Israel: Agent to Agent

The key to success for Rev. Ken Meyers of Travel Network in Wellesley, Mass. has been in finding clients who think and believe like he does and sticking with them.

Meyers has been leading groups to the Holy Land for the last 29 years, but has been a religious-minded visitor for the last 37. His groups share religious beliefs and an intention to visit Israel often, a combination that maintains his volume.

"We are drawn together by Scripture," he says, noting that nearly all of his clients are Christians from along the eastern seaboard, the western U.S. and Canada.

Meyers is an outside agent for Travel Network and designs and leads the firm's tours to Israel. He relies on Tal Tours in Valley Stream, N.Y., for arrangements.

Cultivating repeaters, he suggests, is one way to keep up numbers in a narrow niche.

Meyers leads several programs to Israel annually and many of his clients return to Israel with him every year. The February-March time frame is most popular because it is less expensive and cooler, he says.

Meyers' trips always include 10 days in Israel; extensions to Jordan, Greece, London or a cruise are added.

For Miriam "Miki" Owen, diversification and a personal touch have been important assets. She has worked at Wood-Hew Travel in Woodmere, N.Y., for 20 years and has owned it for the past 15.

Owen offers her upscale clientele many destinations, including Israel. This diversification is important, she says, because travel to the Holy Land has its ups and downs.

"We do a moderate amount of travel to Israel," she says, "and to be successful selling that destination, it's important to zero in on clients' needs."

Family groups going to Israel for Jewish coming-of-age bar (for a boy) or bat (girl) mitzvah celebrations require different details than do individuals who want to travel on their own in private cars.

Owen uses Isram World of Travel in New York for most arrangements because, she says, their guides know English well and have up-to-date hotel information.

Recently, disruptions in Israel have made some people "a little reticent" about going, but an agent's personal touch is important here, as well.

"After they speak to me they're not afraid," Owen says, because she tells them about her sister who lives in Israel happily with her grandchildren.

She also explains that tourists are kept far from any trouble and most are not even aware of any problem while they are there. She says, "I urge people to go."

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