Buddhist Tourism: History
Please note this is an old version of this entry, which may differ significantly from the current revision.
Subjects: Economics

Religious tourism is a distinct tourism product with significant cultural implications. The excavation and transmission of cultural meanings lie at the heart of its growth. The sustainable development of religious tourism is fundamental in the sustainable development of its culture. In fact, Buddhist tourism is thriving in Asia, particularly in India, Nepal, South Korea, and Thailand, as a form of religious tourism. Social, political, and cultural life in these countries has been profoundly affected.

  • Buddhist tourism
  • local sustainable development
  • local economic growth
  • local environmental quality
  • year and city-fixed effect models

1. Introduction

The World Commission on Environment and Development issued the report “Our Common Future” in 1987, which defined sustainable development as ‘development that can fulfil the requirements of present people without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet their own needs’ [1]. It thoroughly elucidates the concept of sustainable development. The United Nations’ Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 established the ‘Rio Declaration on Environment and Development’ and ‘Agenda 21 with Sustainable Development’ at its center. Following that, on 25 March 1994, the State Council’s executive meeting approved China’s Agenda 21—a white paper on China’s population, environment, and development in the twenty-first century that specified the general strategic framework of China’s sustainable development and primary goals in various fields. The Chinese government recently incorporated rural tourism, rural economic growth, and rural environmental preservation into the Rural Revitalization Strategy. In addition, the Rural Revitalization Strategy views rural tourism as a possible driver of sustainable development. The pursuit of sustainable development has grown in importance. The ultimate objective is to incorporate all rural areas in China, including the samples studied in this paper.
Religious tourism is a distinct tourism product with significant cultural implications. The excavation and transmission of cultural meanings lie at the heart of its growth. The sustainable development of religious tourism is fundamental in the sustainable development of its culture [2]. The synchronization and joint growth of the natural environment, social development, and human intellect underpins this development. The key strategy to achieve sustainable development is the creation and control of tourist commodities by the government. Religion is the product of human development up to a certain historical stage. As a cultural precipitation of human evolution, it condenses human wisdom and aesthetic creativity, deeply affects all aspects of human life, and is closely related to human politics, economy, culture, philosophy, and history. Religion’s social and cognitive underpinnings will not be substantially eradicated in the near future in today’s quickly changing environment. This demonstrates that religion will continue to exist for a long time in all nations throughout the globe. The preservation and development of religious tourist resources has become a long-term task for all nations and regions. Meanwhile, China is a country with multiple religions and freedom of religious belief. It is also a large country with religious tourism resources. Ways in which to coordinate the influence of religious tourism on local sustainable development has emerged as an essential problem that must be addressed promptly in China’s tourist business. This issue has piqued the curiosity of many scholars, such as the authors of this work.
In fact, Buddhist tourism is thriving in Asia, particularly in India, Nepal, South Korea, and Thailand, as a form of religious tourism. Social, political, and cultural life in these countries has been profoundly affected [3]. With the continued ascent of the Asian economy, most worldwide attention is focused on China and India’s rapid growth and industrialization, while less attention is devoted to India’s large religious tourism business. Geary [4] postulates that the religious tourism business will continue to play a vital role in India’s economic growth. Meanwhile, Kundu [5] examined the instance of Tarapith, a religious tourist destination in the Birbhum District of West Bengal, India, and discovered that Buddhist tourism had increased the region’s economic power. Moreover, according to Gambhir et al. [6], religious tourism and sustainable development in India’s hill states have been explored in terms of perspectives from the hill states. They observed that religious tourism had the potential to impact socio-economic development. With the example of Nepal, Pandey [7] also discovered that religious tourism was one of the most significant economic drivers in Nepal. At the same time, its significance in economic development has become clearer. Taking the case of South Korea into consideration, Wang [8] investigated the topic of visitors staying at Buddhist temples in South Korea. He found that Buddhist tourism might be used to develop a national identity, conserve traditions and legacy, and impact the region economically. In addition, Baedcharoen [9] found that Thai Buddhist tourism was the country’s primary source of income and played a significant part in its economic development. Similarly, in China, evidence of the influence of Buddhist tourism on economic development has also been identified. Yang et al. [10] believe that Buddhist tourism had a positive impact on economic growth, which is a component of sustainable development. They described how these phenomena occurred in China. Specifically, the association between China’s tourism and religion is growing, indicating a mutual promotion trend as China’s attention to religious concerns deepens and the tourism demand rises as a result of people’s improved living circumstances following reform and opening up. Furthermore, as global economic integration has intensified, people’s quest for spiritual culture has grown stronger, and an increasing number of people are seeking to fit their living situations with their spiritual demands. Buddhist attractions only serve people’s immediate needs and foster the growth of Buddhist tourism to a limited extent. Due to the rapid development of Buddhist tourism, the economy has experienced unprecedented development. Gao [11] investigated ways to further expand the connotations of Buddhist tourism culture in Datong, using Yungang Grottoes as an example. Improving the quality of Buddhist tourism as well as the business model and product structure of Buddhist tourism goods could lead to local economic growth.
Meanwhile, the advent and development of rural Buddhist tourism provides a reasonably calm and relaxing setting for those who have lived in urban areas for a long time and have become bored of urban life. Rural Buddhist tourism significantly contributes to the building of rural infrastructure, and it plays a critical role in local economic development. However, there are several environmental issues that should be noted in the process of rural Buddhist tourism development. In practice, in order to increase rural Buddhist tourism, the construction of a large number of new temples and the creation of new Buddhist sites have disrupted the original ecological environmental balance and lowered local environmental quality. This phenomenon was confirmed by Nakthong et al. [12]. Specifically, they carried out a qualitative analysis to analyze the difficulties and circumstances of space and environmental management in nineteen temples in northern Thailand. Their findings indicated that the present management issue in this region related to environmental damage caused by inappropriate internal space partition of new temple buildings. Furthermore, Alves and Garavelli [13] assessed and investigated the ambient noise caused by religious temples in Goiânia, Brazil. In addition, Dhanapala [14] found that Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka were a significant factor in environmental deterioration. Moreover, a huge number of visitors flocked to the rural areas for Buddhist-related events such as firework shows, thereby exacerbating local environmental degradation. Da-yong [15] holds the idea that Buddhist tourism has had a negative impact on environmental quality, which is another component of sustainable development. He found that the environmental issues produced by Buddhist tourism constituted a danger to local sustainable development. Zhu and Pan [16] also found, using a questionnaire survey, that Buddhist tourism had degraded environmental quality. In addition, this inclusion was also supported by Zhang and Li [17], and Wen [18].

2. Effect of Buddhist Tourism on Economic Growth

Religious tourism is regarded as one of the earliest and oldest forms of tourism, contributing to the development of a tourism sector that is one of the world’s most significant economic contributors. Furthermore, religious tourism is one of the most significant segments of the business, and it is rapidly increasing as more visitors travel overseas. The United Nations World Tourism Organization reports that between 300 and 330 million travelers visit the world’s largest religious sites each year. As a result, religious tourism contributes significantly to socioeconomic development and long-term sustainability.
As a significant component of religious tourism, the economic effect of Buddhist tourism cannot be disregarded. Ruttanavisanon and Agmapisarn [21] performed a meta-analysis to explore the effect of religious tourism on economic development during the period 2012–2021. They concluded that Buddhist tourism was a kind of tourism that could generate revenue and contributed to economic prosperity on a local level. Zhang et al. [22] found that Tibet, China’s Buddhist resort, has drawn a considerable number of outside visitors each year due to the Himalayas and its religious importance. This not only benefited the local tourist business, but it also served as a new driving force for the region’s economic progress. Similarly, Buddhism originated in India. Buddhist pilgrimage is a potential gold mine in India as a tourist initiative. Kumar [23] found that Buddhist tourism had undoubtedly been a source of economic prosperity. These findings mentioned above were supported by Álvarez-García et al. [24], and Asawachai [25].
Egresi et al. [26] found that the number of religious tourists visiting the region of Martin in Southeastern Turkey had steadily climbed over the previous decade. Therefore, they used a combination of approaches to study the effect of religious tourism on local economic growth. Their findings suggested that religious tourism positively affected local economic growth due to the fact that religious tourism created a high level of job opportunities. Bokhari [27] also used the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an example to study the effect of religious tourism on economic growth. He found that religious tourism contributed greatly to economic growth because it was an important source of foreign exchange, a job generator, and a tool for changing the balance of payments. In Mashhad, Foruzan [28] looked at the following three aspects of development: environmental, economic, and social-cultural problems induced by religious tourism. The perspectives of 288 residents of the Imam Reza heavenly shrine were investigated using a quantitative technique. His findings demonstrated that, from the perspective of locals, religious tourism contributed to Mashhad’s economic growth. However, using the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a sample to study the effect of religious tourism on economic growth over the period 1970–2011, Alodadi and Benhin [29] found that religious tourism had little effect on economic growth, however, after isolating the non-oil sectors, this effect increased. In addition, Terzidou et al. [30] used data collected from a questionnaire survey of local individuals. According to their results, the majority of inhabitants welcomed religious visitors to the land and saw them as advantageous to economic growth. Ozcan et al. [31] performed a survey to learn how Konya residents considered religious tourism. Their findings revealed that Konya residents thought religious tourism had the potential to boost the local economy, restore investments, and create jobs. Zaheer et al. [32] used Pakistan as a case study for the effect of religious tourism on local economic growth. They found that religious tourism that thrived could help to boost the local economy. Moreover, Okon [33], Momeni and Parno [34], Daly [35], and Haq and Medhekar [36] supported these findings.

3. Effect of Buddhist Tourism on Environmental Quality

Each place has its own religious beliefs and culture. While they may attract people’s interest in observing or participating in religious events, they may also cause local environmental issues. However, Kinddon and Stano [37], Ap and Crompton [38], and Johnson et al. [39] proposed that regardless of the fact that religious tourism development was the primary contributor to social development, there was always irresponsibility in management decision making, which could have both positive and negative effects on environmental development, and it could also affect the sustainable development of local residents. The influence of religious tourism on environment quality is at the heart of our investigation here.
According to Lin et al. [40], the development of religious tourism could unite society, provide spiritual support, and improve the community environment, but it could also lead to an increase in local social activities, create waste, and cause air and environmental pollution. As a result, Lin [41], Jorge and Pinto [42], and Lin et al. [43] believe that in order to accomplish the consensus of sustainable development, we should make sure that locals and visitors have a fundamental awareness of environmental protection knowledge. Furthermore, Ferronato and Torretta [44], and Wu et al. [45] believe that as the issue of carbon emissions and waste pollution generated by religious tourist activities became more significant, local governments started to pay more attention to solving this issue. The most effective strategy to address the issue of religious tourist development is to enhance the direction of developmental decision making, raise people’s environmental literacy, and empower decision makers and the public to move toward sustainable development.
Alipour et al. [46] employed geo-statistics to map the spatial changes in environmental effect, revealing that while religious tourism had led to environmental improvement, it was restricted to the region around the shrine and did not spread to the rest of city. However, according to statistics, inhabitants usually had negative attitudes towards the environmental impact of religious tourism. Using Mashhad, Iran as an example, Foruzan [28] discovered that religious tourism played such a detrimental role in urban growth that it had a severe influence on the environment. Shinde and Olsen [47] also found that religious tourism degraded environmental quality. However, Yan and Jia [48] assessed religious tourism to be environmental friendly. Zhou [49] provided insight into the current condition of religious tourism in Zimbabwe. He discovered that religious tourism boosted economic growth but degraded environmental quality by using interpretative qualitative data gathered via observation and in-depth interviews with 30 representative informants purposefully selected among religious tourism stakeholders. Furthermore, the results analyzed above are also supported by Holden [50] and Ehigiamusoe [51].
To summarize, despite the fact that many previous scholars have studied the social and economic effects of religious tourism, few have focused on the effect of Buddhist tourism on sustainable development. As a result, the primary goal of this research is to determine the influence of religious (Buddhist) tourism on local sustainable development. From the standpoint of local economic growth and environmental quality, the goal of this study is to demonstrate the impact of development on local economic growth and environmental quality after promoting religious tourism activities in the region, as well as to identify development flaws, and propose improvements to achieve the goal of sustainable development. Furthermore, this paper may not only contribute to the previous literature, but it can also provide positive proof for the success of local Buddhist tourism and local sustainable development.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/su14063584

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