Barbados needs to go after the faith-based tourism market more aggressively and use its deep spiritual foundation to cash in on this multi-million dollar industry.
Acting Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, made this observation today during a press conference to announce the hosting of the New Testament Church of God’s Caribbean Assembly from November 7-10.
She said faith-based tourism had “snowballed” into a multi-million dollar industry that had transformed the moral fabric of society.
She said the concept that religious travel was centred on the notion of taking a pilgrimage was no more and, therefore, the market was “much larger and more segmented” with niches ranging from high-end religious travel, volunteer-oriented religious travel to modern-day pilgrimage.
Sandiford-Garner added that Government had a “great deal” to offer faith-based guests and pledged its support of any initiative that would build up this tourism niche.
“We are very well suited for this type of tourism. We have the infrastructure, the physical amenities… We have some of the most historic churches [to be found] in the region that are located in Historic Bridgetown; we have all denominations and we also have the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere as well as the St. Michael’s Cathedral,” said Senator Sandiford-Garner.
She added: “More importantly, we have some of the most beautiful beaches for baptism. So, when you think about all of these things coupled together, I don’t think that you can have a better location for the activity that you plan to have here.”
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Field Director for the New Testament Church of God and the Bishop for Tortola, Ishmael Charles, said the event in November would attract more than 3,000 believers from around the world.
He said the services would be held at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex and were open to other Pentecostal denominations.
Charles said Barbados was chosen as the venue because it was accessible to travellers, especially from North America and the United Kingdom, who would not have to take multiple flights to get here.