Responsibilities of the Group Leader
The group leader is the person (or pair of persons) who are taking leadership responsibilities relating to the travel agent, the tour guide, the travelers, the speakers, local contacts , etc. Even if shared with members of the group, these functions must be finally carried by some one person for a smooth trip. The group leader is not the tour guide even if he or she sometimes functions as one.
Prior to the Trip
- Set up a checking account designated as “Funds for the Trip” unless your church or other organization is handling the finances.
- Send the information about price in writing. Include what it covers and what it does not cover. You will need money in advance for deposits so spread out the payments and don’t count anyone in until they pay a deposit. The deposit should not be refundable unless the person can be replaced. Buy a receipt book and write duplicate receipts for all money you have received. Send a copy to the participant. Make up a check list to keep good records of money.
- Make sure each traveler has a passport valid at least 6 months beyond the end of the trip.
- Recruit a home contact who will be available while the group is away. They should get copies of the information forms and their contact numbers should be given to participants in advance. Keep them informed during the trip.
- Make up an information form that everyone is to fill out before the leaving day. Duplicate the filled out forms, leaving one copy with the responsible home contact and taking one copy with you. Include on the form: name, address, phone, passport number and place and date of issue, two persons to contact in emergency and a request for medical information which could help if something flares up on the trip. If anyone has a severe medical problem have them add the name and phone number of their doctor. There is good medical service available but this could make a difference.
- Check with the tour guide, local contact, travel agency, or other responsible party to go over the proposed itinerary. There will undoubtedly be changes since local conditions are fluid and speakers cannot always confirm dates more than a few days in advance. Other unexpected events may also change your schedule.
- Arrange a briefing with the travelers to go over the current itinerary and other issues. Include currency, drinking water, food concerns, etc.
- Be sure group members understand their responsibility to the group and the schedule. Go over the responsibilities of group members. Remind them of the need for sensitivity to the local culture and to local tensions.
- If you do not include tips in the price charged, ask for money toward a tip fund. Either way put the money into cash and then it can be carried around by someone and used as needed. Group tips are preferable to individual tipping.
- Rent a mobile phone. They are invaluable when checking ahead or with a guide or travel agent, and are easily available and not very expensive at the Tel Aviv airport.
During the Trip
- The leader is responsible for the group as a whole and, to some degree, for individual members
- Keep the group on schedule. Devise a way to be sure everyone is on the bus. (You can use counting, counting off, buddies, etc. but work it out with the group.) Designate someone to be the last person when the group is moving on foot
- Be sure bathroom stops are scheduled. It saves time over individual stops but be sensitive to people’s urgent needs.
- Take the pulse of the group and deal with specific issues that affect the physical and emotional heath of individuals and of the group as a whole. The dynamics of the group will greatly influence what each member gets from the trip. Provide times and opportunities to talk over problems and issues. Include opportunities for worship at appropriate times as well.
- Be the key focal point between the group and local tour guides or leaders. The group leader is the one to make decisions about changes after consultation with the group and/or local leaders. If each person tries to make changes for the group, confusion will result.
- Often people who have been in the area before have personal agendas they wish to follow. Since you are the leader, you should be informed as soon as possible about alternate arrangements of individuals and keep others informed as well.
- If you are having speakers address the group or making visits at offices or agencies, appoint someone to introduce speakers and thank them at each place. You don’t have to do it all. The honorarium or donation to the agency can be given in an envelope as part of the “thank you” along with a small gift. These people have gone out of the way to see your group, often over and beyond their own daily jobs. When members of the group should be dressed up or where special clothes should be worn for a visit (for example, clericals for the clergy), inform them the day before.
- Hospitality is very important in the Palestinian culture. When a speaker arrives, always offer a hot or cold drink. Invite them to join the group for dinner, if appropriate. When you arrive at an agency, you will be offered drinks and your group should take time to enjoy the hospitality before expecting any tours or explanations.
- Sometimes, the use of numerous cameras may be offensive. Work with the group to appoint one or two members to photograph on these occasions. Sometimes no cameras are allowed, for instance at checkpoints or army installations. The group needs to be informed clearly and warned that their own camera and film as well as the camera and film of other members of the group may be in jeopardy. If you are with a local person, you may jeopardize them as well.
- The leader is responsible for group finances during the trip, in cooperation with any tour guide you are working with. Do not ask local persons to pay for their own meals or other expenses while they are with your group, unless arrangements have been made in advance. Pay your bills before leaving the country.
- Provide time on the last day for a summing up, celebrating, or debriefing, to help bring closure to the experience. Thank any local group or person who has facilitated the trip and invite special resource people to your final celebration.
- Help the members of your group with security at the airport in any way that you can. It can be a daunting experience for those unused to travel in this area.
After the Trip
- The best way to debrief is to plan a stop on the way home outside of the Middle East. Even if you do that, plan a get-together at least two weeks later to evaluate the experience, to share impressions and reflections on the trip and to share photographs.
- Give each person a copy of Follow up after you return home and Suggestions for Being a Good Speaker that are found on another part of this website and let the group talk about any ways they might want to engage in action as a group.