
anchor-sites and the consequent presentation of proposals and
recommendations. The following synthesised maps present the geographical
distribution of the scores given to the existing religious tourism resources
(heritage + festivities), as well as the tourism supply and demand. In terms of
the analysed heritage, the municipalities with the highest scores were the ones
with the highest concentration of religious resources: Oporto scored 186,3
points; Guimarães – 152,2; Braga – 128,3; Vila do Conde – 123,3; Ponte de
Lima – 119,3 and Lamego – 114,7 (Figure 2).
VILA DO CONDE
VIANA DO CASTELO
VILA REA L
Figure 2: Anchor-sites: scoring of the religious resources in the Northern
As far as the tourism supply is concerned, the combination of the criteria
corresponding to accommodation, restaurants, entertainment and
supplementary services led to a composite indicator of the tourism supply,
whose results can be seen in Figure 3.
VILA NOVA DE GAIA
PÓVOA DE VARZIM
PONTE DE LIMA
VILA DO CON DE
VIANA DO CASTELO
Figure 3: Anchor-sites: composite scores for the tourist supply in the
municipalities of the Northern region
When compared, the results of the supply and demand analyses (Table 1)
indicate that there is strong inclination towards the sub-region Minho in terms of
demand (5 districts in the ‘top 10’), whereas in terms of the supply, the
distinction goes to the sub-region Oporto (also with 5 districts in the ‘top 10’).
Viana do Castelo
Póvoa de Varzim
Table 1: Supply and demand scores by municipality
The synthesised data from the different analyses created a global score per
municipality, which make it possible to see some territorial dynamics, such as:
– The importance of Oporto in terms of structuring this type of product, based
on the total score of all items.
– The relevance of the axis Braga-Guimarães, extending to Viana do Castelo,
Ponte de Lima and the Peneda-Gerês National Park, because of its
concentration of heritage resources.
– The importance of the triangle near the Douro region - Amarante, Lamego
and Vila Real – mainly because of the number and value of its architectural
heritage of a religious nature.
– The significant architectural focus of Chaves and Bragança.
– The relative unimportance of extensive areas in the Northern region,
resulting from a lack of intrinsic potential as far as religious tourism is
The preliminary data presented in this paper indicate the potential for religious
tourism development in Northern Portugal. Although development to date has
been limited to a few major sites, the analysis shows that it should be possible
to spread the development of religious tourism to a wider area of the region.
Particularly taking into account the potential for combining religious tourism with
cultural and nature-based tourism, and the potential for developing ‘new age’ or
‘spiritual’ tourism, it should be possible to use the major anchor sites identified
to stimulate regional development.
VILA NOVA DE GAIA
VIANA DO CASTELO
MIRANDA DO DOURO
VILA DO CONDE
Figure 4: Dynamics of religious tourism potential in Northern Portugal
The analysis indicates considerable potential in some of the inland areas of the
region, which should help to alleviate the current imbalance in visitor flows. In
particular, there is potential to position the axes of religious tourism in northern
Portugal as links between the popular religious sites at Fatima in Portugal and
Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Given the high degree of organisation of
much religious tourism, it should be possible for local suppliers to work together
with tour operators and religious organisations to develop more clearly targeted
products. Realising this potential will clearly require a high level of inter-
municipal co-operation, given the extent of the tourism regions identified. In
addition, the importance of tourism supply factors identified in the research
show the need for extensive collaboration between the public sector, which is
responsible for policy and promotion, the church, which manages most of the
sites, and the tourism sector, which provides the supporting facilities. Hopefully
the potential for future tourism development identified in this research will help
to convince the different parties of the need for co-operation in the area of
At present however, there is often too much attention paid to the tangible core
product, such as the religious sites themselves, and too little attention given to
the additional, intangible aspects of the religious tourism product. While
religious attractions may be the major attraction for pilgrims, many cultural
tourists visiting religious sites see these attractions as only one part of a wider
cultural product. Attention therefore needs to be paid to linking the religious
attractions to other types of attractions, including intangible elements such as
folklore, local customs and fiestas. In this way a complete range of cultural and
religious tourism products can be developed which will give northern Portugal a
much richer product base as well as providing more opportunities to cater for
niche markets. These kind of developments will also require more analysis of
the needs of the cultural tourists in the region, about which relatively little is
Ambrósio, V. (2001) Fátima : Território Especializado na Recepção de Turismo
Religioso. Instituto Nacional de Formação Turística: Lisboa.
Cohen, E. (2001) The Chinese Vegetarian Festival in Phuket: Religion, Ethnicity
and Tourism on a southern Thai Island. Studies in Contemporary Thailand
Digance, J. (2003) Pilgrimage at contested sites. Annals of Tourism Research
Digance, J. and Cusack, C. (2002) Glastonbury: a tourist town for all seasons.
In Dann, G.M.S. (ed.) The Tourist as a Metaphor of the Social World.
Wallingford: CAB International, pp. 263-280.
Fernandes, C., McGettigan, F. and Edwards, J. (2004) Religious Tourism and
Pilgrimage. Arnhem: ATLAS.
Giussani, L. (1997). The Religious Sense. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University
Haab, B. (1996) The Way as an inward journey: an anthropological enquiry into
the spirituality of present day pilgrims to Santiago. Bulletin of the Confraternity
of St. James, 56, 17-36.
Murray, M. and Graham, B. (1997). Exploring the dialectics of route-based
tourism: the Camino de santiago. Tourism Management, 18(8), 513-524.
Nolan, M., and Nolan, S. (1989) Location and environment shines as holy
places. Christian Pilgrimage in Modern Western Europe, p. 336
Petrillo, C.S. (2003) Management Of Churches And Religious Sites: Some
Case Studies From Italy. In Fernandes, C., McGettigan, F. and Edwards, J.
(eds) Religous Tourism and Pilgrimage. Arnhem: ATLAS.
Pinto, J. (2002) Os Santos Esperam, Mas Não Perdoam: Un estudo sobre a
romaria de Peneda.
Santos,Xose M. (2002) Pilgrimage and tourism at Santiage de Compostela.
Tourism recreation research vol.27 nr.2 p.41
Scitovsky, T. (1976) The Joyless Economy. New York: Basic Books.
Smith, M.K. (2003) Holistic holidays: Tourism and the reconciliation of body,
mind and spirit. Tourism Recreation Research 28(1) 103-108.