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The story behind Iconic Journeys
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 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. On this basis, he founded TunisUSA. Headquartered in the Philadelphia area (Wayne, PA) with an office in Tunis, Tunisia, where some logistical aspects are overseen and where Jerry eventually lived for over six years until the end of 2016. TunisUSA expanded its operations in Turkey, Iran, Malta, Cuba, India, Algeria, Libya and elsewhere. Additional alliances were founded in other areas of the Middle East. (NOTE: Operations with Libya are on hold until Libya’s security situation is improved. Similarly, our many programs in Iran are held back by the Trump policies and their impact on obtaining visas from the Iranians. Hopefully, our Iran programs will be able to resume at such a time when the U.S. and Iran can better their relations.)
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 the important added value in people-to-people encounters, thus 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 ground support for other American based tour companies marketing Tunisia, Israel & Palestine, Iran, Cuba and an expanding array of destinations
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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.” For twelve years in a row, Conde Nast Traveler magazine awarded “Jerry Sorkin” its distinguished “Top Travel Specialist” award, recognizing Jerry Sorkin’s work and years of experience in Tunisia. In April 2022, the magazine has again noted Jerry Sorkin as “Top Travel Specialist” not only for Tunisia, but also for Iran, Cuba and Israel and Palestine.
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 thousands of clients over these many years.
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, Jerry has served as a Tourism Consultant to the World Bank and as a Consultant to a Tunisian NGO (non-governmental organization) project in which he helped develop the concept and co-authored the final version of the “Live Your Tour” funding proposal, a 4.3 million Euro project that was funded by the European Union (EU). Jerry Sorkin served as the Tourism Consultant for the Tunisia portion.
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 allowed ISET Djerba to tailor new programs for developing student entrepreneurs in Djerba.
Jerry is 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,, Hebrew and French. He resides most of the year based in the Philadelphia area. He is an adjunct lecturer at Temple University’s Osher Institute in Philadelphia, where he teaches courses on “Deciphering the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)” and U.S. Foreign Policy regarding the MENA region.
In July 2018, Jerry Sorkin was officially handed the credentials approved by the United States Department of State and by the Republic of Tunisia to serve as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Tunisia in Tunisia’s expansion of its diplomacy in the United States.