FAITH TOURISM AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO URBAN TOURISM IN TIMES OF CRISIS


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Yetgin Akgün D., Kaya A., Çalık A. Ö.

Consumer Behavior in Tourism Symposium, Breda, Netherlands, 31 May - 02 June 2023, pp.36

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Breda
  • Country: Netherlands
  • Page Numbers: pp.36
  • Anadolu University Affiliated: Yes

Abstract

FAITH TOURISM AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO URBAN TOURISM IN TIMES OF CRISIS


Tourism is a dynamic industry, and it is more vulnerable to national and international crises when compared to other industries. Domestic and foreign tourists may easily change their preferences due to unfavorable conditions at any destination, leading to a decrease in demand. This has a significant impact on all tourism industry stakeholders, including tour guides, one of the most important actors in the industry. Accurate forecasting of crises and making the right decisions at the right time are efficient and determinant factors in reducing the negative impacts of crises. Within this context, one of the solutions is to search for alternatives for existing tourism products. Eskişehir has always been popular with urban tourism activities in Turkey, but the city also has a great potential for faith tourism. During the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists canceled their travel and hotel reservations, and many tourism employees became unemployed. Since almost all tourism activities had come to a standstill at that period, both the tourists and the tour guides were negatively affected. Irimias et al. (2016) found that participating in faith tourism activities, which are performed to establish a spiritual bond with sacred beings, has a positive impact on the mental health of the individuals. This study aims to assess whether the faith tourism centers in Eskişehir could be offered as an alternative to urban tourism activities by taking the opinions of tour guides. For this purpose, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 active tour guides in Eskişehir between April and August 2022. The interview questions were prepared by achieving a consensus among all researchers. Then the comprehensibility of the questions was tested by an expert academician. These interviews aimed to answer the questions regarding the position of faith tourism centers in tour programs and the current state of the faith tourism potential in Eskişehir. A qualitative method was used in this study, and the data obtained from the interviews were thematically analyzed through the MAXQDA analysis program. The codes found were grouped under two categories. These are (1) The Opinions of Tour Guides regarding the Potential Benefits of Faith Tourism and (2) Suggestions regarding How to Improve Faith Tourism. These categories were assessed under the “faith tourism potential of Eskişehir” theme. The findings were presented under two category titles and expanded on sample statements by the participants. This study showed that the “potential benefits” of faith tourism would make an economic contribution and increase the number of overnight stays. However, some tour guides stated that faith tourism does not have and will not bring any benefits in the future. The “suggestions” included preparing longer tour programs, cooperation among all stakeholders, organizing educational tours for tour guides, and giving more weight to advertisement/promotion activities. This study is considered significant in suggesting alternative tourism activities in destinations where, like in Eskişehir, only a single type of tourism product is offered.

Keywords: Crisis, Faith tourism, urban tourism, Eskişehir, Türkiye.