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David Lewis, face of Eilat tourism mourned

David Lewis in characteristic pose on the balcony of his flagship Eilat hotel, the Royal Beach, in 2002
David Lewis in characteristic pose on the balcony of his flagship Eilat hotel, the Royal Beach, in 2002

David Lewis, the Anglo-Jewish entrepeneur who turned Eilat into an international holiday destination, died at his London home on Tuesday aged 87.

His Isrotel group, which brought five-star luxury to the desert resort with the opening of the King Solomon's Palace in 1984, now owns a dozen hotels and spas across Israel.

Rafi Shalev, director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in London, said: "He was one of the leaders and main contributors to the development of travel to Israel, especially Eilat. He had the foresight to see what could be done in a far-away place. It is a great loss for us."

Last year Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said that Mr Lewis had "revolutionised Israeli tourism". He was speaking at a tribute dinner which raised £450,000 for one of the businessman's favourite charities, the Schneider Children's Hospital Medical Centre in Israel.

Two years ago Eilat named a new promenade after him in a ceremony where the town's mayor said its residents "separate their history into pre-Lewis and post-Lewis chapters".

Mr Lewis opened a womenswear store in Hackney in 1948 and went on to found the Chelsea Girl boutique chain, now River Island. He was awarded the CBE in 1995. Earlier this year, he celebrated his diamond anniversary with his wife Ruth.

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