Our latest member interview – Abraham Tours
Interview with Gal Mor – Co-Founder, Abraham Tours
Tell us your story. How did Abraham Tours get started?
While our tours have become the largest business unit within the Abraham Group, we initially started out in 2010 with Abraham Hostel Jerusalem and a very small tours operation.
My four partners; Yaron, Maoz, Nitzan and Dror, and I met through our mutual efforts to promote Israel as a leading destination for independent travellers. Our dream was to create an all-encompassing one-stop hub for backpackers, and in this way revolutionize the world’s view of Israel and the Middle East by revealing the local reality, and all that this region has to offer. The idea of Abraham Hostels was born.
Our Jerusalem Hostel opened its doors in 2010, followed by our locations in Nazareth and Tel Aviv. In order to provide our guests with the most comfortable and all-encompassing experience, Abraham Tours has evolved organically alongside the hostels.
Today, there is a synergetic relationship between the hostels and the tour operations. While the hostel provides a suitable audience for the tours, the tour customers also become hostel guests. Considering Abraham Hostel was voted among the top 10 Best Large Hostels in the World (according to HostelWorld), the success of Abraham Tours signals the potential for accommodation providers to step into tours, activities and experiences.
What makes Abraham Tours different from your competitors?
Israel is a very diverse and not always simple destination. We want our guests to be able to form their own impressions and opinions of the reality in the region. Despite our name, we are not a religious-oriented business. Our inspiration comes from Abraham’s famous tradition of excellent hospitality and his journey as a unifying symbol among the area’s prominent faiths.
Neither do we promote a political agenda of any kind. We encourage and assist travellers in seeking as many political opinions as they can in order to effectively formulate their own views. With this “come as you are” mentality, our tours highlight for example the strong dual narrative of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Our Hebron Tour allows to experience this city from two sides: The morning is spent with Jewish ‘settlers’ in the city, and the afternoon in the Palestinian part of the city.
By hearing from both sides, this tour gives a balanced insight into life in Hebron, the city of Abraham, and the site of the burial place of the Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
We trust the traveller to make up their own mind about the sites they see, political disagreements they observe, and religious conflicts in the region, so we focus on providing as much context and real-life explanation as possible.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
We are proud to say that we lead an organisation that also functions as a family. Not only that we are able to bring together the most diverse travellers and have them make hummus in one of our cooking workshops or discover a new city together – same goes for our staff.
For many years now, we have hosted volunteers. They are travellers from all over the world who have extended their time in Israel by staying with us and experiencing the local life. Many of them return at least to visit, some of them even come back to live here and join our regular staff. This can only be a good sign, right?
Just a month ago, Misha, one of our most frequently visiting ex-volunteers came to celebrate Purim with us (the Jewish version of carnival / Halloween), and left us the following note: “As you know, this was my 5th time in Israel, and every time is different, different for many reasons. But one thing is always permanent: You, people who work at Abraham Hostel. […] I love every little thing, every worker and every minute in the hostel because I know that every day, you give the whole soul to the hostel. This place has changed my life.”
Before we can provide our guests with the best possible experience, we must ensure the satisfaction of our staff – and that’s definitely our biggest success.
What can we expect to see from Abraham Tours in the future?
There are quite a few upcoming projects ahead for us: Next to our three existing properties, we plan to open three more locations for hostel and tour operations; around the Dead Sea, in Eilat and another property in Jerusalem. And that’s just the start. We chose the name because we wanted to open hostels across the Middle East, along the biblical path of Abraham, the first backpacker. If that’s possible geopolitically, that’s the goal.
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
Independent youth travel is growing at the fastest pace, same as the demand for social interactions and experiences. For most young travellers, that’s more important than a fancy room or meal. They try to save money with deals on flights and accommodation, so that they can afford local experiences. This usually means an experience that is iconic to the destination, while still being authentic. Huge buses carrying groups of 50 or more to the most famous sightseeing areas are less and less of interest to anyone these days.
Another focus shift is toward sustainable travel, learning about local life with all its uniqueness, beauty and difficulties. Many young travellers start looking into ways of contributing and volunteering in the social or environmental sector during their journey.
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with Abraham Tours?
Based on accumulated years of experience, we’ve developed very effective and accurate procedures. In the process we’ve also reached out to other international and local operators to learn from their experience.
But also, being an officially accredited tour operator for large international operators such as STA, Topdeck and others, means that we are required to adhere to their protocols and are regularly vetted by their Health and Safety departments.
Finally, working in a politically challenging region, we have also developed a network of contacts and agents in the field that update us live on anything: From flash floods that affect our desert tours, to political protests in the region.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
We were happy to join WYSE Travel Confederation in order to network with operators from all over the world and learn from each other. It is the perfect place for joint growth, while it’s also important for us to support the representation of Tour Operators within the WYSE T.C.
Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? (WYSTC, STAY WYSE, WYSE Exchange Australia, WETM-IAC)
We’ve participated at the WYSE events in Belgrade and Montreal, as well as WYSTC in Edinburgh, where we were incredibly honoured to receive the award for the best social space in a hostel last year. All of these were very well produced events with a great balance between commercial, educational and networking activities.
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing currently?
With a continuously rising demand, our main goal is of course to keep our quality and thus customer satisfaction as high as it has been for the last few years. The intensive growth of the local market coupled with our own strategic ambitions to double our size is challenging yet exciting at the same time. Sometimes, this means to find rather creative solutions for on-hand operational problems, but up until now I’m happy to say we are succeeding in this challenge.
Something that is still lacking though is standardized operational technology and distribution systems within the tour operator segment in order to help save manpower costs and to more effectively control inventory and pricing.
Abraham Tours offers unique regular departure day, multi-day and package tours in Israel, The Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Egypt. We believe strongly in providing travellers with the knowledge and services necessary to reach all the sites and attractions worth visiting, both off and on the beaten track.
Abraham Tours arrange private tours and transportation on request for groups and individuals. The success of Abraham Tours lies in the synergy with Abraham Hostels and their ability to provide together a comprehensive and unique cultural experience to independent and semi-independent travellers.
Abraham Tours also offers a variety of semi-organised multi-day packages offering independent travellers the ability to explore the region on packages ranging from 2-12 days.
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Subsidiary Member
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