The globalisation of pilgrimage tourism? Some Thoughts from Ireland

Kevin Griffin, Dublin Institute of Technology

Chapter 2 in Raj, R. & Morpeth, N. (Eds.) Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Management: An International Perspective, CABI, Oxfordshire


There are many reasons why people travel, these motivations have been researched extensively by geographers, sociologists and others including the business community. The phenomenon of religious tourism, and more particularly, pilgrimage tourism, while widely recognized has not received much attention in literature. Perhaps the reason for this neglect is the difficulty of classifying this aspect of the tourism industry in a growing secular world, where spiritual meaning is often seen as un-fashionable and perhaps even seen as a little ‘backward’. Referring to Ireland, this disquiet was captured by Pochin Mould as early as 1955 who commented:

To write of the Irish pilgrimages is to tread on dangerous ground, it is to attempt to keep a true balance between agnosticism and excessive credulity. It is easy to sneer at somebody else’s superstition, and equally easy to fall into a too sentimental piety.

In order to avoid these pitfalls, it would appear that the easiest solution for those concerned with examining tourism has been to deal briefly with, or totally avoid the topic of religious tourism. This is not to say that it has been ignored by all authors (a lengthy and highly useful international bibliography of religious tourism was assembled by the ATLAS Religious Tourism Special Interest Group in 2005), but the emphasis in most texts has been on either pilgrimage or tourism, and where both have been considered together, the emphasis would appear to be on descriptive case-studies of religious tourism, and on religion being an motivator for early tourism.