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My report is about the El Camino (The Way of S. James in English), a pilgrimage route across the Northern Spain. I have chosen this topic because I find it interesting to examine from the touristic view of point. Firstly, I begin my report with the history of this pilgrimage road. Secondly, I describe the regions, where the El Camino road leads. It has starting points (the generating regions) both in France and Spain; the destination (the receiving area) is Santiago de Compostela, located in the region Galicia. But the tourism flow leaves trace in all the regions where the road goes. Thirdly, I examine the tourists. Where do they come from? How many tourists come every year? In the fourth part I describe the hospitality sector including the different forms of accommodation, the restaurants, bars, so all the service offered on the way. In the last part I show all the impact El Camino has. I mention the environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts. At the end of my report, I mark all of my sources in the Bibliography part.


THE HISTORY OF EL CAMINO In the Celtic times El Camino was held to be the symbol of the Milky Way. In the early Middle Ages Benedictine monks have built monasteries along the road. At that time pilgrimage roads were a popular way of worshipping, people believed that completing these roads will shorten their time in Purgatory. Pilgrimage roads existed in almost any religion: Muslims, Catholics, Jewish, Hinduism, etc. In the Middle Ages the three most popular roads used to lead to Jerusalem, Roma and Santiago de Compostela. After the Turkish invasion in Jerusalem, the pilgrimage road disappeared and Santiago became more powerful among the Catholics. The road became important in the 12the century, although the tomb was found in 828. Therefore, we can claim that El Camino has been walked for almost 1000 years. St. James was one of Jesus’ apostles, whose body was buried in the city of Santiago, the destination of El Camino. The Cathedral was built over his tomb. Many people says after completing El Camino, that watching the Cathedral at the end of the road is the most beautiful, or so to say, the most spiritual experience they have ever had. Cultural, artistic and trade exchange used to take place in these roads. The sign, a shell is drawn on every station along El Camino, which helps the pilgrim to remain on the road. Originally, every pilgrim started to walk from their home to Santiago, but nowadays tourists can choose from different starting points. Not all of the tourists are culminated in Santiago; there is a new trend or preference to finish the journey in Finisterra, which was thought to be ‘the end of the world’. The Council of Europe proclaimed El Camino the first European Cultural Itinerary in 1987. El Camino has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1993. From the 1980s El Camino has been re-lived his Renaissance. El Camino gave the idea to the Hungarian initiative, which aim is to build a Central-European pilgrimage route from Mariazell to Csíksomlyó in the future.


EL CAMINO TODAY Pilgrimage tourism is the oldest form of tourism and it is in growth. El Camino is an alternative type of tourism. The nature of activity is unique in a way that it is not suitable for everyone. The product of this service is natural and cultural heritage. Due to the nature of this tourism form there is no control over calculating how many people will start El Camino each year. We shouldn’t forget about the fact, that it is not just about pilgrimage tourism. It includes city tourism, event and rural tourism as well. Every holiday offers some kind of experience. El Camino offers a piece of experience from a natural heritage and a participation in local communities. It falls into a category of sustainable tourism. It is an active form of spending a holiday. Due to constant promotion of both the EU and local Spanish communities, El Camino is becoming more popular and therefore requires a sustainable development strategy. It is a retreat, a spiritual adventure, meaning you have to get away from your habitual life for almost a month. The problem can be the variable customer’s needs, because at the same time he/she wants safety and a bite from the authenticity, too. The most common motivation is religion and spirituality, but there can be a wish to see cultural attractions, too.

THE ROUTES AND REGIONS OF EL CAMINO The length of El Camino is 900 km. If we count an average 30 km a day, then it takes 30 days for a human to complete this journey on foot. El Camino has altogether ( recommended routes heading to Santiago. Three of them are beginning in France: 1) Via Podiensis: begins in Paris, 2) Via Lemovicensis: begins in Vézelay, 3) Via Turonensis: starts in Le Puoy. 4) Via Arles


The first three routes meet in Ostabat and the remaining road is leading through Saint Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees. There are four routes which starting point is located in Spain: 5) Camino del Norte 872.5 km 6) Camino Primitivo 324.1 km 7) Camino Finisterra-Muxia 118.6 km 8) Camino Inglés 122.3 km The routes vary between 300 and 800 km. The northern regions along the road are Navarra, La Rioja, Castile y Léón, Galicia.

The shell indicator:


THE TOURISTS As we are talking about a religious pilgrimage road, we suppose that most of the tourists are Catholic and they think of El Camino as a holy journey where you can contact God. But it is not the case. The target audience therefore can be anyone who is searching something. We cannot make religious and non-religious segments, because it would be too ‘black and white’. Most of the tourists come from Europe, but El Camino has attracted people from more than 100 countries so far. It has active promotion both in international and national level. The distribution channels are social media networks, special events and thousands of books has been written in this topic. I found specific info about tourists from 2010 as it was a Jubilee Year. The number of the pilgrims was 272.703. 6

Table one: The gender structure men

151.819 (55.67%)


120.882 (44.33%) My editing 2012.12.16.

Table two: The mode on foot

283.103 (87.31%)

by bicycle

33. 329 (12.22%)

on horseback

1.232 (0.45%)

with wheel-chair

37 (0.01%) My editing 2012.12.16.

As we can see above, there were a bit more male, than woman. As for the mode, the majority of the tourist walks, but there is a new tendency, a bicycle mode is in growth.

Table three: Number of pilgrims ancient times















272.703 My editing 2012.12.16.


As we can see from the table above, there used to be twice as much pilgrim on the road than nowadays. However, 2010 was the peak year regarding the number from 1989. The high flow of tourism in 1993 has an explanation. St. James’ day fall on 25th July, but when it happens to fall on Sunday, the Cathedral declares a Holy or a Jubilee Year (XACOBLO). In 1993 the government of Galicia created great media publicity for the El Camino.

THE HOSPITALITY SECTOR It is highly recommended for a tourist to buy a certificate (Credencial document) in the beginning to be able to prove he/she has completed the route. It is some kind of evidence and it serves as a pass. You can buy it in every shop, bar or shelter. You need to stamp it in every place you have slept. In Santiago, showing this certificate you are entitled to have three free meals in Hotel Santiago. It is not a profitable industry as monasteries, ‘albergues’, refuges do not ask a lot of money for a night. It can mean income for local business units selling foods or other goods. Local suppliers of food, accommodation and of souvenirs see a potential in pilgrims. The local hospitality industry is highly developed thanks to the big renovation wave in 1993 for the occasion of the jubilee Year. On the Camino Frances there are 155 shelters with the capacity of 7553 beds. There are approximately 1800 buildings along the French Road. There are both private- and public-owned accommodations on the road. The service level varies: we can find places to stay at night from the traditional refuges, rural houses to the luxury spa resorts. There is no reservation in advanced, beds are filled as travelers arrive. They cannot calculate the traffic in advance. In peak season (summer), sport fields are covered with bed, too. Tourists can stay only one night in one place. They can check-in between 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and are forced to leave their bed till 8 a.m. They are not expensive; the average fee is 6 Euros for a night.


Service offered along the road: 

bars, restaurants

taxi service (you can call a taxi at one station and ask the taxi driver to take your luggage to the next station, so you don’t have to carry it on your back)

bike delivery and repairing service

tourist info offices

hiking-equipment shops




medical services

THE IMPACTS ON THE REGIONS Pilgrims in the ancient times had brought knowledge, reflection, dialogue, innovation and cultural diversity to Galicia. It has impact especially on the host culture and environment. The towns which have been previously neglected became parts of the heritage. El Camino is the source of economic growth in Northern Spain. El Camino cultivates economic benefits, which leads to socio-cultural development, which makes people more aware of the environmental protection. Camino Ingles was promoted in order to relieve the other routes; the most visited route was Camino Frances. Environmental impacts While in the ‘80s Northern Spain had agrarian landscape, for nowadays it became more urbanized. It is positive in a way that helps the preservation of the local style and wildlife, the improvement of old buildings and the increasing awareness of environmental values. Negative effects can be the difficult waste accumulation, the water supply, and the noise pollution.


Economic impacts Communities along the road can produce extra income for the local economy. It has been estimated that the tourism industry contributed 10% to the regional GDP. Tourism means the biggest source of income in the region. It has a high multiplier effect: it increases the employment, it develops the infrastructure, and it creates new business opportunities and diversity. On the other hand, due to the tourism, the prices are increase for the local people, the traditional activities begin disappearing. But the biggest risk is the economy high dependency towards the tourism industry. Socio-cultural impacts It can influence both the locals and the visitors. There is threaten, that El Camino becomes more artificial. For example there used to be traditional shops next to the Cathedral of St. Jacob, but nowadays modern souvenirs and jeweler-shops took their place. So there is a negative change in the cultural landscape.

The Cathedral of St. Jacobs:




El Camino Tourism report  

El Camino tourism report