Travel experiences can now be both exceptional and healthy. As group travel resumes, it will do so with enhanced safety and sanitation protocols to ensure a healthy travel experience. Limited tourism to Greece is now opening on May 14 and Israel is reopening to groups on May 23 – more details below. Ed Hill Tours will have one of the first groups to return, scheduled to arrive in Israel on June 8. Indications are that travel and tourism will be back to a semblance of normal by this fall and very busy by spring 2022. As we are beginning to see signs of an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, EHT has a number of groups scheduled for Israel this fall, and 2022 will be very busy. The safety and health of our travel guests has always been of utmost importance to us, and we are grateful for the many pastors and other tour hosts who continue to trust us to handle their travel events. We look forward to traveling on amazing journeys once again.
Tourism begins. As tourism begins again, there will be guidelines and protocols in place for some time which will vary somewhat with different destinations. Negative COVID-19 tests, vaccinations, or having antibodies will be common protocols at many destinations. What we mostly expect are general precautions that have been common in the US and nearly everywhere: mask-wearing in some places, hand washing/sanitizing, social distancing, and temperature checks before entering certain locations.
What you will need to know before traveling. Travelers should expect to fill out a Wellness Declaration for EHT before joining any travel event. On international flights, travelers may be required by airlines and foreign countries to show a negative COVID-19 test within 48-72 hours of departure or arrival at a destination. Travelers should also anticipate possible quick testing for COVID-19 and temperature checks upon arrival at their destination. Rapid Testing is already available at many airports in the US and other countries. This will make it much easier to conform to requirements for a negative test before leaving the US, arriving at a destination, or returning home. Some countries may also require a vaccination for COVID-19 as an entry requirement. When required, travelers must carry the official proof of their negative test and/or vaccination. We believe many of these protocols will be adjusted or phased out as conditions allow and COVID rates continue to decline due to “herd immunity.” To maintain a healthy environment, there are several small steps you can take to protect your own well-being and the well-being of your fellow travelers. Here are a few things you can do to help:
To travel or not…to vaccinate or not. We realize that some people are hesitant to travel, while many others tell us they want to begin traveling again as soon as possible. Millions have already been vaccinated, yet many others are hesitant or unwilling to take the vaccine. Although not being vaccinated may impact a person’s ability to travel internationally to some destinations, we feel this is a decision every individual must make based on their health issues or beliefs they hold. We will continue to monitor the protocols and advice from the CDC and other government sources, and to work closely with our travel partners abroad to determine the safest and best actions to take for all our future travel events.
Israel Travel Update. Just announced! “Israel Starting to Open the Sky for Tourists in May!” From May 23, 2021 Israel will start allowing tourists to enter Israel in phases. Phase 1: Tourists that have been vaccinated and are traveling in a group. Phase 2: Allow individual passenger entry. The continuation of both phases is dependent on the incoming tourists’ effect on the “health situation” in Israel. All passengers will be required to bring proof of vaccination and must have a PCR test prior to their flight. On arrival to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel they will have a serological test for antibodies. Israel is working on agreements for vaccine certification with other countries, and once these agreements exist, no serological test will be needed on arrival. Israel’s aim is to inoculate it’s entire adult population by the end of April. The Israel Ministry of Health has been working with hotels to establish the highest levels of hygiene and sanitizing. Israel has set up testing facilities within Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to process on-site testing of incoming and outgoing travelers. Our transportation partners in Israel utilize the most up-to-date health and safety protocols available, including state-of-the-art Aura Air filtration systems on every motor coach. Ed Hill Tours, the Israel government, and our travel partners are doing everything possible to ensure a safe and healthy travel experience as travel resumes. Click here to view our upcoming Israel tours.
Greece Travel Update. Greece is preparing to welcome tourists again – as long as they have antibodies, have been vaccinated, or have tested negative for COVID. Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis has announced the country’s plan to welcome back travelers by May 14. “Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021,” Theocharis said. “Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, have antibodies, or test negative. All tourists will be subject to random testing.” EHT is now offering a new Steps of Paul Tour for October 13-23, 2021. Click here for details.
What is now apparent. The desire to visit Israel, Greece and other biblical and historical destinations has not lessened. We have a number of Israel tours scheduled for fall 2021, and we are scheduling numerous tours for 2022 and beyond. We are always available to answer questions regarding present bookings or assist you with making reservations for future tours. Our normal office hours are 10 am to 5 pm Eastern time Monday through Friday, but hours may continue to vary at this time. However you may email us at tours@edhilltours or call us anytime at 800.780.7801. When not in our offices, we consistently check calls and emails and will get back to you promptly.
Ed Hill Tours has been making travel dreams come true for Christian travelers since 1962…to Israel, Jordan, Greece, Italy, and various locations in Europe. Through the years, we have gone through many other “storms”… wars, terrorism, economic downturns, and other health crises. Although COVID-19 has been a challenge 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 hope that it will not be long before our nation and the world recovers from this unprecedented crisis, and we believe 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 very distant future.
Debunking Israel Travel Myths, and misconceptions heard through the years…
“Israel is a dangerous place to visit” 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! Most crime as we know it in the US is not prevalent or non-existent in Israel. Israeli security, both in Israel and on ELAL Israel Airlines, is considered by most to be 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.
“It is expensive to visit Israel.” Travel costs to almost any destination 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 considered a bargain. Prices charged by different tour companies can vary widely as we’ll explain in more detail later in this blog.
“Large tour companies have better tours.” That’s like comparing the overall quality of hotels 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 and land operator in Jerusalem is consistently recognized as Israel’s largest incoming tour operator. However, being a large company does not guarantee the best travel experience, travel product, or personal service. For example, we know of larger travel companies that consistently use older buses, lower level guides and drivers, and lower quality hotels. Why? Because tour companies save a considerable amount of money operating that way. We use only hotels rated Superior 4-Star and 5-Star in excellent locations. We use only the latest motor coaches, and our guides are experts in the Christian tour, 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 not a pleasant experience (think possible bedbugs), however groups do much more than just sleep at a hotel. With a typical touring schedule, groups are back at their hotel from around 5 pm until 8 am the next morning. That includes having dinner and breakfast, and the better the hotel, the better the food and service. For groups desiring the experience, we can place them in a kibbutz or a Bedouin tent, but typically we only use nothing less than top quality hotels.
“The best tour companies include free lunches.”The old quote “there is no free lunch” could not be truer than in this case. The cost of the “free lunches” some companies advertise is simply built into the overall tour price. In effect, every tour member paid the same amount for their tour no matter what they eat, if they bring their own lunch, or choose not to eat. Yet the tour company can say they offer free lunches and tour members don’t realize they have already paid for these “free” lunches in their tour cost. The tour company uses the same restaurants regularly and typically receives a “kickback” for doing so. The same applies to the “free water” on the bus some companies advertise…an amount was already added into the tour cost. Tour hosts seldom ask EHT to include lunches, but we can do so if asked…we will add it to the cost of the tour as a separate item, and will not call it “free.”.
“All airlines are basically the same.” Not exactly! Airline travel in general is certainly not “glamorous” or in some ways as simple as it once was. Most airlines put as many seats as possible on their planes to produce more revenue. Of course, overall comfort, food, and service is markedly better in Business Class for those willing to spend more. Many international flights also offer “Premium Class”, which is priced between Business Class and Main Cabin. To offer lower pricing, some tour companies have used charter flights…typically older planes, less service, and usually long waits at connecting airports…not a good experience! Some tour companies use flights on an airline that connects in Europe. This is usually not a problem for an individual, but for a group, it can be a nightmare! Groups can find themselves at the connecting airport, with no escort, and left to find their way around a vast, crowded foreign airport on their own. Then they must go through a long security line again after going through one before leaving the U. S. Large European airports such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Istanbul can be confusing and intimidating to even experienced travelers. That’s why we prefer nonstop flights to Israel on ELAL, American, or United from international gateways such as New York’s JFK, Newark, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. ELAL recently added service from San Francisco, and offers limited schedules from Las Vegas and Orlando. Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some airlines are awaiting Israel’s reopening to fly again, are currently operating less flights, or have temporarily eliminated some routes.
“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. It is true that airlines usually offer the same rates to various tour companies, but hotel rates can vary based on volume a tour company does with a hotel chain or individual hotel properties. While prices tour companies pay can be quite similar based on volumn, the overhead and profit margins of tour companies can vary greatly. Prospective tour hosts should also be aware of deceptive advertising such as a “come on” price that sounds too good to be true; that’s exactly what it is! A price stated in LARGE PRINT is usually not the actual price. It can often be just the “Land Only” price, which does not include airfare. Or a tour company’s ad may leave out a major cost item such as the “carrier-imposed fees” – formerly called the fuel surcharge. This fee has recently averaged $600 to $700 for round trip flights to Israel. This type of advertising is classic “bait and switch,” but it is easy to be deceived if one does not read the fine print or understand how this type of marketing works. These companies usually do not retain clients, because once fooled, most will not be fooled again.
“I’ve heard that some pastors add an additional profit margin to their selling price.” Most pastors who travel with us do not. At present, most Deluxe 10 or 11-day Israel tours are priced between the high $3000’s to $4500, including air and land, very good hotels, 2 meals a day, all entrance fees, etc. Some tour hosts taking large groups will offer a 2 or 3 tier program allowing tour members to choose different levels of hotels. If that is not the case and the price of a standard 10 or 11-day Israel tour is significantly more than the above prices, the tour host is most likely adding a good-sized profit to the tour selling price. Note: Tour prices are often considerably higher for tours led by well-known pastors, Christian artists, or ministry personalities.