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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Americans Lead Growing Number of Worldwide Visitors to Baptism Site in Jordan

MCLEAN, Va. (May 28, 2014) - When Pope Francis visited Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan May 24 on his "pilgrimage of prayer" to the Holy Land, he was the latest pilgrim to follow the words of the Bible and the footsteps of early Christians to the wilderness on the eastern banks of the Jordan River that has been called the birthplace of Christianity.

"The place where we are meeting commemorates Jesus' baptism," the pope told an assembly at the Church of the Baptism of Jesus (of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem). "Coming here to the Jordan to be baptized by John, Jesus showed his humility and his participation in our human condition."

With these words, Pope Francis became the most well-known modern pilgrim to a place that visitors of all faiths from around the world have been flocking to in increasing numbers, marking a return to the traditional pilgrimage map used by early Christian pilgrims from Europe. The Baptism Site Commission (BSC), a board of trustees charged with preserving and protecting the holy site while also making it accessible to pilgrims, estimates that more Americans visited the site in 2013 than any other nationality.

"We are very happy that the Pope chose to begin his first visit to the Holy Land in Jordan, where Christianity began after the baptism of Jesus," said Malia Asfour, director of Jordan Tourism Board, North America (JTBNA).  "His message for peace, harmony and integration is the essence of how Jordanians are and can easily be seen by traveling throughout the country and by meeting the people. It is my hope that more travelers take a journey to Jordan and follow in the footsteps of the Pope and the prophets before him."

His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, had welcomed the pope to the Latin Church at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan with these words: "Our Church, together with the Jordanian government, is pleased and proud to present to the world this holy place where the Baptism of Jesus Christ took place and where our Lord's public life began. Following in your footsteps, we invite the Christian world to visit this site and learn more about our roots and our ecclesial life. For many, this river is a border. For the Latin Patriarchate, which includes Cyprus, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, it is more a bridge that unites, a call to communion and unity."

Earlier, at the nearby archaeological remains of five churches built over time by early Christians to commemorate the very place where Jesus was baptized, the pope had paused in silent reflection. After, he made his way to another spot on the Jordan River where - as Pope Paul VI did before him, in 1964 - he spent a few moments alone in prayer and reflection. He then joined the waiting assembly outside of the Latin Church, which is still under construction. Before entering the church, the pope took several minutes to write a personal note that included these words: "Thank you for offering humanity this place of witness."

The Christian Bible teaches that Jesus came to Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan (John 1:28) to be baptized by his cousin before beginning his public ministry. The Bible says that in this wilderness, Elijah had ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire, and centuries later John came to preach and baptize in the spirit of Elijah. All four Gospel writers tell of the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon Jesus after his baptism, thus marking the proclamation of the one God and Holy Trinity that is central to Christian belief. In this sense, the baptism of Jesus marks not only the beginning of  his public ministry, but also the beginning of Christianity.

In the past decade, western Christian theologians, pastors, scholars and journalists - from varied denominations - have examined and followed the progress of the excavations at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan. There is a growing consensus among these modern Christian leaders that accounts from early Christian pilgrims as far back as the fifth century were right - this is where Jesus was baptized.

In the year 2000, to commemorate the pilgrimage of Saint Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church designated five biblical locations in Jordan as Jubilee pilgrimage sites: Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan; Mount Nebo (where, according to the Christian Bible, Moses saw the land he would never enter and is buried nearby); Mukawir (the hilltop fortress where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded after Salome's fateful dance); Anjara (Catholic tradition teaches that Jesus, his disciples and the Virgin Mary passed through here and rested in a cave during one of their journeys)and Umm Qais (traditional location of the miracle of the Gadarene Swine).

The large wilderness area known as Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan - associated with the biblical prophets Elijah and John the Baptist - is a national park of the kingdom of Jordan. The park was established to preserve the place as it was in the time of Jesus, and also to accommodate pilgrims from all over the world. Early Christians built churches here to commemorate the baptism of Jesus, and it is depicted on the famed Sixth Century Madaba Map, the oldest surviving mosaic map of the Holy Land. Church leaders, park trustees and tourism officials are working to facilitate and continue the tradition of pilgrimage here, while protecting the world heritage site from over-commercialization.

About ten years ago, authorities decided to offer plots of land in the park - outside of the protected wilderness area - free of charge to various Christian denominations, so that they could build new religious buildings (sanctuaries, monasteries and guest houses for pilgrims) to continue the pilgrimage tradition started by the early Christians. Varied denominations are building facilities at their own expense in the area set aside for pilgrims and visitors. When the projects are completed, about a dozen new places of worship should stand in the park.

Once completed, the Church of the Baptism of Jesus could become one of the most visited places in the Holy Land for Catholic pilgrims and the local faithful, according to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The holy building will be able to hold about one-thousand worshippers, and the large square cloisters opposite it should hold at least two-thousand people. On both sides of the transept, two monasteries have been built, for two monastic communities - one male and one female - of the congregation of the Incarnate Word. Each of the monasteries can accommodate 30 pilgrims on retreats. The apse of the church is no more than thirty meters from the Jordan River. Behind the apse, in the open air, a large baptismal bath has been built, for community celebrations, connected to the river by a small channel. Near the church, a large welcome center for pilgrims has been planned, with a restaurant, theater, museum and souvenir shops.


The Jordan Tourism Board, North America (JTBNA), a division of the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), is an independent public/private partnership that was officially launched in 1997 to create awareness, position and market Jordan as a tourism destination for travelers from North America. Most travelers from North America visit Jordan to explore a combination of its world-heritage cultural, historical and religious sites; engage in eco-adventure activities; or for the unique luxury or spa/wellness experiences at the Dead Sea, the world's largest open-air spa and the lowest point on earth.

*Photos available upon request and at www.visitjordan.com.
*Online image gallery of papal visit to Jordan: http://www.popevisit.jo/photo-archive.

This website provides a video tour of the archaeological sites and background material on Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan. It is the official website of the Baptism Site Commission (BSC),an independent board of trustees for the Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan baptism site, appointed by King Abdullah II.The main purposes of the BSC are to:
  • Preserve the site so that when pilgrims visit, they can see and experience the natural environment just as Jesus and John saw it.
  • Open the site to pilgrims. Although guided by preservation, the BSC works to make the site as accessible and convenient as possible for pilgrims of all denominations and faiths from all over the world.
This website provides online resources for journalists, multimedia professionals and the general public on Pope Francis' pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It offers high-resolution photo galleries, original videos (including archival footage of previous papal visits) and background information on the visit. Popevisit.jo is a collaborative effort between several civil, official and creative entities under the umbrella of the Media Committee for Pope Francis' Visit, designed to provide information on issues relevant to each step of the papal visit in Jordan.

English translation of words written by Pope Francis in Guest Book at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan
"I ask the all-powerful and merciful God to teach us all to walk in his presence with our souls and feet uncovered and our hearts open to divine mercy and love for our brothers and sisters. In that way, God will be all in all and peace will reign. Thank you for offering humanity this place of witness. Francis 24.5.2014."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Growing Hispanic Market (by Groups Today)

Click here to view the article written by Jennifer Reynolds: The Growing Hispanic Market.

Here's one article section quote:

According to the National Tour Association, Hispanics from the United States annually spend more than $56 billion on travel. Comprising nearly twenty percent of the U.S. population, with projected growth in their purchasing power and population, the Hispanic market should provide a tempting target for travel agents and tour providers. According to Mandala Research, Hispanics travel in larger groups and spend more per trip than the general population.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Believe it! Religious tourism is booming (by Peter Johansen)

Outstanding article and insight just published today by Troy Media and written by Peter Johansen on the present-day religious travel market.

Faith Tourism 4Jonhansen does a tremendous job of covering the wide breadth and scope of the market, discussing everything from the range of travel experiences to the various faiths to destinations across the globe that fall under religious travel.

Here's one quote from the article:
"Yes, religious tourism is big. And it's getting bigger. Researchers suggest the market is more resilient to recessions and is more open to repeat business than secular leisure travel."

You can view his full story by clicking on link below...

Article link: 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Family Travel Growing Fast per Cruise Planners Study

Article Intro:
Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, reports that families are traveling more. The brand saw a 15 percent increase in passengers cruising with children or multi-generational groups over the past 12 months.

Article link:

Website to Cruise Planners:

Vacations for the Whole Family (by Jim Flynn)

If you're into family travel either personally or professionally, check out this article by Jim Flynn:

Article title: 
Vacations for the Whole Family

Article link:

Article summary:
Jim's article is a follow-up to Travel + Leisure Magazine's recent list of World’s Best Resorts for Family Travel.  Jim states that although he endorses many of their choices, he believes there are several more that deserve the same honor.  As such, he lists out those resorts and properties that he believes also best cater to families based on price, accommodations, level and type of activities offered, as well as dining choices.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jordan Tourism Board publishes new Biblical Travel Sites Brochure

The Jordan Tourism Board has just published a new Biblical Travel Sites Brochure for tour operators, travel agents, churches, pastors and other group travel planners. You can view the new brochure here: http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1102579619840-187/Pope+Biblical+Brochure.pdf

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Exploring the Adventure & Active Travel Market

Did you know 52 percent of NTA tour operators offer adventure or active travel? The majority of these operators feature soft adventure trips (activities not too physically demanding and with minimal risk), while others specialize in hard adventure (higher level of fitness and gear usually is required). 
The most common activities found on these types of itineraries often include hiking, biking, horseback riding, rafting, kayaking or whale watching among others. Want to learn more about entering and making connections in the adventure and active travel market? Check out NTA's Travel Market Guide featuring educational and business insight, statistics, Courier articles, media releases and more.