(JTA) — “I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
It doesn’t matter why you travel as long as you are traveling these days. People just want to go somewhere. Anywhere. As long as it is not nowhere. Even people who were not into traveling before COVID are looking to get away for vacation. Being forced to stay home for long periods of time during the pandemic brought out this need in people to travel. “Revenge travel” is the term used to describe this strong desire to travel and make up for what people felt they lost out on during the COVID pandemic. Kosher travelers are no different, as they took to the skies this past summer and are quickly filling up Sukkot and Passover programs. There are many kosher tours, kosher cruises and kosher winter vacations being planned for this year. People are still traveling but the kosher travel landscape is different than what it was five years ago.
The effect of COVID on the cost of travel: Travel Trends Influenced by COVID and recent geopolitical developments
- Book early: With so many people traveling for business and pleasure, it is imperative to book early. Flights sell out quickly, especially during the holiday and vacation seasons. This is true of hotels as well, depending on the destination. The best advice we can give is for you to plan your vacation as far in advance as possible when there is more availability and you can lock in prices.
- Increased cost of travel: Travel costs have gone up over the past year, along with many other goods and services. Providers can charge more money because there is greater demand and people are willing to pay the price. The world is still grappling with supply chain issues and the rising price of oil that has affected many industries. These costs are passed on to the consumer.
Rising popularity of Europe and Dubai
- Strong U.S. dollar vs. weak European currencies (Euro, Sterling Pound, etc.): More people are choosing to vacation in Europe, beyond the typical summer tourist season. Ticket prices are lower than at the height of the summer season, airports are less crowded and the weather is more pleasant. While there are still limited flights to Asia, flight schedules to Europe are back to pre-COVID numbers.
- Dubai and the UAE: With the signing of the Abraham Accords, Dubai and the UAE have become a very popular kosher vacation destination for Israelis and also for kosher seeking global travelers. Kosher food is readily available and the kosher scene continues to grow. With so many exciting sights and activities, it’s no wonder that vacationers have been flocking there for the past year.
Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home without it
Travel insurance is not a new concept but while many skipped it in the past, that isn’t really an option anymore. Most travelers routinely purchased travel insurance, even before the COVID pandemic. They would purchase insurance for medical issues, expensive items, extreme sports, flight cancellations, lost luggage etc. COVID reminded everyone that it is impossible to know what the future holds and it is best to plan for contingencies. Some countries require tourists to show proof of travel insurance including a policy covering COVID-related illnesses. Most cruises have the same requirement. When joining a Sukkot or Passover program, the tour operators strongly recommend that guests purchase travel insurance.
It is very important to read the fine print to clarify what is covered and what is excluded from the policy. Some policies specifically exclude COVID so you need to be sure to purchase COVID insurance, both for medical and flight changes or cancellation. If you cannot fly home because you get COVID then you want to be covered. The policy should cover hotel, medical expenses and costs to change flights to return home. Many travel insurance agents and Passover program operators recommend getting “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage. This doesn’t reimburse a hundred percent of the costs of your vacation but it’s definitely the best option since it allows you to cancel for reasons not specified in the standard travel insurance contract. Naturally, this coverage is more expensive than your standard travel insurance.
Increasing Popularity of Sukkot Programs
Sukkot programs are finally catching on in the Jewish community. The Passover programs industry saw massive growth over the past twenty years, except for the two years affected by the COVID pandemic. However, the Sukkot programs market has only recently begun to gain wide traction. Israel has long been a popular vacation destination for Sukkot, one of the three pilgrimage festivals (along with Passover and Shavuot). Israel will be open for Sukkot 2022, for the first time in two years, and many tourists are expected to take advantage of the opportunity.
Sukkot is a long holiday with a lot of meals to prepare and the children on vacation from school. This provides a great opportunity to take a family vacation. By joining a Sukkot program, all meals and religious services are taken care of, as there is a sukkah and minyanim. Many programs also provide child care, lectures and entertainment. Chol hamoed is a great time to tour the area, sit by the beach and enjoy the hotel amenities. There are Sukkot programs in Mexico, Dubai, Morocco, Greece, Italy, Montenegro. Cyprus, Prague, Israel, Tunisia and the USA.
Passover programs selling out fast
It might seem like it is too early to be thinking about Pesach but many programs have started filling up. The Passover program industry is coming back strong after the shock of COVID almost three years ago. Pesach is a holiday that involves a lot of work: cleaning, shopping and cooking, to name a few. Many people prefer to close up their homes and join a Passover program. There are programs to suit a range of budgets, from basic programs to high-end luxury programs. With so many programs to choose from, it is just a matter of doing a bit of research to find the Pesach program to best meet your family’s needs.
Last year, Pesach programs sold out early and many programs had waiting lists. There will be more programs this year to accommodate those interested in joining a program but the earlier you book, the better. Pesach programs in the United States have been very popular over the last two years, especially in Florida. Now that all countries have opened up and international travel has returned in full force, there are more programs in more locations. There are Passover programs in Europe, Morocco, Dubai, Mexico, Panama, Caribbean, South Africa and Israel. We expect programs in the Far East this year, for the first time since before COVID.
The main trend we have seen in kosher travel is that people really want to travel. Whether it is “revenge travel” to make up for what they missed or just seeing new places, people are flying. Airports were packed and flights were booked all summer long. Kosher tours and cruises booked up quickly. Vacationers are willing to pay the higher costs of travel that the industry has seen post COVID. With no sign of slowing down, kosher travel programs are booking up early. Start researching now for your next vacation.