Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Are Holy Land Tours a Shearing of the Sheep?
From the original BBC Open Forum:
Are Pastors acting as tour hosts making large amounts of money off Holy Land and other travel tour trips?
I always assumed the Pastor and his wife traveled for free on these trips and the participants paid extra to cover this. It never occured to me that Clergy (it is not just the Baptists) may be making tens of thousands of dollars per trip. Now if all of this extra markup and income for the tour host has been fully disclosed then the sheep were knowingly fleeced I suppose. But if people unknowingly lined the pockets of a tour host it stikes me as stealing. If it is disclosed that the host got a free trip, but not that he also got a fat check then that too is stealing.
It is using your position and influence to secretly line your pockets off your congregation.
Do a Google search on "Holy Land Tours Host benefits" and you can quickly see this is a common practice among Holy Land Tour companies. Some offer one free trip (or cash payout) for each three trips purchased while other tour operators ask that you call them for information.
Holy Land Tours used to mention they will issue the host an IRS form 1099, which means at least some hosts are taking money in lieu of giving tickets away to "worthy guests." Holy Land Tours offers a 1 free tour for 5, 10, 15 benefit. Apparently it is up to the Pastor to decide how badly to shear his sheep. Interestingly, the link to that information, "Host a Group & Earn Free Travel," no longer works. Perhaps the sheep were getting wise to what's happening.
Ed Hill Tours, Inc. explains the tour host benefits on their about us page.
"Ed Hill Tours offers you One Free Tour for every five full-paying passengers you enroll and up to $450 (depending on the tour cost) for each full-paying passenger not used toward a free tour. You will be paid all earned benefits prior to departure on all passengers who have paid in full for the tour including any optional programs."
Interestingly Ed Hill Tours has had people ask them about how cheap their trips are.
"We've have (sic) actually had people question how our tours could offer so much when they see many tours priced at hundreds of dollars more than ours."
Could the answer be that other hosts are even greedier than Ed Hill hosts?
IGM Tours says on their web site,
"The price of a tour is affected by departure date (winter season is the least expensive), hotel quality, meal plan, choice of airline, single or multiple destinations, group size, religious holidays, and the selected host benefits.
It appears to be standard practice.
I ask you, if you were organizing a trip for your family and friends or even for your company at work, would you gouge them? How can any minister even contemplate doing something like this even if there is full disclosure? We are talking about a potential overcharge of $37,000, which could balloon to $50,000. Remember, this is just ONE trip. The host and wife travelling for free is understandable. Beyond that why not give the participants a price break as more people sign up? What ever happened to volume discounts as more people signed up?
A quick Google shows this is a pervasive problem in the "Holy Land" tour business. What a shame for all that have secretly fleeced their flocks.
Update: I should have mentioned this post is about more than just what is going on at BBC, and that a deacon of Bellevue has informed us in a prior thread comment section (see comment posted 8:25 PM, October 19, 2006) that Dr. Gaines "assured me that he will in no way be pocketing any money from this trip." I take this to mean Dr. Gaines will not keep any cash for himself as a result of this surcharge. This much money deserves a full accounting and disclosure from the travel company that details exactly who got what. A person not pocketing any money will have no problem releasing a full accounting.
posted by BBC Open Forum at 12:53 PM on Oct 22 2006
Update 2: Dehoney Travel Letter listing host benefits