Going places

By Steve K Walz, November 11, 2011

Tel Aviv is not only on the map, it is also rapidly becoming one of the Mediterranean region's most popular "sea, sun and fun" destinations. The city's decade-long investment in upgrading its business, cultural and tourist infrastructure is reaping the tourist and media dividends that were once the domain of "international cities" such as New York, Paris, London, San Francisco and Zurich.

As a result, the owners of Tel Aviv's luxurious five-star beachfront hotels, who also invested in offering foreign tourists and business travellers an array of enticing experiences, have been acclaimed by both travel industry publications and respected online travel forums.

At the recent World Travel Awards ceremony, which the Wall Street Journal referred to as "the travel industry's equivalent to the Oscars", Tel Aviv's David InterContinental Hotel was cited as Israel's "leading hotel", while the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers was lauded as Israel's "Best Business Hotel".

According to Eli Ziv, the director general of the Tel Aviv Hotel Association, the intensive marketing of Tel Aviv as a paradise of year-round sunshine, cultural activities, shopping and gastronomic adventures contributed to a precipitous 105 per cent growth spurt in the number of overnight stays (bed nights) in Tel Aviv, from 1.17 million in 2004, to 2.4 million in 2011.

Says Ziv, "During this same period, the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai made it his business to revamp various tourist attractions, including the creation of 14km of continuous beachfront boardwalk and the renovation of the ports of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall, Sheinkin Street (which has become like SoHo in Manhattan) and Rothschild Boulevard (which can be compared to London's Piccadilly), Carmel Market and more. Everyone, from the Ministry of Tourism to the Tel Aviv and Israel Hotel Associations, The Association for Tourism Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the mayor and the hotel owners, has worked diligently to transform this city into the Mediterranean region's prime tourist destination."

But no one is resting on their laurels. The city's luxury hotels are constantly sprucing up their internal and external facilities, while the marketing and sales departments are fashioning new packages that include pampering long-weekend excursions.

"Today's tourist is far more sophisticated. People come to the hotel with lists of places to go and ask: 'Which one is better and what do you suggest?' It could be a fashion outlet, tourist attraction, restaurant, museum... and we need to be prepared with helpful answers," says Anat Shilon, director of sales and marketing at the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers (www.sheratontelaviv.com).

"For me, the winter tourist season is fascinating, especially for tourists who fly in from 'frozen' countries like the UK. It might only be about 68 degrees outside (20ºC) in January and I'll be wearing a warm sweater and enjoying a hot cup of tea. But, I'll watch tourists from the UK check into the hotel with a smile on their faces, change into shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops and head right down to the beach and nearby bars. For them, Tel Aviv represents a warm, relaxing vacation break, as opposed to a cold, boring winter in the UK."

The award-winning David InterContinental (www.intercontinental.com) has recently completed the redesign of the third-floor atrium lobby, including an additional executive lounge, new and upgraded dining outlets with an outdoor terrace bar, and a newly designed Club InterContinental lounge on the 24th floor. The new atrium lobby design removed traditional architectural barriers and divided the lobby space into cosy, open-plan zones, where guests can now choose to work, relax, drink or dine.

"The new design allows for a flexibility that we did not have before. We can now cater for business guests holding informal meetings, guests having a coffee in the new Executive Club, or locals having a drink at the bar," says David Cohen, general manager at the David InterContinental.

The Dan chain (www.danhotels.com), which created the five-star hotel concept in Tel Aviv with the launching of the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel in 1953, is still considered a tourism industry innovator.

During the Dan Tel Aviv's most recent renovations, a new dimension was added to the already impressive lobby area. Whether relaxing in the Lobby Lounge, the adjacent D-Bar, or the breakfast dining area, guests are now able to sit back and relax in an elegantly furnished setting, where classic elegance is in harmony with today's contemporary design.

The nearby Dan Panorama Tel Aviv, recently marked its 25th anniversary, by undergoing a dramatic facelift.

Chen Michaeli, Dan Panorama's general manager, says: "After extensive renovations, the hotel now boasts an attractive and sleek new entrance that provides a modern look, while the renovated lounge on the first floor is stylish and appealing.

"These changes have improved the whole feel of the hotel and they have certainly brought it into the 21st century."

The nation's largest hotel chain, Fattal Hotels, has renovated, rebranded and renamed several hotels under the "Herod's" title, including its flagship beachfront luxury hotel, which is known as the Herod's Tel Aviv (www.leonardo-hotels.com).

The Herod's Tel Aviv is designed to a themed nostalgia concept, which transports guests back to the 1930s when Tel Aviv "flourished into a pulsating centre of architecture, fashion, culture etc. and attracted poets and artists from Europe."

While the lobby and guest rooms reflect Tel Aviv's 1930s grandeur, the hotel boasts some of the most contemporary facilities in metro Tel Aviv, including a state-of-the-art health club, swimming pool and "wellness area".

Mr Ziv says that during the next year, the Tel Aviv Hotel Association (www.TelAvivHotels.org.il) and the Association for Tourism Tel Aviv-Jaffa will launch an extensive advertising campaign aimed at tourists who wish to enjoy the benefits of a long-weekend in metro Tel Aviv.

"This is part of the global tourist trend for city breaks. As there are hundreds of thousands of potential tourists from countries such as the UK, France Russia and Germany, who can fly into nearby Ben-Gurion Airport in a matter of a few hours, we think Tel Aviv is the best place in the Mediterranean region to exploit this concept," says Ziv.

Participating hotels will be offering a variety of incentives, ranging from free dinners to complimentary guided tours of the city.

Ziv also says that a boom in new luxury hotel construction will add more than 800 new rooms to metro Tel Aviv by the end of 2013.

New projects for the city are set to include:

● Isrotel's Royal Beach Tel Aviv

lKempinski Tel Aviv, the first hotel in Israel to be headed by the renowned European hospitality chain

● Orchid Jaffa Hotel that is being constructed by New York's Jordache Corporation

● "W" Jaffa Hotel, which will be led by the Starwood Hotel chain (owner of Sheraton, Westin, St Regis hotel brands)

● Ritz-Carlton Herzliya, the first hotel in Israel that will be managed by the legendary American chain

Last updated: 4:09pm, November 11 2011