Self-expression and play: can religious tourism be hedonistic?

Sean Lochrie, Ian W. F. Baxter, Elaine Collinson, Ross Curran, Martin Joseph Gannon, Babak Taheri*, Jamie Thompson, Ozge Yalinay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
105 Downloads (Pure)


Using data collected from 538 Iranian tourists undertaking the religious pilgrimage of Umrah (i.e. voluntary travel to the holy city of Mecca at any time throughout the year), this study investigates the concept of play and its relationship with self-expression and hedonism in an Islamic tourism context. By testing a theoretically derived structural model, the findings suggest that self-expression strongly influences tourists’ sense of play. Here, play is realised when tourists feel that they can express themselves freely and augment their self-image while travelling, irrespective of the religious context. Nonetheless, the pilgrimage environment is characterised by the religious congregation–with tourists engaging in communal experiences that reflect themselves and their faith. Therefore, the ideal experience, where tourists feel a sense of escapism from the pressures of everyday life, is a product of their ability to project, develop, and ratify their self-concept. Finally, the study suggests that pilgrimage managers and marketers should focus on the importance of play, enabling their destinations to heighten the intensity of the ‘enjoyable’ elements of religious travel (e.g. group camaraderie, escapism and positive emotional reactions) alongside their inherent religious benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-16
Number of pages15
JournalTourism Recreation Research
Issue number1
Early online date19 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • hedonism
  • pilgrimage
  • Play
  • religious tourism
  • self-expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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