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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Religious Tourism: Pennies from Heaven (The Economist)

Pilgrimages are a big business—and getting bigger

Article link:

“The person who sees their holiday as a cultural experience will be put off by bad security, but the believer will not,” says Kevin Wright, an observer of new tourist markets.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Wellness Travel: 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond (by Anne Dimon/Travel Market Report)

Author: Anne Dimon
Published by: Travel market Report
Article link: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/content/publiccontent.aspx?pageid=1370&articleid=9043

This is the latest in an occasional column by the publisher and editor-in-chief of Travel to Wellness.

No surprise to those of us in the industry, wellness travel is poised for great growth.

Already a multibillion-dollar industry, the wellness travel sector will see a significant surge in coming years for several reasons:

•    Aging baby boomers are looking to extend their years of good health.
•    More people are realizing that the key to good health and longevity lies in their own hands.
•    There is more wellness product available in all price categories.
•    Globalization is opening the doors to wellness lifestyle philosophies.

As ever-increasing numbers of us adopt a wellness lifestyle, travel agents can expect to see more clients who want to incorporate wellness into their trip planning. They want to maintain their healthy lifestyles, including food and fitness, while traveling, whether for business or pleasure.

Others who have begun looking at their vacation time through a different lens are looking for a wellness vacation. Often traveling with a specific intention – such as losing weight, getting fit, managing stress, reconnecting with self or a significant other, communing with nature – they want a vacation that’s designed to maintain, promote or kick-start a healthy way of living.

Here are 10 wellness travel trends and predictions for 2014 and beyond.

1.    More people in all fields will recognize the value of the wellness vacation, including what it can mean for one’s overall health and sense of wellbeing and how it fits into disease prevention.

2.    People will begin to schedule wellness vacations annually, for the betterment of body, mind and soul. Just as we visit the dentist every six months, we'll take a yearly wellness vacation.

3.    Since food is the foundation of wellness, culinary vacation options will grow in tandem with the movement to eat more healthfully.

4.    Forward-thinking corporations will include wellness vacations as part of wellness-in-the-workplace employee benefit packages. Some businesses will offer wellness vacations as an incentive to motivate individuals and teams to reach performance goals.

5.    While many hotels already offer elements of a wellness lifestyle – i.e. food, fitness, spa treatments, sleep programs – we will see major hotel brands adopt a fully-integrated approach with wellness-themed hotel brands. One example: IHG’s Even Hotels, which launches in 2014.

6.    For patients with certain conditions – weight gain, insomnia, eating disorders, depression and loneliness, for instance – doctors will begin prescribing specifically-designed and accredited health and wellness vacation packages before calling on “big pharmacy.” 

7.    There will be more, more and more wellness travel product available. Along with programs at destination spas and spa resorts, we’ll see a greater number of small companies and sole proprietors offering yoga/meditation getaways, healthy cooking classes and nourish-your-soul retreats.

8.    While the spa has long been a central focus of a wellness lifestyle, more spa marketing organizations will embrace and promote other aspects of a wellness lifestyle – fitness, food, sleep, community and wellness for the planet, for instance. 

9.    Taking a cue from Europe, the North American hospitality industry will see an emerging category where luxury-meets- wellness-spa-meets-sophisticated-medical-clinic. One prototype is the award-winning SHAWellness in Spain.

10.    Spas and anti-aging clinics will supplement existing menus with cutting-edge medi-treatments. How does this fit under the banner of wellness travel? Feeling good about the way we look increases our sense of wellbeing. Also, some of these new medical innovations will only be available in other countries.

The best news for travel agents? The wellness vacation is more bespoke than off-the-rack, so clients will be inclined to seek your assistance with trip planning.

Anne Dimon is founder and editor of Travel to Wellness Magazine. Published online for nine years, the magazine is launching a print/digital edition in mid-November; click here to subscribe.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Greece is also a destination for faith travelers (by Ruth Hill/Faith Travel Focus)

The sunny islands of Greece aren’t just for seaside relaxation, taverna dining, boating and sunbathing. Greece is also a destination for faith travelers.

The post Going Greek in 2014 Greece appeared first on Faith Travel Focus.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Register for NTA Townhalls in California (Oct 23, 24, 25)

Please Join Me for One, Two, Three (or Four!) NTA Town Hall Tours!
Why not quadruple the fun? Next week, NTA's Town Hall Tour is heading to not one, not two, not three, but four cities in California: San Diego, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and San Francisco!
Join me, Mark Hoffmann, NTA's chairman and CEO, to discuss topics that are high on your priority list. These Town Hall Tours are where the best in the travel industry (that’s you!) come together to connect with one another to share your market, your successes, your challenges and your ideas.
I'd love for you to be there! Here are the details for each Town Hall:
Wednesday, Oct. 23: San Diego, California
Our friends from Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside will be hosting this breakfast! Immediately following the program, the hotel will provide a quick site inspection to any attendee that might be interested.
Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Time: 8:30 a.m. check-in opens; 9–10:30 a.m. breakfast and program
Where:  Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside
                4875 North Harbor Drive
                San Diego, CA 92106
Thursday, Oct. 24: Los Angeles, California
Join your colleagues in Los Angeles for a breakfast hosted by the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE! Directly following the program, attendees will have the opportunity to walk through the museum.
Date: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Time: 8:30 a.m. check-in; 9–10:30 a.m. breakfast and program
Where: GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE
               800 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. A245
               Los Angeles, CA 90015
Thursday, Oct. 24: Palm Springs, California
Our friends from The Hyatt Palm Springs will be hosting a Happy Hour!
Date: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Time: 4:30 check-in; 5–7 p.m. Happy Hour and program
Where: Hyatt Palm Springs
              285 No Palm Canyon Drive
              Palm Springs, CA 92262
Friday, Oct. 25: San Francisco, California
Join your colleagues in San Francisco for an afternoon snack buffet hosted by Neptune's Waterfront Grill & Bar!
Date: Thursday, October 25, 2013
Time: 2:30 p.m. check-in opens;
           3–5 p.m. afternoon snack buffet and program
Where: Neptune's Waterfront Grill & Bar
               PIER 39 – 2nd Level (at the end of the Pier by Sea Lions)
               Beach & Embarcadero Streets
               San Francisco, CA 94133
To attend any (or all!) of these NTA Town Hall Tours, please RSVP to NTA Headquarters by e-mail. In your email, please indicate which Town Hall Tour(s) you plan to attend.
See you soon!
Mark Hoffmann, CTP
2013 NTA Chairman and CEO
Connect with us:
NTA (National Tour Association) is the leading association for professionals serving travelers to, from and within North America. NTA members represent more travel product and have access to more business-to-business networking than in any other association in the industry. That includes product in every U.S. state, Canadian province and more than 40 countries. For more information on NTA, visit www.NTAonline.com.

5 Innovative Ideas in Faith-based Travel for Increased Profits

NTA hosted yesterday the following webinar: 
5 Innovative Ideas in Faith-based Travel for Increased Profits, sponsored by Israel Ministry of Tourism.

To view a recording of the webinar, click here.  (Note: NTA membership password may be required)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Agents Should Take Millennials ‘Very Seriously’ (by Marilee Crocker/Travel Market Report)

Author: Marilee Crocker
Published by: www.TravelMarketReport.com

Article link: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/content/publiccontent.aspx?pageid=1364&articleid=8991

Adapting to changes in today’s travel consumers – including who they are, how they buy and what they need and want from travel advisors – is critical to the continued success of retail travel sellers.

That was a key message that American Express Travel executives drove home to travel advisors attending the 2013 National Summit of the U.S. Representative Travel Network in Nashville this week.

In particular, agents should keep a close eye on the millennial generation. “Take them very very seriously,” said vice president Tony Gonchar during the opening general session on Sunday.

Why millennials matter
The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1999, embodies the “combination of changing purchase behaviors, shifting demographics and multiculturalism” that characterizes the emerging marketplace, he said.

“This group is the country's largest cohort – already larger than the baby boomer generation. Worldwide they account for 20% of all travel spend, and 40% of them are multicultural.”

Understanding the increasingly multicultural nature of the population is also critical, Gonchar said. He noted that by 2042 minorities will constitute the majority of the U.S. population.

“This is much more than just demographics. It’s about individual lifestyles that are greatly influenced by strong ties to cultural backgrounds.

“There is no one size fits all approach to selling travel to multicultural audiences,” Gonchar said.

Purchasing behavior
Gonchar also pointed to fundamental changes in how consumers purchase products and services. “We’ve moved from a linear purchase process – buyer and seller, usually face to face – to what we call a customer-decision journey.

“Your customers have become digital omnivores, consuming information from multiple devices 24 hours a day across hundreds, even thousands, of sources,” Gonchar said.

As a side note, Gonchar predicted that the demise of the traditional travel brochure. “You can pretty much say that video will kill the travel brochure over the next few years, as consumers march online for dynamic, instantly updated resources to plan their travel experience.”

Advice for agents
How should travel advisors respond to these changes? Gonchar shared four suggestions.

#1. “Know who you're selling to.”

“Whether it's a millennial who knows it all and is looking for instant validation of their own research or a multigenerational Hispanic family looking to celebrate a quinceaƱera on a cruise ship, it pays to know your customers deeply, so you can probe and understand their specific demographic and social needs,” he said.

#2. “Know what you’re selling better than your customers.”

“Travelers want to be the foreign locals when they arrive at a destination,” Gonchar said. “The tools to enable them to do this are here, allowing instant familiarization with a location, right down to a neighborhood.

“So how are you getting this information ahead of your customers, demonstrating that you know it better than they do?” he asked.

#3. “Be accountable.”

“Shoppers will continue to be concerned about trust and transparency, just as they are going to continue to seek simplified lives and great value from their travel advisor relationship,” he said.

This calls on agents to “be the travel advisor who provides consultancy services on deep travel experiences,” he said. “Give them something they can’t Google.”

#4. “Never be afraid to ask.”

Ask for the upsell and for referrals of new clients, Gonchar advised. “You might be amazed at what happens.”

NTA President Shares Shutdown Tourism Impact before Congress

Article link: http://www.ntaonline.com/articles/index.cfm?action=view&articleID=2690&menuID=391

Tour operators, pushed into crisis-management mode during the government shutdown, were represented on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, when NTA President Lisa Simon testified at a Congressional hearing about the closure of national parks, monuments and museums. At a joint hearing of U.S. House of Representatives Committees on Oversight & Government Reform and Natural Resources, Simon discussed the impact of the closures on tour operators who had to scramble to find alternative activities for groups scheduled to tour national sites. 
“I was grateful for the opportunity to talk about the shutdown and our national parks. These are some of the most popular destinations to visit throughout the country, from Acadia to Zion, including the Grand Canyon and Smoky Mountains,” said Simon, discussing her appearance on Capitol Hill. “An abrupt shutdown of all 401 national park units cannot come without significant disruptions and costs.”

A significant majority of NTA member tour operators package travel to national parks and attractions, and nearly all have reported customer cancelations or disrupted itineraries. And they’re not the only members feeling the pain, according to Simon.

“Many of our supplier and destination members are dependent on visitation to national parks in their area, and they experienced an immediate decline in business,” said Simon, adding that 91 percent reported cancelled or postponed tours since the Oct. 1 closure, and 56 percent saw a decrease in visitors within days of the shutdown.

The shutdown caught most in the travel industry unprepared. Even though signs from Congressional negotiation prior to the shutdown did not look promising, the extent of the closures was not known, and communication was minimal. Simon recommended to Congress that there be a better plan for releasing details about future closures.

“We recognize there’s no crystal ball, and government negotiations often go down to the wire. But a communication plan about park closures would have been helpful,” she said. “I told the committee members NTA would be happy to serve as a conduit for such information to ensure that tour operators and visitors receive timely and accurate information.”

Simon said NTA has a long-standing and indispensable relationship with the National Park Service, given its importance to tourism professionals. “NPS recognizes the planning cycle and needs of the packaged travel industry, and for more than two decades they have provided NTA with advance notice of fee increases,” she said. “It’s a relationship and tour product we value, and we hope to never see it interrupted again. But if it is, we want to be prepared.”

Source:- NTA

Monday, October 14, 2013

Profile of the Wellness Market (by Travel Market Report)

Article link from Travel Market Report:

Other findings of the Global Wellness Tourism Economy include:

•    The typical wellness traveler is middle-aged, well-educated, well-off and comes from Western and industrialized countries.

•    The U.S., Germany, Japan, France and Austria account for more than half of outbound wellness tourism with 63% of global expenditures.

•    The U.S., France, Austria, Germany and Switzerland receive the most inbound international wellness tourists.

•    The U.S., Germany, France, Japan and China have the most domestic wellness tourism trips.

•    More than half of the projected growth in wellness tourism trips through 2017 will take place in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East/North Africa.

•    Spa tourism is a key part of wellness tourism—accounting for 41% of expenditures—but non-spa related wellness travel represents 59% of the market. Non-spa includes “healthy” hotels and cruises, travel to nature parks and preserves, yoga or lifestyle retreats and organic/health dining.

Wellness Travel Outstrips Global Tourism Growth (by Robin Amster/Travel Market Report)

Article link: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/content/publiccontent.aspx?pageid=1370&articleid=8984

Author: Robin Amster
Published by: www.TravelMarketReport.com

Wellness travel, which now represents a sizable chunk of global tourism revenues, is growing at nearly twice the rate of total worldwide tourism, according to a study released at the first Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC).

The Global Wellness Tourism Economy study is the first to analyze the fast-emerging wellness tourism segment, said SRI International. SRI conducted the study in conjunction with the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) held Oct. 5 to 7 in New Dehli, India. The inaugural Global Wellness Tourism Congress was held during the Summit.

“Wellness tourism is poised to reshape tourism as we know it,” said Jean-Claude Baumgarten, former World Travel & Tourism Council president and CEO and keynote speaker at the Summit.

“So many 21st century forces are fueling it, including the rise of chronic diseases and the unprecedented stress of modern life.”

Fast growth—lucrative market
Wellness tourism now accounts for about 14%, or nearly $439 billion, of all domestic and international tourism expenditures, the study said.

It’s projected to grow by more than 9% a year through 2017. That’s nearly 50% faster than overall global tourism.

Wellness tourism is also a lucrative market.

Compared to the average international and domestic tourist, the international wellness tourist spends about 65% more per trip while the domestic wellness tourist spends about 150% more per trip, according to the study.

Opportunities for travel agents
 "The Global Wellness Tourism Economy Report is of special significance to travel professionals,” said Susie Ellis, chairman and CEO of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit.

“It reveals new directions in tourism, including the kinds of experiences tourists will seek and the countries where they will travel to find them."

Ophelia Yeung, the study’s author and co-director of SRI’s Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development, said the research reflects a major shift from vacations associated with excess—too much eating, drinking and too little sleep—to those focused on health and wellness.

“People are now choosing destinations that help them keep or get healthy while traveling,” Yeung said. “A smaller, and also growing, segment are also now taking trips with the specific, sole purpose of improving their personal well being,” she added.

Wellness tourism is one of many niches in the increasingly popular special interest market. Clients who take wellness trips are also likely to take part in other niche activities during their trip including culinary, adventure, cultural or eco-tourism pursuits, the study said.

That broadens the options agents can sell.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

NY Times Best-Selling Author, Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures, Keynote Speaker at Travel Exchange

NTA is honored to have Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures and the founder of the Providence, Rhode Island-based tour company as the keynote speaker for the Thursday Market Luncheon at Travel Exchange ’14!

 So, who is Bruce?

He is a global leader in sustainability and social entrepreneurship, and was featured as one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurs in Canada of the last 25 years. Bruce has spoken multiple times at the request of the United Nations and World Bank, has presented at the headquarters of Apple and Google, and has delivered keynote speeches at TED events and leading entrepreneurship conferences around the world.

Come and join your fellow delegates as Bruce kicks off the Thursday Market Luncheon, Feb. 20, at noon. He’ll discuss the future of tourism and how tourism professionals collectively can become a global force for good. Bruce will also cover a variety of topics that include sustainable tourism, social enterprise and how building a business around a purpose is crucial. Don’t miss this engaging and though-provoking session.

Bruce is looking forward to seeing YOU in L.A.! To see the full Travel Exchange schedule and speaker line-up, click here!

If you haven’t registered for Travel Exchange ’14, now is the time. Appointment scheduling opens Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Register for (Free) Oct 16 Webinar on Faith-based Tourism

NTA would like to invite you to register for the upcoming Free Webinar Wednesday on Oct. 16 at Noon ET, “5 Innovative Ideas in Faith-based Travel for Increased Profits.”

How can you register? Email me at kevin.wright(a)NTAstaff.com and advise you'd like to attend the Faith Tourism Webinar.

Webinar Description:
5 Innovative Ideas in Faith-based Travel for Increased Profits

One new idea can make a business flourish and increase profits. What if you were given five innovative ideas? Imagine the possibilities. Whether you dabble in or are a seasoned pro with faith-based travel, this webinar is perfect for discovering new ideas on how to improve your market position within this industry segment – especially among tour operators. Hear firsthand from several guest panelists who have successfully implemented resourceful ideas themselves, while also having an opportunity to share your own questions and thoughts with the group. The webinar is designed for all members including tour operators, suppliers and destination management organizations.

Tourism’s Shared Pain of the Shutdown

LEXINGTON, Kentucky - As the U.S. government shutdown swings into a second week, people in tourism destinations and related businesses are feeling the financial pain. In a survey conducted by the National Tour Association, four out of five members report that business is affected by the shutdown. With only 10 percent of members providing a dollar figure for lost revenues, estimates of economic loss already exceed $14 million since last Tuesday.

Most tour operators (82 percent) have made changes to tour itineraries to cope with closed national parks, museums and monuments. Nearly half (46 percent) have had customers cancel because of the closures, and more than a quarter (26 percent) have been forced to postpone tours until the federal government reopens its popular attractions.

“This survey shows just what you’d expect to see by the abrupt closure of America’s immensely popular attractions—tourism is suffering because of the shutdown,” said Lisa Simon, NTA president. “Our members are hurting—from Alaska to the Virgin Islands—wherever federal sites are shuttered. When you shut off a significant portion of the travel industry’s $2 trillion economic impact, you’re hurting a significant number of people who rely on revenue from tourism.”

The tour company owned by NTA’s board chairman, Mark Hoffmann, is facing financial loss and interrupted tours across the nation. “One group couldn't visit the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, this week; another had to be rerouted and rescheduled around park sites in Arkansas next week and a third had to deal with a partially open Ronald Reagan Library in L.A.,” said Hoffmann of Sports Leisure Vacations in Sacramento, Calif. “And in 10 days, I will see $11,000 in lost profits on a Yosemite trip.”

More than half (57 percent) of the tour operators who responded said they have refunded deposits for tours, while nearly all (85 percent) are scrambling to find alternative attractions and activities.
“Even though Congress can’t work together to re-open our national parks, we’re still working to showcase our nation’s natural treasures to customers,” said Michele Michalewicz, owner of Utah-based Western Leisure Tours. “We’re substituting incredible state parks and other attractions and using alternative routes to view the national park scenery our passengers paid for.”

Throughout the country, NTA members are working together to keep group tours moving, said Simon. “Many hotels and motor coach companies are adjusting cancellation policies, and our members who manage destinations are helping tour operators rewrite itineraries and find attractions that are open.”

Destination DC has been collaboration central, according to Elliott L. Ferguson, president and CEO of the organization. “Our staff and members are assisting operators with rebooking and changing components for tours affected by the government shutdown, working one-on-one to welcome groups,” he said. “The strong collaborative spirit between our members allows operators to engage their clients with many of the world-class attractions that make Washington, D.C., an outstanding place for travelers.”

NTA has been collecting information from members and posting their suggestions for alternative activities on the association’s homepage, NTAonline.com. NTA leaders have twice gone out to members and asked them to contact their elected officials in Congress and ask for a resolution to the budgetary impasse. Every day of the shutdown is a day of more lost business, said Simon.

“We’re seeing tremendous cooperation and a wealth of substitute activities, but tour operators are incurring steep costs,” she said. “Not only are they issuing refunds and paying for re-routed tours with unanticipated costs, they are not able to finalize future tour arrangements, something they’d normally do during the fall. This shutdown will hurt business well into the future.”
Even with the help of colleagues, times are tough for travel professionals, according to Hoffmann.

“Many of us are small companies in the business of making dreams come true for seniors, students, adventure seekers and others,” he said. “But the shutdown is ruining those dreams—and our business.”
Source: National Tour Association

Friday, October 4, 2013

US Tourism Misses Golden Opportunity with Chinese Visitors

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — For many in the tourism industry, the U.S. government’s partial shutdown could not come at a worse time. The week the United States closed its national parks, monuments and museums coincides with Golden Week, designated by the Chinese government as a time for its citizens to travel.

US tourism misses golden opportunity with Chinese visitors
Haybina Hao, Director of International Development
for the National Tour Association
The United States was named the top “dream destination” for Chinese travelers, which make up the fastest-growing tourism market into the United States. But the dream vacation for many Chinese tourists has turned into a nightmare, according to Haybina Hao, director of international development for the National Tour Association, whose tour operators and other members focus on travel into and within North America.

“Many Chinese visitors have saved for years to take the trip of a lifetime to our country. They wanted to see Yellowstone, the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon,” Hao said. “But they’re seeing none of it. They are extremely frustrated and confused by U.S. politics.”

While Chinese travelers are losing a golden opportunity, U.S. tour operators are losing money. “I had a group of 25 Chinese visitors who planned to visit Yellowstone this week, but they cannot get in,” said Sonny Sang of California-based ACC America China Connection, a member of NTA’s China Inbound Program. “I re-routed them to another destination, but I’ll lose $10,000 on this group. And I have another group of 22 arriving on Sunday to see Yellowstone. The financial consequences are unbearable for me as a small tour operator.”

More and more Chinese have been arriving since 2008, when China began to allow leisure travelers to visit the United States in group tours. Since then, China has become the fastest-growing source of visitors for U.S. hotels, restaurants and attractions. Last year Chinese visitation here increased 41 percent, and spending by Chinese travelers rose 19 percent, following 47 percent increases in both 2010 and 2011.

Now they just need a place to spend it. “The tour operators I talked to are really scrambling to find alternative activities, including a tour operator who has more than 20 groups in the U.S. this week.” Hao said. “Compared to other countries that utilize creative ways to lure Chinese tourists, the U.S. shutdown will shatter the confidence of international travel companies.”

Many U.S. tour operators have become creative in salvaging their groups’ experiences, including
Neil Amrine, owner of Guide Service of Washington (DC). “The biggest disappointment is the Smithsonian being closed, but we’re coming up with other solutions,” said Amrine, who revised the itinerary for a group of Chinese travelers this week, adding for-profit attractions and employing little-known pathways to view popular monuments. “They weren’t thrilled at first, but I think they’ll leave happy.”

The challenge for tour operators—and for the entire U.S. tourism industry—is to work with city and regional tourism organizations to develop alternatives to national parks and monuments that will satisfy travelers. Most are finding a wealth of options across the country, from California to Washington, D.C. At the same time, they’re keeping an eye on continuing closures and tourism roadblocks caused by the shutdown.

“We’re fielding calls nonstop and posing alternatives that are working,” Amrine said. “We’ve had only one group cancel, so we’ve been lucky… so far.”
Source: National Tour Association

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to Innovate in Faith-based Tourism (Published by Leisure Group Travel)

Below is my article published in Leisure Group Travel on "How to Innovate in Faith-based Tourism".  To view the publication and article click on either of the following links:

* http://leisuregrouptravel.com/october-2013-leisure-group-travel/

Innovation is a word most often associated with the technology industry. It is a word less often used in relation to the travel and hospitality marketplace, apart from hi-tech products and services. And it’s a word rarely discussed within faith-based tourism. It’s time to change the discourse and make innovation an important topic of conversation among faith-based travel planners.

To paraphrase Daniel Isenberg, a prominent authority on entrepreneurship, innovators are those who see economic value where others see nothing. They are the incubators of tomorrow’s products and services.

What does all this mean for faith-based travel sellers and planners? Due to the many (and ongoing) changes within the demographics and buying habits of the religious market over the past 10-20 years, it’s become imperative for these entities and individuals to “think like start-ups” with respect to faith-based travelers. The challenge, however, is that many organizations have lost their original creativity and ingenuity. To help overcome this, I’ve listed below several kick-starter ideas on how you can innovate within the faith-based travel marketplace:

1.     Develop and Sell Cross-Segmented Products and Services
Cross-segment your faith-based travel products and services with multi-generational travel, adventure travel, student travel, sports travel and the like. For example, have you thought of creating a sports outing package specific to church groups? What about developing family adventure trips for them?

2.     Create and Offer Unique Themed Events
Minor and Major League Baseball teams have been among the most innovative organizations in developing unique packages to attract people of faith. In fact, many organizations such as the L.A. Dodgers and Atlanta Braves host a popular event called “Faith Days” at their stadiums. You might study these offerings and integrate similar ideas into your own organization’s products and services. Disney and Wet n’ Wild water park are other examples of companies that create and offer innovative programs to attract church and religious groups with their respective Nights of Joy and Waves of Glory events.

3.  Partner Faith-based Personalities with Your Social Media
We all know social media is the rage these days. We also know people of faith place great trust in their religious leaders and personalities. Why not innovate by tapping prominent faith-based individuals to serve as testimonial advocates of your organization via social media outlets. Supercuts, the hair salon franchise, recently debuted an innovative Artist Ambassadors campaign whereby featured music bands are responsible for promoting Supercuts on major social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Pinterest. Get to know this cutting-edge outreach strategy by Supercuts and adopt similar principles to the faith-based marketplace.

4.     Dedicate Staff to the Faith-based Market
Do you currently have a staff person or department solely dedicated to this market? If not, then the implementation of this idea would make it avant-garde to your company. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is one of the great examples of being a pioneer in this regard.  For more than a decade they’ve remained one of the few tourist offices with a fully-dedicated director and staff person for developing the religious market.  The Bahamas has been reaping the benefits ever since with a growing customer base of faith-based travelers.

Above all, when thinking in terms of innovation – think in terms of marketing, sales, promotions, products and services with respect to the faith-based travel market. And remember, innovation doesn’t necessarily mean it must be new to the industry. If it’s new to your company and customers, that’s innovation.

−By Kevin J. Wright, Director of Growth Markets, NTA

- See more at: http://leisuregrouptravel.com/how-to-innovate-in-faith-based-tourism/#sthash.JjW4QeE1.dpuf

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

U.S. Sees 26 Percent Rise in Packaged Travel

Article link from NTA:

The number of overseas travelers using a tour package when visiting the United States last year was estimated at 5.7 million, a 26 percent increase over 2011. The share of all travelers using a package (including at minimum both air and lodging)1.17.12Airplane increased to 19 percent, led by the Asian market, which increased from 28 to 35 percent. The data is from the Survey of International Air Travelers, compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce; it includes the following:
  • Nearly 20 million overseas visitors cited leisure travel as the purpose of their trip, up 6 percent from 2011 and setting a record.
  • The 3 million inbound convention travelers also set a record and represent a 63 percent increase over 2011.
  • Business travel declined by 4 percent.
  • The number of first-time travelers was down 11 percent. This actually reflects an increase in repeat travelers, which in turn typically indicates that more travelers ventured beyond the top destinations.
  • The average length of stay was 17 nights, down from a record 18.1 nights in 2011. Visitors from China, though, stayed longer in 2012 than the year before.
  • The top five destination states were New York, Florida, California, Hawaii and Nevada. Of the top 22 states, Ohio showed the biggest increase (up 28 percent).
Note: The survey is self-administered by overseas air passengers (including Mexico but not Canada). For more statistics and details, follow this link to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries website.