Restoration in the exhausted body? Tourists on the rugged path of pilgrimage: Motives, experiences, and benefits
Journal of Destination Marketing and Management
School of Business and Law
The aim of this study is to understand how perceived benefits are evoked by an exhausted body on pilgrimages to religious sites that require severe physical stamina. Taking the sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet as the study site, this research explores tourism at places of pilgrimage, by identifying visitors' motives, activities, on-site experiences, and perceived benefits. An analysis of 42 in-depth interviews and participant observations reveals four types of tourists based on their motives for visiting pilgrimage sites: pilgrims, spiritual inquirers, hobbyists, and accidental tourists. Employing the Activity-Setting-Experience-Benefit (ASEB) framework, this research finds that the four tourist categories are further delineated by visitors' activities, perceptions, on-site experiences, and perceived benefits. Results indicate that while pilgrimage tourists have the basic objective and cognitive experience at the pilgrimage site, they can be placed on a continuum of personal experience and social experience, allowing for multifold benefits to manifest on the spiritual to secular continuum. It reveals that the spiritual benefits, including spiritual growth and restoration, can compensate for fatigue and loss of physical energy. This study provides an integrated approach to understanding tourists at places of pilgrimage in an Eastern cultural context.