I suppose I am quite ‘lucky’ really. Being born in Plymouth, I have a British background and education. But having lived in Israel and worked in their tourism industry for 17 years, I also have an Israeli edge to my character and with my fluent Hebrew – I am able to understand the Israeli people and their culture.
In June 1980, I took out my very first educational tour to Israel. This was quite a ‘baptism of fire’ for all my group consisted of travel agents, who had one objective in mind and that was to see how much alcohol they could consume during the tour.
This phenomenon led to a ‘dream’ tour – with the majority of the participants sleeping on the coach and not really showing an interest in the sites, the history or the culture.
I know this does not speak highly of my industry, but that was my experience at the time.
I took out a few of these tours and I recall having to carry an inebriated travel agent through security at Ben Gurion Airport after promising them, ‘He would be no trouble!’
We got a seat on the back row of the airplane for him and he slept all the way home.
Needless to say he was rather sheepish when we landed and he apologised profusely.
Ten years later, after we had opened ITS and the then Manager of El Al in Manchester, Sharon (who is my partner today) gave me the idea to start selling pilgrimages and she was the one that helped me set up my first religious educational tour.
It was late in 1993 and we had only 9 participants – small but full of potential (so I thought!)
My guide was Moshe Mellor. I was first taken by his substantial knowledge and infectious humour. He soon became a good friend and we subsequently brought him over to the UK to deliver a series of nation-wide seminars.
I recall on this tour, a participant was competing with the guide at the back of the bus and doing his own guiding!
I let it go for about an hour – but soon realised that Moshe was getting very agitated.
At Yardenit, the traditional baptismal site along the Jordan River in the Galilee – this ‘gentlemen’ approached me out of the blue and said ‘It is disgusting that we do not give time for the group to be baptised!’ Considering they were all clergy from various denominations I was a bit confused to say the least.
He then divulged that he had already booked his own tour with another tour operator in the UK and he was on mine with a friend just to ‘sort out a few things!’
I then said to him that if he was unhappy, I would arrange a private taxi for him and his friend to go to the airport immediately and he would receive a 100% refund.
He did not complain again!
Needless to say, he was never in contact with me either!
When we checked into our hotel in Tiberias a member of the group complained to me that they did not like their room. The hotel was completely full – so I agreed to change rooms with him.
At 1.00am I was awoken by a knock on my door! With blurry eyes I opened my door to see another member of my group clutching a huge bottle of whiskey – a red- faced vicar said ‘Sorry Adrian – wrong room!’
I will continue next month with a few more revelations – I promise not to divulge any names – but I can say that now leading groups of clergy and lay leaders is normally more sedate than a group of travel agents. Of course the travel agents are quieter in the coach simply because they are asleep!