CHICAGO — The lands of the Bible took center stage at a tourism event in Chicago in April when the Going On Faith Bible Lands Travel Seminar brought experts from throughout the Middle East together in an informative two-hour panel discussion. The event was hosted by Going On Faith, America’s only travel magazine for church and religious groups, and took place at DePaul University on September 27.
“Traveling to the lands of the Bible is one of the most compelling journeys that church groups can take, but the distance, cost and logistics can make it intimidating for some church travel planners to take on such a project,” said Brian Jewell, executive editor of Going On Faith and the moderator of the seminar’s panel discussion. “Our goal at this event was to expose our audience to the breadth of amazing travel experiences across the region and give them tools to help plan and promote trips that will have an impact on their congregations.”
Panelists for the discussion included Jill Daley of the Israel Ministry of Tourism; Christine Moore of the Jordan Tourism Board North America; and Ziya Gokmen, a licensed Turkish tour guide and an expert on the country’s faith heritage sites. These experts discussed the thread of biblical history that runs through their countries, the unique experiences that await Christian visitors to their destinations and the other can’t-miss natural and historical attractions that any group traveling in the region should stop and see.
The seminar also included a frank conversation about the political and security concerns that hinder many potential visitors from traveling to the region.
“Many Americans only hear about some of these countries on the news, and the headlines coming out of this region rarely do it justice,” Jewell said. “Our conversation in Chicago took some of these difficult issues head-on and demonstrated the kind of unity and cooperation that travel can promote.”
The seminar was made possible by the participation of numerous tourism organizations that crossed religious, political and geographical divides. The Egyptian Tourism Authority, Israel Ministry of Tourism and Jordan Tourism Board North America all sponsored the seminar on behalf of their destinations. Other sponsors included Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s national air carrier, which offers extensive service to cities throughout the region, and Select International Tours, an American tour operator that specializes in arranging faith-based trips to the lands of the Bible.
More than 30 church representatives and faith travel professionals registered to attend the seminar. Turkish Airways and Select International Tours concluded the event by giving away a free trip to Israel and Jordan to one of the church travel planners in attendance.
Church travel planners attending the Going On Faith Bible Lands Travel Seminar in Chicago learn about travel opportunities in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Turkey and meet experts from those countries.