TRAVELING WITH FAITH

The growth of travel and of faith have led to formation of the World Religious Travel Association, a Colorado-based group that aims to foster faith-based travel worldwide.

Launched at the end of January by Kevin J. Wright and Honnie Korngold, WRTA aims to leverage an industry that travel-trade veteran Wright says is maturing rapidly for three reasons:

“The first is that in the last 10 years, we've seen an increase of about 45 percent of Americans traveling overseas,” he says. Equally important: a U.S. population increase in people of faith in the last 10 years, when, Wright claims, “the Christian faith has grown by 10 million people,” in proportion to an overall increase in the country's population.

Accompanying these signifiers is evidence that in the last 10 to 20 years, “people of faith are spending money on products relating to their faith,” such as pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Outward Bound gatherings or fellowship travel. He also points to growth in religious-based publishing and cinema.

He and Christian-event marketer Korngold founded WRTA to help the travel trade expand its presence in the religious market, help the faith-based travel consumer learn about applicable travel opportunities and connect the two groups.

Dues range from complimentary to $10,000 for an executive membership for, say, a cruise line. The association is actively recruiting its dozen charter members and, Wright says, is in discussion with “one major hotel chain to become the representative charter member for the lodging industry.”

Did the idea for this association come to him as a revelation? No, he says, suggesting it was more a culmination. A graduate of Washington State University in Pullman, WA, Wright has written several books about faith-based travel. In 2004, when he was working for Globus in Denver, he persuaded the tour operator to launch a religious travel division.

“Now, there's really a demand for an association because religious travel is no longer a niche,” Wright says. “It is an industry.”

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