The story behind “TunisUSA” and “Iconic Journeys Worldwide“…
Iconic Journeys Worldwide is a tour company that specializes in cultural/historical tourism, trade delegations and Citizen Diplomacy. The company’s entrepreneurial history began in in 1993, when Jerry Sorkin, a specialist in Middle East and North African affairs, felt tourism could help bridge cultural misunderstandings between people in the Middle East and North Africa and Americans. He founded TunisUSA. Headquartered in the Philadelphia area (Wayne, PA) with an office in Tunis, Tunisia, where logistical aspects of domestic transport, billing and administration activities take place, TunisUSA also has operations in Turkey, Iran, Malta, Cuba, India, Algeria, Libya and elsewhere. Additional alliances are found in other areas of the Middle East. (NOTE: Operations with Libya are on hold until Libya’s security situation is improved.)
As TunisUSA grew and expanded beyond the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, in 2012, the branding of Iconic Journeys Worldwide began, better representing the expanded geographic scope that evolved. The growth of Iconic Journeys Worldwide (IJW) is partially guided by the philosophy of the founder, that IJW should be a specialist in countries, regions or topics that allow the firm to bring operational and personal experience to all programs, thus providing expertise and in-depth specialization and provide particular advantages for the firm’s clients. With a “rolodex” of contacts in the countries they serve, IJW is able to provide added value in people-to-people encounters, providing an enriched component to its tours.
Iconic Journeys Worldwide organizes scheduled, small group tours under the banner of IJW, as well as private tours. In addition, Iconic Journeys Worldwide frequently partners with non-profit organizations and affinity groups, university student and alumni travel departments, as well as serving as the Tunisian ground support for other American based tour companies marketing Tunisia.
In December 2008, the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce (TACC) awarded TunisUSA its “Special Award” citing “leadership and an innovative strategy in branding Tunisian products in the US market”. The Selection Committee noted TunisUSA‘s “exceptional efforts promoting cultural and top of the range tourism in Tunisia.” In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and again in December 2017, Conde Nast Traveler magazine awarded “Jerry Sorkin” its distinguished “Top Travel Specialist” award, recognized for the Jerry Sorkin’s work in Tunisia. In December 2017, the magazine has also added Jerry Sorkin as its “Top Travel Specialist” for Iran.
Working with selected tourism and academic colleagues, all of whom maintain a regional and/or academic specialty, as well as a shared belief in travel as a cultural and educational experience, Iconic Journeys Worldwide offers programs to many destinations with themes adapted to our clients’ interests…all implemented with the personalized style that has been recognized by so many TunisUSA clients.
Jerry Sorkin, Founder and President
Iconic Journeys Worldwide and TunisUSA …
Jerry Sorkin, is a Middle East and North African specialist, having earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Pennsylvania (PENN), where he specialized in Middle East studies and international business, respectively. Jerry also taught for nearly a decade at PENN’s, College of General Studies, an unusual course; “Oriental Rugs: A Reflection on Culture”, an ethnographic/historical perspective of Oriental rugs. He has traveled widely and frequently throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the India sub-continent.
Long a believer that dialogue is a preferred tool in conflict mediation, Jerry has lived by his beliefs, organizing missions that sought to find ways to overcome political obstacles and serve as a means of “Citizen Diplomacy”, From organizing events that brought together professionals from what some would see as “opposing sides” to leading special missions devoted to breaking through cultural and political barriers, this has served as the philosophical foundation to his pursuits.
In addition to his role as Founder and President of TunisUSA, Jerry has served as a Tourism Consultant to the World Bank and serves as a Consultant to a Tunisian NGO (non-governmental organization).
As of May 2012, Jerry served as Director of the Tunisia program from George Washington University on “Innovative Tourism Concepts” at l’Institut Supérieur des Etudes Technologiques de Djerba (ISET de Djerba) (The Higher Institute of Technological Studies of Djerba) in Djerba, Tunisia. This program provided new curriculum, knowledge, and access to resources through its proven teacher education, experience in tourism development, and student practicum programs. This GWU program was part of George Washington University’s School of Business’s International Institute of Tourism Studies (IITS). This new program will allowed ISET Djerba to tailor new programs for developing student entrepreneurs in Djerba.
Since May 2011, Jerry Sorkin has been acting as the International Consultant in Sustainable Development a European Union funded project in cultural tourism, in collaboration with the project’s Tunisia partner, the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (http://www.taamstn.org/ ). Jerry developed the concept and co-authored the final version of the “Live Your Tour” funding proposal, a 4.3 million Euro project that is funded by ENPI CBCMED /European Union (EU). Jerry Sorkin serves as the Tourism Consultant for the Tunisia portion, which was awarded some 83,000,000 EURO for its first three years.
Jerry is also a frequent lecturer on topics regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, unique approaches to cultural bridge-building, an entrepreneurial approach to cross-cultural opportunities and the cultural aspects of Oriental rugs. He is conversant in several languages, including Arabic and French. He resides most of the year based in Tunis, Tunisia, with a secondary residence in the Philadelphia area. He is an adjunct lecturer at Temple University’s Osher Institute in Philadelphia, where he teaches a course on “Deciphering the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)”
In December 2017, Jerry was chosen by the prestigious travel magazine, Conde Nast Traveler as a “Top Travel Specialist” for Tunisia…the eighth year in a row. In this same edition, he was given the honor as being the magazine’s first “Top Travel Specialist” for Iran.
In July 2018, Jerry Sorkin was officially handed the credentials approved by the United States Department of State to serve as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Tunisia in Tunisia’s expansion of its diplomacy in the United States.
California native Christine Robison brings a world of travel experience to Iconic Journeys Worldwide. A graduate of Occidental College, Christine was a recipient of a Rotary International Scholarship which allowed her to spend a year studying in France. That was just the start of an international life that has included living in Spain, Mexico, the Netherlands and over 2 years in Tunisia. Her travel frequently involved working for various charitable or art institutions, with seven years serving as the head of the Travel Program for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
In 2003, her entrepreneurial instincts and her love of travel and people led her to form Baraka Journeys, through which she offered tours in over 20 various destinations including India, China, Burma and all of the republics of the former Soviet Union. She recently led her eighteenth tour to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Christine has a genuine interest in people and how they live. It has been a joy for her to visit over 60 countries and have a chance to be a type of ambassador (along with the others in her groups). She and her groups bring smiles and friendship from the US to many people all over this amazing world, many of whom would not have the opportunity to visit the US. Conversant in Spanish, French and colloquial Arabic, Christine’s vast experience brings a richness to Iconic Journeys Worldwide.
Jeffrey was born and raised in Philadelphia. He graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont and received his Law Degree at Tulane University. During his time in college he spent a semester at the University of East Anglia in Norwich UK and his Junior year in Paris. Upon completion of his law degree he practiced law in Vermont for two years, before moving back to Philadelphia to work for a corporate law firm. Not surprisingly, Jeff found traveling a lot more fun than practicing law and subsequently founded a great air team at ETA.
While handling the air for Iconic Journeys Worldwide, Jeffrey and his air crew still make it possible for Jeffrey to keep traveling. He has been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to many destinations all over the world. His favorites include Belgium, France, Israel, Iceland, Australia, Hong Kong, Montreal and French Polynesia. Jeff speaks French fluently and some Italian.
Iconic Journeys Worldwide is a proud member of the Educational Travel Consortium (ETC). ETC is a membership organization dedicated to promoting lifelong learning through travel and advancing the field of alumni and affinity travel. ETC and its Annual Conference and online Academy offer professional development, mentoring, and networking opportunities for the travel planners at alumni associations, zoos, museums, cultural, and conservation organizations who are responsible for the planning, management and/or marketing of alumni, member, and donor travel programs, as well as the tour operators, travel suppliers and country/regional destinations serving this sector of special-interest and lifelong-learning group travel. Educationaltravel.travel