The Center aims to help people bridge religious differences in positive ways and to teach about religious beliefs in practical settings; travel to other countries and experiencing other religions and cultures first-hand has the potential to accomplish a similar goal.
• Hotel And Restaurant Management
• Parks Recreation And Tourism
Workplace diversity: Because of its nature, the hotel, tourism and recreation industry has sites in locales and cultures around the world.
Religion can be an aspect of cultural differences, meaning that those who manage or work at such sites will encounter colleagues and customers from different religious backgrounds. The United States itself has a diverse population and workforce – and U.S. landmarks and recreational sites attract visitors from around the world. A working knowledge of religious beliefs is helpful for those in service-based industries, because neither tourists nor employees leave their religion at home.
Cultural diversity: At times the tourism industries will demand that professionals travel outside their cultural comfort zones in order to either work or forge working relationships with others. Knowing the possible pitfalls in cultural exchanges is a step toward avoiding them and building stronger contacts. In addition, those in the tourism industry have high amounts of contact with a diverse public. Because tourism is service-based, the need to provide excellent service based on sensitivity and understanding is crucial. This could range from understanding that some faiths have dietary restrictions to the need for space for customary prayers.
Religious-themed travel: Travel packages for religious experience are on the rise. Trips to the Holy Land and other parts of the Middle East, for example, have increased in the past 15 years. Travel packages for Muslims making trips to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to observe the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca, required of Muslims at least once in their lives) also are on the rise. Travel performs more than a leisure need and the industry can be ready to fulfill the spiritual yearnings of those who want to travel for religious reasons. Another trend is travel packages, such as cruises, airfare, buses, and hotels, for religious groups, from Christian couples and Jewish seniors to religious youth groups and women’s retreats. Hotels and other sites also have a lucrative market in religious gatherings and conferences. Understanding the needs of religious travelers – with special attention to cultural and religious observances – is a good tool for recreation and travel professionals.
Other travel: America’s parks and landmarks attract visitors from around the world, from a multitude of nations, languages, religions and cultures. Administrators and personnel can find ways to be sensitive and helpful to each, through signage, guide materials in appropriate languages and exhibits that explain the diversity of American history and culture. Travel publishers and agencies can also provide information to travelers in the U.S. and abroad about how they may practice their faith in various countries (such as available houses of worship, or religious restrictions). They may also provide information about the cultural and religious customs of countries where tourists may visit, so that they may travel without offending, or being singled out, and get the most of their cultural experience. Travelers also need to be aware that there are some countries where travel is largely limited due to restrictions of religious-based governments.
Issues today: Researchers could study how much religion impacts people’s decisions to travel, and to where. What are people’s concerns about travel? Are they concerned they may not be able to practice their faith in another country? Are they concerned that they may not understand the mores of another culture? Do they worry about danger as a result of volatile religious climates? How important is it for people of various faiths to travel to their faith’s homeland, or to get a first-hand view of significant sites?
Researchers could study what religious education and travel resources are available, or what countries are the best/worst, safest/least safe or most significant for various faiths.