Many thanks to our guest blogger Adrienne Lee! Adrienne and Robert Lee traveled on our travel agent fam trip February/March 2017. Click to read Part 1 of Adrienne’s post

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Library of Celsus, Ephesus


We expected to visit sites like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Grand Bazaar – and all were amazing. But they were only the beginning…Each of the historical sites/ruins revealed layer upon layer of civilizations past, complete with massive theaters, towering columns and even latrines. It really felt like we were walking back in history. Since none of them were very crowded we were treated to what felt like private tours. That was definitely the case at Alexandria Troas, where the site was opened up just for us; talk about VIP treatment! Robert and I had visited Ephesus in 2011 (with throngs of other tourists), so we knew what to expect. But on this visit we could see how much more of the ancient city had been excavated.

Many of the sites had added wooden walkways and they made it easier to get around – much easier than crossing uneven and sometimes rugged terrain.


The customer service was top notch throughout the trip, beginning with the Turkish Airline flight attendants. The staff at each of the hotels went out of their way to make our stays enjoyable. Our luggage was even transported from the bus to our rooms at each one. The attentive service at each restaurant was quite notable. It was helpful that everyone we met spoke English, especially since we spoke very little Turkish. Merhaba, gunaydn and tesekur ederim were about the extent of our vocabulary – and I’m sure that our pronunciation was atrocious. But we never had a problem with communication.


This trip was our introduction to the company and we were very impressed. Every detail of the trip had been planned and well thought out. The coordination was like clockwork.   We were never left waiting or wondering what to do – and there were lots of moving parts; buses, in-country flights, ferry rides, funicular, tractor-pulled trams….each one was on time. The trip kept building and each day was better than the last. Every day offered something that surpassed the day before…building up to the pièce de résistance – Dinner at the Ciragan Palace.

There were even several extra special treats like candy at the Marmara Hotel, the gift/wine basket at the Hilton, the yacht cruise on the Bosporus, the special gift on our last day.

The travel documents were detailed and even included historical information, packing tips and Turkish vocabulary.

The Saturday seminar was very informative. When we saw that there was going to be a mandatory daylong seminar, we expected it to be a typical seminar – long and boring. On the contrary, it was filled with many insights and valuable information. It also stimulated our thought processes with regard to marketing Turkey, Israel, Cuba and our own business.

Due to recent events, many people are apprehensive about visiting Turkey right now. Even our friends and associates questioned our decision to go. However, not once did we experience anything that made us feel unsafe or in danger. The presence of security personnel and metal detectors added a measure of security. We’re aware that many American travelers are fearful, and we are committed to dispelling those fears.

Turkey is a rich travel destination and we look forward to returning and sending clients to the region. We have seen quite a bit of the world and have taken many familiarization trips, but this was by far the best trip ever.

Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017

Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017


Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017

Adrienne and Robert Lee at Aphrodisias, March 2017

My husband and I just returned from this familiarization trip to Turkey and we can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed it. We’d visited Istanbul briefly during a pre-cruise stop in 2011, when we’d only had 3 hours to pay short visits to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. That whirlwind tour whetted our appetites and we knew we wanted to return to experience more of that vibrant city. We discovered the Ya’lla Tours opportunity on a Sunday in mid-December. I immediately sent an email to the Ya’lla information email address to check availability, assuming that I wouldn’t receive a response until the next business day. To my surprise, I received a response from Ronen Paldi within the hour (I had no idea that he was the company owner), explaining that there was space available and that confirmation would be dependent on the submission of certain documents. I submitted the requisite documents later that afternoon and we received confirmation within 24 hours. I was immediately impressed by the quick response.

I could use so many superlatives to describe the trip – awesome, incredible, wonderful, marvelous, and memorable – but the word that came to mind most often was WOW and that was from the first day to the last. We were “wowed” by:


I’ll admit that I’m a luxury travel sort of gal, so I was especially pleased with the quality and location of each of the hotels. I was impressed from the evening that we checked into the Marmara, to the morning we checked out of the Hilton.
The rooms were spacious and well equipped. The views of the Bosporus and Aegean Sea made each sunrise and sunset very special. The inability to adjust the temperature in most of the rooms below 75 degrees was a bit of a challenge, but we managed to offset that by opening the window to let in the cool sea air.
The least impressive of the 4 hotels was the Charisma. It was a bit “long in the tooth” – its simple décor, and plentiful (but mediocre) food gave it the ambiance of a college dormitory. But that was offset by our breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea…another WOW.

The opportunities to do site reviews of other hotels gave us good options for making recommendations to our clients. I especially enjoyed the old world charm of the Para Palace.


Turkish cuisine is world-renowned so we expected it to be very good. But it surpassed every expectation that we had. From fine dining establishments to small countryside eateries all were exquisite. Each dish featured the freshest ingredients. Many were organic and some even locally sourced. Everything was prepared to perfection.
Even those who had dietary restrictions were accommodated. For instance, we do not eat red meat but that did not create a problem. Every meal offered a delicious choice of fish or chicken. The servings were plentiful and often artfully presented. Most of the dinners included wine and beer. All of the hotels offered plentiful breakfast buffets with fresh fruit and even eggs cooked to order.

The meal of all meals was our final dinner at the Ciragan Palace, where the menu replicated what sultans dined on. It was simply exquisite. Even the china was a work
of art. Each course was presented beautifully and described in detail. We literally dined like royalty.


Our guide Ozgur Erdogan (Fred) was simply the best. From the time he met us at the airport on Saturday February 25th to the time he dropped us off on Sunday March 5th he led us, lectured us and took great care of our “flock.” He shared a wealth of information and always kept it interesting. He worked seamlessly with our bus driver to transport us to our destinations on time, even in bumper-to-bumper traffic. He handled our entrance tickets and even arranged group airport check-in when necessary. He handled unexpected events and endless requests for restroom breaks with patience and a smile. What a guy!

Many thanks to our guest blogger Adrienne Lee! Adrienne and Robert Lee traveled on our travel agent fam trip February/March 2017. Click to read Part 2 of Adrienne’s post.

Ya’lla Tours Five Will Get You Twenty

Is it time for you and your travel agency to start the hard-sell?

The easy-sell, packages to Mexico, the Caribbean, cruises and some parts of Western Europe, are the volume producers, the end-of-the-aisle things. Sometimes, if you do enough volume, you make decent money, and in many cases, the product sells itself.

But…you are in competition with every other brick-and-mortar and online agency out there, not to mention the product service provider itself – the airline, the hotel, the car rental company…

For agents, either brick-and-mortar or home-based, this is what you must sell, really, to stay alive. Rare is the agent who can super-specialize in a niche or destination.

However, the easy-sell is just that: too easy. And increasingly less profitable.

To stay in business and thrive, it might be necessary to look at the hard-sells; those destinations that the consumer does not feel comfortable booking on their own, or will be sorry most of the time if they do book without a travel agent. This is where the specialty tour operator comes in. An agent can work to become an expert in a hard-sell destination or niche, but can that be enough to add to the bottom line net profit? Will you get a return on your investment? You might.

My approach over the last two years has been that I want you to need me. Sounds like a pop song, but if I (Ya’lla Tours) can comprise three to five percent of your booking on an annual basis, be it through group or FIT business, it will go a long way to adding twenty percent to your net profit.

Here’s how. It’s basic math and common sense.

  • Our product is quality, so the price is higher.
  • You work with a partner whose focus is on a small part of the world, so things can be done that the “supermarket” tour operators cannot or will not do.
  • Quality equals repeat clients and referrals
  • Consumers are not confident about booking our destinations on their own.
  • We do not compete for your business. Ya’lla Tours does not solicit business from the public.
  • Ya’lla Tours has the tools to make your investment in the exotic worth it. We do educational trips for agents, support you with media and personnel, and will provide four-color printing for your group business. In addition, we have real, actual documents, so no PDF printing. The client gets something to hold in their hand for their $12,000 FIT.

It’s really a matter of choice. You have to do the easy sell, the daily sellers, but to take some time and invest with a partner who has the tools to add to your net profit, will be more satisfying to the wallet and to your work. After all, who wants to do the same thing over and over again; a little variety on the job is rewarding personally, and your clients will be pleased to find the special item in the middle of the aisle, which is a surprise and delight.

Think about investing in the hard sell, either with me, Ya’lla Tours, or with a similar company, because it will ultimately be survival of the smartest, the fittest and the best connected.

Rich Davis, Ya'lla Tours USA Sales Manager, Midwest Region

Rich Davis, Ya’lla Tours USA Sales Manager, Midwest Region