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Holy Land pilgrimage industry faces severe decline amidst ongoing conflict

Religious tourism in the Holy Land, a vital sector for many local economies, is currently experiencing a significant downturn. The ongoing conflict, especially since the events of October 7, 2023, has drastically reduced the number of pilgrims visiting this sacred region. This article delves into the current state of religious tourism in the Holy Land, highlighting the struggles faced by local businesses and communities dependent on pilgrimage activities.

The Holy Land, encompassing sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories, has traditionally been a magnet for pilgrims from around the world. However, recent conflicts have led to a sharp decline in visitors, crippling the once-thriving pilgrimage industry. The bustling streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, typically crowded with tourists and pilgrims, now appear deserted. Shopkeepers and local businesses, heavily reliant on the steady stream of religious tourists, are struggling to stay afloat.

The Impact of Conflict on Religious Tourism

The latest conflict, ignited by a shocking attack by Hamas on October 7, 2023, has significantly deterred tourists. Many countries issued travel warnings, and flight traffic to Ben Gurion Airport dropped by 80%. The ripple effect of this reduction in visitors is evident throughout the region. Local shopkeepers, such as Zuzu in the Christian Quarter, report a drastic drop in sales, while restaurant owners like Gabi Hanni have been forced to close or significantly reduce operations.

Fabien Safar, head of the pilgrimage tour company Terra Dei, describes the severe impact on his business. With over 75 tours canceled between October and Christmas, the company has been left in a precarious financial position. Similar sentiments are echoed by other business owners who rely on the pilgrimage industry for their livelihood.

Economic and Spiritual Ramifications

The decline in religious tourism not only affects the economy but also the spiritual life of the Holy Land. Religious leaders like Father David Steffy from the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre highlight the interruption of spiritual journeys for thousands of pilgrims. The collective heartbreak and discouragement among the local population are palpable as they face both economic and emotional challenges.

Despite the adversity, there is a sense of resilience among the community. Pilgrims who do make the journey, like Roser from Spain, find a unique and intimate experience, often visiting holy sites without the usual crowds. However, this is a rare occurrence as overall visitor numbers remain significantly low.

A Call for Renewal

The Holy Land’s pilgrimage industry faces an uncertain future. While some tour operators like Randy Malick from the US express optimism about the spiritual importance of returning to the Holy Land, the practical challenges remain daunting. Efforts to revive the industry hinge on improving security and altering perceptions about the region’s safety.

In conclusion, the decline of the pilgrimage industry in the Holy Land is a multifaceted issue influenced by ongoing conflict and economic challenges. The road to recovery will require concerted efforts from local authorities, international communities, and the resilient spirit of those who live and work in this sacred region.


  • Catholic News Agency : “Where have the pilgrims gone? The current state of religious tourism in the Holy Land.”
  • Catholic Herald: “Special report: Pilgrimage industry on its knees in Holy Land.”

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