How large is the faith-based travel industry, and how vibrant is it?
“Faith-based travel is driven by universal dynamics that remain constant,” said Going On Faith publisher Mac Lacy. “For people of faith, there will always be sites sacred and secular that create a desire to travel. Dozens of successful tour companies have identified faith-based travel as their primary market, and there are thousands of volunteer travel planners in this market as well. In the global community of Judeo-Christian believers alone, there are millions of active travelers worldwide.
“There are more than 1 billion Catholics and roughly 800 million Protestants across the globe,” said Lacy. “There are about 14 million adherents of the Jewish faith today.”
How much do they travel? Most industry authorities estimate value of the faith-based travel industry to be approaching $20 billion each year.
“Two years ago, Globus Family of Brands released research at our Going On Faith Conference that estimated there are 16 million potential faith-based travelers in the United States alone,” said Lacy. “When you consider that there are roughly 320 million people living here, that’s only 5 percent of the population. That appears to be a very reasonable number to use for addressing this market.”
What drives the faith-based travel market? Travel companies and researchers agree that a number of factors come into play. Most faith-based travel groups themselves would agree on at least these six:
• A community of believers has a shared interest in discovering their world. If your belief system includes God, your opportunities to travel and see the wonders of creation are vast.
• Shared values set these travelers at ease with others in the group. The first objection to the idea of traveling with a group of people is concern about compatibility. A shared faith cuts through much of that initial concern.
• There is a “wow” factor that belief in God affords. It’s one thing to overlook the Grand Canyon and wonder at its beauty; it’s another to attribute that beauty to God.
• It’s reaffirming: It underscores what its travelers believe. Even in adversity, most faith-based travelers will seek a divine message they can attribute to God and take away from any situation.
• The ability to roll with the punches on any trip is important, and these travelers know that. Faith-based groups are better equipped than most to see a larger landscape that makes inconveniences during travel easier to reconcile.
• There is a wide range of ages involved, more so than most other segments. “Where do a lot of kids take their first group trip?” said Lacy. “In their churches.”
Going On Faith magazine is mailed six times a year to more than 7,000 readers including 6,000 faith-based travel planners and dozens of tour operators who serve the market. Its digital edition is emailed to an additional 3,800 readers, including 2,800 travel planners. In 2014, the magazine surveyed its readership to compile these statistics:
Education and Inspiration
The mission of Going On Faith magazine is to promote the idea of faith-based travel and to educate its readers on how to run better trips and see more places. The magazine does that in a number of ways.
• Executive Editor Brian Jewell’s column — A committed Christian, Jewell offers insights that are always interesting and that come from a faith-based perspective.
• News of interest — Most recently, the magazine published an article about how the country of Jordan was hosting a group of readers in October on a site inspection tour, mentioning that publisher Lacy was going along. It has since published a feature article that includes insights from those readers about Jordan.
• Conference coverage — The magazine includes conference information to encourage faith-based planners to spend time with their peers and representatives of future destinations.
• Destination features for faith-based groups — Since 1997, Going On Faith has published features about destinations that understand the market.
• Spotlights on missions and profiles of people in the industry — Personal accounts of people and missions speak to the market’s best attributes.
• Advertising — Many of the magazine’s readers know who the regular advertisers are, and many have visited those places.
“If you take look at this magazine in a spiritual sense, it’s not an exaggeration to say that, like a church, it unites a community of believers,” said Lacy. “It unites Christians and, in many cases, other people of faith through the shared wonders of travel. That’s a pretty big calling.
“We live in a world where many around us are here today and gone tomorrow,” he said. “This magazine — and the Going On Faith Conference — have never left the scene. Since 1997, we’ve published an issue of this magazine six times a year without ever missing a deadline. Since we began this conference a dozen years ago, we’ve held one every year since. That’s a track record that stands the test of time.”