Religious tourism could be big business

N16 S1Pic When it comes to religion, people very often become polarised in their opinions  ranging from devout believers to rigid disbelievers who are sometimes dismissive  and offensive in their comments and attitudes. But in many countries in the world,  the commercial benefits of religious tourism is taken very seriously to great effect  while, in Ireland, the middle ground often remains unexplored to our cost. It  doesn’t really matter whether you are a believer of not, there is nothing wrong in  exploiting religious tourism for the benefit of local employment and prosperity  and, when done properly, it does not take away from the overall respect and  devotion expressed and observed by pilgrims. The reason I raise this subject is  that, as far as I know, there is little or any religious tourism in Waterford city and  county, but steps in that direction have been recently taken through the creation of the St Declan’s Way Walk from Cashel to Ardmore, which ran from July 24th to 28th. We may not have a major apparition site but we do have an abundance of historic abbeys and monasteries which, if marketed cleverly, could well bring in many thousands of extra tourists each year. Our friends in Mayo are only too aware of the benefits. Croagh Patrick needs protection due to over use and a multi-million euro plan is currently in place to transform the Knock Shrine into a worldwide tourist attraction.

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