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Press release

Research into Pope’s St. Ninian’s Day Parade highlights potential of religious tourism

The St Ninian’s Day Parade held in Edinburgh during Pope Benedict’s official visit to Scotland on the 16 th September, was deemed to be a great success by the majority of people who attended the event, an official report concluded .

The report, which evaluated people’s experience of the St Ninian’s Day Parade, found that forty-five percent of interviewees experienced a positive impact on their physical and psychological well-being immediately following the event.

Pope Benedict XVI Official State Visit to Scotland was evaluated by event specialists from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. The team of 13 researchers from the University’s International Centre for the Study of Planned Events carried out 100 interviews and 12 ethnographic observations along the route of the St. Ninian’s Day Parade. One hundred ethno photographs were also recorded of the event. In addition, 176 news articles and broadcasts were reviewed. The research was commissioned by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, the organising body for the Papal visit.

These interviews attempted to measure people’s immediate reaction to seeing the Pope, as well as identifying whether people experienced a lasting legacy from the Pope’s visit. The research also compared and contrasted people’s experience of the Parade with official media reporting of the Pope’s visit.

Professor Joe Goldblatt, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University, said: “The majority of people believed that the reason for the success of the event was the excellent organisation of the visit, the opportunity to see Pope Benedict in person, and the very positive experience of a community coming together.”

Over a third of spectators stated that the Parade exceeded their expectations – the majority believed that it delivered what they had initially expected. A number of spectators commentated that the event had been busier, well organised, better natured and more of a spectacle than they had originally imagined.

“When analysing the longer term impact of the event, people said that they would have very positive memories of the event but only a few believed that the event would help to transform negative images about the Catholic Church into positive ones,” said Professor Goldblatt. Goldblatt interprets this to mean that although parades such as this one are critically important to improve destination image they must be seen as independent events and therefore must be followed up with other activities to further insure their ability to transform culture.

Professor Goldblatt concluded: “Over all, it would appear that although people were mixed in the personal benefits people expressed the positive experience of togetherness and community that they derived from the event. Only two percent of people expressed a negative impact on their health and well-being.”

The researchers further concluded that the St. Ninian’s Day Parade achieved and even exceeded the original goals of the organisers. The event positively impacted many individuals who happened to be in the area when the event was taking place but had not originally planned to attend. They stated that these positive experiences felt by many in person and through television and news media coverage may help to promote Edinburgh as a potential destination for future religious tourism events such as the Papal visit. Goldblatt stated that religious tourism could be worth millions of pounds in new visitor spending for Scotland and that as evidenced from this study, Scotland is well positioned to host major religious events in the future.

Peter Kearney, Director of the Catholic Media Office, said: "This detailed empirical analysis by researchers at Edinburgh's Queen Margaret University is a very welcome corroboration of the anecdotal evidence of tens of thousands of people, that the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland last month was a hugely successful and positive event."

"While the media images from the day testify to the huge outpouring of goodwill for the Pope among the 125,000 who lined Edinburgh's streets to see him it is fascinating to be able to study individual's reactions to the visit in such a structured way."

"Queen Margaret University, has demonstrated that the Papal visit was good for Edinburgh and good for Scotland on many levels; financially, culturally but also emotionally and spiritually. I welcome this research on behalf of the Catholic Church and congratulate Professor Joe Goldblatt, Dr Majella Sweeney and their team on the standard of work involved."




For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239, Email:




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