With an Argentine on the throne of St. Peter, Buenos Aires has launched a series of guided tours linked to the new pope, according to the Associated Press.
The three-hour weekend bus trips are a modest, and so far non-commercial first step at papal tourism. The tour bus winds through Buenos Aires twice each Saturday and Sunday and can carry about 40 passengers, cruising past 24 sites linked to the new pope. There's no charge for the trip, or for more limited walking tours of downtown and neighborhood sites offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Clients can tour the streets where Jorge Bergoglio grew up and played soccer, the church where he prayed as a teenager and the cathedral where the man who would become Pope Francis said mass. You can even visit the stand where he bought his newspapers every weekend and where he went for a haircut.
The tour bus is a single-story cruiser with sealed windows above a huge image on each side of Francis and the words "Pope Circuit" in papal yellow, which also happens to be the official color of the metropolitan government that began offering the tours last weekend.
According to a survey conducted by Menlo Consulting Group and Globus, the total market for religious travel in the U.S. (past and potential) is at about 16.6 million people. In 2008, more than 900,000 people from the U.S. traveled internationally for religious purposes, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. So, there is some money to be made here. However, this market is very hard to predict. For other niche markets that are worth looking into, check out a recent piece Travel Agent did on growing niche markets by clicking here.
For the full Associated Press story, which details additional stops on the tour, click here.