Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
2013 was an eventful year at Ya’lla Tours USA.
To begin with, it was our 20th anniversary. In 1993 Ronen Paldi, Israeli native, landed in Portland, Oregon and opened Ya’lla Tours USA. He based the company philosophy and operations on the practical experience he gained as a tour guide for over 10 years in Israel and Egypt, on the ground day-to-day with travelers.
Our really big news in 2013 was the introduction of not 1 but 4 new countries to our repertoire – the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. Our tag line “specialists to the exotic Mediterranean” no longer covers it. These were our first new destinations in over 10 years. Clients often nudged us to cover Italy, Spain and France because they combine nicely with our existing countries (Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Greece,Turkey). However, there are already many well-established, quality tour operators to Italy, Spain and France and the world really doesn’t need another one. Ronen’s excellent business sense told him that there was not room in that market for us and chose to stay focused on our product line in the Middle East/Eastern Mediterranean (plus Cuba, which is another thing altogether). The Arabian Peninsula, on the other hand, is a relatively untapped market for American travelers and it fits well culturally and geographically with our other countries, while also bringing something new.
Perhaps what sealed the deal was that our dear Jordanian friends Gaby and Reem operate a travel services company in Dubai. They were our ground operator in Jordan back in the 1990s. So, although the destinations are new, we have friends we trust advising us and taking care of our clients. They know us, how we operate, what we expect and we know they will deliver. I think it was meant to be. In addition to Gaby and Reem, the director of our office in Egypt is very familiar with the area, having visited there many times. His input was essential as we began to select hotels and compose itineraries.
Ronen and Tania went to the Arabian Peninsula for the first time in June. When they returned we had a meeting in Portland with all of our sales reps from around the country, something we hadn’t done in three years. It was fun to have everyone in the same room together and exciting to be learning about new places.
In early December Ronen returned to the Arabian Peninsula with our entire sales team, Teri McCulloh, our general manager, our videographer and 18 travel agency owners and managers. Some of us stayed behind to hold down the fort… My colleagues went to the Arabian Peninsula and all they brought me was 1,000+ pictures… (and that’s enough!)
Speaking of colleagues, we got a new one, just as the year was drawing to a close – Michael Walsh, our new sales manager in California and Colorado. Welcome Michael!
Finally, my 2013 babies, our pretty new web site and this blog, both of which will benefit from those 1,000+ photos mentioned above.
In 2014 we’ll continue to deepen our knowledge of the Arabian Peninsula; Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and Cuba too, and share what we know with you. Thanks for reading.
We wish you a healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2014.