The return of the ‘Black Swan’? Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the Covid-19 pandemic

Shahar Shilo, Noga Collins-Kreiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article’s first goal is to propose an interpretation of a historical event of major economic, political, and religious significance with attributes resembling those of the current Covid-19 pandemic: the Roman Empire’s conversion to Christianity. The second goal is to explain and analyze the Christian pilgrimage market and to suggest that, due to its unique nature and attributes, this specific segment has the potential to serve as a preferred focus and an exit strategy from the Coronavirus crisis. The research offers a historical interpretation of Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land using the theory of the ‘Black Swan’, an economic term introduced by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2007. Here we attempt to compare two Black Swans: one that occurred in the year AD 325 and the current Covid-19 pandemic. The economic Black Swan of 325 was the Roman Empire’s conversion to Christianity, a process that caused fatal damage to the myrrh and frankincense economy and completely changed the economy of the southern Land of Israel. In the case of the current crisis, this article suggests that the present conditions may transform the tourism industry in Israel. Based on an analysis of the unique attributes of the Christian pilgrimage sector, it also posits that this specific segment may provide a preferred focus and an exit strategy from the current Coronavirus crisis. The contribution of this article lies in its contemplation of a connection between current and past events, as well as in its consideration of specific market segments (pilgrimage) in the context of national and global exit strategies. The article’s broader goal is to gain a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact not only on the tourism industry as a whole but on its specific segments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Qualitative Research in Tourism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author.


  • Black Swan
  • Christian pilgrimage
  • Christianity
  • Covid-19
  • Holy Land
  • exit strategies
  • pandemic events
  • pilgrimage
  • qualitative case studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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