Characterization of the Population Segment Dedicated to the Retail Trade of Religious Souvenirs

Characterization of the Population Segment Dedicated to the Retail Trade of Religious Souvenirs

Claudia Patricia Maldonado-Erazo (Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, Ecuador), Ronny Correa-Quezada (Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, Ecuador), Christian Viñán-Merecí (Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, Ecuador) and Paúl Sarango-Lalangui (Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, Ecuador)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5730-2.ch016


The increasing popularity of religious tourism in the last century is undeniable. This type of tourism presents a complex conceptualization process due to the religious, spiritual, and cultural connotations. From this perspective, the main objective of this chapter was to develop a characterization of the population dedicated to the retail trade of religious souvenirs in the parish of El Cisne, where the pilgrimage of the Virgin of “El Cisne” takes place every year, in the canton Loja. The methodology used for this study centered on a socio-economic characterization of the owners of these retail stores. These retailers were classified into two comparative groups, which were used to determine the variables that had the greatest impact on the quality of life for them and for their families. Among the main results, it was highlighted that this retail activity came from a traditional practice, from whom a very large number of them were not affiliated to any social security system. There was also evidence of the high participation of women as owners of these businesses.
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At the present time, touristic activity is in a constant state of transformation in relation to the new interests that tourists awaken in themselves, which affects all the existing tourist modalities. In terms of religious tourism, which is the main topic of this paper, it has been analyzed as an activity which is characterized by the combination of two actions, religion and tourism, present in human life at different points of its evolution, as it is mentioned by Tobón and Tobón (2002). Religion has an ancestral origin, while tourism has emerged in the modern era. Given its recent prominence within the interests of tourists, Religious tourism has managed to motivate millions of people during their travels (Aulet & Hakobyan, 2011).

The popularity that religious tourism has taken in the last century is undeniable due to the fact that it has been cataloged as an appropriate strategy for the development of both urban and rural towns in times of economic crisis (Maak, 2009; Millán, Morales Fernández, & Pérez Naranjo, 2010). According to the WTO, 2010, tourism generates income in various forms, including those from purchases made at the tourist destinations.

Analyses of tourist spending have been carried out within the tourist destinations, however, there are few studies that focus on the category of income for purchases. Although its analysis has been recommended by the governing body of tourism, little or nothing has been developed worldwide to determine the impact that tourist spending has on a tourist destination and their quality of life.

In order to contribute to the enhancement of its study, the Basilica of El Cisne, which is located in the parish of the same name, 72 kilometers away from the city of Loja in Ecuador, became the subject of this study. During the months of July and August, the Basilica is visited daily by about ten thousand people who come to this site on religious journeys to visit the image of the Virgin Mary. The concentration of people throughout the year, especially during the months of greater tourist movement, promotes that more than 700 small merchants sell their products and souvenirs around the Basilica and in the streets surrounding the parish.

The aforementioned makes the commercial vocation of the local population for the purchase and sale of articles, especially of a religious nature, to be considered as a catalytic activity for the generation of self-sufficient resources for families who are engaged in this type of work. In this context, the objective of this section was to analyze the socio-economic impact of families marketing religious souvenirs. There have not been any studies or contributions that have addressed this issue, so this study contributes significantly to the comprehension of the impact of retail sales on the income and quality of life of small merchants.

The methodology used for this study focused on the development of a socio-economic characterization of the owners of the above-mentioned businesses with which, two comparative groups were constructed where the variables that have the greatest impact on the quality of life of this segment of the population were determined. To obtain the remarks needed for this study, retail merchants from the parish of El Cisne were surveyed.

In order to achieve the main aim of this study, first and foremost, a literature review concerning religious tourism, retail trade, and souvenirs was carried out. Then, the historical background of the origins of the pilgrimage to the Basilica of El Cisne was researched. Subsequently, the methodology was presented as well as the systematization of data and the interpretation of the results, and finally the conclusions and main findings were presented.

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