NTA, Kevin Wright Partner to Launch Faith-Based Tourism Initiative
NTA, formerly known as the National Tour Association, is launching a new initiative to expand its members’ opportunities for business development within the $18 billion faith-based tourism and hospitality market. NTA formed an advisory council and hired religious travel expert Kevin Wright, former head of the World Religious Travel Association, to help pilot the initiative. The initiative will also include providing educational seminars, roundtable discussions, volunteer opportunities and business-to-business appointments at the NTA convention.
Lisa Simon, NTA president, said faith-based travel is a centuries-old tradition and still going strong. “Among our 700 tour operator members, 40 percent report some level of involvement in faith-based tourism,” Simon said. “Because this market is important to so many members, we decided to tap the expertise of the leading authority in faith-based tourism, Kevin Wright.”
Wright began working as a consultant to NTA earlier this year after the WRTA folded. Simon noted that religious travel packages are expanding to cater to a broader range of interests. “Many people think of religious travel as a trip to the Holy Land, but it involves many aspects of the tourism industry right here in North America,” she said. In the United States alone, there are some 335,000 religious congregations, and 80 percent of Americans identify themselves with a particular faith, according to the American Religious Identification Survey. Likewise, 76 percent of the global population shares at least a minimal level of adherence to a religion or form of spirituality.
NTA has formed a Faith-Based Tourism Advisory Council to develop strategies that will be meaningful to the market and expand business opportunities for NTA members. The council is composed of Chairman Paul Larsen, president, Ed-Ventures, Inc.; Torre Ossmo, vice president and general manager, Faithful Holidays; Malia Asfour, director, Jordan Tourism Board North America; Paula Bohaty, group travel manager, Nebraska Travel & Tourism; Linville J. Johnson, deputy director, religious market, The Bahamas Tourist Office; Mirko Capodanno, manager, central U.S. and Canada, Switzerland Tourism; Tim Moulder, director of sales, Sweet Magnolia Tours; Roger McCurry, former pastor and current group travel leader; and NTA board liaison Jim Reddekopp Jr., NTA vice chairman. One of the council’s first action items will be to incorporate faith-based organizations and destinations into the association’s 2011 convention in Las Vegas, Dec. 5 to 9. Now in its 60th year, NTA is a leading association for professionals serving travelers to, from and within North America. For more information, visit www.ntaonline.com.