THE CONVERSATION — Religious tourism is among the oldest forms of planned travel and to this day remains a huge industry.
About 300 to 330 million tourists visit the world’s key religious sites every year, according to a 2017 estimate. Some 600 million national and international religious trips are made around the world, generating around US $18 billion in global revenues. It makes up a sizeable chunk of an overall tourism sector that has been significantly affected by the spread of the coroanvirus, with 63.8 percent of travelers reducing their travel plans as a result.
A concern of all faiths
As COVID-19 evolved to become a global pandemic, governments across the globe closed sacred sites and temporarily banned religious travel.
It has affected popular destinations of all faiths. Jerusalem, Vatican City and Mecca – which attract millions of Jewish, Christian and Muslim visitors annually – are among the worst affected.
Likewise, Buddhist sites such as Nepal’s Lumbini Temple and India’s Mahabodhi Temple, as well as the Hindu temple of Kashi Vishwanath, have seen a slump in visitors.
This has had huge financial implications for the host countries.
For example, last year approximately 2.5 million Muslims from around the world performed the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, with nearly 2 million coming from outside of Saudi Arabia.
However, this year only around 10,000 people were expected to do the pilgrimage while observing social distancing measures.