Organizing a successful tour

ED HILL TOURS

A Pastors/Tour Leaders Guide for Organizing a Successful Holy Land Tour

Use this step by step guide for tips on how to organize your tour

Step 1 – Deciding when to go – how far in advance should I begin planning a trip…   

We generally suggest a minimum of 10 to 12 months before a tour departure…some churches can do it more quickly.  If you are new to hosting a travel group, one year to 14 months in advance should provide the time you will need to prepare, promote, generate interest, and allow time for your church and friends to prepare for the necessary vacation time and finances.  The key is to plan far enough ahead so you can accomplish your goals with tour deadlines and the departure date in mind, but not so far in advance that it is difficult to maintain excitement and momentum. An overly long promotion period also allows more time for changes in people’s lives such as sickness, moving, loss of job, etc.

  • When is the best time to travel…

It’s really up to you…we can arrange for you to travel at any time of the year. More than anyone, you know your congregation, your church calendar, and your personal schedule.  Spring and fall are the busiest seasons for Christian tours/pilgrim groups.  We advise avoiding the major Jewish holidays as rates are higher, many hotels may not be available and sites will be very busy. You may also want to consider the weather.  Late November through early March can be cool or quite cold, with some rain. Summers are hot and airfare and hotel rates are higher.  We’ll work with you to decide what time works best for you.

  • Decide on an itinerary and budget considerations…

Our tours are highly customizable. The itinerary you decide on will be based on what kind of experience you want to provide for your group. Do you want to focus on only Christian and biblical sites or do you wish to include historical and recreational sites or museums, etc. You traditional Signature itinerary is designed for Holy Land Christian group travel and includes sites everyone would wish to visit in Israel. We offer “study tours” and youth tours as well. We will help customize a special itinerary for you and help you decide what price level best fits your church and the level of hotels to include within those considerations.

Step 2 – Get the word out!  Promote your special Holy Land travel event…

There’s nothing more effective than networking within your church body.  It is essential to identify members of your pastoral staff or ministry team as well as members of your congregation who will network and be enthusiastic about the Holy Land trip.

  • Promote and be creative…

In order to promote your tour to Israel, you will need effective marketing materials.  We can provide an excellent Leaders Kit with sample letters, examples of flyers, videos, etc. which can be used for promoting the tour. Have regular informational meetings which typically may follow Sunday services.

  • Here are some ways you can get the word out…
  1. Announce the tour in your Sunday church bulletin with a clear call to action such as: “Travel with us to the Land of the Bible…contact Paul in the church office.” 2. Put out colorful posters and flyers in your church, again with a clear call to action such as: “Join us for 11 glorious days in the Holy Land” or “Join Pastor Smith and Walk in the Footsteps of Jesus.” Have an attended information table after Sunday services with flyers, sign-up sheets and other tour information4. Encourage all members to join your email list and use that  database to send out email blasts about the tour.  5. You may wish to let your congregation know that they may invite family and friends from outside of the congregation and those who live in other areas of the country.  6. If you have a website or a Facebook page, create an ad or a page dedicated to promoting the trip. Encourage everyone to “Like” it and share it on their social media.

Step 3 – Be consistent and turn interested members into committed travelers

Keep the tour before your congregation…Have sign-up sheets to gather contact information including phone and email. Compile a list of anyone interested in going and follow up immediately. Promotional materials should include information on signing up for the tour.  For example: “Sign up today. Call Ed Hill Tours at 1-800-780-7801 or email: tours@edhilltours.com and ask to join the First Church Holy Land tour.”   We’ll take care of the sign-up and reservation details with just one simple phone call or email from your member.

Step 4 – Ask for commitment and retain participants…

A per/seat deposit must be sent to the airline to hold the group’s space.  The number of seats we will reserve for your group is based on how many you believe will be going.  When a member signs up for the tour and makes their deposit, you will forward that to EHT or the passenger can send their deposit directly to us.  Only a few passenger deposits will usually cover the required airline deposit, and that is why initial passenger deposits are so important. Some churches will use church funds for the airline deposit.  This is refundable up to a certain date should the trip cancel or we need to reduce space.  We will inform participants of future deposit amounts and deadlines.  Retain travelers…This means that you do whatever you can to ensure that those who have registered to go, will stay in the tour and actually travel. This is done by maintaining a level of excitement about the tour: staying in communication regularly with new information on the trip, mentioning the trip during announcements or including a reference to it during a sermon.  The pastor’s level of enthusiasm is the most important key to the success of any tour. We will also provide all travel details to your passengers including itineraries, packing list, weather, etc. A few weeks before departure we will send a final travel packet containing detailed information on every aspect of the tour including contact information, badges and luggage tags.

Step 5 – Enjoy and experience the Land of the Bible

You will be walking where Jesus walked, and we want you and your members to experience Israel to the fullest:  Spiritually – it can indeed be life-changing; Historically – there is so much to see and learn about this ancient land; Fellowship – having a wonderful time of fellowship with you, their pastor, and friends old and new.  Take lots of photos, create your own video, send a live video message to your congregation during a Sunday service, post pictures on Facebook or a blog.  We also provide maps, hats, and a beautiful full color journal for taking notes at all the sites.

Step 6 – Talk about your journey to the Holy Land

After you return form Israel, you will be poised to organize future trips.  You can even make it an integral part of your ministry to share Israel with young ministers, staff pastors and as many of your congregants as possible.  Build on your successful trip; talk with enthusiasm about your experiences and what the trip meant to you and your participants.  Write about your journey in bulletins, newsletters, email broadcasts and social media.  Encourage those that went to do the same.  Set up a post-trip meeting to share pictures and highlights of the trip.  Set a date for another trip to the Holy Land!

A final word…

If this seems like a lot of work, the answer is yes and no. Anything worth doing requires some amount of effort, and we’ve covered many ways to promote a tour. However, pastors should use the promotional methods they are comfortable with and which best fit their congregation. There are a number of proven methods that most pastors should use, but for example, if a church does not have screens in front, they obviously will not be able to place tour announcements on it.  Again, the primary key to a successful tour is the enthusiasm of the pastor/tour leader…there is no way to have a successful tour by simply announcing it once or twice and assuming that you will be overwhelmed by the response.  Many members of your congregation may be “interested” in going, however that does not interpret into tour members unless they enroll in the tour and place their deposit.