The brand-new WTM Latin America Trends Report 2015, in association with Euromonitor International, reveals 7.7 million domestic trips in Brazil were faith related in 2014. To put that into perspective, that figure is equivalent to the total number of domestic trips in Uruguay in 2012.
Furthermore, Brazil’s most sacred sites attract more annual visitors than some of the world’s most famous landmarks.
For example, in 2014, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida received 12 million tourists – almost twice the number of visitors to the Eiffel Tower in 2013 – while, in 2011, more than 2.5 million pilgrims visited the city of Juazeiro do Norte – more than the total number of domestic trips recorded by Paraguay.
The surge in Brazil’s religious tourism in recent years in part linked to the election of the Latin American pontiff, Pope Francis, in 2013. His appointment revitalised interest in the ruins of Jesuit missions in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, such as the United Nations World Heritage Site São Miguel das Missões.>/p>
Incoming and outgoing religious tourism is also on the increase. For example, in 2013, Brazil hosted World Youth Day. The Catholic mega-event gathered 671,000 tourists, of which 212,000 were international.
In recent years, the largest tour operator in Brazil and WTM Latin America Exhibitor, CVC, has expanded its portfolio of religious tourism packages to key international religious heritages sites, mainly in Europe, Israel and Jordan.>/p>
There is also evidence religious tourists also spend money on shopping and entertainment, such as amusement parks – in fact many incoming and domestic operators include these options in their faith itineraries.
Vatican figures show Brazil has the most Catholics in the world – over 12% of the global Catholic population. This corresponds to 137 million people, almost the population of Russia.
Yet academics suggest Evangelicals Christians will outnumber Catholics in Brazil by 2040 – so religious tourism is likely to follow a new direction in the future.
WTM Latin America, Director, Lawrence Reinisch said: “Religious tourism plays a vital role in Brazil’s travel industry and the wider economy. It has especially taken off since the election of Latin American pontiff Pope Francis in 2013.
“Worldwide religious heritage site attract between 300-330 million tourists every year. As a country Brazil has an, arguably unrivaled, wide range of religious tourist attractions for domestic, inter-regional and international tourists to visit.”
Euromonitor International, Research Analyst, Alexis Frick said: “Almost eight million domestic religious tourism trips in Brazil last year, shows the size of the market and the impact it has on the economy, with religious tourists also spending money on shopping and amusement parks. “This segment is only expected to grow further in future years.”