Measuring the value of pilgrimage routes to individuals, the local community and wider provides evidence for fundraising and identifying improvements.
Norfolk County Council have been working to create a framework to value green pilgrimage routes - where ‘journeys of meaning’ are made ‘via sustainable means’.
This framework includes the financial and social value of green pilgrimage activity, for example what contribution this activity brings to the local economy, and the health and wellbeing benefits of undertaking a journey. Environmental impact is measured through sustainability indicators such as energy usage and waste.
Sustainability indicators also measure the impact on communities of receiving additional visitors. Indicators such as how long visitors stay, when they visit and what activities they take part on their visit help to identify problematic areas that might affect the perception of increased visitors.
Work undertaken shows that simple steps such as installing people counters on routes, and collecting numbers distinguishing between visitors and pilgrims, and the season they arrive in can start to measure the sustainability value of pilgrimage.
A report produced by Norfolk County Council with their academic partner the University of East Anglia (UEA) of existing studies, datasets and tools as well as methods has provided options for (1) estimated figures that can be used where data is currently minimal and (2) guidance given for collecting primary data collection.
- People counter or volunteers counting
- Identify orgs. to provide data in local context
- Expertise to design survey/undertake analysis.
Testing took place Jul-Oct 2019 in location of Norfolk, UK. 24 primary data points collected by 4 staff/volunteers. Meta analysis of 790 existing studies.
Evidence of success
Values show the financial and social value of pilgrimage, and also identify areas for improvements in sustainability. This includes
- Average visitor spend compared to non pilgrimage routes
- Overall figure indicating how people value a visit
- Wellbeing compared to national average
- Value of improvements (e.g. path extension)
- Seasonality of visit
Results can be cut against visitors vs. pilgrims and demographic info.
The UEA will publish a paper pending further data analysis.
Getting organisations on board to share data, and processing this when data is not collected in a uniform way. Building capacity with volunteers to collect data. Measuring indirect benefits to local economy of pilgrims requires resource that is beyond means of most organisations.
Potential for learning or transfer
Pilgrimage as a phenomenon has grown exponentially in recent years and it shows great potential as a form of low impact tourism. Providing evidence of impact is relevant across the board to gain funding for new projects and improvements both for walking and cycling infrastructure, and more specifically pilgrimage services and products. The framework for measuring the value of pilgrimage routes is designed to be transferable to different sites. The aim is that a site can select the elements that are most relevant for them to measure, using initially the resources available to start building a baseline of data in their area. More details can be found in the main report.
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