New York – Operators of Passover programs often build their businesses on a loyal base of guests. Many say that at least half of their guests return every year. The Browns from Long Island have been going to the same place for almost a decade. Mrs. Brown says she is extremely comfortable in the hotel that she has spent the last 9 years in, adding “I don’t shop when it comes to my family’s comfort and Pesach experience.” Increasingly, people are shopping and browsing the web for new and exotic locations or for bargains. Benyamin Hakakzadeh, a Web designer from Brooklyn, is one of those who has developed a special holiday website, www.pesachhotelreviews.com, in hope of building a business around the lucrative Passover program industry. He and many of the dozen or so websites that have listings of all the programs, are responding to a growing demand for information on the Passover vacation spots. Benyamin himself is a travel enthusiast and Passover is just the right time “to explore, learn and experience.” Apparently he is not alone as an increasing number of younger kosher travelers are looking for new and different destinations not only on Passover but year-round. In recent years, program operators have sponsored programs on other Jewish holidays like Succoth, Chanukah and Shavuos as well as long legal holiday weekends.
There are an estimated 100 Passover programs worldwide, 60 of which are on Binyamin’s website. Each year, say the experts, several new programs are launched but many do not survive. An estimate 80,000 people (some 20,000 families) will “go away” this Passover with Orlando being a major destination. They will rent many of the homes in the tourist city, arrange for caterers to prepare their meals or prepare their own food. Many independent kosher supermarkets ship to Florida, including some of the Florida kosher stores. But most Passover vacationers will go to a hotel with an average cost of $3500 per person (double occupancy). But some programs will charge as much as $5000, not including taxes and gratuities. Starting in December, says Mr. Hakakzadeh, his site has had 1000 views. Other sites are also visited by hundreds of Passover program surfers. The programs today are in almost every corner of the earth, including China, Morocco, Greece and other cities throughout Europe.