NTA’s Faith Travel Association seeks to develop spiritual ties within its membership and the worldwide religious community, explains FTA’s Interim Executive Director Karla DiNardo in an interview with Leisure Group Travel.

Leisure Group Travel: FTA’s been in existence for nearly a year now; give us an assessment of your accomplishments.

Karla DiNardo

Karla DiNardo

Karla DiNardo: Having just launched in January, I am excited to say that FTA is growing rapidly, and, as we approach our first full Travel Exchange conference, the momentum is building. We’ve launched a new website that provides greater member search capabilities, published our first Trip Planner and Membership Directory, and we are fulfilling our promise of giving our members outstanding exposure to their key prospects by taking FTA on the road to a line-up of key faith-based shows and travel trade events. Some of the industry’s most well-known names have come on board, joining many other tour operators, destinations and attractions to form an eclectic membership that really defines what faith-based travel is today. You know, it isn’t just the traditional pilgrimage or mission trip anymore. It’s also youth group adventure trips, marriage retreats, and fun weekend getaways for any faith-based group to any location. Through webinars and conference sessions, we are beginning to fulfill our mission to help our members network with each other and learn to market tours and events to these groups so they can grow their business, and our members are getting excited about the possibilities.

LGT: What has been the NTA member reaction to FTA up to this point?

KD: While some were kind of taking a wait-and-see approach at first, more and more, as they see who is joining, are realizing the potential in FTA to help them grow a new sector of their business. It’s a really exciting time for them and for us.

LGT: What do you see as the greatest opportunity within the religious travel market today?

KD: It seems like almost every day we read about another country that is investing in faith-based travel as a major part of their tourism offerings. The global faith-based travel market is really taking off and Faith Travel Association, with our global, multi-faith focus, is positioned to be a critical part of that equation.

LGT: How do you make the argument to traditional churches as to why they need to have an organized travel program as part of their mission?

KD: When churches begin thinking of travel as a true ministry, it becomes a win-win-win for their congregation and their mission. Tour operators who specialize in faith-based travel share the positive, transformative, spiritually uplifting experiences they witness from the groups who tour with them; that is the message we want faith leaders to understand. Travel is everything faith leaders want in a ministry. It has the power to change lives, to increase faith, to grow membership, and cultivate deeper friendships among participants. Travel ministries help grow faith, and in turn, they can help these faith leaders grow their churches.

LGT: What will be the footprint of FTA at the 2015 Travel Exchange in New Orleans?

KD: This year, FTA will have a full pavilion and conference sessions for both faith leaders and the travel industry. We’ll have great exhibitors and sponsors, including Israel Ministry of Tourism, Kuoni, and Palestine, just to name a few, creating a dynamic exhibit space that will be right in the center of the Travel Exchange floor. We hope you’ll be there for FTA Day on January 19!

For more information, contact the Faith Travel Association, faithtravelassociation.com., 855-264-6600.