COVID-19

Richard Page & Meredith Hill Page, daughter of founder Ed Hill…veterans of over 200 trips to Israel.

June 30, 2020

We trust that you and your family, and pastors and their congregants are doing well. Our prayers continue for those who have lost loved ones and friends, and those still battling the virus.
The situation surrounding COVID-19 changes daily, and some travelers are concerned—while many others are determined to continue traveling. We want to assure all travelers that we continue to monitor the advice and protocols from the CDC and other government sources, and to work closely with our travel partners in Israel and elsewhere to determine the safest and best actions to take for their individual travel events.
Israel Travel. As the COVID-19 outbreak worsened, Israel decided to only allow travelers to enter the country who could be quarantined in private residences for a period of 14 days, effectively closing the country to tourism. Ed Hill Tours had hundreds of passengers scheduled to go to Israel during March, April and May, and it was necessary to advise them that they could no longer travel on their scheduled dates. However, nearly all our groups have rescheduled for dates in the late fall and early 2021, and at this point we believe those tours will go as scheduled.
Some good news! Israel began lifting its lockdown several weeks ago, and is reducing restrictions placed on citizens, schools and businesses. Historic sites, churches, and national parks are reopening. Hotels are reopening with new procedures in place to ensure the highest levels of hygiene and sanitizing. Over the following weeks, restrictions will continue to be lifted, and on August 1, 2020, limited flights to and from Israel are expected to become available and tourists will be welcomed from countries where the virus is under control. We are extremely hopeful that by late October and November, the U. S. numbers will be low enough to allow American groups entry. As a preferred USA tour provider, our most important job is to ensure the safety and comfort of our groups, and we will only engage suppliers (hotels, bus companies, sites, etc.) that exceed every one of our expectations and yours.
It has been expected that travel in general will begin returning to some sense of normalcy by early fall. Our staff has again been working from our offices, and we are in consistent touch with IGT (our office in Jerusalem), and the Israel Ministry of Tourism. New confirmed fall dates are listed under “Israel Tours.” It is apparent that the desire to visit Israel has not lessened, as we are hearing from pastors and tour hosts who wish to schedule new tours for next year and beyond.
Ed Hill Tours has been making travel dreams come true for Christian travelers since 1962…not only to Israel, but other Christian-interest destinations such as Jordan, Greece, Italy, and other areas of Europe. Through the years, we have gone through many other “storms”…wars, terrorism, economic downturns, and other health crises. Although the COVID-19 situation has been unlike any other, we believe the expertise we have gained through other crises, has informed our response to this one.
“This too will pass.” We believe that our nation and the world will recover from this unprecedented crisis and that the desire for exceptional inspirational travel experiences will be as strong as ever. Ed Hill Tours remains dedicated to the care and safety of those who trust us to operate their travel events, and we will continue to do so with honesty, professionalism, and fairness. Keep your faith strong and don’t stop dreaming of an amazing journey in the not too distant future.
 
 

Debunking Israel Travel Myths…

Since it’s inception as a nation, Israel has experienced times of unrest, terror attacks and wars, yet Israel is actually one of the safest places on earth. For instance, most crime as we know it in the U. S. is not prevalent or non-existent 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 itineraries never go to any area of possible danger, including most cities and towns in the West Bank or anywhere in or near the Gaza Strip.

“I’ve heard it is expensive to visit Israel.” Travel costs to almost anywhere seem to become more expensive every year, and some destinations, such as London, Paris and Tokyo are very expensive. However, compared to those and most 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.

“Large tour company have better tours.” Not necessarily! That’s like comparing the overall quality of a large hotel to a small hotel based only on the size of the building. In comparing tour companies specializing in Christian group travel, EHT is a moderate sized company. Our travel partner in Israel is typically recognized as their largest incoming tour operator. However, simply being a large company is no guarantee of the best travel product, and certainly not the best personal service. For instance, we know of  large travel companies that consistently use older buses, lower level guides and drivers, and less expensive hotels. Why? Because the tour company saves a lot of money using old buses, employing lower level or inexperienced guides, and lower quality hotels. We use only the latest coaches and hotels rated Superior 4-Star and 5-Star in excellent locations, and our guides are experts in the Christian tour, they’re among the most requested in Israel, and have worked with us for many years.

“The hotel you stay in doesn’t really matter since you only sleep there.” 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. The typical touring schedule means groups are usually at their hotel from around 5 pm until 8 am the next morning. That includes dinner and breakfast, and the better the hotel, the better the food and service. Of course, the budgets of most groups does not include the very finest luxury hotels, but that’s not necessary to enjoy an excellent hotel and very good service.

“The best tour companies include lunches.” Very seldom does a tour host ask EHT to include lunches, but of course we can do so if a tour host wishes to.  However most tour hosts soon realize that the cost of the “free lunches” plus a profit to the tour company will be added to their overall tour price. However a tour company advertises it, that is not a free lunch! When lunches are included, the group will have lunches at pre-selected stops where everyone is effectively paying the same amount for lunch no matter what they eat, even though some will bring their own lunch, or choose to eat nothing. Tour members don’t realize they have already 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 applies to the “free water” on the bus some companies advertise…an amount was already added into the tour cost!  

“All airlines are basically the same.” Not true. Airline travel in general is certainly not “glamorous” or as easy as it once was. Most airlines 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 considerably more. Most international flights now also have “Premium Class”, which is priced between Business Class and Main Cabin. To save money, some tour companies may use charter flights which typically use older planes, offer less service, and can have long waits at connecting airports…usually not a fun experience! Some tour companies will use flights on an airline that connects in Europe. This can work reasonably well or can be a nightmare! Groups can find themselves with no escort at the connecting airport, and are left to find their way around a huge, crowded foreign airport on their own. Then they must go through a long security line after having gone through one before leaving the U. S. Large European 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-JFK/Newark, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Toronto. EL Al has recently added service from San Francisco, and offers limited schedules from Las Vegas and Orlando. Note: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, most airlines are currently operating many less flights, and travel to Israel is still limited to mostly Israeli citizens. We will update when this situation changes.

“Most tour companies charge about the same prices.” or “Some tour companies offer really good deals.” The old adage, “You get what you pay for” certainly applies in the travel/tour industry. While it is true that airlines usually offer the same rates to various tour companies, hotel rate can depend on loyalty or the volume a tour company does with a hotel chain or individual hotel properties. Prospective tour hosts should be aware of deceptive advertising such as when a tour company advertises a “come on” price that sounds too good to be true, that’s exactly the case…it’s not true! A price stated in LARGE PRINT is usually not the actual price. It can be just the “Land Only” price, which does not include airfare. Or a tour company’s ad may leave out a major item such as the airline fuel surcharge – now termed “carrier-imposed fee.” This fee alone has been $600 to $700 to Israel. Most understand this type of advertising is “bait and switch,” but a first-time tour hosts can easily be deceived. These companies invariably are not able to retaining clients, because once fooled, most will not be fooled again.

“Pastors always add an additional profit margin to their selling price.” Certainly not most or even the majority. At present, most Deluxe 10 or 11-day Israel tours are priced between the high $3000’s to $4500, including air and land, and using very good hotels, 2 meals a day, all entrance fees, etc. To make the tour as affordable as possible for the most passengers, pastors who work with us typically do NOT add an additional profit amount to their tour price. So if you see a 10 or 11-day Israel tour selling for $5500 or more, the tour is either staying at the very finest hotels (Ritz-Carlton, King David, Waldorf-Astoria) or the tour host is adding a hefty profit amount for themselves. While it is not our intent to say that is wrong, it IS our intent to clearly state that significantly higher tour prices do not necessarily mean a tour is higher quality in any way.