Sharenda BARLAR, Wheaton College Wheaton IL USA, United States
Traditionally, pilgrimage routes have benefited economically through pilgrim badges, inns and shelters, and merchants who sell their wares along sacred routes. Countless travel diaries, poems, and stories describe the popularity of pilgrimages to religious sites during the Middle Ages (Mitchell-Lanham, 2015). The Camino de Santiago in Spain and the Kumano Kodo in Japan are the only pilgrimage routes recognized by UNESCO.
The COVID pandemic has significantly impacted traditional pilgrimage, both economically and communally. This paper will explore in particular the economic impact that pilgrimage has historically had in Spain on the medieval Camino de Santiago and Japan's Kumano Kodo route. Both ancient pilgrimages, how has history shaped the marketplace on these two routes? What have been the benefits of the revitalization of pilgrimages that have traditionally drawn the deeply religious? How do pilgrims on each route differ today and how does the community living in proximity to the routes adapt to the needs of the tourist pilgrims?
As pilgrimage has grown in popularity, so have the once rural areas begun to build up economically. The Kumano Kodo is a sister Japanese Camino for the Camino de Santiago, and one can also receive a dual Compostela certificate by completing both. Additionally, I will examine the motivations for each pilgrim site's popularity and discuss how wars, pandemics, and environmental changes affect the sites' popularity and the community surrounding them and opportunities for human flourishing. Based on case studies and interviews conducted during the Holy Year along the Camino de Santiago in 2021, I will explore the impact that COVID has had on pilgrims' experiences on the Camino as well as how the pandemic impacted goods and services along the route. Similarily, as Japan remains closed to tourism, how has that influenced economic growth along the Kumano Kodo?
Keywords: Camino de Santiago|Religious Tourism|Kumano Kodo|Santiago de Compostela|Pilgrimage