The global spotlight on religious tourism shines brightly on Montréal this autumn. On October 17, the Catholic Church canonized the founder of St. Joseph’s Oratory, Brother André. And, from November 13 to 16, the World Religious Travel Association (WRTA) will welcome hundreds of faith-based travel professionals and organizations to Montréal for the third annual World Religious Travel Expo.
“Never before has the country been at such centre stage for one of the world’s fastest growing forms of tourism,” said Kevin J. Wright, WRTA President. “The timing couldn’t be better. With record numbers of people traveling for faith-based purposes in recent years, the two historic events will provide Montréal and Canada a prime opportunity to showcase its world-class shrines and undiscovered places of pilgrimage.”
Canada is home to dozens of sacred sites. Québec’s four National Sanctuaries are:
* St. Joseph’s Oratory (Montréal)
* Notre-Dame-du-Cap Sanctuary (Mauricie)
* Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré)
* Ermitage Saint-Antoine de Lac-Bouchette (Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean)
The formal ceremonies of Brother André‘s canonization took place on October 17, at the Vatican. However, many local festivities and events were held concurrently in Canada, including scheduled activities and celebrations at Montréal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory, which welcomes two million pilgrims and visitors every year. Saint Brother André remains one of the most popular French-Canadians, and is best known for helping the poor and sick during his lifetime, as well as being associated with miraculous cures.
The World Religious Travel Expo is the world’s pre-eminent faith tourism marketplace gathering with more than 500 travel professionals and tourism organizations from over 30 countries in attendance. This November’s Expo will be held in conjunction with the NTA Convention for the second year, providing a combined gathering of 2,000-plus travel professionals and tourism organizations.
“It is with great pride that we host this year’s edition of the NTA Convention alongside the 2010 edition of the World Religious Travel Expo,” expressed the Honourable Charles Lapointe, President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal. “All eyes will be on Montréal, as key players from all facets of the international tourist industry come here to do business. To be chosen as the convention site is indeed a great honour, and demonstrates yet again to the world that Montréal is a world-class destination for meetings and tourism. While the immediate economic impact of these conventions is expected to be sizeable, it is the residual impact that is even more valuable: with Montréal as a tourism focal point, the exposure garnered from such a convention will undoubtedly result in significant long-term spin-offs,” he concluded.
On the day following the Expo’s conclusion, WRTA will host a special two-day familiarization trip for travel professionals to discover the celebrated shrines of Québec, as well as how to develop an itinerary around them and promote the travel packages to church and religious groups. In addition, tour participants will enjoy an excursion to the spectacular Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area and its breathtaking fjord.
WRTA will also host a Travel Ministry Conference during the Expo on Monday, November 15. Serving as a half-day gathering, this regional event is designed specifically for pastors, ministry leaders, and other faith community members. Attendees discover and learn how to build a successful and effective travel ministry program for their respective congregations and organizations. Travel Ministry Conference participants will also have an opportunity to walk the Expo tradeshow floor and meet hundreds of faith-based travel providers, suppliers, and destinations.