In the general area of socio-economic impacts of recreation
and tourism, the focus of my scholarly investigations is the reciprocal
impacts of tourism and sacred sites. My principal interest is
in understanding how the presence and behavior of tourists affects
the experiences of others who are at a site/event because of a
deep spiritual relationship to that site/event. Also of interest
is an understanding of how tourists might be affected by the sacred
site/event. Practical outcomes of this line of research will manifest
themselves as answers to questions such as the following:
1. How can we preserve the sacred nature of a site or event and, at the same time, maximize its tourism potential?
2. How can the tourism experience be enhanced by exposure to sacred sites and events?
3. To what degree do tourist accommodations satisfy the tourists' needs for authentic experience in a sacred setting?
4. How important is touristic development to site sacralization?
Research completed or in progress has helped me to address
these questions by expanding understanding of:
1. management controls or individual practices that contribute to the perception of sacrality,
2. the role of spiritual introspection in the outdoor recreation/ wilderness/ tourism experience,
3. the philosophical concepts of sacred space, sacred, time, and sacred journey, and
4. the role of sacred sites and events in cultural or heritage tourism.
In the following brief overview of my research program, these terms will be used and are defined here for reference:
Touristic Sacred Sites __ sites which exist for sacred practices
or are otherwise sacred in their nature, and which develop touristic
attractiveness because of their sacredness.
Sacralized Tourist Sites __ sites that are developed and promoted for tourism purposes, but are presented and operated in such a way as to instill or emphasize sacred qualities.
Pilgrims __ travelers to a site for the purpose of engaging in a sacred ritual, experience or obligation at that site.
Tourists __ travelers to a site for the purpose of satisfying curiosity or other non-sacred attraction.
Tourist Accommodations __ facilities, programs and services which permit tourist consumption without violation or degradation of the sacred space or activities of the site.
Commodification __ mechanical reproduction of scenes, artifacts and memories associated with a site.
The figure below illustrates the variables and the relationships between them that are of greatest interest to me. Each research question identified in the figure is articulated thereafter.
Specifically, the research conducted in this program addresses the following questions:
Q1 What are the practical and conceptual differences between touristic sacred sites and sacralized tourist sites?
Q1a What are the practical and conceptual differences between non-tourist sacred sites and touristic sacred sites?
Q1b What are the practical and conceptual differences between non-sacred tourist sites and sacralized tourist sites?
Q2a What is the process by which a non-tourist sacred site develops or is given touristic appeal?
Q2b What is the process by which a non-sacred tourist site develops or is given sacred qualities?
Q3 What are the behavioral and attitudinal differences between pilgrims and tourists?
Q4 What impacts do tourists and pilgrims have upon each other?
Q5a What impacts do pilgrims and touristic sacred sites have upon each other?
Q5b What impacts do pilgrims and sacralized tourist sites have upon each other?
Q5c What impacts do tourists and sacralized tourist sites have upon each other?
Q5d What impacts do tourists and touristic sacred sites have upon each other?
Q6a In what ways do the impacts that pilgrims and touristic sacred sites have upon each other differ from the reciprocal impacts of pilgrims and sacralized tourist sites?
Q6b In what ways do the impacts that tourists and touristic sacred sites have upon each other differ from the reciprocal impacts of tourists and sacralized tourist sites?
Q7a What impacts do tourist accommodations at and commodification of touristic sacred sites have upon pilgrims?
Q7b What impacts do tourist accommodations at and commodification of touristic sacred sites have upon tourists?
Q7c What impacts do tourist accommodations at and commodification of sacralized tourist sites have upon pilgrims?
Q7d What impacts do tourist accommodations at and commodification of sacralized tourist sites have upon tourists?
Q8a What impacts do tourist accommodations at and commodification of touristic sacred sites have upon those sites?
Q8b What impacts do tourist accommodations at and commodification of sacralized tourist sites have upon those sites?
Exploratory research in this area has led me to propose that
the basic reciprocal impact of tourism and sacred sites is social
adjustment. My emerging theory of social adjustment is
that distinct societies respond to tolerable sustained external
influences by adjusting beliefs, value bases, social structures,
and cultural behaviors in order to reduce the differences between
the character of the host society and that of the individuals
or populations that represent or exert the external influence.
This research program is designed to test that theory in a specific
context and immediately lay the foundation for verification of
the following propositions:
1. Natural evolution of a host society can be accelerated or slowed, depending on the social characteristics of the tourist population.
2. Irritation and antagonism can develop between hosts and guests when the social adjustments that the host society must make in order to maintain touristic attractiveness exceed the limits of local cultural acceptability.
3. Tourism can function as an agent of social change (i.e. adjustment can be sustained).
This research program is unique and of international relevance, but it is not without its challenges. I have identified the limits to inquiry in this field of knowledge in a paper presented in Jyvaskyla, Finland to the Research Committee of the International Sociological Association. Presented in 1996, the paper (Saints and Sightseers: Paradigm Issues in the Juxtaposition of Sacrality and Profanity in Tourism Inquiry) discusses ontological, epistemological, and methodological concerns.
In 1999, I presented a paper in Brisbane, Australia at the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management. Entitled Tourism and Sacred Sites: The Challenges of Sustainability for Pacific Aboriginal Culture, this paper addresses resource protection issues as they pertain to touristic sites that are sacred to indigenous peoples.
A paper presented in 2000 in Prague, Czech Republic at the 11th International Congress of the International Association of Cosmos and Philosophy (sponsored by the Czech Academy of Science) further explores the nature of sacred space and suggests an explanation for its appeal to both pilgrims and tourists. Sacred Space: A Window into the Cosmos discusses sacred site tourism as an important act of cosmic centering.
The text of selected presentations and published articles on this topic can be downloaded by selecting them from Presentations or Publications sections of my professional home page.
Please address questions or comments about this research program to:
Dr. Russell E. Brayley, School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism, George Mason University, MSN 4E5, 10900 University Blvd. Manassas, VA, 20110, USA
Telephone: (703) 993-4698
Click here for links to several other interesting websites that deal with sacred sites