“In the light of the first conclusions we are going to be even more aware of the relevance of the Camino de Santiago for all the Galicians who live nearby”. This is how the director of Tourism of Galicia, Nava Castro, expressed herself after hearing the first conclusions of the report prepared by the University of Santiago de Compostela on the economic impact of the Way of Saint James. A report, drawn up on the basis of extensive fieldwork, which has made it possible to establish conclusions such as that pilgrims account for 2.3% of tourist expenditure in the Community, but at the same time each of them has the same economic impact as 2.3 tourists or that each euro of expenditure by walkers generates up to 11% more product and up to 18% more employment, influencing the income of the town councils and their quality of life.
Positive impact and no conflicts between residents
This research, included in the commitments of the Master Plan of the Way, is the result of collaboration between the regional government and the Economic Analysis and Modelling Group of the University Institute of Studies and Development of Galicia (IDEGA) of the USC. Through it it has been possible to deepen the impact, especially in rural areas, of the Way of St. James, concluding that the demographic decline common to rural Galicia is attenuated in those points through which the Xacobean Route passes, which is perceived positively by the residents of these towns, who were surveyed as part of the work.
Neighbours appreciate favourable economic impacts on income and living standards in their municipalities, local trade, employment opportunities or tourism. In addition, they do not notice any negative impacts. They perceive that the Camino de Santiago does not harm other activities and that its benefits are for residents of the municipality itself.
To obtain these assessments, the USC study interviews focused mainly on Cebreiro and Melide for their characteristics within the French Way, such as the oldest and newest city council, which are also opposite in population density.
These first results of the report were presented at an event at the International Pilgrim Reception Centre by Professor Melchor Fernández, who led the study together with Dolores Riveiro, members of the Economic Analysis and Modelling Group (GAME) of the Galician University Institute of Studies and Development and in coordination with the technical specialists in the area of Tourism Studies and Research of Galicia. In addition, the regional delegate of the Xunta in A Coruña, Ovidio Rodeiro, the director-manager of Xacobeo, Rafael Sánchez, and representatives of public institutions, the Cathedral of Santiago, Xacobeos groups and the Galician tourism sector participated in this presentation.
Example of sustainability
Finally, the first results obtained show a positive environmental impact, as the local population considers that the Camino de Santiago contributes to preserving the landscape and does not generate a waste management problem or increase environmental pollution.
“To appreciate a reality it is essential to know it. This is what we are doing: to learn more about the Camino de Santiago, our most international identity element”, said Nava Castro, who said that the people in charge of the study will continue to work to bring new conclusions related to the pilgrims’ perception of their experience, their profiles, their dynamics and the variables involved in their flows, as soon as possible.