Cooking class in Jordan, by Eliza Myers
Step Five: Learn the Country’s Customs
Finding a little background on your chosen country’s customs will gain you some valuable insights. For instance, you wouldn’t want to schedule a shopping day on a Sunday in Switzerland, as many stores close that day.
“Group leaders should become familiar with the local customs so they have an idea of what to expect,” said Capodanno. “For example, if you go to a restaurant in Switzerland, gratuity is not a must. People don’t depend on the gratuity as part of their salary. It is welcome but not set in stone 15 percent like in America.”
On a trip to a more exotic location like Jordan, learning the customs can help your clients feel more comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. For example, you wouldn’t want your members to not pack enough long pants on a trip to Jordan, as many locals perceive shorts as too revealing in their country, which favors more conservative dress. Although your group could easily wear shorts at some of Jordan’s main tourist sites, they might not want to wear them in downtown Amman, where shorts are hardly ever seen. Tourism organizations, such as the Jordan Tourism Board, often explain these types of customs Americans might not know on their websites.
Although more exotic destinations such as Jordan require a little research, the payoff of visiting ancient sites like Petra or Bethany Beyond the Jordan makes the time spent well worth it.
Step Six: Include Some Cultural Experiences
Returning home before experiencing a country’s heritage can feel like hearing only half the story, so make sure to include some cultural experiences in your itinerary. These hands-on or people-to-people experiences have grown in popularity as groups look for more authentic moments while traveling.
“We get a lot of requests for experiences that help get to know the local people,” said Malia Asfour, spokesperson for the Jordanian Tourism Board. “We encourage a lot of family-to-family connections where you can sit with a local family, eat with them and break bread with them. That really helps communication and breaking down psychological barriers.”
Jordan also offers excursions to pick tomatoes with the locals, learn how to weave baskets or cook traditional meals. Visitors who choose those types of activities feel like they’ve connected more with the culture than those who just cross a list of attractions off their lists.
Local tourism websites, such as www.myswitzerland.com, can help you come up with outside-the-box ideas such as staying in a monastery or renting a chalet instead of the typical hotel. Interactive excursions that reveal a piece of the country’s heritage will also create lasting memories.
“What we have seen more and more of with groups is that they love incorporating hands-on experiences,” said Capodanno. “You don’t just go to a cheese dairy and watch how cheese is made, but the group members help make a little cheese that they can take home with them.”
Standout cultural activities will not only attract potential travelers to your trip but will also create real value that will enhance the likelihood that the same traveler will sign up for your next international trip.