The need to support religious tourism in Greece by improving infrastructure and preserving religious monuments was highlighted by Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zacharaki during the Economist Impact Event, that was held in Chania, Crete, last week.
Speaking to participants through a web link, Zacharaki stressed the significance of upgrading the infrastructure and signage of religious monuments and facilitating access for people with mobility issues.
“We see [infrastructure] weaknesses in most religious sites: Access is difficult with roads in poor condition… We are trying to improve infrastructure in order to ensure access for more people,” she said.
According to Zacharaki, religious travel is a rapidly growing special form of tourism. It is estimated that prior to the pandemic, the visitors of some of the world’s most significant pilgrimage sites exceeded 300 million on an annual basis.
“This equals to one fourth of tourism arrivals on an international level,” the deputy minister said.
Meanwhile, some 600 million national and international religious trips are conducted every year.
“The [coronavirus] pandemic has affected tourism in Greece, as well as the traditional link between religious tourism and organized travel. In the post-pandemic era, we should all adjust to the new reality, take advantage of new technologies and digital transformation,” Zacharaki underlined.
She went on to add that religious tourism should be connected with other activities including eco-tourism, hiking and gastronomy.
“After two years of Covid-19 lockdowns, we expect interest for religious tourism to increase as visitors seek for alternative tourism experiences,” Zacharaki said.
Greece features a number cultural and religious treasures, many of which have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among them are the monasteries on Mount Athos, northern Greece, and Meteora in Thessaly. There are also numerous Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches and monasteries throughout the country.
Titled “Religious tourism: Encouraging inclusive growth in the era of pandemics”, the Economist event was held in Chania, on May 6.