Spiritual Tourism

Spiritual tourism is often described by Western scholars as an active choice by individuals to address a problem in their lives, and thereby acting as an important well-being intervention. Through spiritual travel and practice, individuals seek to understand and learn strategies to help “resolve problems in their reflective assessments, everyday experience, and personal outlook on life”.

The tourist’s search for ‘authenticity’ in ancient and significant religious heritage sites associated with spirituality in South and Southeast Asia is influenced by the media and ‘Orientalism’. Thus, destinations such as Varanasi (India), Luang Prabang (Laos), Bagan (Myanmar), Chiang Mai (Thailand), and Ubud (Indonesia) have seen increasing numbers of ‘spiritual’ tourists. Tourists to Rishikesh (India), for example, practice their spiritual activities back home before developing their desire to experience that practice in spiritual destinations.

According to Norman and Pokorny, spiritual tourism can be defined as a “reflexive well-being intervention driven by the sense that some aspects of everyday life need improving, and oriented towards the space of non-work from home where such problems can be given full attention”. It can be characterized by “a self-conscious project of spiritual betterment”. ‘Spiritual tourists’ may escape their everyday routine to distant spiritual spaces to work on their problems, or become a better person, while simultaneously leading to self and personal transformation.

Spiritual destinations become sacred landscapes and act as a ‘faithscape,’ which embodies not only their tangible geographical features and cultural establishments, but also intangible spiritual elements.

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