By Mac Lacy
Nearly 300 faith-based travel planners, travel industry destinations and tour operators gathered in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Aug. 21-23 for the eighth annual Going On Faith Conference operated by The Group Travel Family. The Going On Faith Conference is the group travel industry’s only faith-based travel conference, and this year’s event drew delegates from across North America, plus international destinations including Israel, the Bahamas, Jordan and other countries.
“This conference is establishing a loyal following of those travel destinations that truly seek out faith-based travel groups,” said Joe Cappuzzello, CEO of The Group Travel Family. “From pilgrimages to youth retreats and traditional travel groups, faith-based tourism has carved out a recognizable niche within the overall group travel industry.”
Conference highlights included two evening events hosted by the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau — an opening evening dinner and drama at Narroway Productions, and a gospel performance followed by dine-around dinner options in Rock Hill’s distinctive Old Town.
“Our community believes in family and faith, and we embrace opportunities for fellowship,” said the convention bureau’s interim executive director, Mikki Rentschler. “Rock Hill and York County are progressive and bright destinations, and we enjoyed sharing our authentic features with the delegates of Going On Faith.”
During two days, more than 3,000 business appointments took place between travel buyers and destination representatives, and delegates heard presentations from three distinguished speakers on faith-based travel topics.
Mike Schields, managing director for groups and emerging markets for Globus family of brands, shared his company’s newest research on the $17 billion faith-based travel industry during the conference’s opening session. Jimmy Wallace, former four-time state champion high school football coach and motivational Christian speaker, gave the keynote address. And to wrap things up, Brian Jewell, executive editor of Going On Faith magazine, shared his outlook on the future of packaged travel for groups based on six travel personalities that tour planners should account for in their programming.
“The educational content this year was superb,” said conference partner Charlie Presley. “Globus’ research validates the huge potential of this market, while Jimmy Wallace was as inspirational as anyone we’ve ever listened to. And Brian Jewell has created a fascinating overview of personality types that today’s travel planners must account for. We appreciate all of their participation in this year’s conference.”