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Insightful seminars at the GOF Conference

Delegates to the 2012 Going On Faith Conference in Rock Hill were treated to three superb educational seminars that touched on distinctly different themes. The most recent research on the growing faith-based travel segment, an inspirational message about the importance of faith in everyday life and a fascinating look at emerging travel personalities among groups were all presented at the three-day event.

“My hat is off to Charlie and Joe for arranging such a strong speaker lineup,” said conference partner Mac Lacy. “Content has become so important to delegates in today’s world — they want to know their time has been well-spent, and good seminars certainly play into that thinking.”

Up first at the conference’s opening session was Mike Schields, the managing director for groups and emerging markets for Globus Family of Brands. His company has recently completed landmark research on the travel patterns of faith-based groups, and Schields was happy to share its findings with attendees.

“We wanted to know after the economic slowdown in 2008 and 2009 if the faith-based market had decreased in size,” Schields told the audience. “To our surprise, it actually had grown by 5 percent when we completed this survey in late 2011. And the key finding in our opinion was that this market is getting younger: Travelers 35, 45 and 55 years of age are entering the faith-based travel market, and they aren’t going just once, but taking two or three trips in a lifetime.”

Next up was the conference’s keynote speaker, Jimmy Walker, a former high school football coach with four state championships to his credit. Walker spoke on servanthood and shared his life story as it relates to guiding young men’s lives as a coach. A committed Gideon, Walker also shared the Gideon mission of distributing Bibles throughout the world.

“I felt like the entire conference was a spiritual journey,” said Fred Weeks of Connection Christian Tours in Tuscumbia, Alabama. “I felt like the last seminar was particularly helpful because I know every tour operator out there is trying to figure out how to get those new travelers on their tours.”

That final session was led by Brian Jewell, executive editor of The Group Travel Leader Inc. and longtime editor of its magazine for the faith-based market, Going On Faith.

“Traditionally, many groups have been able to offer a one-size-fits-all approach for most itineraries,” Jewell told the attendees. “I would caution you that those days are behind us and that to be successful in the future, planners will have to offer different types of experiences to travelers who come with their own set of expectations.”

Jewell gave travelers the following personality types and shared with attendees what each is looking for in a travel experience:

• The Pilgrim
• The Epicurean
• The Adventurer
• The Connector
• The Learner
• The Vacationer

Jewell’s presentation was so well received that he was invited to offer it again at two conferences for The Group Travel Family: the BiG Conference for boomer groups that took place in late September and the BankTravel Conference for bank travel directors scheduled for Feb. 5-7, 2013.