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News Article

Covid 19: impact on religious tourism

Pilgrims' health behaviours need to change

Religious tourism is considered one of the oldest forms of tourism but it is battling a new foe – the coronavirus pandemic.

The global pandemic has already had a major impact on the global travel and tourism economy, as well as devastating many countries’ individual travel and tourism sectors.

Many major religious holidays have been affected by travel restrictions, most notable was the cancellation of Hajj 2020, affecting millions of Muslims worldwide who embark on the holy pilgrim.

Christmastime and other related festivities in many European countries were under strict restrictions with typical large family gatherings and worships banned or controlled. Easter 2021 is set to follow Easter 2020 arrangements, at the height of the first wave in the pandemic when visiting places of worship was restricted or travelling to see family was forbidden.

Places of worship across the world affected by covid-19

Places of worship such as churches, mosques, temples and synagogues have had to change worship rituals in order to reduce covid-19 spread.

Shrines across the middle-east have been closed or restricted to visitors in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, especially foreign strains which may be more virulent. Events leading up to major religious festivals in the Islamic calendar were also either cancelled or had limits on pilgrims who could partake in celebrations.

Health behaviours at religious sites

The religious tourism sector has been hit by the pandemic. Many pilgrims have strong faith in their spiritual leaders and this may mean they’re less likely to adhere to preventative health and hygiene measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The kissing and touching of religious icons or shrines is commonplace in many orthodox religions – but this is a prime pathway of transmission for the virus. Certain health behaviours will have a positive effect in reducing the transmission of the virus, such as wearing facemasks and covering the mouth, the use of sanitizer for hands and surfaces and social distancing in confined spaces.

Changing the rituals of religious worship to adhere to preventative health behaviours may not sit easy with religious or spiritual leaders. Finding a balance between region and science to stop the disease spread while still allowing people to travel and practice their religions in places of significance will be tricky, particularly as the pandemic continues.


Yasin, Raheel & Jauhar, Junaimah & Abdul Rahim, Noor & Namoco, Sarah & bataineh, mohammad. (2020). COVID-19 and Religious Tourism: an overview of impacts and implications. International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage. 8. 155-162. 10.21427/f4j9-cf82.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Jesslyn Thay
  • Date
  • 28 March 2021