"To bring God's word to all people": The case of a religious theme-site

Amir Shani, Manuel Antonio Rivera, Denver Severt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Over the past decades the Orlando theme park industry has been perceived as a secular competitive business environment, particularly characterized by an increased number of innovative and technologically advanced attractions. Recently, religious themed sites have emerged in a market that has been typically dominated by corporate giants. These sites reflect an interesting new phase in religious tourism, characterized by man-made buildings with religious themes designed to attract and satisfy tourists. This article describes this new industry trend and the managerial challenges faced by these organizations. By using a case study approach, with both primary and secondary data, The WordSpring Discovery Center in Orlando, FL is examined with special attention given to the challenges of preserving a religious belief while maintaining customer service through a compelling visitor experience. Navigating between these roles can often be difficult. However, the research indicates that the management team perceives tourism as an avenue for advancing their missionary goals, with the staff executing their work according to this guiding premise. The possible consequences of developing religious theme sites are discussed, including the expected criticism of the 'disneyfication' of religion and the potential in improving the management quality in religious sites. Finally, the limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are detailed, emphasizing the need for the examination of the visitors' experience in religious theme sites, and their satisfaction from the provided service.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages12
JournalTourism
Volume55
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Managerial challenges
  • Religious tourism
  • USA
  • Visitor attractions
  • Visitor experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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