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The Camino needs pilgrims.

Ron Cesvalles

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C Frances 2012,2013,2015,2015,2016,2016,2017,2018,2018,2019,
Portuguese 2019
D’Assisi 2014,2019
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The Camino needs pilgrims.
Scare stories of a crowded Camino Frances are not helpfull. For a few days at the end of May and end of August there is pressure on accomodation for a few days after St Jean but after that it is fine. I walk every year and have never had to sleep out and only a very few times have I had to walk on further than I intended.
I am currently in Ventosa and there have been no problems with accomodation even though it is what I consider the best time of the year for walking.
Speaking with albergue owners they tell me numbers are still down on pre covid.
The Camino will survive but my concern is for the small businesses that will not.
How I have already missed Eduardo’s caravan before Los Arcos and my naranca zuma in the cafe by the lake after Logrono.
Buen Camino.
I
 
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Turga

Camino tortuga
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Pondering 2023
View attachment 133366

The Camino needs pilgrims.
Scare stories of a crowded Camino Frances are not helpfull. For a few days at the end of May and end of August there is pressure on accomodation for a few days after St Jean but after that it is fine. I walk every year and have never had to sleep out and only a very few times have I had to walk on further than I intended.
I am currently in Ventosa and there have been no problems with accomodation even though it is what I consider the best time of the year for walking.
Speaking with albergue owners they tell me numbers are still down on pre covid.
The Camino will survive but my concern is for the small businesses that will not.
How I have already missed Eduardo’s caravan before Los Arcos and my naranca zuma in the cafe by the lake after Logrono.
Buen Camino.
I

What a beautiful picture – that is the way I like to experience the Camino(s).

I believe that I know what you mean, but “The Camino needs pilgrims” gives the impression that the Camino is a business that we should support. For me, personally, that would never be an argument for walking a Camino. I would turn it around and say, “Pilgrims need Caminos”. As long as we are drawn to walk the Caminos, they will survive.
 

Mad Manx

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
English
May be we are being unlucky with going at the same pace as two large supported groups as we are struggling to get accommodation last night in Astorga but their we're two spare top bunks and tonight in Rabanal del Camino
Still haven't got accommodation for tomorrow
But the camino always provides
 
Time of past OR future Camino
1993 Francés, 2020 Francés, 2022 Francés
View attachment 133366

The Camino needs pilgrims.
Scare stories of a crowded Camino Frances are not helpfull. For a few days at the end of May and end of August there is pressure on accomodation for a few days after St Jean but after that it is fine. I walk every year and have never had to sleep out and only a very few times have I had to walk on further than I intended.
I am currently in Ventosa and there have been no problems with accomodation even though it is what I consider the best time of the year for walking.
Speaking with albergue owners they tell me numbers are still down on pre covid.
The Camino will survive but my concern is for the small businesses that will not.
How I have already missed Eduardo’s caravan before Los Arcos and my naranca zuma in the cafe by the lake after Logrono.
Buen Camino.
I
I tend to agree with you Ron, that is until you hit Sarría and then it changes materially with accommodation at a scarcity (as we type).

Try to avoid the big towns or “Guide Book” recommended stage towns.

If for what ever reason one is concerned about a place to sleep during this final walk into Santiago, consult booking-dotcom or similar, or maybe phone the albergues directly.

If further assistance is required, the hospitalaros are always willing to lend a hand (in a quiet time away from the initial registration/check-in rush).

PS consider a stop over in Samos, an amazing monastery. The albergue attached is unique,

Buen Camino
 

Walkerooni

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
C. Frances SJPdP to Santiago (June-ish 2018)
May be we are being unlucky with going at the same pace as two large supported groups as we are struggling to get accommodation last night in Astorga but their we're two spare top bunks and tonight in Rabanal del Camino
Still haven't got accommodation for tomorrow
But the camino always provides
The easiest solution to that is to walk a short day, and get off-stage from the typical ones described. Suddenly you will have a lot of options.
 
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jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2021, 2022
It will be interesting to see how things begin to "level out". Summer 2020 had next to no Pilgrims. Summer 2021 started out with next to no Pilgrims then we started to returning in increasing numbers as the days/weeks/months passed - yet many Pilgrims were still (too nervous?? or other reasons??) to go so it wasn't full Pilgrim numbers by any means. Then Summer 2022... it was the first Post COVID summer (yes - COVID still exists but I think most know what I mean), AND it is an extended Holy Year. So - people returned in droves - yet many chose to stay home because of fear or people returning in droves. Add to that - not all businesses have reopened. So - some weeks I believe it seemed that there were way more Pilgrims out and other weeks that clearly wasn't the case. Some weeks finding a bed was challenging and other weeks that wasn't the case. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the next 2 years or so as the Camino resets to a new normal. Yes - the Camino needs Pilgrims so that the Pilgrims can continue to support the businesses that support the Camino and Pilgrims.
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
I just posted a thread that 2022 has already broken previous records of pilgrims receiving Compostelas
According to this article, more Compostelas have been issued thus far in 2022 than the previous record set in 2019 when 347,578 pilgrims received Compostelas.
Halfway through Wednesday, September 21st the number was already at 348,230.
 

jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2021, 2022
I just posted a thread that 2022 has already broken previous records of pilgrims receiving Compostelas
That is crazy - but not surprising! I know when I look at the postings of the number of pilgrims getting the Compolstela each day - some days look like "normal numbers" and other days the numbers seem really high. Again - 1st Post COVID summer AND a Holy Year! Anxious to see what the next 2 years look like. Will we level off next year? Or will the numbers keep climbing?
 

leedear1

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances
What a beautiful picture – that is the way I like to experience the Camino(s).

I believe that I know what you mean, but “The Camino needs pilgrims” gives the impression that the Camino is a business that we should support. For me, personally, that would never be an argument for walking a Camino. I would turn it around and say, “Pilgrims need Caminos”. As long as we are drawn to walk the Caminos, they will survive.
Yes, the people/pilgrims need the Camino, but the truth is the Camino will not survive. I am astonished by the emptiness amd vacancy of the pueblos along the Camino Frances. I also find an attitude of discontent from the local people who Do maintain a business. This is my first Camino….. it is challenging in every way. I don’t see how the Pueblos along the Camino de Santiago (Frances) can really survive. Where are the people?
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
Yes, the people/pilgrims need the Camino, but the truth is the Camino will not survive.
You are wrong. The Camino survived for centuries before the revitalization in the 20th century.

The economy of many of those small villages was hit hard by Covid, but I believe that they will rebound.
 
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Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
Yes, the people/pilgrims need the Camino, but the truth is the Camino will not survive. I am astonished by the emptiness amd vacancy of the pueblos along the Camino Frances. I also find an attitude of discontent from the local people who Do maintain a business. This is my first Camino….. it is challenging in every way. I don’t see how the Pueblos along the Camino de Santiago (Frances) can really survive. Where are the people?

This sounds very alarmist to me. The Camino Frances today is far busier and more prosperous than it was just a few decades ago. The changes have been extraordinary. On my first Camino there were stages of 30km or more between accommodation and bars. Villages then might expect to see fewer than a dozen pilgrims pass through per day even in spring and summer. There are now 50+ pilgrims walking for every one I met on that first journey. Places like Foncebadon were genuinely deserted then - a single inhabitant living in a village of crumbling ruins. Contrast that with the vast numbers and the huge range of services on offer these days and with the record numbers arriving in Santiago daily. There are some signs that numbers walking the earlier stages of the Camino Frances are dropping but not in a drastic precipitous way.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
1993 Francés, 2020 Francés, 2022 Francés
Yes, the people/pilgrims need the Camino, but the truth is the Camino will not survive. I am astonished by the emptiness amd vacancy of the pueblos along the Camino Frances. I also find an attitude of discontent from the local people who Do maintain a business. This is my first Camino….. it is challenging in every way. I don’t see how the Pueblos along the Camino de Santiago (Frances) can really survive. Where are the people?
Aren’t there already more pilgrims this year than in the previous record year? And that’s just based on Compostelas issued. There are many more who don’t bother or can’t apply for one.

I’m hearing much talk about pushing the minimum distances out to manage (reduce the numbers) in those last 100 kilometres.

The second week of the Camino is typically sparse with pilgrims spreading themselves as each finds their pace. Additionally there are the usual dropouts through injuries etc.. Then there are those that can only do short sections due to limited vacations. This says nothing of the recent COVID impacts.

The numbers progressively rebuild after the Meseta reaching heights in the last week (100 km).

All in all, I’m thinking the Camino is alive and certainly flourishing. The investment by both the Xuntas and the EU is also paying dividends.

My thoughts, as we struggle to find accommodation in the last 100km (we’re in Portomarin tonight, having booked ahead).

Buen Camino
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2023
The Camino needs pilgrims.
Scare stories of a crowded Camino Frances are not helpful. For a few days at the beginning of May and end of August there is pressure on accommodation for a few days after St Jean but after that it is fine
I agree.
Here’s an interesting article that confirms what some have said —that there are parts of the Francés with declining numbers. So much so that the government of Castilla y León is putting together a “plan de choque” (crisis plan).
As this article attests, there are parts of the Camino Frances where numbers of Pilgrims are well down on previous (normal) years, Meseta, parts where numbers are slightly down, St. Jean, and parts where numbers are well up, Sarria onwards.

We tend to talk about the CF as if it is a single thing but the reality is that different parts attract different people.

Like everything else in life, the Caminos are not constant, they ebb and change as people and events change.

I detect a different "flavour" to many of the people walking at the moment and I could try to analyse what is driving them but I doubt that I can capture this adequately.

I also suspect that some people who might have otherwise walked are holding back. I admit that I am in this category, I am wondering if Europe is going to be around for much longer and I am holding back to see.

It also doesn't help that airfares from my part of the world to Europe are much more expensive than they have traditionally been and so I am hoping that Europe remains an attractive destination and that air fares will reduce.
 

mattythedog

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
View attachment 133366

The Camino needs pilgrims.
Scare stories of a crowded Camino Frances are not helpfull. For a few days at the end of May and end of August there is pressure on accomodation for a few days after St Jean but after that it is fine. I walk every year and have never had to sleep out and only a very few times have I had to walk on further than I intended.
I am currently in Ventosa and there have been no problems with accomodation even though it is what I consider the best time of the year for walking.
Speaking with albergue owners they tell me numbers are still down on pre covid.
The Camino will survive but my concern is for the small businesses that will not.
How I have already missed Eduardo’s caravan before Los Arcos and my naranca zuma in the cafe by the lake after Logrono.
Buen Camino.
I
Agreed numbers were way down based on my experience this year, last week of April through mid May, SJPP to Santiago to Finisterre. Numbers were expected to be very high, this being a holy year and from pent up demand due to past years' restrictions due to plague. However, I saw the same amount of pilgrims this year as the exact same months in 2019 and far less than Sept/Oct 2017 (most crowded month in most crowded year recorded to that date) and Sept 2016. I had absolutely no problem getting albergue beds, and many nights I got a whole dorm room to myself. Only a couple alberges I stayed in were more than half full. Even Sarria, which had dozens of beds at 1300 day I arrived, still had some left by 1700 when I actually booked remotely. Upon arrival at 1800, I passed numerous albergues that still had vacancies. I think the perceptions of bed shortages might be because many albergues do not list all open beds on Booking.com, so even if Booking says no beds are available, there still may be some open. Just my experience after 8 Caminos since 2016. There were a few other pilgrims I met this year who did NOT find an open bed in Sarria the particular day they arrived there.
 
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I agree.

As this article attests, there are parts of the Camino Frances where numbers of Pilgrims are well down on previous (normal) years, Meseta, parts where numbers are slightly down, St. Jean, and parts where numbers are well up, Sarria onwards.

We tend to talk about the CF as if it is a single thing but the reality is that different parts attract different people.

Like everything else in life, the Caminos are not constant, they ebb and change as people and events change.

I detect a different "flavour" to many of the people walking at the moment and I could try to analyse what is driving them but I doubt that I can capture this adequately.

I also suspect that some people who might have otherwise walked are holding back. I admit that I am in this category, I am wondering if Europe is going to be around for much longer and I am holding back to see.

It also doesn't help that airfares from my part of the world to Europe are much more expensive than they have traditionally been and so I am hoping that Europe remains an attractive destination and that air fares will reduce.
You could be waiting a long time, to find out how long Europe will last. I am reading a book, slowly, entitled The Fate of Rome. They had their wars and rumours of war, their plagues and splits and new alliances.
I hope Europe lasts long enough to see me out...😇
 

Ianinam

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2013 / CP 2018
The albergue in Roncesvalles has been totally full during the whole month of September, including this week. The taxidrivers are running off and on in the afternoon. More pilgrims than in the same period in 2019, the last pre-covid year.
 

dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Yes, the people/pilgrims need the Camino, but the truth is the Camino will not survive. I am astonished by the emptiness amd vacancy of the pueblos along the Camino Frances. I also find an attitude of discontent from the local people who Do maintain a business. This is my first Camino….. it is challenging in every way. I don’t see how the Pueblos along the Camino de Santiago (Frances) can really survive. Where are the people?
Numbers have fluctuated enormously over the centuries: "Some Approaches to the Archaeology of Christian Pilgrimage" Author(s): J. Stopford Source: World Archaeology , Jun., 1994, Vol. 26, No. 1, Archaeology of Pilgrimage (Jun., 1994), pp. 57-72 cites numbers of between half a million and two million arriving every year in Santiago in medieaval times. With the Reformation, Counter-Reformation and upheavals and wars of the 16th - 18th centuries numbers declined until by the 19th century there were practically none; leading the chapter of Santiago cathedral to try and revive the practice in 1870 and the more successful activities of Fr Elias and his contemporaries in the 1970's. As for empty villages, consider the example of Foncebadon, described in 1990s accounts by Shirley Maclaine and Nancy Frey as an abandoned wilderness infested by packs of marauding dogs. When I passed through in 2018 there was an albergue, two or three hotels and several thriving restaurants (and not a stray dog in sight). I think the camino will be still here long after I am past and gone. And considering what it has survived in the past, my money is on Europe being around for a while too. Those airfares do hurt though.
 

wisepilgrim

Camino App Maker
Time of past OR future Camino
Many
The albergue in Roncesvalles has been totally full during the whole month of September, including this week. The taxidrivers are running off and on in the afternoon. More pilgrims than in the same period in 2019, the last pre-covid year.
I am waiting to see the numbers published by the Pilgrim office in SJPP but so far this year the numbers of pilgrims starting there are down from 2019. Arriving in Santiago there are many more though, and although the Santiago offices doesn’t publish very nuanced data it is easy enough to deduce that all these extra pilgrims are starting elsewhere… you can guess where.

The economics of the camino are not much different than anywhere else. Business rise to meet the demand, a 20 years long process in its current resurgence. They close or retire when the demand wanes.

I agree with the post above that it is people that need the Camino. Any Camino.
 
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Mad Manx

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
English
I tend to agree with you Ron, that is until you hit Sarría and then it changes materially with accommodation at a scarcity (as we type).

Try to avoid the big towns or “Guide Book” recommended stage towns.

If for what ever reason one is concerned about a place to sleep during this final walk into Santiago, consult booking-dotcom or similar, or maybe phone the albergues directly.

If further assistance is required, the hospitalaros are always willing to lend a hand (in a quiet time away from the initial registration/check-in rush).

PS consider a stop over in Samos, an amazing monastery. The albergue attached is unique,

Buen Camino
Thank you for the tip looking at samos
 
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To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I am astonished by the emptiness amd vacancy of the pueblos along the Camino Frances. [...] Where are the people?
For a broader picture, google España vacia or España vaciada or Empty Spain. Not only villages and small towns along parts of the Camino Frances but all over rural Spain have experienced massive depopulation since the 1950s and 1960s. And for several centuries before that time, these villages and small towns did not see any pilgrim or other tourist traffic that would be worth mentioning or would have made a noticeable economic impact. This changed only in the 1990s and especially during the last 20 years.

The current trend of the popularity of walking holidays, of 'slow travel' and of 'meaningful travel' continues to increase. As long as there is no wide-spread massive economic upheaval, there will be plenty of people who travel to Spain to walk Caminos.
 
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trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese

wisepilgrim

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Time of past OR future Camino
Many
I meant for September, to see whether the reduced numbers continued. 15% is a notable drop for the rest of the year, and when viewed alongside the rise in arrivals it means that the ratio of 100 to 100+ pilgrims is growing.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
I meant for September, to see whether the reduced numbers continued. 15% is a notable drop for the rest of the year, and when viewed alongside the rise in arrivals it means that the ratio of 100 to 100+ pilgrims is growing.
I would be cautious about reading too much into this year's figures. Covid and its consequences may still be having an effect in deterring people from international travel. My impression has been that international pilgrims make up a disproportionately large part of those starting from SJPDP and Roncesvalles while the Spanish are more prominent amongst those walking shorter journeys. So it might not be so surprising to see a substantial dip in numbers on the early CF stages this year. If any decline in numbers continues at the same pace next year then perhaps we can call it a trend. Too soon to tell yet.
 
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WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Time of past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
Maybe there seem to be more beds in albergues because many people who normally would have stayed in albergues are opting for private rooms because of Covid.
My hospitalero friends in Navarra, where I spent fifteen months, have been full many times this summer.
 

Kerrnell

New Member
View attachment 133366

The Camino needs pilgrims.
Scare stories of a crowded Camino Frances are not helpfull. For a few days at the end of May and end of August there is pressure on accomodation for a few days after St Jean but after that it is fine. I walk every year and have never had to sleep out and only a very few times have I had to walk on further than I intended.
I am currently in Ventosa and there have been no problems with accomodation even though it is what I consider the best time of the year for walking.
Speaking with albergue owners they tell me numbers are still down on pre covid.
The Camino will survive but my concern is for the small businesses that will not.
How I have already missed Eduardo’s caravan before Los Arcos and my naranca zuma in the cafe by the lake after Logrono.
Buen Camino.
I
I wonder if there are more guided tours which bring a lot of walkers. These tours do not support the albergues but more 'salubrious' accommodation. People tell me they are 'doing' the camino. They mean they are being facilitated through a nice walk each day. Most do not even realise the significance of a pilgrimage or know there are a multitude of pathways to Santiago.
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
I wonder if there are more guided tours which bring a lot of walkers. These tours do not support the albergues but more 'salubrious' accommodation. People tell me they are 'doing' the camino. They mean they are being facilitated through a nice walk each day. Most do not even realise the significance of a pilgrimage or know there are a multitude of pathways to Santiago.
Fortunately, what other people do on the Camino rarely affects how I walk the Camino. Just so long as no one gets the last chocolate croissant before me! 😄
 

Cynistra

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (2019)
Portugues (2022)
I wonder if there are more guided tours which bring a lot of walkers. These tours do not support the albergues but more 'salubrious' accommodation. People tell me they are 'doing' the camino. They mean they are being facilitated through a nice walk each day. Most do not even realise the significance of a pilgrimage or know there are a multitude of pathways to Santiago.
This rather implies you're somehow "doing it wrong" if you're staying in nicer accommodation. As I understand it historically the hostels exist to facilitate the pilgrimage for those people that cannot afford the nice accommodation. Saying everyone should stay in albergues (or saying albergues should be full) rather misses the point since then there will be people left out in the cold.
I personally also believe that people are called to the camino for a reason. What may not have started out as a spiritual journey may well become one. The Way choses us as much as we choose it.
It's up to every individual to choose the way to do it that fits best within their financial and physical capabilities. If that means staying in a nice hotel or having your baggage transferred then do it if that means the journey becomes possible for you.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
As I understand it historically the hostels exist to facilitate the pilgrimage for those people that cannot afford the nice accommodation.
In the early years of the Camino revival during the 1980s and 1990s there often was no choice but to use the pilgrim refugios. Many of the villages which now have albergues, hostals and bars had no services at all. And luggage transfer services did not exist either. So unless you had privately arranged vehicle backup carrying your own pack and sleeping in refugios were often your only option no matter how deep your pockets were.
 
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Kanga

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Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Yes, my first Camino was in 2001 (and @Bradypus walked it long before me) and in most places the only accommodation even then was in a "refugio" and there were no pack carrying services. So to do the pilgrimage to Santiago I really did have to carry my own pack and usually stay in what we now call albergues.

What was then a necessity has morphed into a view that it is the only "real" or "proper" way to do the Camino.

Personally I still prefer to carry my own pack. Doing so brings freedom in multiple ways. I also use the albergues (but not exclusively) for the comradeship and company they give. It is still the case than on some of the camino routes the only available accommodation will be an albergue.

I know the time will come when I am no longer physically capable of carrying my pack. I would still rather walk than not. I've also accepted, schooled by contracting Covid during one stay at an albergue, that private accommodation is sometimes a better choice than an albergue.

Nothing stays the same.
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
1989
Yes, the people/pilgrims need the Camino, but the truth is the Camino will not survive. I am astonished by the emptiness amd vacancy of the pueblos along the Camino Frances. I also find an attitude of discontent from the local people who Do maintain a business. This is my first Camino….. it is challenging in every way. I don’t see how the Pueblos along the Camino de Santiago (Frances) can really survive. Where are the people?
I think this is somewhat extreme and not necessarily borne out by the history of the Camino.
When I did my first Camino, the number of compostelas given out that year totalled in the neighborhood of 5,000. That's as compared to the 400,000 that have already been given out this year. And the year of 5000 was by no means the low point. Yet clearly the Camino has since survived and even thrived. If the Camino could survive it's experience in the mid-20th century and blossom, I think it will have no problems surviving the only 400,000 pilgrims it carried this year (even if most of them only walked the last 100 km).

On the other hand, I don't completely agree with:
I believe that I know what you mean, but “The Camino needs pilgrims” gives the impression that the Camino is a business that we should support.
Certainly the Camino itself is not a business that we should support, but it is home to many endeavors that, like businesses, need pilgrims to continue. Some of those (favourite albergues, places to stop for refreshment, or otherwise support pilgrims) would certainly be at risk if the number of pilgrims suffered a drastic reduction over a long period of time. We've already seen some beloved albergues go. Eventually, I suspect these will be replaced by others, as traffic grows again, some of which may be as nice. But that doesn't mean that we won't miss old favourites that are gone.
 

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