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St. Lucia taps faith tourism market

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St. Lucia taps faith tourism market

By Bevan Springer

NEW JERSEY MARCH 29: In a few months’ time, St. Lucia will tap one of the hottest growth markets in the travel and tourism industry – the faith tourism market – when the award-winning journalist, author and speaker Andria Hall hosts a renewal retreat for women to refresh and renew their spirits.

The seminar, entitled "The Walk ... Sanctuary for the Soul" is slated for June 8 to 11 at Coco Resorts in Rodney Bay and is designed for women of faith, excellence and integrity. "It is for us, women who pour out exceedingly and abundantly from themselves, who God wants to give back to," said Hall, a former CNN news anchor and author of the "The Walk at Work: Seven Steps to Spiritual Success on the Job".

Hall, whose conference team is working with regional carrier Air Jamaica to attract international visitors from the New York area, said the conference is also open to participants from St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean who will benefit from powerful guest speakers, interactive sessions and 'Biblical Aromatherapy’. Hall's New Jersey based communications company, SpeakEasy M.E.D.I.A., Inc. will also mount a public concert featuring a gospel group from the New York area. "These singers are poised to take the gospel industry by storm, and when folks hear them in St. Lucia, they will take our breath away," she says. 

She believes the Caribbean is only scratching the surface of the faith tourism market. In a recent USA Today article it was reported that overseas religious and pilgrimage travel attracts more than 600,000 American participants a year, according to the US Office of Travel & Tourism Industries. Premier Tourism Marketing says that of some 450,000 churches in the US, about 50,000 now have some kind of travel program, up an estimated 20% in the past five years.

Travel Weekly, one of America's top travel trade publications, reports that "though the rise in demand for religious travel may have eluded most mainstream marketers, it is clearly part of a larger trend toward more interest in religious products of all sorts. Greeting card giant Hallmark, for example, reports that the market for Christian products is US$3.75 billion a year, up from $2.6 billion in 1991. A similar boom is being seen in the market for religion-themed music,videos and books.

"The Record Industry Association of America reports that Christian music now outsells jazz and classical combined. On the book-publishing front, Rick Warren’s inspirational best-seller “The Purpose Driven Life” has sold more than 25 million copies."

Hall has visited the island in recent years for Counterpart International's Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) series, and last month for Air Jamaica's inaugural non-stop service from New York's JFK Airport . Raised in Brooklyn, Andria is a "preachers kid" and a child of the civil rights movement. Her mother is a retired New Jersey counselor and educator, while her father, a retired pastor, was a friend and aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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