Article Link: http://www.thenassauguardian.com/religion/299774866559256.php
By STAFF WRITER ~ Nassau Guardian:
The Ministry of Tourism(MOT) is taking aggressive measures to receive a chunk of the religious tourism niche market — an 18 billion dollar industry which has the potential of providing The Bahamas with year-round visitors, according to MOT's Deputy Director Religious Group Market Linville Johnson.
Johnson said his department is working along with approximately 20 denominations to increase the number of visitors who attend religious events in the country annually.
Johnson was speaking at the first annual Kingdom Seminar hosted by international author and consultant Dr. Myles Munroe at The Diplomat Centre recently.
The winter season is the peak period for visitors, but Johnson emphasized the need for year round visitors.
"We have hundreds of visitors who come to The Bahamas annually solely for religious events. It's an 18 billion dollar global market that is large and is growing. We want to be at the cutting edge of this market so that we can get our fair share and statistics show that we are one of the destinations of choice for these religious groups," he said.
Tourism's religious market is targeting large church groups by giving them the best deals possible from the MOT's website. Other activities include marketing and advertising through specialty religious magazines and public relations activities at seminars and conferences.
Research by the MOT shows that the local religious tourism market is comprised of 54 percent female, ages 18-24 and 45-54, with household income from 25,000 to 75,000. Fifty-seven percent stay an average of six nights in hotels, accounting for approximately 3,057 visitors and 18,201 room nights in 2007/08.
"For example, [Bahamas Faith Ministries Senior Pastor] Myles Munroe's annual conferences for youth, Christians and international leaders have been drawing a large segment of that market for us [and] Florida is our biggest market," said Johnson. "What we want to do now is partner with other denominations during their events to increase the numbers through hotel bookings."
Munroe's three-day kingdom seminar attracted delegates from more than 30 countries including The United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, The United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.
"It's great when I can do what I love which is teaching and at the same time be a part of tourism in this country. This is a time when people everywhere are cutting back, but this event has not been impacted by the recession. Really, this seminar is a response to a demand for the past 10 years. When I travel, people always ask me, 'When are you going to have a seminar in The Bahamas?' So this is different from the conferences, but it still attracts Christians from around the world," he said.