(Spain) A pilgrim has the economic impact of more than two conventional tourists in Galicia

One euro spent by a pilgrim on his route to Santiago is multiplied by more than two compared to the impact generated in the Galician economy a conventional tourist. This is determined by a study by Turismo de Galicia that figures in 2.3% the weight of the Camino in tourism spending in the community, although the transfer to the Galician economy is “much higher” in qualitative terms.

“By the characteristics of the expenditure made by pilgrims, each euro has a greater impact on the economy. This is mainly because they do not use means of transport and focus their spending on restaurants and accommodation, which are businesses that have more drag on other sectors of the economy,” said in statements to Europa Press the head of the Studies and Research Area of Tourism of Galicia, Jaime Leirós.

This is one of the main conclusions of the study published in 2017 that addresses the socio-economic impact of the Jacobean Route and from which statements such as spending on food and drink takes 61% of pilgrim spending, sections to which the conventional tourist spends 26% of its budget are extracted.

According to this document, each euro of the pilgrim generates up to 18% more employment in the community and 11% more wealth compared to the regular tourist. The latter spend almost a quarter of their budget on transport, an expense “with a low multiplier effect” at local level.

Thus, the average daily expenditure of each pilgrim ranges between 40 and 70 euros, although it all depends on the way you want to live an experience that adapts like few others to the economic possibilities of the traveller.

From ‘low cost’ to ‘high standing’.

The possibilities of accommodation on the routes to Santiago are varied thanks to the exponential growth that this type of business has experienced in recent decades, mainly on the French Way. From the classic hostel with bunk beds for about 10 euros a stay to more comfortable options of between 30 and 70 euros as hostels and hotels with single rooms, reaching the Paradores where you can stay for about 300 euros a night.

The 2017 study, since which record numbers of pilgrims have been broken almost year after year, establishes that the highest volume of overnight stays is in private hostels with nearly 700,000 nights, almost twice as many as in hotels (390,000) and about five times more than in public hostels (157,000).

All of this depends on the season in which one chooses to travel, one of the factors that determine the total outlay on the Camino. Another of these factors is the duration of the route, since, according to experts from Turismo de Galicia, the shorter the duration of the trip, the higher the average daily expenditure of the pilgrim. “The duration of the trip determines the average daily expenditure. It is as if there were a more or less fixed budget and depending on how many days you have to do the Camino, you adjust it,” said Jaime Leirós.

Six types of pilgrims

In its study, Tourism of Galicia identifies six different types of pilgrims, each with characteristics that influence their way of living the Camino and, consequently, how much they spend on the experience.

The classification analyzes the behavior of walkers depending on how they live the experience from factors such as age, motivation, spending or origin. It even looks at the consideration that the walkers themselves have of themselves, as some do not see themselves as pilgrims, but as simple travellers.

Thus, each traveller profile has a preference for one type of accommodation. For example, those considered as ‘experts’ – of national origin, between 40 and 50 years old and with a critical spirit about what they find on the Camino – almost always resort to public hostels, while the ‘recreational’ – multinational, short routes and leisure motivation – never goes to this type of establishment and is inclined towards hotels and guesthouses.

Accommodation, food… and extras

Parallel to the popularisation of the Pilgrim’s Way, an economic sector linked to providing services to pilgrims beyond giving them shelter at night and feeding them has been taking shape. One of these businesses are the agencies that are responsible for offering holiday packages for those who want to forget about reservations.

“We help in the organization of everything that has to do with the trip, from the part of accommodation to any kind of service they may need, such as transport of luggage, transfers or whatever it takes,” explained in statements to Europa Press the manager of Viajes El Camino, Miguel Sanchez.

This agency offers packs “tailored” to what you need and is willing to pay the traveler. “One of the wonders of the Camino is that it is a trip for all audiences and all budgets; from people who want to go in a simpler way and sleep in hostels with other pilgrims living the Camino experience to other people looking for more comfort or more luxury in the quality of accommodation,” continues the head of Viajes El Camino.

Thus, the most marketed package by this agency is around 300 euros for booking accommodation in a private room for a whole week of Camino. It also works, especially among travellers from Latin America, the “VIP option”, which goes to between 600 and 700 euros.

In addition to the coverage of basic services, the pilgrim has different complements to make the experience more bearable or get more out of it. “There are people who hire a private guide during the routes, private tours once they arrive in Santiago to visit Fisterra, the Costa da Morte or the Rías Baixas; or groups who decide to put refreshment points on the Camino or accompany them with a support vehicle,” says Miguel Sanchez.

Thus, the economic study of the agency dependent on the Xunta determines that the Camino has served as an economic incentive for the economic development of the localities through which the different routes pass.

“The conclusion is very clear. There is a positive impact on these municipalities in employment, population fixation and a large number of variables,” says the head of economic studies of Turismo de Galicia.

However, the impact is unequal in the different municipalities, since, for example, in 2014 it represented almost 22% of Triacastela’s GDP, while in Pedrafita, Portomarín and O Pino it exceeds 10%. Being or not the end of the stage is, for the localities, a differential factor when it comes to taking economic advantage of the Camino.