Polish religious tourism – 1

The Demand

One of the most resistant stereotypes related to Polish tourism concerns the flows of religious tourists generated by this Country. It is still not infrequent to meet  tourist professionals who suppose that the outgoing Polish tourism coincides (or almost coincides) with the pilgrims going to the most famous holy places.

Well! It is not so. The publication, few days ago, of the results of the Polish travel survey 2017  (GUS – www.stat.gov.pl) offers the opportunity to take stock of this market segment.

Last year 933 thousand Poles traveled for religious motivations, 718 thousand (77%) remained within national borders, while 215 thousand (23%) went abroad.

The dynamic that led to these numbers was overwhelming, as shown by the following table.


The digits reported in the previous table are important, but compared to the global Polish travel market, the religious tourism is clearly a niche: the market share of total religious travels is 1,4% and 1,6% for the travels abroad.

Since 2014, the trend of the religious tourism market share has been very positive because of the growth   of the domestic demand (+141%)  that has pushed up the global demand, while it has remained substantially stationary the market share of the travels abroad. (see the graph below)

Market share of Polish religious tourism on the total Polish tourist demand

                                                         Source GUS

Considering that these results were achieved having as benchmark the global travel market of Poles which grew by 41% in the space of 4 years and “only” by 31% for travel abroad, the performance is very impressive, as shown in the chart below, which highlights the dynamics of the main demand segments from 2014 to 2017

Trends of different market segments. Index numbers. 2014 = 100


                                                              Source GUS

The numbers and graphs shown so far describe a niche market in good health with regard both the volume of the tourists and the growth rates.

The foreign tourist companies dealing in religious tourism could say “very interestig this info about Polish pilgrims but why we have to be happy for the huge increase of polish domestic religious tourism?”

Because  the best is yet to come: look at the graph below. It highlights the percentage of trips abroad for the total travel market  and for the religious tourism.

Total tourist demand and religious tourist demand. Outbound tourism market share

                                                                 Source GUS

Until 2015, the share of pilgrimages abroad was above the tourist market average: 35% against 21%. The huge explosion in the demand for religious travel in 2016 has precipitated this quota to 18%.

Nothing surprising: when new customers enter the tourism market hardly they venture out of national borders. This is the next step after they get comfortable with the trip and maybe with fellow travelers. So not by chance in 2017 the percentage rose by 5 points to 23%.

In a couple of years the share of outbound travelers attracted by religious destinations will return to the traditional 30%: in absolute numbers it means that soon about 100 thousand additional people will visit foreign countries attracted by the holy places but also by other less traditional destinations for pilgrims, but we will talk about this in the next post.


Author: Gilberto Zangari

Feel free to report the previous post but please quotes: OUTgoing POLAND, The Polish Outgoing Tourist Workshop




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