Assaf Goren, Kenes Tours CEO, has traveled extensively through Asia, Australia, and the USA. Recently, he spoke to us about Israel tourism, Kenes Tours, how he got his start in the industry, as well as his passion for the people and land of Israel.
How did you get involved in the travel industry?
I began my adventure in tourism nearly fifteen years ago, when a trip to New Zealand and Australia sparked an interest in creating a partnership between ISSTA and a local diving club I was managing at the time. This was back in 2001, but six years later, things really started to take off. I was appointed director of accommodations and transport at the Maccabiah, the largest tourism event in Israel at that time.
For the next two years, I did a lot to bolster my tourism career. Some of the things I did included a hotel management course at NYU and promoting the Maccabi World Young Shlichim program.
From there, I was bumped up to Maccabiah HQ director, and in 2013, I was appointed as general manager of ISSTA Sport & Music. Kenes Tours joined ISSTA shortly thereafter and I was then promoted to be general manager of Kenes Tours.
What’s your vision for Kenes?
Kenes Tours, like ISSTA Sport, specializes in niche travel. We feel strongly that Israel has a lot to offer travelers, with attractions and experiences that can’t be experienced anywhere else. We are also aiming to get a better grasp on the tech trends shaping the future of travel so we can leverage them to provide the best resources for our clients.
Which experience in Israel do tourists get most excited about?
Every first-time tourist to Israel is surprised by the gap between the expectations and the reality. Three things visitors are always moved by when visiting Israel are:
- The pleasant atmosphere and the friendly people. The media seems not to mention the fact that Israelis are generous and eager to help one another and also, tourists.
- The open lifestyle in Israel. There are so many different religions, cultures, and people living together harmoniously, creating a rich, colorful societal tapestry.
- The fact that Israel is very small but still has so much to offer. This includes desert plains and snow on Mt. Hermon, torrential downpours and blue skies, the vast and varied seas, the eclectic mix of people, languages, and cuisine. Israel is the world’s new melting pot.
What are Israel’s top five must-see locations or must-do activities?
Israel has so much to offer tourists! It’s hard to narrow the list down, but I’ll try! Here are some of my personal favorites, places that I love which I think visitors to Israel love too:
- Wandering around the Tel Aviv Flea Market on a Friday afternoon. There’s so much action, so many people, you need to see it to believe it. The market is actually located in central Jaffa, and it’s got nearly everything you could want (including great food too!). There you can find second-hand clothing, antiques, carpets, jewelry, handmade items, restored furniture, and even art and culture. It has the feel of a traditional Middle Eastern bazaar, but it also has thoroughly modern cafés, restaurants, and art galleries.
- Touring in the Sde Boker area. A visit to this special region will get you in touch with nature like nowhere else. Excursions can be organized via jeep, bicycle, or foot.
- The Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatfutsot), which tells the story of thousands of years of history through some very different exhibitions: on Ethiopian Aliyah, Italian Jewish art, synagogues from around the world, and even the life and influence of Bob Dylan.
- Go diving in Eilat’s Coral Beach Nature Reserve, where there’s a coral reef that gives you amazing views of tropical fish. In Eilat, you can visit the beaches, enjoy water sports, go snorkeling or scuba diving, or swim with the dolphins. Coral Beach is one of the high points of the city.
- Exploring the many wineries that pepper the Judean hills. You wouldn’t believe how many there are in such a small area-Psagot, Yatir, Tzora, and Montefiore Wines, to name a few. Each one has something unique to offer.
On behalf of Assaf, Kenes Tours invites you to visit us and become a part of the incredible experience and story that is Israel!