The term innovation is most often associated with the high-flying technology industry. It is a word less often used in relation to the travel and hospitality marketplace, and it’s rarely discussed within faith-based tourism. It’s time to change the discourse and make innovation an important topic of conversation among faith-based travel planners.
To paraphrase Daniel Isenberg, a prominent authority on entrepreneurship, “Innovators are those who see economic value where others see nothing. They are the incubators of tomorrow’s products and services.”
What does innovation mean for faith-based travel sellers and planners?
Due to the many ongoing changes within the demographics and buying habits of the religious market over the past 25 years, it’s become imperative for religious entities and their leadership to “think like start-ups” with respect to faith-based travelers. The challenge, however, is that many organizations have lost their original creativity and ingenuity. To help overcome this, we’ve listed below several kick-starter ideas on how you can innovate within the faith-based travel marketplace:
1. Develop and Sell Cross-Segmented Products and Services
Cross-segment your faith-based travel products and services with multi-generational travel, adventure travel, student travel, sports travel and the like. For example, have you thought of creating a sports outing package specific to church groups? What about developing family adventure trips for them? The key here is to hinge on activities that are already popular with your fellowship and build a faith-based component around then.
2. Create and Offer Unique Religious Themed Events
Minor and Major League Baseball teams have been among the most innovative organizations in developing unique packages to attract people of faith. In fact, teams like the L.A. Dodgers and Atlanta Braves host a popular “Faith Days” at their stadiums. Perhaps your local sports teams offer something similar to this that you can build a group around. If not, study these offerings and approach your local minor league franchises about integrating similar ideas into their products.
Not a sports fan? Universal Studios and Six Flags theme parks are great examples of theme park companies that create and offer innovative musically-themed faith programs to attract church and religious groups with their respective Rock the Universe and Christian events.
Related article: 7 Top Spiritual Tour Operators (leisuregrouptravel.com)
3. Partner Faith-based Influencers on Social Media
We all know social media is the rage these days. We also know people of faith place great trust in their religious leaders and personalities. Why not innovate by tapping prominent faith-based individuals to serve as testimonial advocates of your organization via social media outlets. Supercuts, the hair salon franchise, ran an Artist Ambassadors campaign whereby featured music bands are responsible for promoting Supercuts on major social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Pinterest. You too can adopt similar principles to the faith-based marketplace by finding social media influencers and partnering together to offer travel programs.
4. Dedicate Staff to the Faith-based Market
Do you currently have a staff person or department solely dedicated to this market? If not, then the implementation of this idea would make it avant-garde to your company. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism became a pioneer in this regard. For more than a decade they’ve remained one of the few tourist offices with a fully-dedicated director and staff person for developing the religious market. The Bahamas has been reaping the benefits ever since with a growing customer base of faith-based travelers.
Above all, when thinking in terms of innovation – think in terms of marketing, sales, promotions, products and services with respect to the faith-based travel market. And remember, innovation doesn’t necessarily mean it must be new to the industry. If it’s new to your company and customers, that’s innovation.