The policies implemented by the Member States of the Council of Europe have as their main purpose to protect and realise the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitate economic and social development (Statute, 1949). The Council of Europe considers cultural itineraries, including pilgrimage routes, which make a significant contribution to the cultural tourism sector, and a key role in territorial development policies, in economic, social, and cultural terms.

The Way of St James (Camino de Santiago), one of the main pilgrimage routes in the world, was the first Cultural Route certified by the Council of Europe in October 1987. Nowadays, the importance and impact of the routes are widely acknowledged, since there are thousands of people, travelling every day towards Santiago, departing from various points of Europe and motivated by different reasons.

The present paper aims at highlighting the economic and social impacts of the Way of St James crossing the Alto Minho Region (Camino Central and Camino da Costa), in Portugal. Employment opportunities and the overall economic growth of local communities are perceived by local businesses as examples of direct and indirect benefits, and the routes as an integral part of the territorial tourist development. Data were collected through the collation of secondary data, fieldwork, and questionnaires. Comparisons and analyses of differences and similarities between the different approaches are discussed.

Results support the existence of opportunities for small business creation and strengthening; Despite the pandemic situation, and the inherent reduction of pilgrims, particularly during lockdowns, the Way recovered faster than other tourism products, and are perceived as contributing to the development of tourism businesses and related services at a regional level. The increases in jobs and economic gains contribute to the wealth and well-being of local communities.

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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