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Groups Today March April 2014 : Page 10

NICHE MARKET Reigin Sells Photo © Dafna Tal / Making a case for faith-based tours. By Mark Yontz Photo © Noam Chen / p eople are always looking for new things to see and do, which is why the travel industry continues to adapt and evolve in an effort could be huge when you consider the number of people (Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Protestants, Mormons, Muslims, and others) who are potential faith-based tour customers. “Religious travel is considered one of the oldest forms of tourism, dating back to the Egyptian Empire. Today, religious travel is estimated at 300 million travelers per year, which makes it a colossal-size industry and marketplace in and of itself,” said Kevin Wright, director of growth markets for National Tour Association (NTA) and an industry expert on faith-based travel. “Destinations such as the Middle East, Europe, and Asia are among the biggest benefactors of religious travel, as they’re home to some of humanity’s oldest and most sacred religious traditions and sites,” explained Wright. “But as people of faith are embarking on a greater variety of group travel experiences than ever before, virtually any destination can now serve, and benefit from, the faith-based travel market.” Though faith-based travel garners less attention than other group markets, Wright indicated it has grown and remained stable, despite the many uncertainties the travel industry has faced during the last ten-plus years—thanks in part to security and economic-related issues, both domestically and abroad. “The stability of the faith-based travel marketplace is one of the reasons many organizations have begun developing and selling travel products and services to the religious consumer,” said Wright, noting faith-based travelers have demonstrated tendencies that make them stand out from others. “Faith-based travelers are known to be more resilient than other travelers and less likely to cancel their trips based on economic issues, global affairs, or the like,” Wright continued. “And the fact that people of faith travel primarily in groups—often large ones—is another drawing factor for tour operators and destinations who have entered the religious market.” Ed-Ventures, Inc., a family-run business in Rochester, Minnesota, is an example of a tour operator that has embraced the value of religious travel. Besides offering customized group and student tours, it also offers faith-based tours in a wide variety of to offer new “travel experiences” for a wide variety of group travelers. Today’s travel marketplace really offers something for just about everyone. All you need to do is look, as there’s likely a tour operator offering something that matches your particular area(s) of interest. For example, group packages revolving around sports, history, architecture, theater, cities, safaris, and more exist. In recent years, a lot of attention has also been given to growing travel segments, such as eco-tourism. But religious travel—despite being a multibillion-dollar industry—doesn’t receive as much attention as other markets. No matter your personal views, religion remains relevant and important to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, many of whom industry studies have shown as being interest in adding faith-oriented attractions, experiences, or both to their future travel plans. The marketplace for this type of travel 10 Groups Today | march/april 2014

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