A new New York
The constant flow of discerning business travellers through Tel Aviv sets the bar for luxury hotels very high. After all, many are regulars at the smart hotels of New York, London and Paris and expect the same kind of standards wherever they go.
This is reflected not only in the level of service, but also in the determination of hotels to constantly refurnish, renovate and redesign.
Just three months ago the Grand Beach Hotel, one of the city's best-known hotels, completed a full renovation and the results are impressive. Rooms are bright and light, with comfortable working areas, super-thin LCD televisions and vivid artwork. The dining room and public areas have new comfortable furniture and have been finished to an opulent level.
The jewel in the crown of the Grand Beach is its rooftop swimming pool, with a sundeck that is open even in the winter. From the rooftop, the views of the Mediterranean and the city are breathtaking.
The Grand Beach stands on the main stretch of Tel Aviv's hotels, along Hayarkon Street and close to the shopping and café hubs of Dizengoff Street and Ben Yehuda Street. As the name suggests, the hotel is right on the beach and close to water sports like windsurfing and sailing.
A few years ago, this stretch of Tel Aviv's seafront was seen as the only place to stay and anywhere else was out in the sticks, but this has all changed. Today, while the area of the Grand Beach remains the busiest hotel area - it is also home to top international names like the Hilton, the Sheraton and the Carlton - Neve Tzedek to the south is increasingly desirable.
"Our location in past years has been a disadvantage," says Chen Michaeli, the manager of the Dan Panorama which, along with its neighbour the David InterContinental, dominates the skyline in this area. "But it has now become a major advantage because Tel Aviv has grown southwards and today many of the attractions are near here."
Izabella Ostrom, sales manager at the David InterContinental, says: "The centre of the city is moving, and we are now at its heart."
Neve Tzedek, the first neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, was in a state of neglect when the Dan Panorama and the David Intercontinental established themselves, but following gentrification is now one of the most fashionable parts of the city, home to hip artists studios and chic cafés. Just outside Neve Tzedek, the Tachana, a recently restored complex of historic buildings, is an elegant shopping, entertainment and cultural district. The Nachalat Binyamin area, which hosts an arts and crafts fair twice a week is nearby and Jaffa, which like Neve Tzedek has undergone significant renewal, is within close walking distance.
The Dan Panorama was built when land was still cheap in this part of Tel Aviv - as you can see from the abundance of space. There are high ceilings, wide corridors and large public areas. There are 483 rooms including deluxe rooms, executive rooms, executive suites and a Presidential Suite - all of which have balconies.
The management tries to bring something of a resort atmosphere to an urban hotel, with entertainment like walking tours for adults and a lively kids' club for young guests.
Walk into the David Intercontinental and you enter the world of pampering.
Everything about the place screams luxury, from the laundered napkins that await every time you sit down to eat to the choices of mineral water including San Pellegrino that greet you at the breakfast buffet; from the turndown service to the fact that guests at the pool are given not one but two supersize towels.
The lobby and other public areas are newly renovated and there are now two business lounges.
The David Intercontinental is best known as a business hotel, and is exceedingly popular for conferences and seminars. But it also manages to be very family-friendly. Its children's pool is shallow enough for even toddlers to splash around safely and parts of the main pool are also shallow. Guests with children from junior school age to teens will hardly see them if they visit in season - there is a kid's club and a games room that has table tennis, table football, air-hockey and arcade games. Parents can rest easy, as a hotel employee supervises the games room.