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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 96 (Suppl.), December 2004




Rev. Fr. John JAMNICKY

National Coordinator for

Human Mobility Apostolates, U.S.A.


Tourism is one of the largest industries and the most popular pastimes in the United States of America. One billion-fifty million people a year take advantage of tourism in America; $585 billion a year is spent in the tourist industry; 51 million international visitors spend $82 billion each year in the USA. 

At our 388 national parks, 266 million people are visitors each year, 20% being international. There are 110 million person trips to our beaches each year. 

Our leading states in domestic and international tourism are:

- California with a $78 billion income per year, $12 billion from international tourists;

- Florida with a $60 billion income per year, $16 billion from international tourists;

- New York with $40 billion income per year, $8.5 billion from international tourists

Forty-one percent of the tourism in the USA takes place from May through August. Our tourism and travel industry employs 16 million Americans and has a $158 billion payroll. One of every nine people in the United States of America’s civilian labor force is directly or indirectly employed in the travel and tourism industry. Spending by residents and international travelers and tourists in the US averages $1.5 billion a day; $63 million an hour; $1 million a minute; and, $17,000 a second.

In the summer of 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored a survey of all the arch/dioceses in the United States to assess to what degree and in what areas of the country the American Catholic Church was responding to the needs of tourists. This survey was a response to the Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Tourism promulgated a year earlier by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. We felt that there were tourist ministries taking place throughout the USA, but the Bishops did not really know where they were taking place and how extensive they were. 

What we discovered was that some archdioceses had some specially designated tourism ministries but no archdioceses had someone appointed as a director of tourism and nowhere in the USA was there a Diocesan Office of Tourism. We found that there were ministries to some of the parks, beaches, resort centers, sporting events, and festivals. All of these tourist ministries were taking place in isolation, and had little to no contact with the church on the national level. 

The primary structure for providing pastoral care to all people throughout the United States is the parish, and because of shortages of personnel and cost, many Bishops have found it very difficult to go outside the parish structure when looking after the needs of any special group, including tourists. In the USA, we have a very good program and organization with our Civil Aviation Apostolates which cares for the airline traveler and aviation workers. We also have an excellent national network for the Apostleship of the Sea which looks after all mariners who visit our ports and all those who travel by sea on cruise ships, ferries, etc. The Apostleship in the Road is especially concerned about highway travelers and truckers, and people who travel by bus and rail. It is in its infancy in the USA, and will need several years of support and development for the ministry to mature.

In response to the survey taken of the archdioceses of the United States, the USCCB is working on developing a national network for Catholic Tourism. We have a meeting scheduled for April 11-14, 2005 in Orlando, Florida. We will have representatives of archdioceses from across the United States attending. Those in attendance will be representatives of tourist ministries, and delegates of the arch/dioceses who have responsibility for tourism. 

We hope that this national meeting can lead to the development of a national Catholic organization that is committed to the promotion and development of Catholic tourism in the United States of America. We hope that this new national organization can be effective in raising the awareness and concern of our church for the needs of the tourist. We would like to see this group develop pastoral procedures and initiatives and materials that can be used in ministry to the tourists. We are working on developing a national plan on tourism that will address parish and diocesan responsibilities. Many of the tourist destinations are in very isolated areas a great distance from urban centers and parishes. 

There is a need for the archdiocese to have seasonal clergy help. Our hope is that this national organization will be able to develop a national directory of available clergy to assist seasonally in various archdioceses. The Church in the United States intends to give more of its resources and energies to providing pastoral care to the tourists at our national parks, state parks, theme parks, and amusement parks. Also to the pastoral care needs of tourists at our major resorts, conference centers, convention centers and also for the millions of people who come to our recreational destinations each year such as beaches, casinos, cruises, and hotels. 

Events take place throughout the USA that attract millions of people whether there are expositions, festivals, fairs, concerts, conventions or sporting events, and the church is committed to provide pastoral care for all who attend and visit. Our Bishop’s Conference is seeking to establish a relationship with the Travel Industry Association of America, and we plan to celebrate National Tourism Week here in the United States which is scheduled for May 7-15, 2005.