The Varieties of the Spiritual Tourist Experience

Alex Norman


Spiritual tourism has been proposed as a phenomenon in leisured travel. It is defined as tourism characterised by a self-conscious project of spiritual betterment. A small number of scholars have commented on it both directly and indirectly, and it is clear from these reports that there are a wide variety of practices in a great many locations around the world. What has not received sufficient scholarly treatment yet is the phenomenological taxonomy of spiritual tourist experiences, in part due to the divergent conceptions of what the term encompasses. By proposing a focused yet malleable frame of reference for the term it is possible to create a taxonomy that is empirically driven and that has application in the broader field of tourism studies. As such, this article argues that spiritual tourist experiences should be roughly grouped into five varietal categories – healing, experimental, quest, retreat, and collective – that often overlap, and which serve to illuminate broader social currents in Western societies.

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