Sunday, October 19, 2008

Religion to help nation's tourism industry (Taiwan Journal)

The travel industry is always searching for new markets and new products. Ecotourism took off in the 1990s. More recently, "voluntourism," which combines vacation travel with volunteer work at the destination, has become popular. Currently, one of the fastest growing segments of the industry is religious tourism, which includes pilgrimages, short-term missionary work, monastic retreats, faith-based camps, and visiting sites of religious significance.

Religious tourism is one of the oldest forms of travel in the world. People have been making pilgrimages or traveling great distances to acquire religious knowledge for millennia. But until very recently, trips motivated by faith were largely ignored by the mainstream travel industry.

This is changing. In the United States, faith tourism is growing at double the overall rate of the industry. According to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the total number of U.S. residents venturing beyond the United States, Canada and Mexico increased by 3.6 percent between 2006 and 2007; the number traveling for religious reasons grew by 7.4 percent.

Taiwan, which has been working hard to attract tourists, may be able to win some of this business. Religious aspects of Taiwanese society enthrall many foreign visitors and residents.

"Personally, I think the religious culture here is amazing," said Robert Kelly, main author of Lonely Planet's Taiwan guidebook. "Some of the displays of devotion and the exorcisms I've seen in South Taiwan rival Cuban Santeria in intensity," he added. "I love how Taiwan's temples are public spaces and well used..."

The entire article can be read here. The photo shows Beigang's Yimin Temple, one of my favorite places of worship in Taiwan.

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