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Members on Markets: Faith-based Tourism | What Do You Love?

February 28, 2012

Volume 32, Issue 9

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Interested in advertising in Tuesday? E-mail Karla DiNardo.

TODAY’S ARTICLES
Members on Markets: Faith-based Tourism
      Tour Operator Breaks down Walls, Lifts up Faith Experience
      Finding Faith in Nebraska—and in Your Destination 
      7 Reasons Why Faith-based Travelers Travel
      Long-time FBT Operator Sees Opportunities Ahead
What Do You Love?
Sponsor in D.C. and Reach Influential Travel Industry Leaders
Join the Webinar on Two Top Inbound-U.S. Markets
Quality of Life Conference Focuses on Tourism Industry
National Parks Featured in NTA’s Magazine
Here’s How Tourism Cares Helps Florida
Industry News and Updates


Members on Markets: Faith-based Tourism  

Each end-of the-month issue of Tuesday features "Members on Markets"—current insights and ideas from NTA members on a specific market or travel type. Today’s topic: faith-based tourism.

Reasons to read:

  • To better understand the scope of faith-based tourism
  • To get tips for entering this growing market
  • To find how faith-based tourism extends to not-so-obvious destinations
  • To learn about specific FBT hot spots for 2012 and 2013
  • To understand what motivates faith-based travelers 

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Tour Operator Breaks down Walls, Lifts up Faith Experience 

Paul Larsen, president of Ed-Ventures in Rochester, Minnesota, has a solid PaulLarsenunderstanding of faith-based travel. And while Larsen’s full definition runs "about two pages long," he can boil it down to two sentences: "Faith-based travel used to be defined as a pilgrimage or a mission trip. Today it encompasses not only the knowledge, but also the experience of faith with others."

Larsen, who chairs the NTA Faith Tourism Advisory Council, operates tours that focus on faith, often combined with personal interests. "I’m working with groups whose tours will include Biblical sites, but the attraction for them is special agricultural visits in Jordan, Egypt and Israel," Larsen said. "Another tour includes medical practices in Israel."

To take advantage of market opportunities, Larsen stresses the importance of listening to what the traveler is really asking for. "When you understand what is important to the traveler, you can meet their needs when designing the tour or marketing the destination," he said. "Even within Protestantism, for example, there are many different points of emphasis."

Participants in the Faith-based Tourism Leaders Forum last December at NTA’s Convention explored many of those points, and Larsen was impressed both with the session’s participants and the program’s future.

"With the high level of talent and experience involved, there is no question that NTA can help its membership become educated, get connected and lead the way in the marketplace," he said. "That will help create more business opportunities for its membership. There might be more NTA members in this marketplace than we originally realized."

Larsen sees FBT as a booming market—and not just for tour operators. "I would tell DMOs that faith-based travel can come to their backyard no matter where they are, especially if you can provide opportunities for the traveler that encompass knowledge and the opportunity to experience or exercise faith with others."

Those exercises in faith can include everything from jumping out of a plane or helping inner city children to travelling with like-minded people—and the opposite: "Engaging in conversation with someone who thinks differently than you do can be an experience of faith."

It’s those faith-stretching opportunities that Larsen looks for, especially in the Middle East, where televised news plays up the conflict between people of different faith.

"But travel professionals tend to see more than the differences and they break down walls," he said. "When you travel to those lands you discover that Muslims, Jews and Christians live a peaceful co-existence in many parts of the Middle East. And you build a relationship with them."

Larsen said that a personal experience with people of other religions can strengthen the traveler’s own faith. "Part of my job in offering faith-based travel is to bring down some of the walls and provide the traveler opportunities to grow and to learn—while the world becomes a little smaller," he said. "That is when this job becomes truly rewarding." 

For more information (and photos), see Larsen’s article in Courier from last fall.

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Finding Faith in Nebraska—and in Your Destination 

While the Holy Land might be the holy grail of faith-based tourism destinations, your destination doesn’t have to have "Holy" as its first name to be relevant in the FBTPaula Bohaty market. Just ask Paula Bohaty, group travel manager for Nebraska Travel & Tourism.

"Faith-based tourism is a growing niche market in Nebraska, and our state hosts many faith-based organizations for conferences," said Bohaty, adding that Nebraska’s magnificent churches, with architectural styles influenced by early immigrants, also attract tourists. "Travelers can tour the best in Danish, Swedish, German-Russian, Greek and Italian style churches crafted from brick, stone, wood—and pioneer heart and soul."

Nebraska’s FBT attractions for groups include churches and worship sites, along with a media center and a manufacturer:

In looking for marketable FBT attractions within your destination, Bohaty suggests you keep an open mind. "The faith-based traveler or group seeks an experience that enriches them in spirit, and we can never assume to know what touches another’s spirit," she said. "We must offer experiences, which may be found in a church tour or a nature-based attraction: bird viewing, mountain climbing or a visit to a holy site."

Based on her success marketing her mid-American state to faith-based travelers, Bohaty offers this advice for other destinations: work with what you’ve got. "Take inventory of your attractions and experiences, and you’ll find that many faith-based groups are hungry to explore what you have had to offer all along."

Looking beyond Nebraska, Bohaty broadened her perspective after gathering with other professionals at the Faith-based Tourism Leaders Forum in December during NTA’s Convention.

"We are all hard at work out there developing this market when we should really be working together more to meet our travelers’ goals and develop a more comprehensive product," she said. "So let’s explore how NTA can help us to best reach the end buyer."

NTA has created a network of members interested in the faith-based market. If you’re interested in joining, contact Kevin Wright, director of faith-based tourism for NTA.

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7 Reasons Why Faith-based Travelers Travel  

In the March issue of Courier, Cindi Brodhecker discusses what motivates people to engage in faith-based travel and how her company, Faith Travel Development & Consulting and The Priscilla Woman’s Tours in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, works to capture the market. Brodhecker says the key is trust: Travelers need a group leader they trust, and group leaders rely on a trusted tour operator.

In the Courier article, Brodhecker identified seven types of motivation for faith-based travelers, and operators can package tours that meet one or more of them. Faith-based travelers seek to:

  1. Enrich their faith
  2. Refresh their souls and bodies
  3. Experience fellowship with others
  4. Participate in mission and volunteer work
  5. Raise funds
  6. Have fun
  7. Connect with their community

To see the article, "Talking Promotion, Product and Pricing in Faith-based Tourism," click here.

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Long-time FBT Operator Sees Opportunities Ahead 

Edita Krunic has been in the faith-based business since before it was "faith-based."

"I started planning religious travel programs 25 years ago, when the lines of the travel distribution system were clearly defined," said Krunic, president of Select International Tours in Flemington, New Jersey. "The market has opened up due to new technologies and eagerness for business, and many traditional tour companies, which never sold religious travel, have entered the market."

Select International Tours specializes in pilgrimage or Christian-based travel, where participants are interested in praying and fellowship, exploring Biblical or church Edita Krunichistory, and strengthening their faith. "I know of other companies that offer varieties of faith-based trips which may mean a day trip or a long weekend to a local attraction, a mission trip or a cruise," said Krunic, a member of the NTA Faith Tourism Advisory Council. "If it is church-sponsored, involves fellowship, or the participants share a common religion, it can be classified as faith-based."

Though the industry and terminology in this industry has changed over the years, FBT isn’t so much about roles or terminology, Krunic said; it’s about opportunity. "Faith-based tourism can encompass so many different group trips, so there is an opportunity for everyone to get involved, learn, create and offer something new and exciting to the market," she said. 

Krunic sees big opportunities for 2012 and beyond. Along with her company’s itineraries focused on U.S. shrines and a collaboration with Diana Von Glenn of the Faithful Traveler TV show, Krunic identified several international hot spots for FBT:

  • Southern Europe, marking 1,700 years since the Edict of Milan was signed in 313
  • Ireland, from the Notre Dame-Army football game to the Eucharistic Congress
  • The Vatican, Rome, celebrating the "Year of Faith," October 2012 to November 2013
  • Germany, celebrating Martin Luther and Reformation with themed events through 2017
  • The Holy Lands—Israel and Jordan—which continue to attract groups
  • Brazil, where Catholic youth will celebrate World Youth Day in July 2013

Select International is event-oriented and focused on personalized service and customization. "Our clients are some of the top religious leaders in the country, and they expect a very supportive partnership," Krunic said. "We believe we must innovate in ways that provide more choice and better service."

Krunic believes NTA members can be proactive and jump into FBT-in a selective way. "I believe in specialization. You can’t be good and be all things to all people," she said. "Take the time to discover your strength and then be the best you can be. We must become experts at what we do." 

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What Do You Love? 

What are you loving this month? We posed that open-ended question to a few NTA members, and their responses were just as broad as the question! Check out the Do Big Things blog to see what members such as Jay Smith, Paul Nakamoto and Brad Lattin had to say.

Feel free to share your current favorites in the blog comments section, or e-mail them to Chris Reed to be featured in a future blog post!

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Sponsor in D.C. and Reach Influential Travel Industry Leaders 

The 2012 Grassroots Congressional Travel Summit, a joint event hosted by NTA, Southeast Tourism Society and Destination Marketing Association International, will convene in Washington, D.C., May 8–10, 2012. With an estimated attendance of 150 to 200 travel industry professionals and leaders, your sponsorship is not only appreciated, but it’s a great way to support this distinguished event and showcase your organization.

For more information on sponsoring, click here or contact Karla DiNardo by e-mail or phone (859.264.6556).

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Join the Webinar on Two Top Inbound-U.S. Markets 

What are German and French visitors looking for when considering travel to the United States? What can you expect when working with German and French tourGermanyMapFlag FranceMapFlagoperators? Find the answers—along with marketing ideas and insight on travel distribution in Germany and France—in a Webinar set for March 20 at 9 a.m. ET.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries and the U.S. Commercial Service Travel & Tourism Team will present the online session about Germany and France, two of America’s largest tourism markets. The fee for the Webinar is $50.

Click here to register for this event or get more details on speakers and format. And to gain a solid understanding of recent trends in these two markets, see this article in Courier.

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Quality of Life Conference Focuses on Tourism Industry 

NTA has partnered with GRL Development for a Tourism and Hospitality conference on Quality of Life and Regional Development, to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, on April 19.

The conference will explore issues concerned with quality of life and work as well as with the direct impact of these issues on regional growth through the development of travel and tourism industries. The main focus will be on quality of life of tourist-host communities; the effect of well-being on the tourism industry; and quality of service and work conditions in tourism businesses. A separate session will be devoted to new touristic services and new trends in tourism, travel and hospitality industries.

The conference targets business people and service providers in the tourism and hospitality sector and professionals working in fields concerned with quality of life and socio-economic development. There is a nominal registration fee for the not-for-profit educational conference. The meeting is organized by: GRL (Global, Regional, Local) Development, Management Institute of Quality-of-Life Studies (Virginia Tech), Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management (Virginia Tech) and Social Integration and Community Development Association.

NTA and the organizers invite NTA members and affiliates to attend this interesting conference; sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information, visit the conference Web site.

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National Parks Featured in NTA’s Magazine 

The May issue of Courier magazine is all about the parks—National Parks, that is. National Parks will be featured in a special section of this issue, and if you’re a park, or a destination or tour supplier specializing in this line of tourism, this is the perfect opportunity to promote your product to NTA’s tour operators through advertising! E-mail NTA Services Inc. or call 859.264.6559 today to reserve your space.

Another feature of interest in this issue is adventure tourism, and the May Courier will also include travel guides on Italy, the Smoky Mountains (Asheville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge), Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Chicago and Montréal.

Interested in learning more about all of NTA Services’ publications? Click here or check out the 2012 Media Kit to learn more.

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Here’s How Tourism Cares Helps Florida 

In the last six years, Tourism Cares has helped preserve the travel experience in the state of Florida in three ways: awarding grants to nonprofits; providing scholarships to students studying travel, tourism and hospitality; and by organizing volunteer projects at sites in need of care.

In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Tourism Cares awarded a Gulf Coast Restoration Special Grant to the West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc. for the Museum of Commerce in Pensacola, Florida. The Museum of Commerce is a major attraction and a valuable asset to the downtown historic district. The building, located two blocks from Pensacola Bay, sustained hurricane-force winds from Katrina. Grant funding assisted with much-needed roof repairs.

Made possible by professionals in the Florida tourism industry, Tourism Cares awards the NTA Florida Scholarship to a deserving student from Florida each year to help the recipient continue studies in travel, tourism or hospitality. That student, along with all other academic scholarship winners, is invited each year to the NTA annual conven10.11.11Pensecola TC logotion to participate in the Experience the Industry mentoring program.

And this spring, on March 29 and 30, Tourism Cares is inviting you to volunteer your time and give back to Pensacola as we restore the Pensacola Lighthouse and conserve the shorelines at Bayou Texar. Join us by registering today. Your participation will help make a difference! 

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Industry News and Updates

  • Results are in for international outbound travel from the United States during 2011. The Office of Travel & Tourism Industries reports that in the second half of 2011, U.S. travel to overseas markets was up 3 percent from the second half of 2010, and U.S. travel to North America was down 3 percent.
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce has released "The Amazing Stats-At-A-Glance Country OUTBOUND Profile System," a one-stop shop of outbound travel data and trends for six key U.S. markets: Canada, Mexico, U.K., Germany, Japan and China.
  • Full-body scanners at airports are safe, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Securities. To exceed annual dosage limits of radiation from the scanners, a passenger would have to be screened 47 times a day for a year.
  • Fast Company magazine targets "progressive business leaders" with a focus on innovations in technology, ethical economics, leadership, and design. The March issue includes a focus on Brand USA and its solutions to the decade-long slump in U.S.-inbound travel.

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