TAMARA NATASHA SPENC
BYU Travel Study Office fills the niche BYU Study Abroad Office and International Field Studies and Internship Office fail to address.
Robyn Pinegar, program developer for BYU’s Travel Study Office, addresses the veritable dilemma of travel for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“While the Study Abroad Office allows undergraduates to visit countries with people who share their same standards, nothing has really existed for non-students who want the same type of experience,” Pinegar said.
BYU’s Travel Study Office prides itself on addressing the needs of members in the LDS Church community in connection with travel.
“Anyone can go on travel study as long as they abide by the LDS standards. People participate in our tours because they like our standards, such as no smoking and no drinking,” Pinegar said.
Through travel study’s commitment to provide a clean, wholesome environment based on the teachings of the gospel, they have been able to attract a diverse clientele, noted Pinegar.
“We get every type of person on our tours: teen-agers, couples, grandparents and senior citizens. Our largest clientele are single women 40 years old and above; they feel safe because they can travel with people who share their religious beliefs,” Pinegar said.
Dixie Groneman, a housewife, attests to the fact that one of the main attractions of BYU Travel Study Office tours is their commitment to a clean, healthy environment.
“My husband and I have been on several travel study tours. We went with them to China, Tibet, Guatemala, Israel, Europe and twice to Turkey. One of the reasons I like the program so much is because I like traveling with people who share our standards,” Groneman said.
In addition to fostering a Christian environment, travel study clientele also note several other factors that make BYU Travel Study group tours appealing.
“They offer travel in small groups which I like very much. Also, they have little ear phones that they give to each participant during the tours. The tour guides can speak to us through the ear phones so we don’t have to be next to them. They can be a block and a half away and we can still hear what they are saying. The ear phones are a major benefit to traveling with BYU Travel Study Office,” Groneman said.
In addition, BYU Travel Study Office feels that their wide variety of locations, educational emphasis and all-inclusive competitive program fees make them appealing to many travelers.
“We have a large selection of travel destinations. There are groups that go to the Middle East: Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Greece. Groups also travel to Africa, Central America and Europe. In addition to these and many other standard travel destinations we also offer Alaska, New England and Canada cruises,” Pinegar said.
BYU Travel Study Office notes that many people opt to go on more than one tour because of their appealing destinations and the educational component integrated into each tour.
“These are not just sight seeing tours. We send BYU faculty or church educational system’s people, such as seminary teachers, to direct our programs. The directors usually have a Ph.D. in their respective field and have an in- depth knowledge about the history and culture of the country they are visiting,” Pinegar said.
Tour directors are not paid; their participation in the program is voluntary. Their enthusiasm for specific travel locations contributes to the successful nature of their programs.
“The professors are not paid; their costs are covered for them and their spouse but they must pay for any additional expenses. They do it for the love of teaching; even their spouse plays an active part. They are the assistant director and are delegated certain responsibilities; this just isn’t a freebie trip for them,” Pinegar said.
The fact that the professors are not paid adds to the affordability of programs that would otherwise be very expensive.
“The fees are all-inclusive except lunch and souvenirs. The prices range from $1200 for the City of Joseph Pageant tour in Illinois to $6000 for the around the world in 20 days trip which makes stops in Hong Kong, India, London, Thailand and Nepal. Lots of people repeat tours because of their affordability,” Pinegar said.
BYU Travel Study Office’s mission to combine travel and education in a gospel setting appears to be attracting people who want to do more than just lay on a beach for 10 days. With over 1700 participants in last year’s program, the BYU Travel Study Office has seen an exponential growth in their participant numbers over the past couple of years, noted Pinegar.
For more information on the BYU Travel Study Office and their programs call (801) 378-3946 or 1-800-525-2049.