Have you already done Lourdes? Already hiked across Europe on the Camino de Santiago? Well, you're in luck, Catholic pilgrim, because starting in June, the city of Buenos Aires will be organizing a "pope tour," showcasing various sites around the city where Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, spent time as a child and, later, as archbishop.
Religious tourism generates $8 billion a year for "shrine-centered economies."
Tourism director Mónica Kapusta told LosAndes.com that they were still working on the organization of the tour, but it's sure to include Bergoglio's household home; Our Lady of Mercy, where he took first communion; the basilica of San Jose de Flores, where he answered the call to priesthood; the Metropolitan Cathedral, where he served as archbishop for 14 years; and the Herminia Brumana Plaza, where he used to play soccer with his friends as a child.
"There are certain spots that cannot be missed!" declared Alfredo Adriani, who heads Buenos Aires' religious affairs department, to Clarín.com.
Of course, besides the spiritual reasons for ushering worshippers through a no-doubt breathtaking circuit of papal memories, Buenos Aires has a few financial incentives, too. As Yahoo! Finance reported last year, religious tourism—pilgrimage to everywhere from Lourdes to Mecca to the Ganges—generates $8 billion a year for "shrine-centered economies."
"It's estimated that 25 percent of travelers worldwide are interested in visiting religious sites or sanctuaries," Hernán Lombardi, cultural and tourism minister for Buenos Aires, told Clarín. Bergoglio's ascension to pope, he hopes, will reinforce travelers' decision to visit the city. "It's an enormous opportunity to receive tourists from the entire world."