Understanding tourists in religious destinations: A social distance perspective

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141 Scopus citations


This study examines the role of social distance in the relationships between people of different faiths visiting the sacred sites of others, with Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha, as a case study. The findings of this study suggest that Hindus and Christians visited Lumbini because they considered Buddhists more closely aligned to their own faith than other groups were. Further, this paper examines how people view themselves as tourists, pilgrims, tourists and pilgrims, or none of these labels. The self-identified visitor type varies in terms of motivations. In common with extant religious tourism literature, the study shows that those who identify themselves as pilgrims have higher religious motivations, and those who identify themselves as tourists have higher recreational or cultural motivations. In this study, social distance determined the relational structures, similarities and dissimilarities between travelers of different faiths consuming the same tourism spaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-353
Number of pages11
JournalTourism Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Buddhists
  • Communitas
  • Heritage tourism
  • Lumbini
  • Pilgrimage
  • Religious motives
  • Social distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Transportation
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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