Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bahamas Religious Director with NTA

Linville Johnson (third from left), director of faith-based tourism for the Islands of the Bahamas, meets with NTA leaders in December following the association’s first-ever Faith-based Tourism Leaders Forum. Pictured left to right: Kevin Wright, NTA director of faith-based tourism; Cathy Greteman, NTA Chairman 2010-1011; Johnson; and Lisa Simon, NTA president.

Faith-based Tourism a Topic of Spirited Discussion in NTA

Bahamas has a voice in association’s new network for growing market

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 3, 2012)—For Linville Johnson and other members of the NTA Faith-based Tourism Advisory Council, months of planning came to a satisfying conclusion at the association’s recent convention in Las Vegas, where more than 60 experienced tourism professionals gathered for the first-ever Faith-based Tourism Leaders Forum. It was only a beginning, though, Johnson said.

“We explored a variety of opportunities in faith tourism during the forum,” said Johnson, the director of faith-based tourism for the Islands of the Bahamas. “As exciting as the meeting at Convention was, we’re just as enthusiastic about the next phase: the NTA Faith-based Tourism Network.”

The network gives participants an opportunity to continue the productive discussion, said NTA President Lisa Simon, CTP. “Now that we’ve experienced the value of sharing challenges and successes in this market, NTA will explore ways to facilitate further exchanges of ideas and information,” she said. “That can include Webinars, shared research, meetings and events.”

Participants at the forum examined the range of faith-based travel—from youth group service projects to spiritual journeys and fellowship trips. They also discussed the economic rewards of the global market, which is estimated to be US$18 billion per year. The group included NTA members from the United States—from Hawaii to Nebraska to New York—as well as Jordan, Canada, Israel, Turkey, Ireland, Egypt, Kenya and the Islands of the Bahamas.

Johnson looks forward to the future of the network and the market. “We’re seeing a growing number of faith-based groups travel here, and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is pleased to team up with NTA to develop and expand this market,” he said. “We expect to see more Caribbean countries participate with the NTA Faith-based Tourism Network.”

With his country’s natural beauty and history of religious freedom and expression, evidenced by the number and variety of churches throughout the islands, Johnson believes the Bahamas are especially inviting to faith travelers.

“We cannot claim that Jesus was born in the islands of the Bahamas, but we can assuredly boast that it is the place where God lives,” he said. “When you experience our country’s beauty; culture and warm, friendly people, then you might agree that God created this paradise to be his home.”

Johnson added that the Islands of the Bahamas encourages people of all faiths and religious backgrounds to visit and share in religious experiences.

About NTA: Founded in 1951, NTA is the leading association for professionals serving travelers to, from and within North America. Our members are tour operators, suppliers and destination marketing organizations from more than 40 countries. For general information, visit www.ntaonline.com.