FAITH tourism is a growing niche for Central Visayas and the Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 has pledged to capitalize on the rich religious tradition to entice more tourists.
DOT 7 Director Joshur Judd Lanete II believes the region can draw hordes of pilgrims, as it is home to a number of religious attractions like the Simala Shrine in Lindogon, Simala and the century-old churches in the region’s four provinces.
Religious/spiritual or faith-based tourism is travel to religious sites to experience religious forms or to learn and admire their related arts, architecture, food and other traditions.
Lanete added the region has an edge in pushing for this tourism product because it has a beautiful faith story to tell, on top of the historical monuments and landmarks it has.
Cebu, for instance, is a good entry point for faith tourism, as it is considered “Asia’s cradle of Christianity”.
It is the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines, where Magellan planted a wooden cross upon his arrival, marking the arrival of the Roman Catholic faith in the country.
“Simala Shrine and the Magellan’s Cross, for example, can be packaged with the annual Sinulog celebration every January,” said Lanete, adding that the colorful festivals in honor of the patron saints also highlight the faith-based tourism in the region.
Other island provinces in Central Visayas also have century-old churches in Bohol and Negros.
Siquijor’s mystic charm is also a tourism-drawer. Lanete said the province offers another interesting story on faith tourism, being dubbed as a “healing province.”
Pope Francis’ visit to the Visayas after typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 has opened doors for the world to see Filipinos’ resilience and their strong faith amid adversities.
Pope Francis is one of the biggest influencers of faith-based tourism after he encouraged the faithful to go on pilgrimages.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, an estimated 300 to 330 million pilgrims visit the world’s key religious sites every year.