Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Business and Management.

Publication Details

This paper was presented at Pilgrimage and the Evolution of Spiritual Tourism International Conference in Waterford on the 9th of March, 2018


It has been widely acknowledged that tour-guides play a vital role in the visitor experience, and significantly impact on the sort of experiences visitors get at sites visited (Cohen et al.,2002; Pizam & Riechel, 1996), and have been dubbed as key elements in the complex interaction between the visitor and the sites visited (Cohen-Hattab and Shoval 2015). Although there has been a proliferation of studies conducted with regards to the role of tour guides in visitor’s experience at cultural heritage tourism attractions, there is still very little exploration of the role of tour guides in the visitor experience management at sacred sites, and especially how their spirituality impacts on the visitor’s experience at these ecclesiastical sites within the religious and pilgrimage tourism scholarship. Crucial given that these personal attributes may directly or indirectly play a vital role in influencing their narratives and interpretations of these holy places, and consequently impact on visitor satisfaction. The lack thereof of a scholarly investigation into this phenomenon, suggests the timeliness of an exploration into how the spirituality of these tour-guides/ leaders influences visitor experiences at these sites. Thus, in providing an understanding into this phenomenon, semi-structured interviews conducted with tour-guides at Irish sacred sites, revealed that the spirituality of tour-guides either based on religion or upon secular does influence tour narratives and site interpretation and consequently impacts on the visitor’s experience. The research has significant implication for sacred site visitor experience management, where there is a need to understand how the socio-psychological characteristics of these sacred site tour-guides/ leaders impact on the visitor’s experience and the effects on the image of these holy places. The findings, thus, advances scholarly discourse on the rather complex and sensitive sacred sites visitors experience management phenomenon.

Selected readings:

Cohen-Hattab, K., and Shoval, N. (2015). Tourism Religion and Pilgrimage in Jerusalem (eds). New York: Routledge.

Cohen, E., Ifergan, M., Cohen, E. (2002). A New Paradigm in Guiding: the Madrich as a Role Model. Annals of Tourism Research. Vol.29. pp.919-932.

Pizam & Riechel, (1996). The Effect of Nationality on Tourist Behaviour: Israeli Tour Guides Perceptions. Journal of Hospitality and Leisure Marketing, Vol. 4 (1). pp.23-41.