23 RELIGIOUS TOURISM / PILGRIMAGE STUDIES – Contributions by Noga Collins-Kreiner

My Academic Pilgrimage*

*A pilgrimage is a journey, often to an unknown or foreign place, taken by a person seeking new or expanded meaning about him or herself, others, nature, or a higher good. As such, it can lead to personal transformation.


A hill against blue sky. The pilgrimage starts at the bottom of the hill with an MA (follow others but create your own path), then a PhD (believe in what you do), then a Post Doc (Take your family with you on your journeys), then Holy Land research (be flexible), then People (Follow, Accompany, Guide), then keep on walking no matter what, don't stop, then religious tourism research, and at the top: Have an impact.

My pilgrimage began 25 years ago, when I wrote my master’s thesis on Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. I chose this topic in order to follow in the footsteps of others in the field of tourism, but I also wanted to find my own path and to research what was then the still largely under-researched field of pilgrimage/religious tourism.

Over the past decade, I have deepened and broadened my primary areas of research and expertise. They now include pilgrimage studies, religious tourism, and religious geography; tourism development and the environment; mobilities of hiking and senior-citizen tourists; and a new focus: tourism in the Covid-19 era.

1) Pilgrimage Studies, Religious Tourism, and Religious Geography

Since completing my master’s thesis (1995) on Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, I have engaged in many research projects on pilgrimage, religious tourism, and the religious geography of sites, concepts, and religions. Inspired by these topics, I have also investigated heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, and World Heritage Sites. This field of research examines the sociopolitical contexts of various religious sites in Israel and their spatial ramifications for the sociopolitical and tourism discourse.

  • I regard political context as an inseparable aspect of my research on this subject. With the support of an Israel Science Foundation grant, which I received to research “Spatial Deviation: The Establishment of New Religious Sites in Israel’s Landscape,” I authored a number of articles on the political aspects of religious sites in Israel (Collins-Kreiner, Shmueli and Ben-Gal, 2013; Shmueli, Collins-Kreiner and Ben-Gal, 2014; Ben-Gal, Collins-Kreiner and Shmueli, 2015; Collins-Kreiner, Shmueli and Ben-Gal, 2015). These articles were accepted for publication in leading geographical journals such as Cities and Applied Geography.
  • Over the years, I have conducted numerous studies on phenomena of religious geography, pilgrimage, and religious tourism in Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, and the Baha’i faith, both as a solo researcher and in collaboration with colleagues from Israel and abroad (Collins-Kreiner 2010a; 2010b; 2016). I have also supervised Ph.D. research on these topics, and I plan on conducting additional studies on other relevant sites, spaces, and concepts in the future.
  • These articles, which have been accepted for publication in leading journals, include a current (Collins-Kreiner 2020) review paper submitted to a leading journal in the field. The paper, which sums up the last two decades of research on the topic of religion and tourism, is the first of seven papers included in the Annals of Tourism‘s “Curated Collection on the Topic of Religion and Tourism.” According to the journal’s editors, these “curated collections” will “develop into what will effectively serve as handbooks on these topics.” I was invited to begin the “religion and tourism” collection as a top expert in the field and, in the words of the editors, due to my “internationally recognized expertise in this area.”

2) Tourism Development and the (Human and Physical) Environment

I continue to regard the environment as an inseparable component of my current and future research agenda, and I have incorporated this topic into my teaching (in an undergraduate course titled “Introduction to Leisure, Tourism, and Environment” and two graduate-level courses dealing with tourism development).

  • One of my studies on this topic was a large-scale, long-term project on the development of sustainable tourism in Israel’s Lake Hula region. As products of this research, I published two articles in the leading tourism journals Tourism Geographies and Tourism Management. (Collins-Kreiner and Israeli, 2010; Collins-Kreiner, Malkinson, Labinger and Shtainvarz, 2013).
  • In conjunction with one of my doctoral students I conducted a research project on “Strategies for Management of Tourism Sites: Conservation and Development.” The work of one of my other doctoral students also considers tourism’s human environment in its exploration of female home hosting in traditional and modern societies and its cross-cultural effects on hosts and visitors alike.

3) Hiking Tourism and Senior Citizen Visitors (using Age Simulation Suits)

A project in which I have recently become engaged explores the topic of hiking in Israel. Based on this research, colleagues and I have recently written four articles on hiking in Israel and on the social world of Israeli hikers.

  • These articles (Kliot and Collins-Kreiner, 2018; Collins-Kreiner and Kliot, 2016) will be the initial articles in a series of publications dealing with the geography of walking, a topic which has thus far received little attention in the geographical and tourism literature. I intend to continue developing this topic in the future, including additional research on hiking the Israel National Trail during the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • On a voluntary basis, I am currently serving as head of “The Israel Sea Trail” project, and I will continue working on this important environmental, educational, and tourism-related initiative with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Israel Land Authority, and the Israel Government Tourist Corporation.
  • The subject and theme of my newest research project is understanding and appreciating the needs and perceptions of senior-citizen visitors to nature and heritage sites. The method is to dress site personnel in “age-simulation suits” and conduct interviews with them “before and after” this experiment.
  • The age-simulation suits give younger people the opportunity to experience the impairments of older people. The purpose of the study is twofold: its educational goal is to promote awareness, understanding, and information for site managers; its practical goal is to promote planning that is adapted to the elderly, both in terms of the environment and the total visiting experience.
  • In this realm, as in my other fields of research, my intention is to continue combining research, undergraduate teaching, and graduate research supervision. Overall, I regard the environment-tourism nexus as a field with great research potential and as one I intend to continue exploring in the years to come.

4) Tourism in the Covid-19 Era

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a marked impact on my research priorities, and I am currently focusing on the crisis’s implications for the tourism industry. For research on this topic, I was awarded a highly competitive short-term research grant by Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology for the purpose of analyzing the collapse of the tourism industry in Israel and around the world in order to develop evidence-based recovery plans.

  • As a result, I have submitted a number of papers on the topic. The first, on international exit strategies for the tourism industry, was accepted for publication in a leading journal (Collins-Kreiner and Ram, 2021). Another, titled “Is there a COVID-19 vaccination effect? A three-wave cross-sectional study” was accepted for publication in Current Issues in Tourism. (Ram, Collins-Kreiner, Gozansky, Moscona, and Okon-Singer, 2021)
  • As a researcher of tourism, I see it as my duty to promote and advocate responsible and sustainable tourism for the future, and I plan on focusing my research efforts on this topic in the years to come. To this end, I have written a research grant proposal to the Israel Science Foundation, and I am currently engaged in research on the pandemic’s dramatic influence on the field.


My plan is to continue working primarily, though not exclusively, in these four fields and to continue combining theoretical and applied approaches in my research on geography, tourism, and the environment.

  • As president of the Israeli Geographical Association between 2017 and 2019, I organized the association’s two major conferences during this period. I am the Head of my department’s BA committee and I head the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of the Social Sciences. For the past three years, I have also served as chairperson of the Geography Studies Committee within Israel’s Ministry of Education.
  • As a contemporary social scientist, I believe in both individualism and cooperation, which is strongly reflected in my publications. I recognize the importance of publishing alone; in collaboration with my doctoral and postdoctoral students; with colleagues from within my department; with colleagues from elsewhere in the university; and with colleagues from other institutions, both inside Israel and abroad.
  • I also recognize the importance of working in larger groups, such as the European Cost actions with which I continue to be involved and groups within the University. This diversity and balance in my work is a philosophy in which I believe strongly and that I will continue to maintain.

Written by Noga Collins-Kreiner, University of Haifa, Israel
Read Noga’s letter to future generations of tourism researchers


Ben-Gal M., Collins-Kreiner N. and Shmueli, D. (2015). “Understanding Religious Conflicts through Framing: The Mormon Site in Jerusalem as a Case-study”, Journal of Economic and Social Geography106, 5: 503–638.

Collins-Kreiner N. (2010a) “Researching Pilgrimage: Continuity and Transformations” Annals of Tourism Research 37, 2: 440-456.

Collins-Kreiner N. (2010b) “Geographers and Pilgrimages” Journal of Economic and Social Geography 101, 4: 437-448.

Collins-Kreiner N. (2016) “Life cycle of Concepts: The Case of Pilgrimage Tourism”. Tourism Geographies 18, 3. 322-334.

Collins-Kreiner N. (2020) “A Review of Research into Religion and Tourism: Launching the Annals of Tourism Research Curated Collection on religion and tourism “. Annals of Tourism Research. 82.

Collins-Kreiner N. and Israeli Y. (2010) “The Agamon Lake:  Supporting an Integrated Soft Approach to Ecotourism Development” Tourism Geographies 12, 1: 118-139.

Collins-Kreiner, N. and Kliot N. (2016). “Particularism vs. Universalism in Hiking Tourism”, Annals of Tourism Research 56: 128–163.

Collins-Kreiner N., Malkinson D., Labinger Z. and Shtainvarz, R. (2013) “Are Birders Good for Birds? Bird Conservation through Tourism Management in the Hula Valley, Israel”, Tourism Management 38: 31-42.

Collins-Kreiner, N. and Ram, Y. (2021). “National Tourism Strategies During the Covid-19 Pandemic”. Annals of Tourism Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2020.103076

Collins-Kreiner N., Shmueli, D. and Ben-Gal, M. (2015). “Conflicts at Religious Tourism Sites: the Baha’i World Center, Israel”, Tourism Management Perspectives 16: 228-236.

Collins-Kreiner N., Shmueli, D. and Ben-Gal, M. (2013) “Spatial Transgression of New Religious Sites in Israel”, Applied Geography 40: 103-114.

Kliot, N. and Collins-Kreiner, N. (2018) “Social world, hiking, and nation: the

Israel National Trail”. Social and Cultural Geography.

Ram, Y., Collins-Kreiner, N., Gozansky, E., Moscona, G., Okon-Singer, H. (2021) “Is there a COVID-19 vaccination effect? A three-wave cross-sectional study”. Current Issues in Tourism. (R.: 8/58, Q1, (Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism), I.F.: 7.430).

Shmueli D., Collins-Kreiner, N. and Ben-Gal, M. (2014). “Conflict Over Sacred Space: The Case of Nazareth”. Cities 41, A: 132-140.



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