In the June/July issue of Going On Faith, I wrote about the upcoming GOF Conference and why it was a “must attend” event for planners and other travel professionals involved in religious travel. Now, as the wonderful August 20-22 event has come and gone, I would like to share my personal top five highlights of the conference. If you were fortunate enough to participate in the three-day show, you can reminisce with me. If you were unable to make it this year, I hope my recap of the 2009 GOF Conference will spur you on to place next year’s event in Joplin, Mo., on your calendar today.
More than 160 religious travel planners
The 2009 Going on Faith Conference hosted more than 160 religious travel planners from throughout the United States and Canada. Coming from different faiths and denominations, the planners were looking for new travel ideas and destinations, both domestic and international. The planners I personally met ranged from newbies to veterans of the GOF Conference.
Variety of travel and tourism professionals
Dozens of travel organizations and tourism representatives were in attendance at this year’s Going on Faith Conference. What was most impressive once again was the wide representation of the religious travel marketplace at the show. The event featured officials from convention and visitors bureaus, hotels/accommodations, tour operators, theaters, museums, transportation and other suppliers.
Inspirational keynote speaker
This year’s keynote speaker was Mike Radford, a former professional baseball player, commercial pilot, major television sportscaster/producer and Branson theater entertainer. Radford’s presentation was inspirational, engaging and very funny. No (baseball) pun intended, but he was a real “hit” at this year’s conference.
Wonderful meals, entertainment and socials
Hosted by the Grapevine CVB and its partners, the opening night set the perfect tone for the rest of the event. The Thursday-evening entertainment included a remarkable group of singers, including the crowd favorite, a young girl who seems destined to be a future favorite on American Idol. As for the rest of the conference meal functions, each gathering provided an opportunity to enjoy delicious cuisine and engaging, educational presentations.
Sightseeing tours and excursions
Another top highlight of the GOF Conference featured the local sightseeing tours of Grapevine and the surrounding area. The afternoon excursions (on Day 2) provided both planners and travel professionals an opportunity to explore the host city, of which a top highlight included walking through the restored Main Street District with its fascinating collection of galleries, antiques and specialty shops.
Be sure to put the 2010 GOF Conference (Aug 24-26) on your calendar. For more information about next year’s event, visit www.gofconference.com. To learn more about the 2010 host city — Joplin, Mo. — visit www.joplincvb.com. As I was born in Missouri, I’m looking forward to returning home to my roots. And I look forward to seeing you in Joplin next August.
Kevin J. Wright is president of the World Religious Travel Association, chairman of the World Religious Travel Expo and author of The Christian Travel Planner.