Jamaica to tap into lucrative market for religious tourism


KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica plans to tap into the thriving market for religious-oriented tourism to invigorate the island’s sagging economy, government officials and business leaders said Wednesday.

A new convention center, to be built by 2009, will attract some of the millions of travelers who attend religious conferences outside of their home countries, said Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

“We are beginning to understand the dynamics of that marketplace and the power of religious tourism across the globe,” Bartlett said in a statement. “This is a huge market sector that remains essentially untapped by Jamaica.”

The global religious tourism market is a US$18 billion-a-year (euro12 billion-a-year) industry with some 300 million travelers, according to the Colorado-based World Religious Travel Association. The market is estimated at US$10 billion (euro6.7 billion) in North America alone.

“There’s going to be a significant turnaround for Jamaica when this thing takes off,” said Tommy Cowan, organizer of an annual Christian music festival in the resort city of Ocho Rios — and a former business manager for reggae legend Bob Marley.