By Lacey Pfalz
Religious travel, often also called faith-based travel, is a unique subcategory of the travel industry that focuses on connecting travelers with religious travel experiences around the world, from experiencing the Holy Land or hiking along the famed El Camino de Santiago to pilgrimages to Mecca and beyond.
Faith-based travel is estimated by ETS Tours, a leader in faith-based group travel, to be worth $50 billion to $100 billion. The World Tourism Organization estimates 330 million travelers visit the world’s largest religious sites each year, while millions more stop into historic churches and temples during their travels and wander along ancient pilgrimage paths to connect more deeply with Christian saints, Buddhist philosophers or other religious figures.
But if you’re a traveler looking to take your first faith-based trip, it can be difficult to know where to begin. First, check out this beginner’s guide to religious travel to learn how to start planning.
Faith-based travel is often a group affair, but whether you’ll be traveling solo, with family or with a church group, tour operators often offer the best opportunities to enjoy a truly faith-based journey.
Reputable land tour operators are often the easiest way to get an in-depth connection to the destination in question, whether it be in Jerusalem experiencing three major world religions coexisting within one ancient city or following in the Apostle Paul’s footsteps across Greece or Italy along ancient Roman roads.
Tour operators are unique in that your itinerary is set with a faith-based approach to your trip, led by a knowledgeable guide who can provide the historical and religious insights to each destination and attraction, as well as provide time for prayer and reflection in between seeing the sights.
Many tour operators offer religious or faith-based tours. Collette and Globus, for example, offer group tours with others or private touring options for church groups, families and more. ETS Tours, which specializes in faith-based travel, is a great choice for travelers taking church groups or larger groups on a religious-centered trip.
If you’re more inclined to go your own way without the benefit of a guide and other additions like included transportation, check out some tour operators’ itineraries to get a good look at what you want to visit during your own trip. They can be great starting points for your own trips, which may be longer or visit different countries, depending on your travel desires.
Lastly, check in with a travel adviser. They are great resources for planning trips of all kinds and will be able to guide you through your vacation planning process no matter if they’re faith-based travel experts or not.
“Planning ahead is the best – you can make payments and you can really plan a great trip if you have time in advance,” said Tammy Levent, President of Elite Travel Management Group. “Make sure to go with an agency that is familiar and knows what visas to get to all the countries you are visiting.”
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