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Original scientific paper

The development of religious heritage tourism in Northern Ireland: Opportunities, benefits and obstacles

Maria T. Simone-Charteris ; Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, UK
Stephen W. Boyd ; Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, UK

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page 229-257

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This paper examines the development of religious/Christian heritage tourism within Northern Ireland. Through the views of stakeholders across the public and private sector of the Northern Ireland tourism industry it seeks to establish the following: 1) whether there is demand for sites and attractions associated with religion and spirituality per se or as part of cultural and heritage tourism; 2) if the Province (Northern Ireland) has enough religious sites and attractions to become established as a religious tourism destination; 3) if the development of religious tourism is beneficial to the local economy and the communities within which the religious attractions are located; 4) and if the various stakeholders are prepared to collaborate to develop and promote Christian heritage tourism in the Province. This investigation is based on data collected in 2008 through onsite observations, and semi-structured in depth interviewing sessions conducted with representatives of public tourism bodies, private tourism organizations, religious institutions and political parties. The findings suggest that according to the interviewees’ responses, religious tourism contributes to attracting visitors to Northern Ireland and that in their opinion this product is best promoted as more broadly cultural heritage tourism. From the findings, it also emerged that collaboration is welcomed by most organizations both from the public and private sectors although there remains confusion with regard to respective roles and responsibilities for both sectors. The development of a particular religious attraction around the story of St Patrick is presented that demonstrates potential contribution toward regional development.


religion; Christian heritage tourism; regional development; collaboration; Northern Ireland

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