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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Steven Spielberg’s film “Jaws,” forever changed how people approach a beach vacation. Nothing like a shark to take the joy out of some long-planned relaxation. People who go to a hotel or program for Passover have been planning for months for their “vacation of the year.” These programs have a high price tag and consumers have high expectations, but every year there are disaster stories that explode across social media. While there hasn’t been a reported Passover shark incident, some of the actual program fiascos can be described as stranger than fiction.

There was a program in a Mexican hotel where the operators left the premises early on the day after Pesach leaving behind a large balance with the hotel. The management put the hotel on lockdown and would only let guests leave after paying thousands of dollars on their credit cards. While many people managed to get those charges reversed, the experience was a nightmare for the guests. One program that rents out many homes within a complex and provides food and entertainment had the communal spaces confiscated in the middle of Pesach, allegedly due to lack of payment. There are also programs that promise the world and fall short on delivery, to the point where guests have headed into the kitchen to start cooking the meals if there is not enough food. Not to mention the operators that cancel their planned programs for various reasons. Sometimes reserved guests get a refund and sometimes they don’t—at least not right away.

So how does someone going away for Pesach not only avoid a fiasco, but find the program that is perfect for them? Until now, it has only been through word of mouth and then just hoping for the best. For Passover 2020, there is PassoverListings.com—beautifully designed, modern website built around five years of market research and the input of over 40 program operators. Brandyss Katz, Daniel Kramer and Doni Schwartz have independently been attending Passover programs at hotels for many years. In 2018, Katz founded the Facebook group, “Passover Program Reviews,” to connect with Pesach vacationers across the globe.

“The high growth and contribution rate within the group was an obvious message to us that there was a gap in the marketplace. There was not one website or publication to date that had combined revolutionary functionality for both the user and program owner,” explained Katz. Based on their considerable experiences and individual areas of professional expertise, they decided to help the industry as a whole by creating a one-stop-shop for consumers looking for their perfect Passover vacation.

“Our mission is to be the ‘Yelp’ of Pesach programs,” said Kramer, “A place where people can write their honest reviews and others can benefit from their experiences. It is the only place where someone planning a Passover vacation can browse and sort programs according to their specific preferences.”

Consumers can peruse over 100 programs listed world-wide, with many program owners claiming their program listing. They have over 500 reviews with additional reviews posted daily. Site visitors can click on a geographic location to view the programs that are available in a specific area or they can put in search criteria such as “mixed or separate swimming” and “daf yomi” to see what programs are a match for them. Each listing provides detailed information about the program that is either provided by the program or that has been obtained through the research of the site administrators. The reviews that follow give the additional details only someone that has experienced a program firsthand can provide.

“This website promises to be the Better Business Bureau of Pesach programs,” said Baruch Cohen, Esq. a litigator in Los Angeles who has worked both sides of many cases involving Pesach programs—in the court system and in Batei Din. “A program that doesn’t want to engage with a website like this probably doesn’t have transparency and that should be an alarm for people to stay away. This website is long overdue—it most likely would have helped avoid the majority of lawsuits in the industry.”

Owner of Lasko Getaways, Avi Lasko has been using PassoverListings.com: “We have been using Passover listings for a short time now and have already felt its impact. It is a truly honest and transparent website for all different Pesach programs. We are thrilled with the success we have had so far. It is very well done, easy to maintain for the Pesach program operator and the customer service for the site couldn’t be better! Keep up the amazing work! Lasko Getaways looks forward to utilizing the site for many years to come!”

Program operators want nothing less than happy customers who found the right program for their family. Avrumy Jordan, operations director of the Diamond Club Passover Program in Cancun, Mexico, agrees. “A website like PassoverListings.com is a long time in coming and I’m glad for consumers that it is finally here. As an operator, I hope it will direct people to the right place for them.” Jordan shudders that some people may have had a bad experience because someone wanted to make a sale. He believes that the site will help people manage expectations and provide more honesty in the industry. “I trust the team running the website and that they have everyone’s best interests in mind. In the past, people could only look through a Jewish newspaper for program ads, now they have this tremendous tool where they can search for a program that has the things that are important to them. For an operator, it will really cultivate solid leads because someone already did the research and they are calling your program because they already know you have something, they are interested in.”

Spielberg has been spotted at multiple Passover programs over the years in Arizona. Although he was more likely to have an incident with some gefilte fish than a shark, one never knows if those tea room experiences might land in a film one day. In the meantime, if you’re looking to avoid a real-life drama, PassoverListings.com is the place to start planning for the perfect Pesach 2020.

Visit the site at https://www.PassoverListings.com.

By Amy Dubitsky