Religious tourism is the traveling of an individual or a group of individuals of a specific religion or faith to a location that holds religious impact. This is common in many religions around the world, especially Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. There are many potential benefits of religious tourism, however they tend to be greater for the tourists rather than the locals. In general, benefits include observing and learning about the intended religion, people in their group of travelers and from the tourist area, culture, food, lifestyle and customs, and buildings or the environment. There is so much to learn when one goes on a religious tourism adventure that it is close to impossible for someone to be a religious tourist and not take anything away from such an experience.
An obvious benefit of religious tourism, observing and learning about the intended religion, is something people tend to focus on. Whether a Muslim person is going on the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a Christian missionary is going to work or provide service to others in a form such as education, or a Jewish person is traveling to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel, each tourist will gain more knowledge about his or her religion and hopefully grasp a better understanding of what it personally means to practice their faith or religion. In my opinion, it is much more satisfying to practice a religion that I truly understand and have learned to value rather than observe it as an outsider who was brought into it through family norms. Being a religious tourist leads to greater passion and belonging into a religion.
Another benefit is learning about the people one is on this adventure with and locals from the desired destination. Being surrounded by others provides for the opportunity to observe their culture, clothes, food, and religious differences. One can learn about how others in their religion dress in respect to their religion, eat and drink in regards to how strict they may be about religious dietary restrictions, and the culture in general. By being immersed into another culture, outsiders are forced to catch on and follow the culture they are presented with.
Similarly, lifestyles and customs are observed as well. Religious tourists learn the lifestyles of the people around them and start to understand exactly what those people value, whether it is family, making money, or providing knowledge to others of their religion or faith. Also, foreign customs are learned. Visitors realize mannerisms of restaurant waiters, taxi drivers, and others working with the public. The customs practiced within a culture can be quite obvious and often throw tourists off guard. Along with people’s customs, tourists learn about the buildings and environments in these religiously sacred locations. They may learn that transportation does not run on the Sabbath day or that the buildings are only tended to when necessary to keep the original design intact. Also, tourists can realize that people value “going green” and make an effort to reduce their carbon footprints and not let trash collect around religious sites. There are so many observations to be made that can enrich religious tourists, not only regarding religious benefits.
On another note, the locals are constantly given the opportunity to observe the tourists. They can notice the tourists’ different clothing styles, eating habits, and how religious they are. Clearly, the benefits of religious tourism can teach the locals and the travelers.
The influences of religious tourism are present in London as well. The people from London are effected by the religious tourists from the crowded public transportation, restaurants, parks, and other public places. Although a negative aspect, the locals who are practicing their religions by praying in churches, for example, are probably disturbed by religious tourists who are walking through churches to observe these sites. However, they do get the opportunity to see how respectful outsides might be. Religion is displayed as such a prominent aspect of history throughout Europe that many popular places for informal and formal religious tourism is on this continent. There are many benefits of religious tourism because people have the opportunity to learn so much about their own and other cultures, lifestyles, and religions.