Meredith Hill Page, daughter of founder Ed Hill, and husband Richard Page. Veterans of 200-plus trips to Israel and other destinations.

January 2019

Debunking Israel/Holy Land Travel Myths…

“Israel is a dangerous place.” Although since it’s inception as a nation, Israel has experienced numerous times of political unrest and even wars, Israel is one of the safest places on earth. Most crime as we know it in the U. S. is not prevalent in Israel. Israeli security, both on ELAL Israel Airlines and in the country, is probably the best in the world. To our knowledge, no tourist visiting Israel has ever been killed. Of course, EHT travel programs never go to any area of possible danger, including cities and towns in the West Bank or anywhere near the Gaza Strip.

“Touring Israel is very expensive.” Travel costs to any place on earth  seem to grow more expensive every year. Some destinations, such as London, Paris or Tokyo are very expensive. However, compared to those and many other destinations, Israel is still in the moderate category. Prices charged by different tour companies can still vary widely as we’ll explain in more detail later in this blog.

“The larger the tour company, the better the tour.” Not necessarily! That’s like comparing a hotel that’s simply in a large building to a beautiful small boutique hotel. For American tour companies specializing in Christian group travel, EHT is a moderate size company. Our travel partner in Israel is usually recognized as the country’s largest incoming tour operator. However, simply being a large company is no guarantee of the best travel product or service. For instance, we know of more than one of the larger travel companies in Israel that consistently uses older worn buses, low level guides and drivers, and less expensive hotels. Why? Simple and obvious…the tour company saves a lot of money. We use only the latest coaches and hotels rated Superior 4-Star and 5-Star in excellent locations and our guides are simply the best and most requested in Israel.

“The hotel you stay in doesn’t really matter since you only sleep there.” Not exactly. Just sleeping in a 2 or 3-Star hotel is usually not a pleasant experience, but groups do much more than just sleep at a hotel. Most tour members are at their hotel from 5 pm until 8 am. That includes time spent eating two meals…and the better the hotel, the better the food and service. Of course, all groups cannot afford to stay at the very finest hotels, and that’s not necessary to enjoy a very good hotel and have a great stay.

“The better tour companies always include lunches.” We can and have done that when a tour host prefers it. However when tour hosts understand that an amount for the “free lunches” was already added to the tour cost everyone paid, they look at it a bit differently. The group will have their lunches at pre-selected stops where a profit amount was built in for the tour company. So everyone in a group is really paying the same amount for lunch no matter what they eat, if they have their own lunch with them, or eat nothing. Tour members don’t realize they already have paid for lunches in their tour cost, but the tour company can say they included “free lunches.” As the old saying goes, “there is no free lunch.” The same practice applies to the “free” water on the bus some companies advertise…an amount was already figured into the tour cost!  

“All airlines are basically the same.”  It’s not quite that simple! Airline travel in general is certainly not “glamorous” or as easy as it once was. All airlines try to put as many seats on their planes as possible to produce more revenue. Of course, the comfort, food and service is much better in  Business Class for those willing to spend the extra amount. But even a much less expensive upgrade to Economy Plus or Premium Class can make quite a difference in comfort and service. Some tour companies use charter flights (old planes, poor service, long waits at connecting airports…not a good idea). Some tour companies will use flights on a national airline that connects in Europe. This can work reasonably well or can be a nightmare! Groups often find themselves with no escort, left to find their way around a huge, very busy foreign airport on their own, then go through another long security line after having gone through one before leaving the U. S. Large airports such as Frankfurt, London, Paris, or Istanbul can be intimidating to even experienced travelers. That’s why we prefer nonstop flights to Israel on ELAL, United, or Delta from gateways such as New York/Newark, Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Toronto.

“Most tour companies charge about the same prices.” or “Some tour companies have really good deals.” Generally you get what you pay for. While it is true that airlines and hotels usually offer the same rates to most tour companies, that can depend on loyalty or the volume a tour company does with a hotel chain or individual property. And of course, either large or small tour companies can work on much different profit margins. Prospective tour hosts should be aware of deceptive advertising. When a tour company advertises a “come on” price that’s too good to be true, that’s exactly right…it’s not true! Their ad may state (in large print of course) a price which may be just the “land only” price (no airfare included). Or the  tour company’s ad may leave out a major item such as the airline fuel surcharge, now typically called “carrier-imposed fee.” This fee alone is now $600 to $700 for travel to Israel. Of course most know this type of advertising is a form of “bait and switch.” But some must still be taken in, or the unscrupulous company would not continue to use it. This type of company obviously does not retain customers year after year as EHT has, but usually must “reinvent” new customers every year.

“Pastors always add an additional profit margin to their selling price.” Certainly not all…not even the majority. Most Deluxe 4 or 5-Star, 11 or 12-day Israel tours should sell in the $4000 to $4500 range at present, although prices do vary with the season of travel. Due to their “drawing power”, a tour host…usually a nationally-known pastor or ministry personality, may add varying amounts to their selling price above the actual cost of the tour. However in our experience, most pastors do not add an additional amount to their cost. This is in order to keep the tour price in an affordable range for the most travelers. If you see a selling price that is much higher than most, it probably means the tour host is adding a significant profit amount to the actual tour cost. It does not necessarily mean it is a better quality tour in any way.