Sun, sand and now spirituality

The Caribbean, your destination for sun, sand and… spirituality?  The idea isn’t so far-fetched says former CNN anchor and author Andria Hall.According to Hall, faith tourism is a fast-rising, often overlooked
market the Caribbean tourism industry should tap into.

Speaking at the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) in Nassau, Bahamas, Hall challenged the media and tourism industry to take advantage of this burgeoning market.

“We’re so happy to embrace niche markets because we think they have money, but we don’t look at where the money really is coming from because we’re afraid to go after them, afraid to touch the controversial,” said Hall.

She believes “faith tourism” is an exploding industry, and Hall has done her research. She says, according to the U.S. Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, faith tourism is a US$1.1 billion industry.

“The Caribbean should begin actively wooing this vital demographic. A
demographic that wants to experience the spiritual essence of the region,” Hall indicates.

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And because the Caribbean is a region steeped and grounded in faith, offering it as a destination to faith communities should not be hard. “This is what the Caribbean is about and those people want to be catered to,” said Hall, president of the New Jersey-based SpeakEasy M.E.D.I.A. communications firm.

The African-American faith communities are an obvious sector. According to a 2002 study, an estimated 53% of the 36 million African Americans regularly attend church, slightly higher than the national average. Although only 15% of Blacks listen to gospel radio stations, more than 70% of those who do are homeowners, and 17% have
household incomes of US$75,000 or greater.

Experts say the Caribbean region has a lot to offer from religious pilgrimages to serene locations conducive to spiritual reflection - offerings that can appeal to a range of faith systems including Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus.

“They want a destination that will welcome them, welcome their faith, [and] welcome the fact that they want a spiritual experience,” Hall affirmed.
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