To Develop Faith-Based Business, Tap Your Own Clergy

by Ruth A. Hill
To Develop Faith-Based Business, Tap Your Own Clergy

Travel agents should tap their own priest or spiritual leaders for help in building a faith-based travel business, according to Kelly Crank, a home-based agent with Acendas, a Kansas City-based travel management company.

“One of my parish priests loves to travel, and when he heard me talking about a trip my husband and I had made to Italy, he suggested we organize a parish trip,” said Crank. “He’s very popular throughout the parish, so once the word got out that he was leading us, my phone began ringing off the hook and we had a waiting list.”

Three parish priests were part of Crank’s group trip to Rome, Florence, Siena and other destinations in Italy last year. The resounding success of that trip led to Crank’s development of a faith-based travel niche. She is currently planning other trips for this year and 2014.

“I work at home and have a family, so I continue to plan travel for families and individuals,” she said. “But faith travel is turning out to be one of the most personally rewarding things I have done in this business.”

The home-base advantage
Crank began planning travel about four years ago. She and her husband had always shared an interest in travel and she knew it was something she could do from home while raising a family.

On the advice of an agency veteran, she decided to enroll in a three-month travel school course that included classes in geography, marketing, airport codes and GDS software. She said she enjoyed the planning part almost as much as the actual travel.

The Italy trip she is organizing for this fall has a built-in lure for Catholic clients, according to Crank.

“It looks as if Pope John Paul II will be canonized this fall, and we plan to actually be in Rome about the time it is expected. Many people are also interested in the new pope, and this gives them added reason to travel with the group.”

More than religious sites
A Catholic pilgrimage to Ireland is in the works for 2014. It will focus on the Knock Shrine, the country’s Marian site that is similar to Lourdes and Fatima in Europe.

But Crank said she builds itineraries around much more than faith sites.

“We always add in free time for shopping and other interests like the Guinness brewery and the Blarney Stone in Ireland,” she said. “We have some dinners together, but not all. And we always add in plenty of scenic enjoyment throughout the tours.”

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