Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rome's spiritual tourism fair

Rome is banking on its centuries-old ties to religion to boost tourism, with a four-day fair expected to draw thousands to the Italian capital this week.

The Eternal City is one of the most popular destinations in the world for Catholic tourists but the first edition of the Journeys of the Spirit Fair (JOSP) aims to broaden the capital's spiritual appeal.

Running from Thursday until Sunday, JOSP Fest will celebrate spiritual journeys and pilgrimages in all forms, with conferences, workshops, concerts, film screenings and cultural events.

Over 500 exhibitors from four continents will be present at the fair, which is expected to draw around 40,000 visitors. The goal of the fair is to shake off the slightly musty reputation of pilgrimages, introducing a range of concepts linked to journeys, both physical and metaphorical, to a wider audience.

In particular, JOSP Fair will seek to engage with global issues, looking at how religion and spirituality affect geopolitics, with seminars on Tibet and China and a series of meetings exploring Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

On a more conventional note, feature films, documentaries and personal accounts will explore the attractions and experiences of Christianity's 'mega-sites': St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Lourdes in France, the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico city, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and Jerusalem.


Figures released by the World Trade Organization suggest the religious tourism industry generates some 18 billion dollars each year, 4.5 billion of which in Italy alone. Around 3-3.5 billion trips are made each year for religious purposes, the WTO calculates.

A month after JOSP Fair, Milan's prestigious International Tourism Fair (BIT) will pick up the baton, with a brand-new section devoted solely to religious and spiritual tourism.

Fabio Majocchi of Expocts, BIT's organizer, explained that religious tourism was a surprisingly fast-growing sector. ''It brings important economic advantages for destination areas,'' he said.

''Furthermore, our research also shows that travellers are no longer just heading for the traditional sites but are also searching for alternative destinations, spots that combine historic and religious significance with a warm welcome''. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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(Source: Ansa)