When you think of Israel's original pioneers, you inevitably conjure up pictures of muscular young men and women clearing malaria-infested swamps and building agricultural and infrastructure enterprises. But when Ami Federmann's family arrived in pre-state Israel from Germany, they set aside their European agricultural expertise in favour of "building" the pioneering concept of Israeli hospitality.
In 1947, Ami's uncle and father purchased a 21-room guest house, dubbed the "Kaete Dan", directly across the street from the inviting Mediterranean seashore. Six years later, the Federmanns transformed the property into what was to become Tel Aviv's first luxury hotel, the Dan Tel Aviv.
"Farmers are always tied to the land in one form or another, it's a way of life," says Ami Federmann, now vice chairman of the Dan Hotels Corporation. "My uncle and father never gave up on that concept. By building a hotel, we actually maintained our way of life by putting down roots within the realm of the Zionist connection to the land. They believed that this [hotel business] would be good for the country and endure even during difficult times. Their philosophy was based on a simple premise. They believed that Jews from all over the world would come to see the wonders of the new state of Israel."
The success of the Dan Tel Aviv luxury hotel concept became the foundation for the Federmann family's Dan Hotel chain, which over several decades mushroomed into premier holiday destinations for both overseas and local tourists, with 14 hotels offering first-class Israeli hospitality.
Though he is also President of the Israel Hotel Association, which represents the commercial and marketing interests of the country's entire hotel industry, Federmann reiterates that Tel Aviv is Israel's tourism epicentre. "Tel Aviv is a modern Israeli city without the burden of history or heritage," he says. "It is not promoted as a historical city like Jerusalem. And more than anything else the people of Tel Aviv are different from the rest of Israel. It's a vibrant 'world city' that is attracting people from all over to its great beaches, restaurants, all-night clubs art galleries, shopping and son on. This is also the reason why Tel Aviv has become a magnet for young Israelis all over the country.
"From a cultural point of view the city has everything a young Israeli or new immigrant could hope for. Even a simple waitress who moves from the periphery to Tel Aviv might pay much more to rent a studio apartment, but she'll have the potential to earn more by working in Tel Aviv, while actually being a part of the action. In this respect, the presence of a growing, young population adds to the vibrancy of Tel Aviv and impacts tourism in a very positive manner."
As for the city's bustling hotel industry, Federmann adds, "The growth of the smaller, boutique hotels in the city has created a new lifestyle quotient that is generating positive buzz among both tourists who seek a unique experience and smaller developers who believe that this is a global trend that can be quite profitable."