World Religious Travel Association Selects New Charter Members: Jordan Tourism Board, Gaylord Hotels and MTS Travel Join Elite Travel Board; Charter Members Show Leadership, Innovation in Faith Tourism Industry

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The World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) has selected three new Charter Members -- the Jordan Tourism Board, North America; Gaylord Hotels and MTS Travel -- because of their innovation and long-term commitment to leading and cultivating the faith tourism industry. In its first 12 months, WRTA has established itself as the leading network for the religious travel industry, with an impressive list of members from around the globe. The initial gathering of WRTA members will take place Oct. 29 - Nov. 1, 2008 during the World Religious Travel Expo & Educational Conference 2008, the first-ever tradeshow and convention for the faith tourism industry.

The World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) has selected three new Charter Members -- the Jordan Tourism Board, North America; Gaylord Hotels and MTS Travel -- because of their innovation and long-term commitment to leading and cultivating the faith tourism industry.

The latest members of the elite, invitation-only charter membership group join The World's Leading Cruise Lines (Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line, Costa Cruises and Yachts of Seabourn), The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Christian Travel Finder and Trafalgar Tours.

"MTS Travel is proud to be a charter member of The World Religious Travel Association. During our 50-year plus history, MTS Travel has focused on providing travel services to destinations of significance to those who travel for religious and relief and development reasons," said Jim Buddendorf, President of MTS Travel. "We are honored to count some of the largest churches and NGOs as our clients and look forward to working closely with WRTA in bringing religious travel into its proper perspective in the travel industry. As a retailer and wholesaler of religious travel, we realize the value of working with other specialists in this arena as well as WRTA to develop win/win/win scenarios for our customers, suppliers and fellow agents."

"WRTA has emerged at a critical time in the industry, when both consumers and the trade are re-thinking and re-shaping what constitutes a more meaningful travel experience," said Malia Asfour, Director of the Jordan Tourism Board of North America (JTBNA). "As a Holy Land destination that offers a variety of purpose-filled vacation experiences -- from pilgrimages to retreats, conferences to volun-tourism -- we are delighted to be a Charter Member of WRTA, and look forward to working with the leadership and fellow members to develop transformative vacation experiences that better meet the needs of religious travelers."

As two recent major studies report, the faith tourism industry is as robust as ever. In October the United Nations World Tourism Organization released its findings that 600 million religious trips take place globally each year. In November, Globus and Menlo Consulting Group debuted the first-ever study of the U.S. Religious Market, which estimated the religious travel market in America at 16 million people.

In response to the burgeoning growth and expansion of the religious travel industry, the World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) launched in January 2007. The organization's role is to shape, enrich and expand faith tourism while assisting companies with entering or expanding their presence in this lucrative yet largely untapped market. In its first 12 months, WRTA has established itself as the leading network for the religious travel industry, with an impressive list of members from around the globe, including leading tour operators, cruise lines, airlines, tourist boards, convention and visitor bureaus, attractions, hotels, restaurants and travel insurance/health companies, among others. WRTA also has become the voice of faith tourism, acting as a resource to major media around the globe such as The New York Times, National Geographic, El Pais (Spain's leading daily newspaper), The Times of London and The Financial Express (India).

In addition to charter members, WRTA has welcomed these Partner Members during its inaugural year: The Globus Family of brands, World Mission Tours, Switzerland Tourism, Objectix (Lufthansa Preferred Group Specialist), Going on Faith, Leisure Group Travel and Church Executive magazine.

The initial gathering of WRTA members will take place Oct. 29 - Nov. 1, 2008 during the World Religious Travel Expo & Educational Conference 2008, the first-ever tradeshow and convention for the faith tourism industry. The event will be held at the renowned Gaylord Palms Resort Hotel and Convention Center, which provides an exceptional forum for networking and exhibiting. The show will feature hundreds of travel wholesalers, suppliers, tourist boards, agencies and group travel planners from the $18 billion religious travel industry.

In addition to Charter and Partner members, current exhibitors include Collette Vacations, Allied T Pro, Grand Hotel Moderne (Lourdes, France), Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, Pennsylvania Dutch (Lancaster County) CVB, WordSpring Discovery Center, Biltmore Estate, Religious Market Consulting Group (RMCG), Epiphany Media and Faith Travel Development & Consulting, among others.

"We are very pleased and excited to be a Charter Member of WRTA. The fine leadership of this terrific, new and much needed travel industry organization have become knowledgeable experts in this market and they are breaking ground in a market segment of the travel industry that is poised for tremendous growth," said Joe Donnelly, Director of National Sales-Travel Industry for Gaylord Hotels. "The assistance, programming and education that they will continue to provide to both the religious travel buyer and supplier will undoubtedly be a very valuable resource to all those in the travel industry."

The WRTA Expo will feature two venues: The International Tradeshow and The Educational Conference. The combined event will provide the first world-class forum for travel suppliers, destinations, wholesalers, agencies and church travel planners to come face-to-face, develop partnerships, find new products and services, generate new qualified leads and build long-term profitable relationships.

The Educational Conference will provide the most comprehensive learning program ever offered on religious tourism -- for both trade and consumer. Through leading industry speakers, dynamic presentations, panel discussions, interactive break-out sessions, seminars and peer networking forums, the trade participants can expand their knowledge of the opportunities in the new niche markets within faith tourism. Participants can listen to and discuss with travel experts market trends, marketing intelligence, the latest products/services and actionable ways to exceed faith-based customer's expectations. Group planners will attend product seminars hosted by travel industry experts, while also learning how to enrich and expand their travel ministry programs.

To learn more or register online, visit http://www.religioustravelexpo.com or call 1-800-657-1288 (or 360-778-3047). For more information about becoming a WRTA Member and joining the leading network for the religious travel industry, visit http://www.religioustravelassociation.com. Both free and paid memberships are available, including the complimentary monthly e-newsletter Religious Travel Buzz, which keeps companies, groups, and individuals abreast of faith-based travel industry news, events and announcements. All members also receive a complimentary subscription to Going on Faith, a top religious travel industry publication.

About the World Religious Travel Association (WRTA)
The World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) is the leading network for shaping, enriching, and expanding the $18 billion global faith tourism industry. WRTA exists to bring the worldwide trade and North American religious consumer together for the primary purpose of promoting and providing quality travel experiences around the globe. As the source and voice for the religious travel industry, WRTA provides members opportunities to network, learn, contribute, and lead. WRTA embraces all segments of faith tourism: Pilgrimages, Missionary, Cruises, Leisure Conferences, Retreats, Destinations, Attractions, Christian Camps, Family, Student/Youth, Adventure and Volunteer Vacations. To learn more about the Association or become a member, visit http://www.religioustravelassociation.com or contact WRTA at 1-800-657-1288 or 360-778-3047. To attend or exhibit at the World Religious Travel Expo, register online at http://www.religioustravelexpo.com. To join the (newly launched) first online global community for faith tourism visit WRTA Social Network http://www.religioustravelnetwork.com, hosted by the World Religious Travel Association.

For more information or to obtain an interview: Please contact Christine Moore, Epiphany Media, at 469-688-5683, or email christine@epiphanymedia.info.

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