Algarve «is not a religious tourist destination», but «has the potential to do so»

«The only phenomenon we have and which we can call religious tourism in the Algarve is the Sovereign Mother», says the director of Pastoral do Turismo

The feast of the Sovereign Mother, in Loulé – Photo: Mariana Carriço | Sul Informação (file)

The Algarve is still “not a religious tourist destination”, but the Sanctuary of the Sovereign Mother, in Loulé, for example, and the entire religious culture of the region means that there is “potential for this”.

«What characterizes the issue of religious tourism is the fact that there are people who go to a certain place, sanctuary, or take a certain route to meet with the aim of praying, of having a religious experience not just at a certain time of the year», explained to Sul Informação Father Miguel Neto, director of the Pastoral Nacional do Turismo, adding that this, in the Algarve, still does not happen.

At a time when the Algarve priest heads to Fátima to participate in the XI International Religious Tourism Workshops, which take place this Thursday and Friday, the 22nd and 23rd of February, and which brings together people from all over the world, Miguel Neto takes stock of how the Algarve region is doing in relation to this topic.

«The only phenomenon that we have and which we can call religious tourism, in the Algarve, is the Sovereign Mother», says the priest, stressing, however, that «there is almost no one who comes to the Algarve outside of that weekend to visit the sanctuary, as they go, for example, to Fátima».


Miguel Neto, director of Pastoral do Turismo – Photo: Mariana Carriço | Sul Informação (file)


According to the parish priest, this party, which takes place every year two weekends after Easter, is the only one that brings people from outside the region to this specific event, «people who contribute to the economy, because they stay in hotels, consume in restaurants and are not just passing through tourism».

Miguel Neto states, however, that there are some phenomena of spiritual and cultural tourism in the region, «which involve contact with nature and also visits to churches as heritage».

They are, above all, retired people, foreigners, who enjoy the good weather in the Algarve, but also the gastronomy, the culture, the monuments, «the fact that everything encourages active rest, but they don't come on purpose for a religious festival».

Furthermore, according to the director of Pastoral do Turismo, the diocese of Algarve has closely monitored the increase in demand in the region for civil and Catholic marriages in foreign languages.

Although the Algarve cannot be considered a religious tourism destination, the parish priest feels that the region has the potential for this, with festivals such as the Sovereign Mother, as Flower torches, in São Brás de Alportel, and Holy Weeks in Tavira, Faro or Portimão.

«The Chamber of Tavira, for example, has done a lot of work with the parish to increasingly promote this Holy Week, and I think that the local authorities are increasingly paying attention to this, to this local work», he concludes.


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