Newly Launched Faith Travel Association Sets Sail

A new travel industry group will help serve professionals in the growing religious tourism market, where trips often involve dozens of travelers on pilgrimages or volunteer missions.

When you look at the market on a global level, and even in North America, you see it’s really an industry in and of itself; a giant market.

Travel professionals focused on faith-based tourism and trips have a new professional resource with the launch of the Faith Travel Association [PDF] last week.

Religious tourism is a growing market within the industry, according to the newly launched FTA, which said it will provide networking and education opportunities for travel professionals and organizations.

“Faith-based travel is an expansive market with both domestic and international appeal,” said Karla DiNardo, the association’s interim executive director. “Faith-based travel includes diverse experiences such as pilgrimages, events, cruises, adventures, mission/volunteer trips, and travel to destinations and attractions that hold special significance to people of various faiths.”

According to the UN World Tourism Organization [PDF], about 50 percent of international tourists reported they were traveling for recreation and leisure purposes in 2012, while 27 percent reported travel for “other” reasons, including religious purposes or pilgrimages.

More than 300 million people a year take faith-based trips, boosting the tourism economy by $18 billion, said Kevin Wright, a consultant to FTA and director of growth markets for the National Tour Association (NTA), in an interview with Travel Market Report.

“When you look at the market on a global level, and even in North America, you see it’s really an industry in and of itself; a giant market,” said Wright, who added that 75 percent of faith-based trips are made up of groups of 30 or 40 people—a profitable opportunity for travel agents.

The new association, whose current membership includes tour operators and destinations such as Switzerland Tourism and Jordan Tourism Board North America, will make its official debut this February at Travel Exchange, an annual convention cohosted by NTA and the United Motorcoach Association.

FTA is a product of NTA Services, Inc., a subsidiary of NTA, and NTA’s Faith-Based Tourism Advisory Council, which was launched in 2011 to help develop opportunities for NTA members within the faith-based market.

Worshipers pray at the Western Wall, an important Jewish religious site in Jerusalem's Old City and a popular tourism destination. (flik47/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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