Bringing in 7 million visitors and generating $5 billion a year, religious trips in Italy have become more popular than ever before. What could be responsible? All signs point to Pope Francis.
The “Francis effect” has faithful flocking to St. Peter’s Square, seen through its numbers of attendees having tripled, reported La Stampa.
Some attribute his voice in this time of crisis as comforting, causing pilgrims to see Rome as a safe haven during a difficult economic time and one of crisis.
Rome’s tourism entity confirms this growth trend, noting Europeans, Asians, and South Americans being drawn to the Eternal City and how requests for permits for buses have skyrocketed.
“The figures we have on participants of religious celebrations showed a significant increase,” said Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.
“Data on the frequency and origin of the pilgrims attests that the circulation has grown considerably, not only Italian, of the groups. Groups and people come from all parts of the world.”
“In short,” he said, “it is a universal flow of people of various nationalities with a very broad rotation.”
Francis’ arrival boosted Italy’s religious tourism. Before Francis, less than 5% of those visiting Italy came for reasons of faith. Those that did generally visited Rome, Assisi, Padua. And then Pompeii, Loreto, Oropa, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Cascia, reported La Stampa.
According to the latest research, foreign clientele make up 60% of the religious tourism segment: 45.3% comes from Europe and 14.9% from countries outside Europe.
The study showed that 41.4% of religious tourists are between ages 30 and 50. Some 44.4% arrange travel through various tour operators and travel agencies. Another 32.7% travel with a partner. A fifth choose an organized tour. Almost 20% visit with groups of friends. Some 13.3% visit with family and 9.8% travel alone. (D.C.L.)