Tips & Tricks
1. Know Your Audience
Always think in terms of your audience and ask yourself: What are they interested in? You’ve probably planned tours before, your trip organizer probably has a set of predefined experiences and people they want your group to meet. But every group is different – so what are the specific interests of this group? If your group is very diverse, consider breaking it up into smaller groups and providing more personalized experiences for each sub-group. Of course, you should always have experiences that the entire group enjoys together. So when starting to plan the trip, ask yourself:
- What is the age range of this group? We know Millennials react differently to Gen Xers and Gen Xers react differently to Baby Boomers, to the very same experience. For your Israel experience to be amazing, it can’t be “one size fits all”.
- Is there something specific they’re more interested in? One way of finding out is asking them! We tend to think the Israel story is made up of: Israel and the Issues, Israel as a Start Up Nation, Israeli Multicultural Cuisine, Israel and Tikkun Olam… Israelis are leading the world in a variety of fields that may be just as, and sometimes even more, compelling to this particular group. It’s worth finding out before starting to plan your Israel story for them (for example, focus on scientific breakthroughs making the world a better place? Vegan food? Women entrepreneurs? A certain area of the country most have never been to?). Less is more – a clear and coherent theme for this specific group is better than a “catch-all” experience.
- What’s the purpose of this particular trip? Are you celebrating something specific? Are you fundraising (so in addition to visiting the areas you support, consider how else you can create an experience that tugs at the heart-strings)? Are you trying to nurture your community (so the emphasis should be on community-building experiences)? Why do you think the trip participants chose to join this trip (again – ask them!? Think in these terms when you start planning your itinerary.
We at Vibe Israel believe strongly that for Israel’s story to stick, a consistent message about what Israel has to offer needs to be conveyed in any Israel experience. We developed this message based on local and global research on the gaps between perceptions and reality when it comes to Israel. The result is this Israel Brand Narratives Book, which has been endorsed by President Rivlin and forms the basis of our work. We urge you to infuse our Israel brand narratives in the book in the experiences you create for your trip participants. Our mantra is: Israel is an optimistic nation of dreamers and doers, bound together by time and place, making its mark in the world. You can read more about our four brand narratives (Celebrating Life, Living Together, Getting Things Done and Moving Forward) here – try to bring these narratives to life in your trip.
3. Experiences vs. Facts
Israelis are happy, friendly and outgoing. They love talking to new people and sharing their experiences with others. Most Israelis are much more effective in informal environments where there’s an open discussion, rather than in a presentation setting. Also – a hands-on experience is more engaging than sitting in a room and watching a presentation that has been delivered many times before. Go outside! Walk around, touch products or the land, eat some street food. And do it with locals facilitating the experience – remember, you can ask them anything, Israelis don’t take themselves too seriously and that’s part of our charm! You can always send facts by email, an experience stays with people for years to come.
4. Home Sweet Home
One of the most powerful experiences in Israeli culture is home hospitality, especially for Friday Night dinners. Entering an Israeli home will be one of the most memorable experiences of any trip, so we encourage you to find ways to bring your participants into Israeli homes, even if it requires you to break your group up. Try to do so when there are kids around, and it doesn’t need to be fancy – the warmth of someone’s home does wonders to people when they are far away from theirs.
5. Aim to Disrupt Conventional Thinking
We tend to categorize the various parts of Israel as providing a specific experience: Jerusalem is for the history, heritage and religion; Tel Aviv is for the culinary experience, the nightlife and the start-ups; the Galilee is for a coexistence experience and the dessert is for an extreme travel experience. All of that is true, but expected. Israel is all about the unexpected, so your trip should also offer some of that: Visit a cocktail bar or a cutting edge start-up (not just Mobileye!) in Jerusalem; experience Kabbalat Shabbat in the port of Tel Aviv; include a jeweller who makes food-inspired jewellery on a tour that focuses on food (and not on art and design); meet a secular matchmaker in Jerusalem who matches between artists and people in need…
6. The Storyteller is the Most Important Person in the Room
Usually, when we visit a factory, a business, an academic institution, a museum or a cultural center, the Israelis who introduce the tour participants to the place are the spokesperson, the marketing manager or the VP Business Development. We love all Israelis, but the best person to tell the story is the one who actually does the work itself! Try to find that scientist that has good English and a lot of charisma, to tell the story of a scientific institute; an artist exhibiting at a gallery to join the curator; the person in the company that came up with the idea, rather than the Chief Marketing Officer, etc. They are the true storytellers, because their passion is at the core of the creation your tour participants are experiencing, and passion always shines through.
7. Every Tour is a Food Tour
Food is a powerful vehicle for storytelling. You can learn about the history, the culture and the people of Israel just through eating your way through it. From authentic street food in the market to amazing boutique restaurants, Israel has a lot to offer. Food memories are some of the best anyone will ever cherish, and because the food in Israel is so good – don’t consider the meals in between experiences as just that, meals. Consider them as an integral part of the Israel experience and put as much thought into where your group is going to eat in between as you do to the rest of the day’s experience.
8. Share, Share, Share
Each of your tour participants will likely have a smartphone with them. Think of them as broadcasting agents, to share the story onwards in the digital realm. Give them time to take photos at photogenic locations and think in those terms (what backdrops work for digital imagery? Is there good enough lighting? Does anyone want to take pictures of the food before we all start digging in?). Create a hashtag for your tour, so you can later collect all the mentions and see what people said about it – there will probably be great testimonials there for your next tour! Add hashtags to your itinerary, and remind your participants to use them when posting - use more generic hashtags that people usually look for (#art, #lgbtq, #foodporn…) and some specific to Israel (#israel, #telaviv, #jerusalem, #dreamersanddoers…). Let your tour participants (that know what they’re doing) take over your organization’s Instagram stories for the day, get as authentic as you can, and show everyone else who didn’t join the tour what they’re missing!
9. Moments of Delight
Traveling can be exhausting! Find little ways to make the group feel you thought about their experience to the fullest and add moments of delight, to brighten up their day. What we mean by that is:
- A welcome package always makes landing a breeze! Have some local snacks and a symbolic functional gift (a fan is always a good accessory when traveling in Israel!) waiting in their room upon their arrival. (use handwritten notes rather than printed - it makes it much more personal);
- Pay attention to the details that make people feel good – when arriving at a dessert location, have freshly cut watermelons waiting for them. In the middle of a market tour on a hot day, stop for an “unplanned” iced coffee or pomegranate juice…
- If you’re ending the tour with an event, invite the Israelis your participants met throughout the week to join you as well; screen photos from the tour itself on the walls of the event space to remind everyone of the experience they just had!
- If you can, provide participants with a fun photo gift from the tour on the day it ends (not just after they’re back home) – that’s how enduring memories are created!