The Business surrounding JW Pilgrimages (that is Bethel tours, Internationals)
JWs take religious pilgrimages of various sorts, to the various Bethels, to THE Bethel at the world HQ, and to the International Conventions. This was underscored by Anthony Morris III who ‘encouraged’ JW parents to take their children to Bethel, “God’s House”, not just amusement parks.
Many JWs sign up with a tour group to do just that. They take a tour bus, which not only drives them to the hotel and to the various Bethel facilities, but to touristy areas as well.
And while a person could individually decide to visit Bethel when they are in the area on their own, for the International Convention, there seems no other option that I know of but to go through a business that arranges travel, hotels, as well as travel to the convention, local Branch facility, and tourist spots. I’ve had family that went to Europe as well as South America for Internationals as well, over 10 years ago.
[[[From the video and pictures I’ve seen, it is always a full production with entertainment provided to show off the local culture at the Kingdom Hall or Branch facility. The 2014 dancing at the US Kingdom Hall to popular music is NOTHING new, but preceded the 2014 International by at least a DECADE before this. It merely gained visibility in 2014 because the International was in the US and went somewhat viral on Youtube.]]]
Local entertainment aside, there seemed a business that has grown around these pilgrimages. When I was a JW and saw family going to Bethel or the International via these businesses, I wondered at this as well as the Circuit Leasing car business (a separate issue…what was “God’s organization” doing in the car business?).
It seemed almost like the money changers who were making money off the pilgramages to the Temple. Not only did Jesus throw them out, he didn’t even allow people to take a shortcut through the temple for non-religious purposes.
The Watchtower used this example to show how JWs should not network at the Kingdom Hall, and by extension, this sometimes got included to not even handing out invites to casual get-togethers in the Kingdom Hall parking lot: that would be a “shortcut” for non-spiritual matters! Of course, as a JW, I always thought that latter part was too extreme. But nonetheless, the businesses surrounding Bethel tours and Internationals, seemed to be very much like the Money Changers. I wondered why the Watchtower allowed it.
What do we know about these JW Pilgrimage businesses? Have any had personal experience with them? I think this would be interesting for people with some business sense to look into.