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Friday, March 29, 2013

150,000 Pilgrims and Travelers Expected in Holy Land this Weekend

Article link: http://tinyurl.com/Easter2013-Tourism

Excerpt from above story:
Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it expects some 150,000 visitors in Israel during Easter week and the Jewish festival of Passover, which coincide this year.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

China Travel Market Leaders Forum

Change Management, China Market at NTA’s Contact

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 28, 2013)—When NTA tour operators attend Contact on Hawai`i, the Big Island, August 15-17, they will look past the warm waters to get the cold facts.

“For tour operators to thrive in an industry that’s constantly changing, they need to stay on top of market trends and technology, and that’s what the Contact education focuses on,” said Lisa Simon, NTA president. “We’ll have topics ranging from change management and e-marketing to tapping the Millennial and Chinese markets.”

Exclusive to operators, Contact provides NTA members with operator-to-operator networking and education tailored specifically for them.  Banking on the success of last year’s China Market Forum, NTA will renew the series in Hawai`i and provide three sessions, featuring government officials and tour operators from both China and the United States.

The rest of this year’s education lineup is themed “Waves of Change: Global Trends that Will Disrupt Your Business.” On Aug. 16 and 17 tour operators will learn about current, global trends affecting the travel industry—plus one seminar, “Managing with Aloha,” that outlines business philosophy in tune with the site of the retreat. Other sessions include:

·         Leadership and Change Management

·         The Great NTA Tech Tool and Social Media Swap

·         How-to Tactics for Tackling the Millennial Generation

·         Owners Network Top-shelf Discussion

·         Riding the Waves of Change: Big Ideas to Lead You to Success


Along with attending education and networking offerings, Contact attendees are also able to participate in familiarization trips and sightseeing excursions in and around the Big Island.


Family Travel Interview with Expert Nancy Schretter

Nancy Schretter with the Family Travel Network talks about how the growing family travel market will influence group travel.

Click here to watch Nancy Schretter Interview

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thousands Observe Easter and Passover in Jerusalem (by Ruth Hill)

Article link: http://www.faithtravelfocus.com/easter-and-passover-in-jerusalem/\

Opening excerpt to above story:

Jewish Passover and Christian Holy Week – ending on Easter – are in motion this week in Jerusalem, and the Israel Ministry of Tourism has said it expects a quarter million visitors for the timeless iconic events observed in the Old City.

South American Conference of Tourism Formed (e-Travel Blackbaord)

To read the full article, visit http://www.etravelblackboard.us/article/103567

The South American Conference of Tourism has been established to promote discussion and for the purposes of networking and workshopping tourism concepts.

Tourism representatives from the member countries of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) created the conference; which will host ministers, tourist authorities and delegates annually, the Independent European Daily Express reported.

During its first meeting in Quito, Ecuador the conference’s topics of discussion included sustainable tourism, funding mechanisms, the creation of a regional network and South American routes, mapping and statistical systems, air connectivity and more.

These discussions were centred round the abilities of governance, development, management of demand and supply, connectivity and communication.

The next meeting of the South American Conference of Tourism will be held in Cartagena, Colombia.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Obama plays tourist in Petra at end of Middle East trip (Reuters)

Just one month ago I stood in front of the Treasury in Petra, Jordan (our video: Travel in Jordan). One month later, President Obama is standing in front of the Treasury in Petra, Jordan. Here is today's story from Reuters featuring the latter:

Article link to Reuters:

Here's the opening excerpt to above story:
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama marveled at the sights of Jordan's ancient city of Petra on Saturday as he wrapped up a four-day Middle East tour by setting aside weighty diplomatic matters and playing tourist for a day.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Highlights and Memories of NTA's Holy Land Product Development Trip (Article in Courier)

Here's a link to my article in Courier magazine featuring highlights and memories from our recent trip to the Holy Land hosted by the Israel Ministry of Tourism and Jordan Tourism Board.

This article features on the Israel portion of our trip (my Jordan article to come out next). Our Holy Land trip consisted of 11 tour operator professionals.

Article link: Courier's Holy Land Trip - Highlights and Memories
or click here http://onlinedigitalpublishing.com/publication/?i=151792&p=68

You can also view a 3-minute video featuring the Holy Land trip from the above article (just click on video link).

Empowering Women through Adventure Travel Bolsters Local Economies (Adventure Travel Trade Association)

To view the full story click here:
ATTA Member Companies Drive both Successful Businesses and Social Progress through Female-Friendly Workplaces.

Here's opening excerpt from the article:

Friday, March 8th 2013 was International Women’s Day, and since we believe that tourism is one of the most important industries for creating social and economic change we wanted to highlight some members who have undertaken efforts to creatively work towards improving access, resources and empowerment for women at a grassroots level through their tourism businesses. We especially want to acknowledge their commitment and successes in building profitable businesses while creatively empowering women via solutions that are flexible to their individual environments. These stories may be inspirational to us all to push ourselves to think what more we can do in our corners of the industry and the globe – and how these shifts might be the key to even greater success.

Link to Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA): www.adventuretravelnews.com

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Travel and Tourism Spending Increased in 2012 (by Newswire;Travel Agent Central))

Article link: http://www.travelagentcentral.com/trends-research/travel-and-tourism-spending-increased-2012-39638

Here's excerpt from the story:
For the year, real spending on travel and tourism increased 2.7 percent in 2012 after increasing 3.2 percent in 2011. By comparison, real GDP increased 2.2 percent in 2012 after increasing 1.8 percent in 2011.

The leading contributors to the increase in the fourth quarter were “traveler accommodations” and “food services and drinking places,” which increased 9.4 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively.

Tanzania tourism: Faith-based Travel Perspective of Nyerere’s Canonisation (by Sirili Akko)

Below is a fascinating and excellent article about developing faith-based tourism in Tanzania. The author, Sirili Akko, lays out an excellent case for doing so.

Article link:

Article by: Sirili Akko

Despite the very high prospects in turning Tanzania into a gas driven economy in the near future, the fact that the service sector has far higher economic multiplier effect than sectors with consumption of non-renewable resources like gas and minerals should not be taken for granted.

Again, this is an important area, particularly developing new tourism products, as tourism is currently the booming sector globally next to none.

In Tanzania, for quite some time, the tourism sector has been mainly nature-based and as of recent Tanzania Tourist Board has been striving to unleash the big potential in cultural tourism hidden in endless cultural richness within the diversity of Tanzanian tribes and communities.

In this line another part which can be championed is equally faith-based tourism as the country is not short of shrines and values which are worth global attention without need of any major development as tourism products.

Apart from those, the news of involvement of Father of the Nation in faith particularly the process of his canonisation is another mileage in tourism. His charismatic leadership and outstanding contribution towards the liberation of Africa and selfless personal life are the important traits likely to attract the world to visit Tanzania and particularly Mara Region.

Despite the ongoing healthy debate on whether Mwalimu qualifies for sainthood or not, from tourism point of view my opinion is that the canonisation is long time overdue. I am not speaking on religious part in this context. I am not religious expert. Rather, I write from tourism economy point of view.

Like any other tourism line, faith tourism can have similar economic impacts in the other forms of tourism such as job creation, population growth and infrastructure development. Globally, the United Nations Tourism Organisation estimates that about 330 million religious tourists visit various religious sites for tourism reasons annually. In any standard, this is too significant a tourism niche to be overlooked.

Saudi Arabia, Israel and India are globally famous for faith-based tourism, in East Africa our neighbours Uganda have already tested the fruits of this genre and they are exploiting it aptly. The case, for example, of Martyrs Day in Uganda which is celebrated on every June 3 of the year owing to the contribution to the economy, the state has made the day public holiday to give a chance to millions of people both from within and outside Uganda to attend.

The deliberate efforts by President Yoweri Museveni to move hand in hand in complimenting the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Church in the process of canonising Mwalimu Nyerere shows, not only how the Ugandan leader holds independent Tanzania’s first head of state in high esteem, but also how he sees the bigger picture of its tremendous economic impact in connection to Uganda’s martyrs that attracts thousands of pilgrims.

Despite the fact that Mwalimu’s graveyard is already commanding an influx of people to Butiama, the truth is that his canonisation will not only be the biggest catalyst for infrastructural development but it is a latent potential drive for economic growth in the whole Great Lakes region with cross cutting effects and spill over benefits to global tourism value chain. It is worth to direct our efforts towards making use of the already existing man-made and faith-tourism products to complement the newly advertised Africa Natural wonders. Faith based tourism, if properly maximised, will definitely influence political stability in East Africa.

Again, there is endless tourism potential in our history. For instance, apart from other places if well published the commemoration of historical events like Maji Maji War, will definitely attract thousands of tourists specifically from Germany and other Western countries.

It is time to invest in faith and make economic use out of it. On top of that, our differences in faith should bind us together and translate into economic gains.
My expectation is that the ministry responsible will participate in this process for the very best tourism industry gain at large.
This will make an additional tourism product that is self-selling. From a tourism point of view, Tanzanians will have a lot to gain, either collectively or individually, regardless of their religious affiliations from Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s canonisation.

Article by: Sirili Akko

Article link:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Pope may boost Argentine tourism

Article link from E-Travel Blackboard: http://www.etravelblackboard.us/article/103506

Here's opening excerpts from the article:

There’s little doubt that tourism to Rome from Argentina will benefit from the election of the country’s, and continent’s first pope. But what of travel to the homeland of Pope Francis?

According to the UK’s Guardian, a Vatican spokesperson said it was hoped that the new pontiff’s first trip abroad would be to his homeland, which would undoubtedly bring with it a huge influx of visitors from across Argentina and Latin America. 

To view rest of the story, click here:  http://www.etravelblackboard.us/article/103506

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Movie Inspires Faith and Family-Friend Tours in America

Read full story at Faith Travel Focus:

Here's the opening excerpt from the article:

Kirk Cameron‘s recent movie, Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure (now on DVD) has inspired one tour company – American Christian Tours (ACT) – to package family-friendly east coast tours that survey the forefathers’ mission in founding America.

Monday, March 18, 2013

China Announces Plan to Boost Travel

LEXINGTON, Ky. USA (March 18, 2013)—The Chinese government has announced a series of initiatives aimed atincreasing travel among its citizens. In a recently released document, thegovernment emphasized the importance of travel as an avenue to enhance both thenation’s economy as well as individuals’ quality of life. 
“Outlines of the Chinese Citizens’ Travel Initiatives 20132020,”released only in Chinese, details plans for improving China’s travel and tourism infrastructure and offering incentives to travel. Among the specific steps the government will take are:

· building or expanding airports, highways, hotels and attractions.

· increasing the amount of paid leave for workers.

· increasing tax deductions for company incentive and conference travel.

· allowing schools to expand current travel windows beyond summer and winter breaks.

Through October of last year, the number of Chinese visitors to the United States was up 37 percent from 2011. In light of this surge, the prospect of more Chinese travelers is compelling for tourism professionals.

“This news has extraordinary implications for the North American travel industry,” said Lisa Simon, president of NTA. “China’s U.S. arrivals have increased dramatically since 2008, so the projection of even more visitors confirms what NTA has been saying to its members: Take steps now to capitalize on this wave of tourists.”

The Chinese government is making travel a clear priority, said Haybina Hao, NTA’s director of international development. “Chinese leaders recognize that travel expands the horizons of its citizens, and when people see more of the world, they can return to China inspired and better prepared to be creative entrepreneurs,” Hao said.

The plan calls for a 10 percent increase in domestic and international travel during 2013. It also emphasizes sustainable tourism.

Hao predicts an upsurge in many types of outbound travelers to the United States. "We'll see student groups coming not just for summer camps or winter holidays but during the regular school year," she said. "We'll also see more travelers coming to attend business conventions and study tours, as well as more families and seniors groups."

NTA has been heavily involved in the China outbound market since 2008, when the governments of the United States and China signed a memorandum of understanding allowing Chinese leisure travelers to visit the United States in group tours. NTA launched its China Inbound Program that year and has since maintained a list of U.S. tour operators registered to handle inbound Chinese group travelers. And next month, Hao will be in Beijing for the China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market, where NTA is partnering with Brand USA to present the USA Pavilion.

China's latest plan to further increase travel is a call to action, said Hao. "These initiatives will change China and will reshape our industry if we can grab the opportunity," she said. "Chinese travel agencies are working now to identify more products and American partners, so this is a perfect time to attend COTTM to present the Chinese trade what the U.S. has to offer."

This summer, NTA will conduct the second China Market Forum during Contact, the association's tour operator event, which will be held on Hawai‘i, the Big Island, Aug. 15–17. NTA and Hao also provide customized workshops and strategy sessions for destination marketing organizations and tourism professionals interested in exploring the Chinese market.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Emerging Travel Markets Addressed at Travel Exchange: Hispanic, Faith-based, Young Professionals

Article link: http://www.grouptravelleader.com/Article.aspx?id=1151

Here's the opening paragraph of the article from Group Travel Leader:

America’s diverse and growing population is ushering new groups of travelers into the tourism market, giving travel companies opportunities to grow their business by catering to the needs of those groups. Three Travel Exchange sessions focused on emerging markets, highlighting Hispanic travel, faith-based travel and the importance of young professionals in today’s tourism industry.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tour Ops Embracing Growing Interest in Culinary Travel (by Robin Amster/Travel Market Report)

Article link: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/Tour-Ops-Embracing-Growing-Interest-in-Culinary-Travel

Written by: Robin Amster
(This is the first in a series on culinary travel by Robin Amster and TravelMarketReport.com).

Tour operators are embracing culinary-focused programs as a way of satisfying clients’ hunger for experiential travel with an emphasis on authentic encounters with local culture.

Both large tour operators and smaller specialist firms are offering a growing number of tours that include everything from a standard wine tasting in California’s Napa Valley to a hands-on cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam.

The programs offer travel agents opportunities to introduce culinary tourism to clients who have not yet tried it as well as serving the needs of experienced culinary travelers looking for something new and different.

“People want authentic experiences and a key way to access the culture is through food,” said Scott Nisbet, CEO, Globus Family of Brands.

Major tour operators have incorporated more and more food experiences into their tours but their itineraries also lean heavily on traditional sightseeing, shopping and other activities.

Specialty operators are offering more tightly-focused culinary programs although these programs also include sightseeing.

Culinary forerunner
Travel Indochina counts itself as one of the forerunners of the culinary tour, said Mark Yacker, director, North America, for the company. The company specializes in small group tours and FIT’s to Asia.

“All of our tours place some emphasis on food. It’s certainly part of travel and travel to this region,” Yacker said. “But for clients who want to take that a step further, our Culinary Journeys offer expert local guidance and instruction in cooking ingredients and techniques.”

The company’s Culinary Journeys to Vietnam, Cambodia and China center on these countries’ cuisine with shopping trips to local village markets where clients buy the ingredients they’ll use in hands-on cooking classes, visits to specialty food stores, food tastings and talks by local food experts.

Yacker sees tremendous opportunities for agents to sell culinary tourism. Agents can capitalize on individual clients’ desires for more specialized programs and they can also work with local restaurants on promoting and putting together group tours.

Engaging the senses
At Toronto-based GoWay Travel, Moira Smith said, “Travelers today are more discerning than they were 20 years ago and they don’t want standard tours; it’s definitely about the experience and engaging all the senses.” Smith is general manager for Africa & the Middle East.

GoWay offers escorted and custom group tours and FIT’s. Its Morocco Foodie Tour is heavy on culinary features including visits to cous cous, oil, saffron and goat cheese cooperatives; shopping in local souks and cooking classes.

Azzedine Bennouna, the Moroccan chef of the Mamaroneck, N.Y. restaurant Zitoune, originally led all the tours and is now available to do so on request.

GoWay also offers culinary-focused extensions on programs in South Africa and Jordan and plans to launch a Turkey culinary program in the next few months, said Belinda Combrink, product manager for Africa & Middle East.

While the large tour operators can offer “dining experiences,” they can’t take large groups, for instance, shopping in a Moroccan souk, Combrink said.

Slow Food itineraries
Some large operators, however, also offer small group programs as well as FIT’s and many have introduced programs specifically aimed at culinary clients.

Brendan Vacations this year partnered with the Slow Food Organization to make Slow Food experiences part of the tour operator’s new small group Boutique Journeys. The journeys are open to a maximum of 24 guests.

The Slow Food Travel program, sold exclusively in the U.S. by Brendan, is part of a global grassroots movement linking food with a commitment to community and the environment.

Brendan’s six Slow Food itineraries feature destinations in Italy and France and include wine, cheese and pastry tastings; farmhouse visits, cooking classes and dining that showcases Slow Food sustainable foods.

“When surveys ask people what they’re interested in, food is consistently No. 1,” said Nico Zenner, Brendan’s president. “The whole concept of enjoying another culture is fascinating and a subset of that is enjoying the food.

“For a lot of clients it’s not just about enjoying a glass of wine but seeing where that wine comes from and what is involved in producing it.”

Zenner said the Slow Food itineraries are not targeted to novice clients but to experienced, repeat travelers. “They’re for agents that have those loyal customers looking for something quite different and sophisticated.”

More ‘hands-on’ experiences
Trafalgar offers a few culinary programs. Among them is its Flavors of Italy, which has been revised for 2013 to include “more hands-on and behind the scenes culinary experiences,” said Gavin Tollman, Trafalgar’s CEO.

Last year the company introduced a New York Zest and New England’s Best tour. It features visits to the Cabot Creamery, producers of cheese; a local cidery and Ben & Jerry’s headquarters, all in Vermont; a cranberry bog in Upstate New York, and a meadery (where mead or honey wine is produced) in New Hampshire.

“Food is an element of all of our tours, even those not exclusively focused on food,” Tollman said. “People are fascinated with food; chefs today are the new rock stars.”

Globus’ Local Favorites
Globus, however, has found that tightly-focused culinary tours “are too narrow for us,” said Nisbet. “We haven’t found a market for it yet. At the end of the day clients want to see the traditional sites.”

The company, however, has introduced a “Local Favorites” feature in tour itineraries. Many of these special, behind-the-scenes experiences relate to food, said Nisbet.

“We feel that what works best are culinary programs led by agents,” Nisbet added. “We’re seeing a lot of interest in special interest programs and many agents have some creative ideas in terms of partnering with people in their community.

“An agent might partner with a local restaurant and then come to us,” he said. “We’ll take it from there.”

Article link: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/Tour-Ops-Embracing-Growing-Interest-in-Culinary-Travel

Written by: Robin Amster

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Family Travel Research Study (www.TravelEffect.com)

Summary: The U.S. Travel Association is releasing a new study, conducted by Harris Interactive, that indicates traveling together as a family strengthens bonds and creates a lifetime of memories. Below are links to http://www.traveleffect.com featuring excerpts from the study and links to it:

Travel Effect Research Survey on Family Vacations

+ Benefits of Traveling with Your Kids (She Knows Parenting)

Most of us think of travel in terms of looking ahead: plans for spring break, summer vacation, winter holidays. But family vacations are also one of...

When asked an open-ended question about favorite vacation experiences, nature and the great outdoors come up over and over again — not surprising...

We forget many things as we age, but for most adults, recollections of family vacations from their childhood remain some of their most vivid and...

It can cost a lot to do things together as a family. Just one night at the movies can be a serious chunk of change four tickets, three sodas and two


The following text is from www.TravelEffect.com:

Family Vacations Create Lasting Memories

The second Travel Effect research survey, which explores how memories from family vacations are valued, captured and shared, is now available. It examines travel’s power to create long-lasting memories that bring families closer together. Adults report that memories formed during childhood family vacations remain vivid well into adulthood.
Please visit www.traveleffect.com to learn more about the survey’s key findings.

The Travel Effect team has developed resources that help articulate travel's effect on family memories and relationships. Weave the facts and content into your consumer-facing website or into marketing messages. Spread the word with media contacts and with social media friends and followers.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

(You Tube Video) Experience the Holy Land through NTA Tour Operators

What's it like to travel through the Holy Land?
In this video, come and explore the destinations of Israel and Jordan through the eyes of tour operators and travel professionals who belong to NTA (National Tour Association).

Video Summary

Discover how such experiences can create for life-long memories for you, your family, friends and travel community. In this video, experience such sites as Jerusalem, Dead Sea Scrolls Museum, Yad Vashem, Bethlehem, Masada, Tel Aviv, Yardenit, Umm Qais, Jordan River, Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, Jerash, Mount Nebo, Madaba, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea.

For more info, visit the Israel Ministry of Tourism website (www.GoIsrael.com) and Jordan Tourism Board website (www.VisitJordan.com).

To find a tour operator or more info about trip planning, visit NTA website (www.NTAonline.com)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Live from the Dead Sea: Tour Operators Share Experiences of Traveling through Jordan

What do tour operators and travel professionals think about Jordan?

For Anne Davis of Cruises and Tours Worldwide, Jordan provided one of the greatest travel experiences of her professional life. Doug and Cathy Ellison (Ellison Travel & Tours) spoke of visiting Bedouins as a highlight while Paul Larsen (Ed-Ventures) said his Jordan journey is just beginning. 


Hear more stories and testimonials from those who participated in in NTA's Holy Land Product Development Trip in this two-minute video filmed onsite at the Dead Sea.

For more information about selling tours to Jordan, go to the Visit Jordan website.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Global Muslim Lifestyle Tourism Market 2012: Landscape & Consumer Needs Study

Research & Advisory - DinarStandard

Global Muslim Lifestyle Tourism Market 2012: Landscape & Consumer Needs Study

A new ground-breaking study, ‘Global Muslim Lifestyle Travel Market: Landscape & Consumer Needs,’ shows that Muslim tourists globally represent a major niche market worth $126.1 billion in 2011 growing at a higher 4.8% through 2020, compared to global average of 3.8%. 

In a challenging global economic environment, the Study highlights how airlines, tourism destinations, and hotels/resorts can benefit by engaging with a market that has a young demographic, is growing in affluence, and is increasingly asserting its unique needs on the tourism industry.

The study was a joint project by DinarStandard and Crescentrating.

Download the free Executive Summary at http://advisory.dinarstandard.com/travelstudy/ or click here.  To purchase full study, click here.

Download Free Report

Friday, March 1, 2013

Agent Finds Calling in Faith Travel, and Profits Too (by Ruth Hill; Published by Travel Market Report)

Article link:
Written by Ruth A. Hill and published by Travel Market Report
February 11, 2013

Like many sellers of faith travel, Patti Ryall was inspired to pursue the niche during a travel experience of her own. She has since discovered there are many facets to the faith travel specialty, including custom tours for pastors.

Walking in the steps
Ryall, who is owner of And Away We Go! Travel in Lake Oswego, Ore., found her calling during a 2007 cruise from Rome that included stops in Athens and Ephesus.

“As I was walking through the tunnel that leads to Ephesus amphitheater, the realization that the apostle Paul had walked these same steps literally gave me goosebumps,” she said. “The sensation continued as I stepped on Mars Hill, and then again in Rome’s Mamertine prison. Old truths became very real to me because I am a believer, and I wanted to share that kind of experience with fellow believers.”
Patti Ryall
Ryall had worked as a general travel counselor for a while, but it was that Mediterranean cruise that prompted her to concentrate on faith travel. She began to study the Bible more diligently, as well as church history.

Marketing to clergy
Her marketing strategy was to approach pastors who might lead groups to faith travel destinations. Her first pastor-client was from her parents’ church. He had been on a pastors’ Holy Land trip and had shared his experience and photos with his congregation. She convinced him to let her organize a return group trip that he would lead.

“Approaching clergy can be difficult – they are busy people and they sometimes don’t understand what a travel consultant does,” said Ryall. “Even if they are interested in leading a group somewhere, they feel overwhelmed by the logistics. They often need to be assured that trip finances won’t be mingled with those of the church.”

One key to success is a personal connection with a church congregation or other faith group, she said.

“Once you get that first couple of trips done, you have something with which to approach other pastors or church leaders.

“You need to be able to help a pastor ascertain what the real purposes are in organizing a travel experience, because it often goes way beyond a tourist experience,” she continued. “It requires dedication, passion, and time – perhaps more than any other kind of travel, because the emotional and spiritual waters run so deep.”

Concentrate on what you know
When Ryall first began working the faith travel niche, she thought she could plan all kinds of religious travel in order to honor and respect all beliefs. But experience has taught her to concentrate on what she knows best: Protestant Christian belief.

“I realized I simply don’t know enough about other beliefs such as Buddhism, so I stay within what I know and love.”

Pastor sabbaticals
Planning faith-based travel has led Ryall to what she calls an unusual “sub-niche” – sabbatical travel for pastors, usually trips of six to 12 weeks’ duration. So far she has worked with pastors wanting to explore early Christian and Celtic heritage in Scotland, Ireland and Germany.

She also recently co-wrote a $45,000 sabbatical grant for her own pastor, which garnered an award from the Lilly Foundation. “Our grant is for a three-month sabbatical, and it includes money to fill his pulpit while he is away,” Ryall said.

She is now planning the pastor’s six-week trip to Germany and central Europe, where he will research how Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings influenced the Nazis.

“We are visiting holocaust sites in Germany and will include bits about how Dietrich Bonheoffer and other Christian believers dealt with the war era,” she said. “He will also do a Jewish heritage tour – all connected to the reconciliation theme.”

Ryall is also arranging a golfing component in Scotland.

Tour operator assistance
Custom tours often require expert assistance to find scholars and others who can provide what pastors and other tour leaders want, Ryall noted.

Her tour operator partner for the pastor sabbatical tour and a pastor-led group tour of Luther sites in Germany this year is Reformation Tours, which specializes in Christian heritage trips to Europe. Reformation will also partner with Ryall to organize a 2014 group tour for the pastor.

“There’s really no substitute for expert knowledge, and I’ve found that Rowena Drinkhouse and her staff really know how to find the specialized private guides and other resources that we wanted.”