Article link: http://www.star-telegram.com/religion/story/819894.html
Newspaper: Forth Worth Star-Telegram
By TERRY LEE GOODRICH
For Bernard and Carol Kern, the highlight of their May trip to Turkey came in the Garden of Religions in the seaport city Antalya.
The retirees from North Richland Hills said that as they stood in the shadow of a mosque, a synagogue and a chapel, they thought of the words of the biblical prophet Malachi: "Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?" (American King James Version)
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Interested in religious tourism?
Faith-based travel is rising dramatically, said Kevin Wright, president of the World Religious Travel Association, a Colorado-based global network.
Here are some of his observations about religious tourism during a question-and-answer session with the Star-Telegram:
I have heard travel called the "fourth pillar" of the faith-based consumer marketplace. What does that mean?
Faith-based music and publishing industries grew enormously in the past two decades, the film industry in the last decade. Now we’re seeing an increase in people incorporating their faith into travel.
Talk about the history of faith-based travel.
Well, religious tourism is possibly the oldest form of tourism, with roots lying in the Egyptian empire, when they would host religious festivals. They had to have food, drinks, camel rides.
Pilgrimages to Jerusalem or Mecca, as well as mission trips, have been the bread and butter. But now what we’re seeing is more what we call "fellowship travel" on other trips and vacations.
How is fellowship travel different from simply taking a trip with someone who shares your faith?
An example is faith-based cruising. Some will have a speaker or speakers from their faith community or maybe some authors. Sometimes, Christians sell out a whole cruise with Christian artists on board. That’s especially appealing for the younger generation, because these [musicians] are their celebrities.
There also are Caribbean and Mediterranean trips, with the Mediterranean having a little more in the way of religious sites like Ephesus or Greece or New Testament sites.
But there are even trips to Alaska and faith-based African safaris. You ask, "What the heck makes that faith-based?" Just traveling together with prayers before meals and devotions make that faith-based, and now a number of tour operators are faith-based.
A growth industry
Overseas religious travel by Americans over the past five years has increased 54 percent, nearly twice the 28 percent increase in general overseas travel, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.
12 percent of travelers said they are more interested in taking a spiritual vacation than they were five years ago.
The appeal of a spiritual vacation spans age groups, with about one-third of each (18-34 years old, 35-54 and 55-plus) expressing interest.
— Terry Lee Goodrich