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Degrowth, commons, governance, care and conviviality in tourism: The case of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
Tourism is an activity that helps modern society to disconnect from increasing rapidity, rivalry, and uneasiness experienced in work live. Additionally various regions of the world are deeply in need of tourism that serves as an income base and sustains families. However, the on-going ecological crisis is escalated by the ever increasing social metabolism of tourism due to various factors such as long distance air travel, pressure on water resources by hotels, land degradation due to increased construction of tourism and recreational facilities. Additionally tourism has created social struggles due to unequal distribution of tourism incomes, and local communities have suffered from tourism related gentrification and rebounds created by the “sharing economy” (e.g. Air BnB). This paper analyses the contemporary utilization of the medieval pilgrimage routes to the Galician shrine of Santiago de Compostela as form of “socially-sustainable” degrowth and as an alternative concept to modern socio-environmentally sensitive mass tourism. This research is based on a qualitative-quantitative methodology. Quantitative data is conducted on tourism streams but also on food prices, accommodation, and land housing prices along the Camino de Santiago. Qualitative data collection is generated by participant observation and intensive involvement with stakeholders of the Camino de Santiago including pilgrims, locals, volunteers, associations of the Camino de Santiago, representatives form municipalities, regions, church etc. At this stage of research 15 interviews had been conducted with experts from the mentioned groups. The findings suggest, that while pilgrimage tourism (involuntarily) follows a growth-based trajectory, environmental impacts can be minimal. On the “consumer side” many people across Europe can even start hiking or cycling to Santiago de Compostela from their home city. The route provides pilgrims an emotional journey as a form of spiritual path or retreat for spiritual growth but it is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts. It is also seen as an experience of togetherness, sociability and sharing as some pilgrims and locals explained at the beginning of the interview process.