The World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) has designated 2009 as The Year of Faith Tourism. Serving as a special time set aside for the promotion of and participation in travel by people of faith, the purpose and goal of the year-long celebrations and activities is three-fold: (1) Highlight the New Era of Faith Tourism. (2) Increase the awareness of the personal and communal benefits of Faith Tourism. (3) Contribute to the overall growth and health of the global economy, travel industry, and individual travel providers.
All sectors of society are encouraged to become actively involved in The Year of Faith Tourism including the media, governments, travel providers/suppliers, faith communities, and individuals. The official host of The Year of Faith Tourism is the World Religious Travel Association, the leading organization dedicated to the $18 billion faith-based travel, tourism, and hospitality industry.
“Never before has a time been so ripe for the promotion of and participation in Faith Tourism. Although religious travel is the historic forerunner of today’s mass tourism, only now is Faith Tourism beginning to make its presence and economic contributions known throughout society and the travel industry in a big way,” said Kevin J. Wright, WRTA president and author of The Christian Travel Planner. “Faith Tourism is a market that is currently experiencing extraordinary growth on multiple fronts and is poised to continue this trend into 2009 and beyond.”
In recent years, Faith Tourism has evolved from a niche market driven primarily by budget pilgrimages and retirees into a vast and dynamic industry comprised of all ages seeking a diverse range of quality travel experiences. Faith Tourism today comprises its own “niche” segments including pilgrimages, missions, volunteer vacations, events, conferences, cruises, leisure vacations, adventure trips, retreats, camps, monastic guest-stays, attractions, and many other forms of travel. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are 3.3 billion Christian domestic tourists each year, 250 million Christian foreign tourists, and 150 million Christian pilgrims who are “on the move.”
As 2009 is shaping up to be year of uncertainty especially within the travel industry, there has never been a more opportune or needed time for placing Faith Tourism “front and center” of society and the global travel industry. With its designation and spotlight in 2009, Faith Tourism is set to serve as an integral economic pillar and stimulus of the global and local travel economy during this special year of celebrations and activities.
The World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) has designated the following fifteen ways in which every person and sector of society and the travel industry can become involved in the promotion of and/or active participation in Faith Tourism:
1. Individuals embark on travels with their faith community and/or to any faith-related destination.
2. Individuals become group travel planners for their faith communities.
3. Faith communities launch a formal travel program (or travel ministry).
4. Faith communities host one or more group trips.
5. Religious leaders preach on travel as ministry.
6. Tourist boards and CVB’s dedicate resources towards attracting, growing, and measuring Faith Tourism.
7. Travel and hospitality providers integrate the faith market and consumer into their overall product, sales, and marketing plans/efforts.
8. The travel industry further develops and enriches Faith Tourism educational resources and business materials.
9. Tour director schools integrate faith tourism curriculum.
10. Media feature and report on stories about Faith Tourism.
11. Film and other related companies produce faith travel programs, documentaries, and series.
12. Publishers launch or expand faith travel publications including guidebooks, magazines, and other periodicals.
13. Religious bookstores and gift-stores implement Travel sections.
14. Colleges and universities undertake the study of Faith Tourism and/or offer Faith Tourism classes.
15. Religious governing bodies promote and advance the theology of Faith Tourism.
As part of its kick-off for The Year of Faith Tourism, the World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) is hosting this fall the World Religious Travel Expo & Educational Conference in Orlando (Florida) from October 29 – November 1, 2008. Serving as the travel industry’s first-ever global tradeshow and convention dedicated to the faith tourism and hospitality industry, the event will serve as a gathering of the “Who’s Who” in this robust marketplace. Two of the keynote speakers include the Honorable Neko C. Grant, Bahamas Minister of Tourism, and Maurice Zarmati, President & CEO of Costa Cruise Lines. The selected keynote speakers reflect the growth and diversity of today’s faith tourism industry. More than 400 participants are expected at this historic and unprecedented show.
To learn more about The Year of Faith Tourism, visit the official website at http://www.faithtourism2009.com. For more information about the World Religious Travel Association or the World Religious Travel Expo, visit the websites http://www.religioustravelassociation.com and http://www.religioustravelexpo.com or call 1-800-657-1288.