UNWTO: Tourism can protect and promote religious heritage

UNWTO: Tourism can protect and promote religious heritage

Sustainable development of tourism at religious heritage sites was in focus at the International Conference on Religious Heritage and Tourism: Types, trends and challenges, jointly organized by UNWTO, the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Spain.

According to UNWTO estimates, 300 to 330 million tourists visit the world´s key religious sites every year, with approximately 600 million national and international religious voyages in the world, 40 per cent of which take place in Europe.  Being key tourism destinations, religious heritage sites not only drive international tourism and economic growth, but also provide important meeting grounds for visitors and host communities, making vital contributions to tolerance, respect and mutual understanding between different cultures.

“Among the many motivations for travelling, visiting cultural or religious sites ranks high on travelers’ wish lists. Leveraging the growing interest for religious tourism worldwide is not only beneficial for the tourism sector, but crucial in building cultural dialogue and peace”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the Conference. “Religious tourism can also be a powerful instrument for raising awareness regarding the importance of safeguarding one´s heritage and that of humanity, and help preserve these important sites for future generations”, he added. 

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