Despite the current economic crisis, U.S. travelers continue to show strong interest in Egypt. With double-digit growth over the past several years, tour operators have become aware of this trend and are looking to either add or expand their offerings there. As operators add Egypt packages, however, many are finding that A. Ady Gelber has a jump on all of them.
Gelber is president and CEO of tour operator IsramWorld, which has had one of the strongest operations in the Middle East for decades. Gelber himself is no stranger to Egypt.
More travelers are choosing to travel to Egypt.
"I’ve been to Egypt over 40 times," he told TravelAge West in an exclusive interview. "I love the destination."
Gelber is helping agents spread that love this year with a series of promotions and brand changes to many of IsramWorld’s destinations, including Egypt.
First of all, the company’s "We’re With You Every Step of the Way" promotion is designed to lend a helping hand to agents in this tough time. For all new bookings on escorted tours to Egypt that include a Nile Cruise, IsramWorld will give agents $100.00 per person in extra commission. This offer is also available on escorted tours to Israel, Eastern and Central Europe, Russia, South and Central America and Asia, including China.
In addition, as part of this promotion, IsramWorld will also participate in a 50-50 co-op advertising program with agencies up to a maximum of $500.
"Agents today are fighting for survival," Gelber said. "My only channel of distribution is travel agents, so I’m going to support them in many ways. In addition to regular commission, I’m going to give the agent another $100 per person."
As another show of its support, IsramWorld has a promotion called "I’m Fed Up With Worrying, Please Send Me on Vacation." As part of this offer, for every seven packages to any IsramWorld destination sold before March 31, the company will give the agent a six-night vacation to the IsramWorld destination of the agent’s choice, or a $1,000 American Express gift card. As the promotion literature states: "We can’t do anything about the current financial crisis, but at least we can help get you away from it for a week or so."
While this promotion is mostly a reward for agents, Gelber also believes that once agents experience an IsramWorld trip firsthand, they will have even more faith in the product.
"Some consumers think they’re being smart, and they book everything on their own, then they get back and realize they spent more on the trip than if they booked with a travel agent," he said. "The best thing about IsramWorld is that 99 percent of clients come back — no matter where they went — and say ‘Thank you, I had a great trip.’ Whatever else, we bring back happy customers."
In addition to agent promotions, IsramWorld has continued to grow its Elite Travel Collection in many of its most popular destinations, including Egypt. The new brand was launched last year. As part of the program, travelers are picked up at the airport, and from there, they virtually never have to touch their luggage, have the use of a guide and driver with a private car and stay at very upscale accommodations. The itineraries are also extremely flexible.
"We’re going more and more into the upscale market, and our elite program with a private car option is still popular despite the economy," said Gelber. "This high-end market might not be going by private jet, but they are still going first class with a private limo. It’s a lifestyle for this market, and it’s not going to change much."
But even in this economy, Gelber said agents shouldn’t expect to see IsramWorld (or sister companies LaTour and Orient Flexi-Pax) slash prices. According to him, this type of severe discounting is short-sighted and not good for agents or suppliers.
"I don’t believe in discounting packages. When companies do that, if I’m the customer, I’m going to interpret that as they overcharged me before. How are you going to go back to your regular price later?" Gelber said. "I would rather give it to the agent then lower the price for the package. Then if the agent wants to discount the product, they can do that. I say let agents decide what’s best for them."