News entry

Defining Spiritual Tourism - Longer Definition

Why are Youth travellers important?

These seem to be strong reasons for tourism involved actors to take note of this trend and to study it carefully. Youth travellers are an increasingly important market and destinations should learn more about it. As highlight Simon, J.J. (2014) studying this market is not an easy question. Youth tourism contains very different realities. Indeed, young tourists face several obstacles such as state disengagement concerning youth mobility and tourism. As well as an absence of incentive politics promoting youths from modest backgrounds to go to international, in addition to youth economic, cultural and social difficulties, such as family pressure, lifestyle, language barriers, school vacation...

Concerning young adults, we face different situations. Driven by economic, social, cultural and political changes, in the previous decades tourism clientele represented by young people has diversified and it has become more demanding. As a consequence, the tourism offer will have to adapt to the heterogeneity of needs and expectations in order to satisfy them. Destinations have to take into account that those young people are now at the present moment and prepare an adequate and concrete supply because youth is not a homogeneous concept. Youth represents a big variety of different consumption patrons (Simon, J.F., 2014): Erasmus students, backpackers, a group doing a sport stage and young couples with stable jobs passing their holidays together, etc.

Nowadays the demand for youth tourism is extremely complex because young people have a lot of varied reasons to practice tourism. According to Demeter and Brătucu (2014) it can be observed that those purposes are educational tourism, volunteering, work and travel, cultural exchange, sports and adventure tourism, and leisure tourism. Globally, the number of youth taking part in the different fields is growing. Trip is seen as a form of learning; a way of meeting other people; a way of getting in touch with other cultures; a source of career development; a way of self-development, a part of their identity.



Spirituality is defined as “experiencing a meaningful connection to our core selves, other humans, the world and/or a greater power as expressed through our reflections, narratives and actions” (Schulz, 2005:4).


Spiritual tourism has been among the oldest forms of travelling for many millennia, and is nowadays a solution to personal and social exhaustion due to modern lifestyle, technology and work pressure.

Cohen (1979) stated that every human being is spiritual and when travelling establish spiritual connections with the spaces visited. According to the UNTWO, it is estimated that about 330 millions of tourists visit every year the main religious places, and are spiritually motivated. Spirituality is an important theme of international tourism and has been growing steadily. We can qualify contemporary spiritual tourism on the one hand as religiously oriented, which can include visits of significant places of worship – churches, temples, mosques, shrines -, participations in rituals to be conducted, retreats – vegetarian, detox, yoga -, spiritual events, seminars and festivals, or long walking journeys as pilgrimages. On the other hand, as participation in religious institutions and rituals is decreasing, new beliefs and practices are growing based on the idea of connexion with the immaterial, which is another spiritual dimension. Natural environment has become a spiritual engagement, to connect to the world and experience the sense of belonging to something infinitely bigger.


Young people found different elements that helped in defining spirituality in travel:


- The Spirituality of the Place. There is an emotional/spiritual response to the physical beauty of the area.

- Solitude / Quietness / Communitas. The experiences of solitude in the quietness of the place and, in a sense, the sharing of that solitude with others were commonly expressed contributors to spiritual experiences amongst the groups studied.

- High Up/the Limitless. A number of participants spoke about the relationship between spirituality and the physical challenges that present themselves when participating in activities such as reaching a mountain. This is connected with emotional responses.

- Remoteness. The sense of spirituality is inspired by the remoteness or peripherality of the areas and the harshness of life for those living there.

The spiritual dimensions of contemporary tourism have been studied in academia from two perspectives (Sharpley & Jepson, 2011):

- Religious tourism, whose participants are motivated in part or exclusively for religious reasons (including history, features, activities, management with respect to physical and cultural impacts...)

- Tourism as a religion, since MacCannell (1976) suggested that the modern tourist is a secular pilgrim. Leisure time has become a space for the contemplative and the creative. According to Graburn (1989), tourism is used by humans to add meaning to their lives and it can be considered a rite of passage (like a modern pilgrimage).

Considering the previous statements (see WP1, report D1.1) and the survey results (see appendix 2), spiritual dimension coincides with one of the main motivations of young travellers – learning from their travel, which the Spirit Youth project should explore.

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