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Groups Today May/June2013 : Page 48

FIVE MINUTES Five Minutes With Kevin J. Wright when Kevin J. wright was ten, he wrote to tourism offices across the country asking for information about their destinations. after he graduated from college, Kevin backpacked through europe and began writing the first of several travel guidebooks. in 2004, he created the religious travel program at globus and in 2007, launched the world religious travel association. in 2011, Kevin joined nta as director of growth markets, where he provides corporate entrepreneurial i development of member markets such as faith-based, family, and adventure travel, among others. s faith-based travel an emerging niche market? According to a recent religious Medjugorje (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Czestochowa (Poland). The Reformation sites in Germany, Switzerland, and England comprise some of the most prominent destinations and places to visit for Protestant Christians. And “following in the footsteps of Martin Luther” still counts among the most coveted travel itineraries. In North America, the most popular faith-based travel destinations include the National Shrines of Quebec (Canada), California Missions (U.S.A.), and Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine (Mexico). In addition, North America is home to many famous cathedrals and temples belonging to various faiths and religions. Temple Square in Salt Lake City attracts large numbers of Mormons and visitors alike. The biggest faith-based attraction in America is Sight & Sound Theatres (Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Branson, Missouri), a Christian Broadway-type experience attracting nearly one million visitors annually. While on a faith-based trip, in what other activities do travelers typically engage? Today’s faith-based travelers want to taste the local cuisine, experience the local culture, view historical sites, meet with the natives, and even engage in adventurous activities. A trip to the Holy Land would What could tourism professionals do to attract travelers to this niche market? The best advice for travel professionals: Engage the faith-based travel marketplace; get involved in their world. Here are my top seven recommendations. • Create itineraries and experiences that appeal to the faith-based market. • Dedicate a section of your website to faith-based travel and provide related content—faith-based travel videos, blogs, webinars, et cetera. • Obtain and promote faith-based consumer and trade testimonials about your organization. • Distribute press releases among faith-based media. • Execute personal sales calls, and direct mail and e-marketing campaigns to faith-based buyers. • Affiliate with organizations and associations involved with faith-based travel. • Attend faith-based tradeshows, whether consumer or trade. not be complete for many without floating in the Dead Sea waters, eating a falafel, bargaining in street markets, or interacting with Bedouins. All of these constitute a faith-based trip and itinerary in the modern world. travel study by TravelStyles (commissioned by Globus), the faith-based travel market has grown nearly five percent since 2007, a remarkable feat in a challenging economy. More than ever before, people are choosing travel experiences that reflect their lifestyles and interests. One of the primary draws for people to embark on religious-affiliated trips is the desire to experience their faith from every dimension of the human person: emotional, social, spiritual, and physical. What are some of the most popular destinations for faith-based travelers? For North American travelers, the two most popular regions for faith-based travel include the Middle East and Europe. Jerusalem is home to the t hree largest monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Biblical lands of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece remain among the most common destinations chosen by faith-based travelers. In Europe, Catholics are drawn to Italy and the Vatican, as well as to famous Marian shrines such as those in Lourdes and Paris (France), Fatima (Portugal), 48 GROUPS TODAY | may/June 2013

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