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International seminar Religious Heritage and Tourism

donderdag 6 oktober 2016 - 09:00 tot vrijdag 7 oktober 2016 - 13:00 | Domkerk, Utrecht
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How to increase religious heritage tourism in a changing society

Never before have so many people traveled to so many places. Religious heritage sites rank very high as tourist destinations, despite the decreasing knowledge of religious history and heritage.

While some might visit religious heritage sites because of their religious beliefs or their search for spiritual fulfilment, others are interested in the cultural and historical aspects.

Most importantly, religious heritage tourism connects people. It creates understanding of a shared past and present-day society. On top of that, religious heritage tourism is a key contributor to the economy and adds to the attractiveness of regions, cities and villages. The key issues that we want to explore and further develop in this two-day seminar are:

The key issues that we want to explore and further develop in this two-day seminar are:

  • The social and economic impact of religious heritage tourism
  • The development of religious heritage sites as tourist destinations
  • Using existing practices to advance religious heritage tourism


Wednesday, 5 October 2016 - Museum Catharijneconvent

Official Welcome Drinks (by invitation only)
Opening remarks by Ms. Marieke van Schijndel
Director of the Museum Catharijneconvent.

Thursday, 6 October 2016 - Dom Church

09:00 - 09:30    Registration
09:30 - 10:30    Opening Ceremony

Mr. Jan van Zanen
Mayor of the City of Utrecht
Mrs. Jet Bussemaker
Minister of Education, Culture and Science, the Netherlands
Mr. Axel Buyse
Representative of the Government of Flanders in the Netherlands
Ms. Alicja Magdalena Herbowska
Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Commissioner Navracsics, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport
Mr. Taleb Rifai
Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourist Organization

10:30 - 10:50    Keynote Speech: The religious aspect

Religious Heritage Tourism in an Art City:
Florence and the Challenge of Communicating Meaning
Mons. Timothy Verdon
Director of the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage in Florence, and Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore

10:50 - 11:15    Keynote Speech: The social aspect

Heritage Tourism and Community: a Virtuous Circle
Mr. Loyd Grossman
TV presented and Vice-President of the Churches Conservation Trust and Chairman of the Heritage Alliance

11:15 - 11:45   Coffee Break 
11:00               Doorstep Press Conference
11:45 - 13:00   Forum Discussion 

The social and economic impact of religious heritage tourism: How to advance it?

For ages sacred buildings and places have played an important social and economic role in local communities. They bring people together and offer the possibility of sustainable growth to local economies. Nowadays, religious tourism could fulfil this role.

Moderator: Mr. Eugenio van Maanen
Senior Lecturer at the Academy for Tourism, Breda, The Netherlands

Mr. Stefano Dominioni
Director of the European Institute of Cultural Routes and Executive Secretary of the Enlarged Partial agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe
‘Cultural routes and religious heritage tourism’
Mr. Crispin Truman
CEO of the Churches Conservation Trust
‘How to involve the local community? An example: Gateway Churches’
Mr. Paulo Fonseca
Mayor of Ourém
‘Fátima, Portugal’
Ms. Rasa Noreikinè
Vice-Minister of Economy of the Republic of Lithuania
‘Hill of Crosses’

13:00 - 14:15    Lunch at the Dom Church

14:30 - 15:45    Parallel Sessions

Session 1: The promotion of religious heritage in a changing society

Despite the popularity of religious heritage tourism, in our changing society profound knowledge about sacred places is often lacking. How can religious communities and heritage organizations promote religious heritage in a better way, and how can we increase the level of understanding?

Moderator: Mr. Shahar Shilo
Historian and Jerusalem researcher

Ms. Hetty Berg
Chief Curator and Manager of Museum Affairs at the Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam
‘Educating young and old: innovative ways of involving visitors in the Jewish Cultural Quarter’
Mr. Lothar Casteleyn
Coordinator of Heritage Cell Bruges
‘Using new digital means to highlight the hidden treasures in monumental churches: the case Xplore Bruges and St. James’s Church’
Ms. Maria Gravari-Barbas
Director of Equipe interdisciplinaire de recherches sur le tourisme (EISEST), Sorbonne University
‘Reinvent the pilgrimage tourism destinations in the 21st century’
Ms. Anya Niewierra
General Director of the Tourist Board South Limburg, The Netherlands
Mr. Szymon Gatlik
Chief specialist in tourism marketing, Promotion and Tourism Department, Municipality of Krakow, Poland

Session 2: Religious heritage sites and tourism: how to deal with conservation and management issues?

Tourist crowds at religious heritage sites are a major challenge. Not only the management of these crowds, but also the management of these precious buildings and sites can be incredibly difficult. New technology makes it possible to find effective and innovative solutions for sustainable management.

Moderator: Ms. Wantanee Suntikul (PhD)
Assistant Professor at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Ms. Anna Sidirenko
World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, UNESCO
Mr. Benjamin Carey
Fellow of the Tourism Society, Managing Director at Dunira Strategy Consultancy
Mr. Íshak Kızılaslan
Expert of Religious Affairs, Presidency of Religious Affairs, Republic of Turkey: The Blue Mosque
Dr. Bárbara Boloix Gallardo
Professor at the Department of Semitic Studies at the University of Granada and Member of the Scientific Committee of the Board of the Alhambra and Generalife: The Alhambra

16:00 - 17:30    Guided Tour of Utrecht
18:00 - 19:15    Free Time & Drinks in Paushuize
19:30 - 22:30    Dinner at Paushuize

Official Welcome by Marriette Pennarts
Deputy of a.o. Culture, heritage and Europe at the Province of Utrecht

Friday, 7 October 2016 - Dom Church

10:00 - 10:20        Keynote Speech: "Luther 2015 - an international campaign on the occasion of 500 years of Reformation"
Ms. Michaela Klare
Regional Manager Northwest Europe of the German National Tourist

10:20 - 11:10   Plenary Session
How to increase the interest of tourists in religious heritage in an innovative way

Exploring new ways of promoting religious heritage is becoming increasingly relevant. In a changing society innovative ideas to promote religious heritage are very much needed. This is not only confined to tangible heritage but also to intangible heritage.

Moderator: Mr. Aziz Abu Sarah
Emerging Explorer at National Geographic Society and Former Executive Director at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University, USA

Mr. Christian Devos
Director of Our Lady’s Cathedral in Antwerp: Exhibition REUNIE
Mr. Michael Hoare
Treasurer of Future for Religious Heritage: Religiana online tool
Ms. Boukje Schaap
Project Leader of Museum Catharijneconvent: a new project: ‘The Biggest Museum of the Netherlands’
Ms. Silvia Aulet Serrallonga
Teacher and Researcher at the Faculty of Tourism of the University of Girona, Spain: Spriritual Tourism
Mr. Karel Werdler
Fellow at London South Bank University : Dark Tourism and Religious Heritage

Q&A Session

11:10 - 11:30    Break
11:20 - 12:20    Workshops:
Generating Creative Ideas for the Development of our Religious Sites

Led by Philosopher Eveline Groot in cooperation with Felix & Sofie en De Bildung Academie

12:40 – 13:00     Lecture on Religious Heritage Tourism in A Changing Society
Prof. Paul Schnabel
Former Director of The Netherlands Institute for Social Research

13:00 - 13.15     Concluding Remarks

Mr. Olivier de Rohan-Chabot
President of Future for Religious Heritage
Mr. Jan Klinckaert
Director of Religious Cultural Heritage, CRKC Flanders
Ms. Mirjam Blott
Coordinator of Agenda Future Religious Heritage
Mr. Peter Janech
Regional Programme for Europe, UNWTO

13:15     Organ Concert



To cover the costs involved in the organization of the Conference, the Conference Secretariat will charge a participation fee of 150 EUR, with an exemption for UNWTO Members and its official delegates: Member States (in particular, National Tourism Administrations and National Tourism Offices), Associate Members, Observers and Affiliate Members. For registration, you can fill out this webform.

See for more information about the seminar, such as transport and accommodation: the website of the UNWTO.


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