Join the Congress


On the occasion of the centenary of the apparitions of Fatima (1917-2017), the International Congress on Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage will be organized jointly by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Ministry of Economy of Portugal and the Municipality of Ourém. The Congress will reflect on the potential and the role of religious tourism and sacred places as a tool for socio-economic and cultural development of destinations.

Knowing the motivations that lead millions of peoples to travel to sacred places is an essential condition for the sustainable development of destinations. The visitor of sacred places in general and the one of Fatima in particular, is characterized by a remarkable loyalty to the visited site. Hence, it can be said that tourist’s loyalty is in these cases an essential element of the relationship that the religious tourist and the pilgrim establish with the destinations which they are visiting. Thus, a key principle is to preserve the spirit of the destinations, authenticity and integrity in the way that they are managed and promoted while making them accessible for all.

On the other hand, these places of spirituality have the potential to drain part of their tourist flows to other tourist attractions in the region, therefore, with adequate promotion strategies; it is possible to get visitors to lesser known areas and complementary places that are offered in holy places. Additionally, religious tourism destinations are usually less affected by trends and economic crisis.

Taking note of the United Nations (UN) declaring 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the congress will discuss how effective partnerships, in sacred places, can benefit local communities and encourage their sustainable development and socio-economic empowerment in the long run. It will also discuss the need for specific policies for protection and management of religious and sacred sites that take into account the distinct sacred or spiritual value associated with the place, as a key factor for their conservation.


Reflect on the competitive potential of the religious tourism market.

Increase attractiveness in religious destinations.

Pursue the affirmation of religious tourism in regional, national and international innovation networks.

Share knowledge about the best ways to promote religious destinations.

The congress will look into the following aspects of religious tourism and pilgrimage:

The policies and strategies for the preservation of religious sites and sacred places;
The respect for local traditions, values and intangible culture;
The development of a local economy which benefits of the host communities; and
The need to ensure a positive and enriching signature visitor’s experience.


The congress will be divided into 4 sessions:

1. Preservation of sacred traditions and protection of religious sites

a. Preservation and enhancement of religious heritage and sacred sites (protection and congestion management)

b. Religious places as accessible and inclusive destinations

2. Role of religious tourism in sustainable economic growth and social inclusiveness of local communities

a. Challenges for Local and Regional Authorities

b. Opportunities to promote values and intangible heritage

c. Processes, initiatives and projects to promote the sustainable development of the host territories

3. Potential synergies for religious tourism development through cultural routes and network of destinations

a. Networks of religious tourism and pilgrimage

b. Cross cultural understanding and peace promotion through cultural religious routes

4. The future of religious tourism: innovative marketing and use of technology

a. Appreciation of the experiential dimension to be given to visitors

b. Use of new technologies in the context of religious tourism and pilgrimage

c. Sacred places – from the space lived to the virtual space


All interested parties and experts, regardless of the religious context in which they work, are cordially invited to participate in the congress, which will be an opportunity for a scientific meeting, but also intercultural and ecumenical encounter.


Welcome Cocktail

Venue: Municipality of Ourém (View Map)

Municipality of Ourém


(View Map)


Speaker TBC

Introduction of the International Congress on Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage


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Opening Ceremony

Mr. Paulo Fonseca, Mayor of Ourém, Portugal
Mr. Carlos Cabecinhas, Rector of the Shrine of Fatima, Portugal
H.E. Mr. Manuel Caldeira Cabral, Minister, Ministry of Economy of Portugal
Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, UNWTO
President or Prime Minister of Portugal (TBC)


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Speaker TBC

Ministerial Debate


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Coffee Break


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Session 1: Preservation of sacred traditions and protection of religious sites

Many sacred sites are at risk due to a wide range of pressures and threats, both external and internal. External threats include those related to natural disasters and pollution accentuated by climate change while internal threats could be attributed to social aspects such as vandalism and theft. Tourism could also be partly responsible through overuse and exceeding carrying capacity limits. What can be done to identify, manage and mitigate these threats? Preservation of sacred traditions calls good practices in terms of universal accessibility which reinforces the competitiveness of tourism destinations. Adapting products and services for people with special access needs helps in inclusion and in dignifying tourism experiences. How can religious sites be made accessible without altering their cultural value or affecting their safety condition?


Ms. Marie-Laure Lavenir, Director General, ICOMOS, France
Dr. Ahmed Hassen, Director, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, University of Addis Ababa
Dr. Marco Daniel Duarte, Director of the Studies and Diffusion Department of the Shrine of Fatima, Portugal
Ms. Barbara Jatta, Director, Vatican Museums, Vatican
Dr. Mehmet Görmez, Head of Religious Affairs, Department for Religious Affairs, Turkey

Q & A Session


Speaker TBC


Location: Hotel Fátima (
Directions (View Map)


Hotel Fátima

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Key Note speech


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Session 2: Role of religious tourism in sustainable economic growth and social inclusiveness of local communities

Sacred places are characterized by seasonality and strong visitor affluence in certain times of the year that poses many challenges. It is necessary to develop strategies to manage this affluence while assuring tourists of the quality of the visit. Safeguarding cultural heritage to the satisfaction of local communities is a priority for the long-term sustainable development of the religious sites. How can governments, religious authorities and tourism operators optimize benefits that religious tourism generates?


Ms. Susana Ibáñez Rosa, Secretary-General for Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sport, Junta de Andalusia, Spain
Ms. Anna Sidorenko, Programme Specialist, UNESCO
Dr. Daniel H. Olsen, Brandon University, Canada
Dr. Abed Al Razzaq Issam Arabiyat, Managing Director, Jordan Tourism Board, Jordan
Dr. Kiran Shinde, Principal of BVDU College of Architecture in Pune, India
Prof. Maria da Graça Lopes da Silva Mouga Poças Santos, Professor at Polytechnic Institute of Leiria’s School of Education and Social Sciences (CICS.NOVA), Portugal

Q & A Session



Speaker TBC

Closing remarks by the Master of Ceremony and end of the first day sessions


Gala Dinner

Opening of the Second Day of the Congress by the Master of Ceremony


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Session 3: Potential synergies for religious tourism development through cultural routes and network of destinations

Cultural and religious routes are important tourism products which attract pilgrims around the globe and they suggest that experiences along the way are as important as the destinations themselves. As tourism routes sometimes cross several countries or regions, they stimulate entrepreneurial opportunity through the development of ancillary products and services and hence are potential drivers for local economic development, offering opportunities for forming partnerships between different regions. How can the government and the local authorities work together to develop a portfolio of strategic actions designed to a detailed plan that will enable to sustain and promote the tourism routes?


Mr. David A. Mason, Professor of Korean Cultural Tourism at Sejong University, Seoul, Honorary Ambassador of the Baekdu-daegan Mountain-Range, tour-guide, lecturer and author on traditional cultural sites
Mr. Michael Mail, Chief Executive, Foundation For Jewish Heritage
Mr. Patrick Torrent, President, Necstour
Mr. Max Haberstroh, academic and tourism expert
Mr. Vítor Ambrósio, Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies, Portugal

Q & A Session



Speaker TBC

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Session 4: The future of religious tourism: innovative marketing and use of technology

New communication technologies have been quickly adopted by religious tourism. The information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide new opportunities of increasing interest and awareness about religious heritage and enhancing the representation of religious practice. To what extent do the technological innovations and digital evolution impact on and contribute to the promotion of religious tourism?


Mr. José Manuel Cervera Gragera, Managing Director, Fundación Tres Culturas Mr. Olivier de Rohan-Chabot, President, Future Religious Heritage, Belgium or Mr. Lothar Casteleyn, Coordinator Heritage Cell Bruges, Belgium Mr. Rogelio Martínez Cárdenas, Universidad de Guadalajara, México Prof. Matthew Zook, Prof. Mark Graham or Taylor Shelton, authors of the article The technology of religion: Mapping religious cyberscapes


Speaker TBC

Closing Remarks

More information soon.


Closing Lunch

Location : Quinta de São Gens (website)
(View Map)

Quinta de São Gens



Dr. Daniel H. Olsen

Brandon University, Canada


Ms. Anna Sidorenko



Ms. Susana Ibáñez Rosa

Ministry of Tourism and Sport, Junta de Andalusia, Spain


Dr. Mehmet Görmez

Department for Religious Affairs, Turkey


Ms. Barbara Jatta

Vatican Museums, Vatican


Dr. Marco Daniel Duarte

Fatima Shrine, Portugal


Dr. Ahmed Hassen

Institute of Ethiopian Studies, University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Ms. Marie-Laure Lavenir

ICOMOS, France


Dr. Abed Al Razzaq Issam Arabiyat

Jordan Tourism Board, Jordan


Dr. Kiran Shinde

Pune, India


Prof. Maria da Graça Lopes da Silva Mouga Poças Santos



Mr. David A. Mason

Sejong University, Seoul, South Korea


Mr. Michael Mail

Foundation For Jewish Heritage


Mr. Patrick Torrent



Mr. Max Haberstroh


Mr. Vítor Ambrósio



Mr. José Manuel Cervera Gragera

Fundación Tres Culturas


Mr. Olivier de Rohan-Chabot

Future Religious Heritage, Belgium


Mr. Lothar Casteleyn

Heritage Cell Bruges, Belgium


Mr. Rogelio Martínez Cárdenas

Universidad de Guadalajara, México


Prof. Matthew Zook

University of Kentucky, USA


Prof. Mark Graham


Dr. Taylor Shelton

University of Kentucky, USA

Presentation Brochure


Centro Pastoral Paulo VI

Avenida de Dom José Alves Correia da Silva, 2495-401 Fátima, Portugal

GPS Coordenates:
Latitude 39.6278509, Longitude -8.677186

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