Saturday, May 31, 2008

May 31 - Get Passionate - Reach Out to Your Local Saints

Many communities don't offer alcohol to residents or visitors. They're "dry." However, as seen in the article below, there is a way that such towns can expand their tourism offerings and still capitalize upon their faith.

Jamaica pushing for its share of faith-based tourism market
Saturday, May 31, 2008
TOURISM Minister Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica is actively working to enhance the country's offering to faith-based tourism travellers, a market which has seen significant growth in recent times.
Bartlett said a faith-based tourism committee has already been established, and will have among its objectives, promoting Jamaica to the target group, showcasing the island as the gospel music capital of the world, as well as encouraging the development of attractions that will meet the demands of this target group.
According to the tourism minister, the committee has identified a number of projects to work on which include the possibilities of establishing a religious theme park, developing a faith-based map of Jamaica and promoting faith-based cruises to Jamaica.
"Last week we had a major meeting with the faith-based tourism team who will be driving that niche in tourism which provides the greatest opportunity for the small and medium-sized tourism entities," Bartlett said as he addressed the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Job creation awards ceremony at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston Wednesday.
Goodyear Jamaica Limited was given the PSOJ award for a company in operation for more than 40 years, while Adam and Eve Spa received the Small Business Award.
Bartlett told the private sector leaders that religious travel and hospitality is today a dynamic US$18-billion global industry, attracting more than 300 million travellers, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).
"The Travel Industry Association of America also reported last November that one in four travellers is currently interested in "spiritual vacations. The appeal spans the ages with approximately one third of each age group 18-34, 35-54, and over 55, expressing interest in taking such a vacation," Bartlett said.
The Jamaican tourism minister said that since 2005 there has been an increase of 38.2 per cent of young urban professionals holding "spiritual trips" in various Caribbean destination, with the average cost for a four-day/three-night faith-based trip being US$2,500.
Though the rise in demand for religious travel may have eluded most of mainstream marketers, Bartlett said it is clearly part of a larger trend toward more interest in religious products of all sorts. "Greeting Card giant Hallmark, for example, reports that the market for Christian products is $8.5 billion in 2006, up from $4.2 billion in 2004," he said.
Bartlett said such travellers will not only come to Jamaica for entertainment and fun but are large groups of volunteers who spend many weeks doing charity work, building schools, refurbishing community centres and administering to the sick.
Jamaica, he said, has been a member of the Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA) for more than 17 years.
This 3,402-member organisation is the premier association in the United States for planners of religious conferences and is responsible for 17,000 meetings annually, totalling 14.7 million participants.
Statistics show that of this number, 15,047 were held outside the US last year, with 11 per cent using resort hotels while the vast majority used community facilities.
Bartlett said the Jamaica Tourist Board has a growing database of religious meeting planners which include some 500 faith-based planners from the US and Canada.
"We work in close liaison with each group coming to Jamaica to make the planning seamless and the visit both productive and enjoyable," he said, adding that they were also now designing special packages to include visits to places of worship in Kingston.He pointed to the recent visit from Pastor Miles McPherson and his group of 300 for the Miles Ahead Programme.
He said their work in Montego Bay was part of "Best Dressed 50Fest", a multi-event outreach and celebration involving 10 days of ministry, six days of festival events, in three areas - Mandeville, Montego Bay, and Kingston.

Your local churches may be putting on events that you don't know about - that do bring in considerable numbers of visitors to the area. Open the door for discussion with the pastors to see how you can help one another. Perhaps the church can give chorale workshops. A Lutheran church in Hickory, North Carolina provides massage therapy workshops on Valentine's Day. It provides a way for couples to improve their communication skills. A church in Oakboro, North Carolina offers lessons to children and adults wanting to learn to play musical instruments typically used in bluegrass and gospel music. Churches don't have to just focus upon Bible studies or the Sunday morning sermon.

Marketing Tip - Tap into your local religious community to find ways to expand your festivals, events and tourism offerings.

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