The Netherlands – Conference: how to increase religious heritage tourism

The Netherlands – Conference: how to increase religious heritage tourism

On 6 and 7 October, an international conference will take place in Utrecht concerning religious heritage and tourism: ‘Religious Heritage and Tourism: how to increase religious heritage tourism in a changing society’.

The program will offer knowledge and inspiration, using international examples, to every church owner, government, heritage or tourism organization that wants to (further) strengthen the social and economic value of religious heritage. It is for a reason the conference is held in Utrecht, a city with the highest concentration of medieval churches and convents in the Netherlands. The official opening ceremony on 6 October will be attended by a.o. Jet Bussemaker, Dutch minister of Education, Culture and Science.


The Netherlands has countless beautiful and interesting churches, convents and synagogues, that together attract hundreds of thousands of (international) visitors. Next to the big attractions, like the New Church and the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, the Sint Jan in Den Bosch, and the Dom Church and Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, there are many smaller locations in all of the Netherlands that, although lesser known, are worth visiting.

For religious heritage, tourism has become an increasingly important way to broaden public support and strengthen the exploitation. The social and economic effects also reach beyond: the village, city and region can also profit from this specific heritage tourism.


The central question is thus: how to develop that public reach? How to distinguish yourself within the large tourist sector, without losing your soul as a church? How do you manage streams of visitors, market your city, and how do you create relevant networks? At this international conference, representatives of often world famous cities, religious buildings or organizations will offer an interesting look behind the scenes. Examples of the Florentine Dome, the Blue Mosque and the Alhambra will turn out to be inspiration to religious heritage in places and regions of every location and size.

A selection  from the programme

Timothy Verdon, director of a.o. the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, will tell about the management of large streams of tourists in Florence and how to guide them towards the original meaning of the religious artifacts of the city. Loyd Grossman, by many known as BBC-presenter, but also a.o. vice- chair of the British Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), argues how religious heritage – in his eyes the most important landmarks in our European landscape – can be protected and preserved by giving the buildings a place in the heart of the local community. Development of their touristic potential is essential in this. This is why Crispin Truman will tell about how the CCT guides countless visitors to 350 monumental churches.

On the occasion of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Mary in Fatima, in 2017, Paulo Fonseca will present how this Portuguese municipality deals with 6,7 million visitors every year.

Barbara Boilox-Gallardo explains how the busy Alhambra, the symbol of the Spanish-Islamic past, is managed, how tourist streams are taken care of, and how other parts of the city are involved with this. Íshak Kizilaslan will tell about the world famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul as a tourist attraction in a changed society.

Registration and costs

Those interested can register until 27 September, through the website of the United Nations World Tourism Organization : increase-religious-heritage-tourism-changing-society

The costs for the two-day conference are €150-. This includes coffee, lunch, drinks, a city tour in Utrecht, and a dinner in the beautiful Paushuize, which the only Dutch pope, Pope Adrianus, had built in the 16th century.

Date and location

Thursday 6 October from 09.30 to 22.30 and Friday 7 October from 10.00 to 13.30 in the Dom Church in Utrecht.


The conference is organized in the context of the Agenda Future of Religious Heritage (, and has been made possible by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the Agency for Cultural Heritage of The Netherlands, Museum Catharijneconvent, The Flemish Center of Religious Art and Culture (CRCK), and Future for Religious Heritage (FRH). The conference has also been made possible through contributions by the municipality and the province of Utrecht, the Diocese of Rotterdam and the Dom Church in Utrecht.

Conference Programme

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