Although generally neglected in this regard, in all likelihood tourism is the most important contact zone1 where people, in the guise of tourists (and hosts), encounter other religions (such as Japanese visiting Christian churches), different branches of one’s own religion (think of Protestants traveling to Catholic countries) or unfamiliar aspects of one’s own religious tradition (take Catholics from Britain or Germany traveling to Italy). To a far greater extent than the much highlighted meetings and conferences convened by various interreligious or interfaith organizations in the so-called “dialogue of religions”, travel and tourism create more or less bounded spaces that allow for a range of interreligious encounters, be it within or beyond one’s own culture.2 Tourism potentially contributes to travelers developing their religious repertoires. Although in many cases tourists interact mostly with locals who primarily act as service providers,3 tourism can stimulate formal and informal interreligious learning and it can contribute to learning about religions.4 Tourists and locals have their views, expectations and role-specific behaviors that frame encounters. Contrary to many other forms of interreligious encounters, tourist experiences are very much bodily approaches and immersions, often steered by the desire for enjoyment and fun. There are various degrees of preparation for encounters. The actual encounters – to the extent that they occur at all – will in some measure depend on these preparations as much as on the duration of the visits. The social context of the tour likewise sets the frame for experiences. Visiting religious sites belonging to other religions means entering their

spatial reality.5 This and other varieties of encountering (aspects of) other religious traditions such as dances, festivals, visits to sacred sites and information on religion in travel literature are discussed in different chapters of this book. The encounter with other, different, or unfamiliar religious traditions is in most cases accidental, being a byproduct of the choice of the destinations. However, as we shall see in this chapter, cross-or inter-religious encounters can also be intended, be it as the main reason for undertaking a trip or as a main feature of destinations. The spectrum stretches from gazing at a distance (“voyeurism”) to complete immersion (“going native”)

(Johnston 2006, 99). Last but not least, encounters can be direct (such as receiving a blessing at a religious site) or filtered by other cultural activities such as musical performances, which may contribute to making the encounter easier to process since the religious beliefs of the travelers do not appear to be an issue.6