Pilgrimage travel has become an important element in contemporary tourism, as visitors flock to sacred locations (UNWTO, 2015). However, some aspects of pilgrimage travel remain relatively understudied, with one of them being the roles of guides in these locations. Based on previous academic works, the present study aims to bridge this gap by analysing the role of religious figures who engage in guiding activities aimed at the general public. For this, Shippōryū-ji, a Shugendō temple located in Japan, is presented as the case study. As previous research on the subject is scarce, a qualitative approach was deemed suitable. Utilising interview questions based on earlier studies, the researcher conducted semi-structured interviews in Japanese with religious guides in the sampled temples. These findings were complemented with data derived from semi-structured interviews with the temples’ authorities, participant observation of the guiding activities, and documents obtained from the temple. Findings are discussed in light of previous research on guiding and religious figures in tourism. Conclusions show that the pre-modern roles discussed by Cohen (1985) were prevalent among interviewees, showing their importance in contemporary religious tourism. Implications for policy-makers are presented as well, such as the importance of understanding the role of religious guides in order to evaluate visitor expectations and satisfaction, as well as the potential for authenticity-based policies. Finally, study limitations and opportunities for future research are mentioned.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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