40,000 Belgians made Lourdes pilgrimage
According to figures released by the Benelux Pilgrimage Federation and the Federation of Belgian Tour Operators some 40,000 Belgians made a pilgrimage to Lourdes last year.
The figures are about the same as in previous years. The Benelux Pilgrimage Federation says that during last year 27,000 Belgians took part in official pilgrimages to Lourdes that were organised by the Flemish and Walloon dioceses.
“There was a peak of around 33,000 Belgians in 2008”, the federation’s Julienne Van Kemseke told the VRT. “This is because it was then 150 years since the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes. Since then numbers have remained stable at around 27,000 pilgrims. At the February congress of the Lourdes tour operators I heard that the number of pilgrims from Ireland, Italy and Spain is falling due to the economic crisis. Only in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc is there still growing interest for pilgrimages to Lourdes. "
In addition to the 33,000 Belgians that travelled on official pilgrimages to Lourdes, another 13,000 to 15,000 travelled to the French pilgrimage site with regular tour operators. Thomas Cook’s Baptiste van Outryve says that numbers making the pilgrimage with his company have remained stable.
"It’s a relatively short flight, but it has a different atmosphere that traditional tourist flights.”
"As there are many older, less mobile or handicapped people, they require more attention from the crew. However, the cabin crew find that it makes a nice change from the traditional tourist flights.”
[Flandersnews.be / Expatica]