St James Way (El Camino) Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Study Visit Opportunity 16/17th – 20th April 2018.

Cultural Routes as an economic lifeline for rural communities.

The Kent Downs AONB are inviting 2 stakeholders to a Study Visit to Galicia, Spain as part of our Green Pilgrimage Project. All costs will be covered through the project and in return we ask you to contribute actively to the Study Visit and to be an advocate for the aims of the project upon your return to the UK. More details about the project, the itinerary and the stakeholder profile are described below. 

The Green Pilgrimage Project 

The Green Pilgrimage Green Pilgrimage is a 5 year project funded by Interreg Europe to show how growth and development policies can economically benefit AND protect natural and cultural heritage. Key to this is our focus on the power of pilgrimage - recognized today as one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry (UNWTO, 2015) with more than 300 million pilgrims every year.

Ancient pilgrim routes such as The Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, report an annual 10% increase in numbers, particularly among non-religious. Policy influence will increase pilgrimage across Europe through creating a greater awareness of its benefits. The project will hold exchanges and workshops on sustainable pilgrimage promotion, pilgrimage tourism impact, environmental protection and European best practice. 

The St James Way Study Visit 

The Galician Regional Authority is generously arranging a 3 day study visit to explore the phenomenal growth of pilgrimage and long distance walking on St James Way to Santiago de Compostela. The Camino is one of the oldest Pilgrim Routes in Europe and has seen phenomenal growth in recent years. There has been a consistent 10% increase in numbers each year, with Pilgrim numbers growing from less than 3,000 in 1985 to nearly 300,000 in 2016. Pilgrims come from more than 140 countries worldwide. Interestingly, the single biggest growth in Spain is amongst the non-religious sector charting the increasing popularity of a ‘journey with meaning’ for the non-religious and religious alike.

Participants will be given a unique insight into the policies and management strategies that led to this incredible cultural tourism growth that has been sensitively developed in collaboration with spiritual and faith based stakeholders. In 1993 following increasing interest in the route, the Galician authorities invested 120 million euros in infrastructure, cultural and socio-economic activities. Participants will see some of these investments and be able to ask regional staff how they are managed and promoted. We will also learn about the St James Way Masterplan. Over the next 25 years, the Authorities in Galicia are planning further investments of €65 Million and they foresee a return to regional income of €650 million.

The 3 days study visit will deal with the following issues :

  • St James Way Masterplan – benchmark & best practice learning  

• Group discussion and workshops with pilgrimage and distance trail managers from Romania, Sweden, Italy, Norway, UK and the Galician regional authorities

• How does Galicia measure environmental impact & mitigation? How does Galicia deal with litter/ condition of trail/ safety of pilgrims

• How does Galicia manage capacity and deal with overcapacity consequences

• What has Galicia learned and what would they do differently?

• How does Galicia ensure that incoming economy stays local and benefits communities. Is there any evidence of non-Galician businesses running contracts?

• How does Galicia promote sustainable and green practices with users and businesses?

Draft Programme 

Monday 16th April - Santiago de Compostela

Optional - Participants arrive if wishing to walk trail on Tuesday

Tuesday 17th April – Santiago de Compostela

Monday arrivals free to experience a full day’s walking on trail (to be self-guided and self -organised)

Other Participants arrive

Wednesday 18th April – Santiago de Compostela

Discussion workshops at Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Centre with St James’ Way staff

Optional. Galicia have kindly booked us into the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral mass at 7.30om, which is well attended by pilgrims of all faiths and none.

Thursday 19th April – St James’ Way

All day on the trail. We will visit a range of communities and pilgrim accommodations to understand the trail’s role in supporting rural economies and natural and cultural heritage.

Participants will be able to walk either 2 hours or 4 hours with those wishing to walk less having time to explore a pilgrim town such as Melide.

Sleep in Melide pilgrim hostel – this will be shared accommodation.

Friday 20th April – Santiago de Compostela

Transfer to Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Centre

Pilgrim Centre meeting with St James Way staff for questions and conclusions

Lunch with Galicia Regional Authority

End of official programme