Friday, October 26, 2007

Ratzinger effect on tourism

~from Corriere della Sera via Papa Ratzinger Forum
The man who was pejoratively labelled by the Communist newspaper Il Manifesto "the German shepherd' has been conquering even the most skeptical day after day.

The proof? Since that day, religious tourism to Rome has grown. One example suffices: The 'Roma Cristiana' tours on double-decker buses were 300% more in 2006 than they were in 2005.

Brevivet, one of the leading Catholic tour agencies, estimates an increase in customers this year of 20%. SPI, the secretariat for Italian Catholic tourist agencies, expects an overall increment of at least 15%. Unitalsi expects 18% more. And Opera Romana Pellegrini, the Vatican's own tourist agency, had 4.6 million 'religious tourists' in 2006 compared to 2.2 million in 2004. The Wall Street Journal estimated that 7 million US tourists came to the Vatican in 2006.

Let's look at reporting in the world press. Bitlab, which monitors the image of tourism to Italy, has monitored 21,202 newspaper reports on tourism published from January 2006 to September 2007 in Australia, Austria, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, the Middle East, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the USA alone. Of these, 17,452 were about tourism to Italy, and 17% was dedicated to 'religious' tourism.

And now, shall we reconsider Benedict XVI? He is far from the Wojtyla who instantly seduced Italians, shocked by the fact of having a non-Italian Pope, by telling them the day of his election "Se mi sbaglio, mi corrigerete" ('If I make a mistake, you will correct me', referring to his spoken Italian). And he, Benedict, will never twirl a baton a la Charlie Chapiln as his predecessor once did before an audience of children in Castel Gandolfo....

But there is undoubtedly a Ratzinger effect if, in the second year of his Pontificate, 3,368,200 pilgrims came to St. Peter's to see him in 2006. Already in 2005, he registered a record number of 3,222,820 visitors, far greater than figures registered even in his peak years by the 'great communicator' John Paul II.

"Definitely, the attendances at the Vatican have increased remarkably, and not only because of devotion to John Paul II, universally considered 'family' by pilgrims," says Fr. Caesare Attuire, administrator of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi. "The phenomenon is more complex. There's the fact that the Pontificate is new.

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