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Spiritual tourism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Tourism
Wordcount: 5173 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Literature Review

An extensive literature is review essential in order to define the concept and key terms of spiritual tourism. In order to understand spiritual tourism in more detail, the characteristics of the spiritual activities by that tourism can affect positively will be discussed. It further introduces of various authors defining spiritual tourism. Literature review is further used to assess current situation of spiritual tourism development. The researcher will analyse the literature to help build a theoretical frame work on the definition and concept of spiritual tourism. Hence definition of spiritual tourism is discussed followed by characteristics of spiritual tourism and lastly attempt to justify spiritual tourism as a sustainable tourism and authentic tourism has employed. Cottrell (2005, p. 127) states

“when looking for evidences to support an argument one needs to consider whether anything has been written about it already, where the information could be found and which are the most relevant and authoritative sources for the subject.”

Spiritual tourism is a tourism that is motivated by faith or religious reasons has been in evidence for centuries (Sharply and Sundram, 2005). In more recent times, however, it has been suggested that modern tourism has become the functional and symbolic equivalent of more traditional spiritual practices, such as festivals, pilgrimages, yoga and holy places. To date, however, little work has been undertaken to explore this position (Sharpley and Sundram 2005). The purpose of this literature review, therefore, is to contribute to this debate.

Spiritual tourism

It has been long recognised that a variable relationship exists between the institutions of spirituality and tourism. Research proves that conceptual discussions of leisure or tourism often have spiritual overtones or link leisure with spirituality (Doohan, 1990; Godbey, 1989; McDowell, 1986). Authors above shows that spiritual tourism area has been in research for many years however people’s awareness of spiritual tourism is still an area to study. Conceptual discussions of leisure and tourism have made references to spirituality however there is a rarity of theoretical reflection and empirical study on how these two concepts may be related (Heintzman, 2002).

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On the one hand, spiritual tourism may be identified as a specific type of tourism whose participants are motivated either in part or exclusively for peace reasons (Rinschede, 1992 p.53). On the other hand, tourism may be considered as a spiritual activity. (Vukonic´, 1996). Smith (1992a) refers to as the ‘mission in guest’. At one extreme it is prescribed as sacred pilgrimage, a journey drove by faith, religion and spiritual fulfilment; at the other extreme it is prescribed as a tourist who may seek to satisfy some personal or spiritual need through tourism. Between these two points can be found different forms and intensities of spiritual tourism are motivated to a greater or lesser extent by religious or, conversely, cultural or knowledge-based needs. As Smith (1992a) puts it, some religious tourists may be ‘more pilgrim than tourist’, whereas others may be ‘more tourist than pilgrim’.

Brown (1998, p. 1) defines spirituality as

“has become a kind of buzz-word of the age . . . an all-purpose word, but one that describes what is felt to be missing rather than specifying what is hoped to be found . . . The spiritual search . . . has become a dominant feature of late twentieth-century life: a symptom of collective uncertainty.”

Vukonic (1996) explains that it is an opportunity for human being to recognise and encourage their spiritual needs, but also tourism, as a particular use of such free time has come to seen as a spiritual journey.

Aggarwal el, al. (2008) explains that Spirituality means having understanding with deep, often religious, feelings and beliefs, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life. The essence of spirituality is inner feeling through love. Spirituality is one word which puts a human being on the highest pedestal of life. Spirituality is living life as it was meant to be not as we may have desired or wanted living it. It is a certain fact that only the true seekers of Spirituality become the masters of their destiny. Knowingly or unknowingly many people who have a materialistic goal in life travel the path of Spirituality and become successful in life. These highly acclaimed individuals unknowingly tread the path of pure Spirituality and achieved the goal of their life. Spirituality in other terms means that before we ask God the Almighty for material riches to be bestowed upon us we need to compensate by giving something equivalent or more back to the community. In terms of Spirituality we are not supposed to get anything unless we promise to do something in return in the system of God.

Smith and Kelly (2006) define spiritual tourism as one that provides the visitor with activities and/or treatments aimed at developing, maintaining and improving the body, mind and spirit. Ali-Knight (cited in Mintel, 2009) defines spiritual tourism similarly as involving travelling to a destination to engage in the practice of yoga and related activities that enhance physical, mental or spiritual well-being. And however, takes a step further, exploring spiritual tourism in the context of expanded definitions of cultural tourism, as it embodies and incorporates many of its wider elements and involves a learning experience. It was noticed that the most notable difference between cultural tourists and yoga tourists is the greater maturity of the yoga tourist, perhaps because of the spiritual and self-reflective part of the holiday experience, which may not be as accessible or appealing to a younger age group (Mintel, 2009).

New age spirituality is now a religion in the formal and organisational sense. Instead it represents a personal spiritual quest that typically eschews traditional monotheistic to concentrate on what is not associated to closely with traditional theologies and churches (Hanegraaff, 1999). O’Neil (2001) describes new age spirituality as a movement rather than a division, because in common with other natural religious, there is no structural religious institution, but instead an explosion of classes, worships and seminars focusing on some aspect of new age teaching.

Journeys can be regarded as “spiritual”

When contemplating spiritual tourism, there is an inclination to just include those journeys that correspond to one’s personal understanding of spirituality. The following can be subsumed under the heading:

Yoga-

A 5,000-year-old spiritual discipline, which originated in the South of India, yoga is by far the most popular holistic pursuit, and the one to have most fully entered the mainstream, aided by a celebrity following. Yoga has proved to be helpful in the treatment of lifestyle conditions, including stress, obesity, diabetes and depression, and is practised as part of ayurveda. Of the variety of styles, hatha yoga and ashtanga (power) are most common (Mintel, 2007).

Ayurveda

‘Science of life’ in Sanskrit – is a complete medical system with its origins in northern India 5,000 years ago. By diagnosing and balancing the body’s humours, it is effective in treating a variety of conditions including lifestyle diseases. However, it is most commonly chosen as a ‘detox’ and ‘rejuvenation’ therapy. Yoga is a constituent of ayurvedic therapy. Barberry Reef, which opened 25 years ago off the west coast of Sri Lanka, pioneered the offering of ayurveda to westerners(Mintel, 2007).

Meditation

Although only 6 percent of the world population are Buddhists, most of whom live in Asia, Buddhism is a rapidly growing religion in the West and an interest in Buddhist meditation has increased in the last decade. The number of Buddhist organisations in Australia, for example, increased by 211 or 126 percent in almost seven years from June 1995 to April 2004. In the UK, in the 2001 Census, 15,000 people – or 1 in 400 – declared themselves as Buddhist (Mintel, 2007).

Cultural activities

Visiting sites of history, Archaeological digs, cities up to battlefields, the interest in an epoch or specific historical events having prominence. Visiting places where historical figures or famous personalities lived and worked. Visiting places of religious significance (pilgrimages), reflection, meditation for the sake of soul-searching. This involves the cultivating and practicing of religious beliefs or the performing of religious duties (Melchers, 2006).

Religious activities

Religious travel is not a new phenomenon. Religion has been an integral motive for undertaking journeys and is usually considered oldest form of non economic travel (Jackowski & Smith, 1992). Every year millions of people travel to major pilgrimage destinations around the world both ancient and modern origin (Timothy & Olsen, 2006). There is small but important literature that focuses on the characteristics and travel pattern of religiously motivated tourists. Rinschede (1992) differentiates between different forms of religious tourism based on time involved and distance travelled namely short and long term religious tourism. The short term type involves travel nearby religious attractions, while long term means travelling the world. However the motive for such travel is a journey towards the perfection (Timothy & Olsen, 2006).

Adapted from Melchers (2006)

Melchars (2006) further argues that Spiritual tourism isn’t just religious tourism like pilgrimages. A wide spectrum of travel forms deserves this name. Given the current “inflation of meaning”, spiritual tourists seek something that is worth being interested in, that can give their lives new richness or even a new direction. They want to “visit meaning” and investigate on the spot whether they experience anything sustainable here. In order for such expectations to be fulfilled, appropriate destinations are subject to special demands on marketing and organization of the visit. Journeys concerned in a wider sense with experiencing culture, art and religion are understood as “spiritual” although the travellers seldom use the term “spiritual tourism”. They themselves speak of educational trips, hobby trips, meditative journeys, art trips.

Spiritual tourism is also viewed from different aspects. However the concept of spiritual tourism has been viewed from very narrow prospective. To summarise above arguments about spiritual tourism it simply means linking peace of mind with leisure for an annual holiday. According to union tourism minister Renuka Chaudhri (cited in Gaur, 2006 p. 43)

“The concept of spiritual tourism has been viewed in a very narrow sense. People think that is all about visiting temple and all other holi sites. We are looking at it from a wider perspective now.”

She explains spiritual tourism as visiting a temple, visiting cultural sites, practicing yoga or just simply relaxes in your hotel room and listens to the vedic chants. As an example where this is practiced in India is a land of spirituality. People across the world are showing interest in yoga. It can provide healing touch particularly to the busy urban people living in the concrete jungles.

Motives for spiritual travel

Spiritual holidays seek to address the interdependence of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, often referred to as ‘mind, body and spirit’. Inextricably connected, dynamic balances of all three are seen as essential for wellbeing. Spiritual tourism is a more abstract, multi-faith and eclectic one in which tourists seeks meaning, engagement and peace through activities such as meditation. Eco- and sustainable tourism is also tied closely to holistic tourism. (Mintel, 2009).

Chaline (2002) states spiritual tourism as an extraordinary experience. What is anticipated in spiritual tourism destination is not holiness or divine visions. It is however something even more miraculous – the opportunity to feel different from the way we feel at home. It is as if the act of travelling to a certain place in the world entitles us to feel happier and more alive.

Spiritual tourism is a journey, not a destination. One of the key themes to understand on spiritual tourism is that the journey towards wellness is far more important than the destination in spiritual tourism is often an alternative space in which one can engage in self analysis without the stresses and distractions of home (Wright state university, 2003).

According to Brass (2006), is authenticity linked to goodness, and exploring one’s inner potential is another aspect of authentic-seeking that of searching for a non-material, authentic and deeper experience. An increasing number of people are undertaking activities which incorporate creating something new.

The spiritual traveller wants to establish or document “intimate” closeness and attachment to and with the subject of their journey. Purpose and destination of the journey are experienced as something special – at least compared to trivial vacations and the usual places that are visited without any particular ambitions. To come close to something, it’s still best to make our way to the spot. A place is visited that has been “consecrated” and so is suitable for soul-searching. There is a desire to become intimate with a piece of history, the Art of the Renaissance, Saint Francis or the current musical culture. Such a trip shows others that you are already close to such themes (Melchers, 2006).

Spiritual tourism as a sustainable tourism

Carey (2006) of Tourism Concern notes that sustainable tourism will be a core driver in the future as destinations shape their image. Carey states that, when sustainably developed, tourism can create so many social and economic opportunities for the destination community.

Sustainability and authenticity go hand in hand where communities build a tourism product which belongs to their community, for example, the Kawaza Village tourism project in central Zambia where tourists can stay in an authentic African village, learn about environmental issues, collect wild honey, and find out about apiculturists (Schlesinger, 2006).

Tourism can be a powerful tool of development, but its potential can also be wasted. Too often tourism enterprises see each other only as competitors, and end up frustrating visitors. Every destination talks about quality and exceeding visitors’ expectations, but what is the spark that transforms a destination into something remarkable? It is a destination that has pride and is passionate about celebrating its heritage, its food, landscapes and its people. Of course, authenticity does not guarantee sustainability, but without the celebration of ‘local distinctiveness’ it is just ‘another resort’ Carey (2006).

There is increased demand for such kind of tourism as Stueve et al. (2002) claim their ‘‘geo tourism study” indicates that there are at least 55.1 million Americans who could be classified as ‘sustainable tourists’ or ‘geo tourists” and in particular specify a ‘‘good citizen” demographic segment.

Spiritual tourism as an authentic experience

Boyle’s (2004) appraisal of authenticity means that tourists are searching for a connection with something that is real, unsullied and rooted within the destination. Hence the connection to ‘spiritual experience’. These visitors increasingly hark back to ‘the good old days’, despite the fact that the quality of life has significantly improved since the ‘good old days’. Here, tourism destinations have an opportunity to create something real, what is termed a sense of place. Yeoman and Beattie state that destinations which have no history have no anniversaries or festivals to celebrate. It is a destination’s image that is shaped by its history, which then creates its sense of place. It is a destination’s food, people and places which make up its heritage and its character (Yeoman & McMahon- Beattie, 2006).

Authenticity as a concept is nothing new (Brass, 2006; Chambers, 2005); destinations such as Australia, Canada and China are promoting authentic experiences. There is a growing desire to obtain experiences and products that are original and the real thing, not contaminated by being fake or impure. This movement away from impurity, the virtual, the spun and the mass-produced in a world seemingly full of falseness needs further explanation (Yeoman et al., 2007). There is a dearth of literature about authenticity and tourism from different philosophical approaches such as positivism, constructivism or post-modernism (Wang, 1999). But whatever your approach, the importance of authenticity is paramount.

It is a fulfilment of moving beyond goods and services to experiences. At one level it means increased spending on holidays, eating out, the theatre and so on. But it also includes special experiences such as white-water rafting or spending a weekend at a health spa (Yeoman et al., 2007). Pine (2004) also observes that, as the experience economy matures, a shift is identified towards authenticity. Consumers decide to buy or not to buy, based on how real they perceive the product/service offering to be. Thus the rendering of authenticity emerges as a selection criterion for tomorrow’s tourist.

The trend of authenticity is a close fit with the proposition of Spiritual tourism, based upon its nature and offering (Yeoman et al., 2005). The cornerstones of authenticity are quintessentially linked to David Boyle’s (2004) writing and more. So, to conclude, authenticity should be:

Ethical

An authentic experience should be founded on the principles of community, sustainability and ethical consumption.

Natural

Tourism should be a natural phenomenon which is pure and not tainted nor manufactured. Natural tourism products are those which are quintessentially associated with the destination or region.

Honest

Be honest with your visitors; the tourist industry shouldn’t promise something which can’t be delivered or produce something tainted by falseness that will spoil the authentic proposition.

Simple

An authentic experience should be simple to understand in which the visitor can see the benefits. The more complicated the experience, the more unbelievable it will be. As the world is full of complications, an authentic experience should be simple, pure and consumed in an inconspicuous manner.

Beautiful

Authentic destinations have a beauty about them, whether this is a magnificent view which creates a sense or place, or the feeling that experience cannot be copied as it belongs there and only there.

Rooted

Authenticity has some sense of past which is rooted in the destination or community. India is often known as a home of spirituality especially for yoga.

Human

A human experience is something that is living and people-focused. This means that the tourist wants human contact which is local and real.

Adapted from Yeoman, et al. (2007)

The importance of all of the above is to understand how this trend is developing and whether it will last. This can surely provide an opportunity for tourism industry—especially for those providers who are trying to be authentic and appeal to visitors whilst also undertaking niche marketing. As long as technology and virtual life continues to develop at the pace they are, the need for human contact and for traditional activities will increase. As consumers become even more empowered and cynical of fake promises, they will continue to seek out the authentic in their own way (Yeoman et al., 2007)

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The role of tour guides in providing authentic experience

Authentic tourism refers not to consumption of the real or genuine (Reisinger & Steiner, 2006) but rather to individual and personal tourist experiences that contribute to one’s sense of identity and connectedness with the world (Steiner & Reisinger, 2006). The authors suggest that the individual and personal dimension of authentic tourism should extend to people making up their own minds about how they experience and interpret the toured world. This could certainly mean that tour guides in their current incarnation might be largely superfluous in authentic tourism. But it might be a worthwhile philosophical exercise to examine what tour guides do, see what that tells us about the concepts of meaning-making and interpretation, and perhaps recast their role to find a place for them in authentic tourism. Finding a role for tour guides in authentic tourism calls for a rethink of what tour guides most commonly do. It also calls for a reconceptualisation of interpretation as a tour guide responsibility (Reisinger & Steiner, 2006).

According to Ap and Wong (2001), mediating and culture broking are two interpretive functions of the tour guides’ work. Tour guides mediate between tourists and locals and the environment. Mediating moves beyond telling tourists how to think and feel about their experiences; it is about leading them to their own conclusions and letting them learn. Culture broking is the act of bridging, linking or mediating between groups or persons of differing cultural backgrounds for the purpose of reducing conflict or producing change (Jezewski & Sotnik, 2001).

Ap and Wong (2001) believe tour guides’ interpretive work plays a vital role in enhancing visitors’ experience and understanding of a destination and its culture. Ap and Wong (2001) say tour guides, through their knowledge and understanding of a destination’s attractions and culture and through their communication skills, transform tourists’ visits from tours into experiences. Moscardo (1998) identifies three main ways in which interpretation can contribute to the quality of visitors’ experience. These are: (1) providing information on the available options so tourists can make the best choices about what they do and where they go; (2) providing information to encourage safety and comfort so tourists know how to cope with and better manage encountered difficulties (e.g. sea sickness) and understand messages given by the warning signs (e.g. ‘you cannot swim here’); and (3) creating the actual experience so tourists can participate in activities such as guided walks, ecotourism, visit art galleries, fauna sanctuaries or zoos, and learn in areas of educational interest.

Summary

Smith and Kelly (2006) conclude that, as with other specialist tourism interests, spiritual tourism faces challenges related to authenticity, practice, regulation and management, as well as definition problems and categorisation challenges. Consumers and the industry alike currently experience confusion as to what spiritual tourism is. In the short term, its true meaning is unlikely to become any clearer, as ‘spirituality’ becomes a commercial buzzword, and hotels get into the game. They caution that finding a balance between provisions of care, economic development, and meeting the needs of a diverse set of consumers in an erratic world will prove an enormous challenge.

However, there is no doubt that a wave of interest in holistic holidays has stirred the mainstream, moving the sector on to a new phase of development. The WHO warns that depression and mental health problems will be the second-largest disease burden by 2020 (cited in Mintel holistic report), and this would indicate that stress, and the need to cope with increasingly fast-paced modern lives, is not going to go away. Going to an alternative therapist or doing a yoga class for exercise is one thing, but signing up on a yoga retreat, or to engage in life coaching while on holiday, is not yet mainstream practice. However, demand is increasing, as evidenced by the amount of new businesses entering the market, and has shown accelerated growth in the past five years. In particular, growth at the top end, and in holistic spas, is bringing the alternative world to an increasingly discerning clientele. Previously almost non-existent, luxury spiritual holidays is one of the fastest-growing sectors within holistic tourism (Mintel Holistic report).

 

Spiritual tourism

Author

Source

Conceptualisation

Motivation

Authenticity

Sustainability

Aggarwal el, al. 2008

Report

understanding with deep, often religious, feelings and beliefs, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life

Boyle 2004

Book

that tourists are searching for a connection with something that is real, unsullied and rooted within the destination.

tourism destinations have an opportunity to create something real

Brass 2006

Research Paper

The spiritual traveller wants to establish or document “intimate” closeness and attachment to and with the subject of their journey

Authentic-seeking that of searching for a non-material, authentic and deeper experience.

Brown 1998

Book

an all-purpose word, but one that describes what is felt to be missing rather than specifying. The spiritual search . . . has become a dominant feature of late twentieth-century life: a symptom of collective uncertainty

Spiritual tourism

Author

Source

Conceptualisation

Motivation

Authenticity

Sustainability

Carey 2006

Web article

can be a powerful tool of development, but its potential can also be wasted

sustainable tourism will be a core driver in the future as destinations shape their image.

Chaline 2002

Book

the opportunity to feel different from the way we feel at home

states spiritual tourism as an extraordinary experience

Doohan, 1990

Book

spiritual tourism area has been in research for many years however people’s awareness of spiritual tourism is still an area to study

Godbey, 1989

Journal

conceptual discussions of leisure or tourism often have spiritual overtones or link leisure with spirituality

Heintzman, 2002

Journal

Conceptual discussions of leisure and tourism have made references to spirituality however there is a rarity of theoretical reflection and empirical study on how these two concepts may be related

McDowell, 1986

Journal

It has been long recognised that a variable relationship exists between the institutions of spirituality and tourism.

Spiritual tourism

Author

Source

Conceptualisation

Motivation

Authenticity

Sustainability

Melchers 2006

Journal

a movement rather than a division, because in common with other natural religious, there is no structural religious institution, but instead an explosion of classes, worships and seminars focusing on some aspect of new age teaching

“visit meaning” and investigate on the spot whether they experience anything sustainable here

A place is visited that has been “consecrated” and so is suitable for soul-searching.

Mintel 2009

Report

spiritual tourism similarly as involving travelling to a destination to engage in the practice of yoga

 

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