And to keep those visitors coming to Israel, the Israel Ministry of Tourism is out to help the agent community with active and ongoing promotions and advertising program. “For 2010, we’re going to continue advertising to the Christian communities, to the sophisticated traveler and of course, to the trade, in addition to lots and lots of marketing activities. We have to work very hard to get these numbers. They don’t happen by themselves. Israel is a group destination, it’s not like Switzerland, for example, where you might go with family or friends. We still have a high percentage of our travelers who come in groups and we have to work very hard to get these groups.”
Sommer also underscores the need for in-depth product and destination knowledge when selling Israel and when asked whether the Israel Education Course had any effect on sales to Israel, he says, “I think it’s very important because Israel sometimes has a problem with image and especially within the travel industry. In the minds of many people, Israel is just the Holy Land, nothing beyond that. In the minds of many people, Israel is just a desert and people don’t know Israel is a modern, great destination with this super, super infrastructure with first-rate hotels and restaurants. People don’t know it. And for me, it’s very important for the travel agent to know it. Once they know the destination, it’ll be easier for them to sell it—not just as the Holy Land, but as the Holy Land plus, plus.”
Boost your sales to Israel, as well, with our 2010 Israel Travel Planner in the November issue—a supplement created to supplement the sales information that’s available in our Israel Education Course. If you haven’t already completed the course, you can still enroll and participate in the training at our Recommend Education Center at recommend.com/ education.
Of course, if you want to sell Israel, you’ve got to come up with some solid tour operator partners to work with and a good place to start is with IsramWorld, which was just named Best Tour Operator, the Middle East for the third year in a row. “We appreciate it,” says Ady Gelber, executive chairman/CEO, “being recognized as the Best Tour Operator, the Middle East. Although,” he adds, “we’re not only in the Middle East, but in other parts of the world, as well. The most important thing to us is our brand and our distribution channel, which is only travel agents.”
IsramWorld has been focusing on developing a product aimed at the high-end FIT traveler, the kind of client who won’t settle for anything less than a private car and guide, VIP access to attractions and custom travel throughout. “It’s not yet in full swing—the promotion—but the market knows about it. We haven’t yet printed whatever we have to print and distribute it, but it does bring us in quite a number of high-end FIT private car clientele. It’s not completely the Elite program yet, but as such it’s still a very high-end private car FIT. It seems like that’s the only market segment that’s up for us and not down industry-wide.”
The company has a 9-night Israel Elite by Car program that includes VIP “Gold” Services at Ben Gurion Airport—arrival and departure; the services of a private chauffeur/guide in a Mercedes Benz or Mercedes Viano; special welcome gift; evening theater or musical performance in Tel Aviv; nine nights of luxury accommodations with two nights in the Hilton Tel Aviv in a corner executive suite, two nights in Tiberias at the Scots Hotel in an Antique Lakeview Room, and five nights in Jerusalem at the King David Hotelin an executive room; private museum guides/curators as indicated; special visit of Safed led by a mystical scholar or artist; a tour of a Golan Heights army bunker with a representative of the IDF and use of a refreshment bar in the vehicle (replenished daily). This heady tour goes for the heady fee of $11,400.
While Gelber is not happy with 2009 sales, like everyone else he’s looking to a better tomorrow. “Ours started going up in October, but when I talk to the people in our distribution channel, the travel agents, they’re still going through very hard times,” the long-time tour operator veteran says. “But I’m hoping that in 2010 we should be seeing some kind of a rebound—maybe anywhere from 10 to 15 percent over 2009. That’s what we hope for and what we’re planning for.”