Gigi Inigo has been active in the travel industry for 25 years but not always as a travel planner.
“I was the district sales manager for Philippine Airlines before joining a tour operator,” she said.
Among her responsibilities for the tour operator was launching a travel program to Israel. While the travel program wasn’t necessarily focused on the religious market, Inigo worked closely with the Israel Ministry of Tourism office in charge of clergy relations and was invited to tour the country.
This trip made its mark on Inigo. “I was inspired and decided I really wanted to lead pilgrimages,” she said. “Pilgrimages have a different type of personality.” She views the religious market as “incredibly rewarding” and different from the more fast-paced, competitive nature of the larger travel industry.
“A pilgrimage is not just a vacation,” she said. “It’s another level because you walk in the footsteps of the Lord or the saints. It’s a spiritual journey.” Every pilgrimage is a special experience, but she sets out to make every trip memorable by including extra touches to deepen the experience for her pilgrims.
“I like to throw in surprises for them,” she said. For example, on a trip to Portugal, she organized a special lunch during which travelers sampled the area’s cuisine and spent time getting to know local hosts.
Inigo works closely with pastors and priests of several churches and denominations to customize trips for their groups. Her attention to detail sets her apart as a planner, and her travelers love her for it.
“I have a lot of repeat clients,” she said. “Most of my clients are my friends forever.”
After a trip, Inigo may plan a reunion where travelers can relive the memories and stay in contact with the friends they’ve made, many of whom will also join her for another pilgrimage.
“I’m really blessed to have a job like this, to not just give people a trip, but for them to live their faith,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. It’s incredible to see people grow their faith right in front of your eyes.”