Spurred by a record-breaking NUMBERof foreign tourists who visited the Holy Land during the first quarter of this year, Israel’s hotel industry is gearing up for the summer tourism season.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 752,000 foreigners visited the country between January and March of this year. That figure not only eclipsed last year’s numbers by 2 percent, but the first quarter figures also represent a 1 percent increase over 2010, which was Israel’s best year for incoming tourism.
“Both returning and new clientele are quite different from five years ago because of new technologies,” said Ilan Brenner, a sales and marketing executive at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. “Today’s tourists are more computer savvy. They can compare prices online in an instant from their computers and make a formal booking from their Smartphones, so hotels must be prepared to offer more personalized services, as well as new experiences.”
“Both returning and new tourists are always searching for and asking about upgrades,” Brenner continued, “so we are constantly adding incentives, whether it's a free car, a multimedia game room for youngsters, new spa treatments, trendy gastronomic experiences in the dining room, etc.”
The Dan Hotel chain recently completed a makeover at its historical King David Hotel in Jerusalem and at its venerable Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa. Rafi Beeri, the Dan Hotel’s vice president of marketing and sales, said: “We have invested heavily in upgrading these hotels in different ways. The King David has undergone a major makeover, with a new section of rooms and suites. At the Dan Carmel, we have completed a top-to-bottom renovation, which includes new executive rooms that overlook Haifa Bay and the Carmel Mountains.
“With the Dan Jerusalem, which we acquired in 2010, we realized that renovating this huge hotel [500 rooms], would have to be done in phases and feature some unique aspects.”
According to Beeri, the Dan Jerusalem highlights a unique “hotel within a hotel” concept, where both guests and groups can benefit from more personalized services and amenities. “We’ve upgraded a wing of 120 rooms [executive class], where guests or groups who wish to stay in this section, will enjoy a separate check-in area, separate lounge and dining facilities, as well as a special staff that will cater to them in a more personalized manner.
The Ramada Jerusalem Hotel has acquired a reputation as a family-friendly destination for those seeking discounted long-term vacation packages (from seven to 21 days), with a variety of summer activities for adults and children. “Our annual ‘We Love Kids’ summer program has been a hit with tourists from North America for several years,” said Yacov Shaari, the hotel’s general manager. “If people are staying in the hotel over an extended period, we have to keep the kids entertained, so every day we offer something different. And our outdoor American-style barbecues by the pool area during August always attracts a large audience of both adults and children alike.”
The growing Rimonim chain recently rebranded four of its upscale properties to create the so-called “Royal Collection,” which includes the Royal Dead Sea, Rimonim Eilat, Ruth Rimonim Safed and Rimonim Galei Kinnereth.
Anat Aharon, Rimonim’s vice president of sales and marketing, said that during the summer months, the Royal Dead Sea will feature special spa packages that include the hotel’s new Royal Lounge. “The Royal Serenity Indulgence Package features both a private VIP spa and private beach opposite the hotel,” she said. There is also a summer spa getaway at the Rimonim Galei Kinnereth in Tiberias. Guests who book the hotel’s “Ben Gurion Suite” package “are pampered with a deluxe treatment in the hotel’s spa, unique amenities and special tastings of boutique Israeli wines upon arrival,” Aharon said.
At the nearby Ruth Rimonim in Safed, guests can “let their soul breathe amid the mystic beauty of the hotel’s Galilean surroundings,” she said. The hotel also features a wine cellar, where visitors can sample the best Israeli wines. The staff at the Ruth Rimonim, Aharon said, can also organize special walking tours through the colorful alleys and art galleries in the Old City, accompanied by klezmer music. “In Eilat, we are offering summer ‘Serenity & Action’ packages to romantic couples and families with children who seek a bit of adventure.”
At the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel, the accent will be on indulging both kids and parents.
“We are geared for families, providing dedicated areas for youngsters with computers, where they can connect with their friends on Facebook,” said Jean-Louis Ripoche, the hotel’s general manager. “Last year we opened a children’s pool. This year, we will complement it with a guarded kid’s playground with games and toys, where families can relax and enjoy the pool, while their children are playing.” The hotel also features a summer kids breakfast buffet corner, featuring a variety of yogurts, colorful cereals, variety of chocolate drinks, pancakes, mini Belgian waffles, etc.
Here an abridged guide to some of the hottest summer deals across Israel…
Inbal Jerusalem Hotel — www.inbalhotel.com.
July rates begin from $150 per person in a double room, based on a minimum five-night stay. The hotel’s website features several unique summer deals. Guests who book three consecutive nights in a “Superior Room” are entitled to a free car. Guests who book three consecutive nights or more in “Executive Rooms” or higher category are also entitled to a vehicle upgrade. In August, the hotel’s Kid’s Club will feature a supervised multi-media game room and Gymboree. The hotel’s Mediterranean-accented Sofia restaurant has received rave reviews from critics for the unique fish and pasta dishes served up by Executive Chef Moti Buchbut.
Dan Hotels — www.danhotels.com.
Rates for July and August for guests who book “Golden 7 Nights” at the King David start from $480 per room (per couple) based on a bed/breakfast excursion. The Golden 7 special also includes amenities such as free round-trip transportation between Ben-Gurion Airport and the hotel. Guests who stay a minimum of three nights are entitled to a free voucher to the Dan Lounge at Ben-Gurion Airport on the day of their departure from Israel.
Ramada Jerusalem Hotel — www.jerusalemramada.com.
The hotel’s “We Love Kids” rates start at $198 based on a seven- to14-night stay, including two adults and one child in a room (including breakfast). Rates are discounted more based on stays exceeding 14 nights. Amenities include large indoor and outdoor pools, health club and sauna, as well as supervised summer children’s camps, and a teen corner during July and August. The hotel highlights OU’s Mehadrin Glatt Kosher cuisine.
Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers — www.sheratontelaviv.com
The hotel is offering an “early bird package” starting from $370 per person with a minimum booking of five nights, or three nights non-refundable (add $30 for children under 17; children under 3 are free). There is a limited promotion; guests who stay for a minimum of five nights between Aug. 5-25 will receive complimentary tickets to the Cirque du Soleil, which will be performing in Tel Aviv in August. Rates start from $400 a night/double occupancy. The special deal can be booked via the hotel’s website.
Rimonim Hotels — http://English.rimonim.com.
Various deals are available for guests who book via Rimonim’s website. Rates vary for midweek and weekend vacations. At the Royal Dead Sea, guests staying in suites and preferred rooms will enjoy a separate check-in at the lounge, private breakfast and dinner, as well as snacks and drinks during the day. Galei Kinnereth’s spa features a “domed Jacuzzi” overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The Rimonim Eilat’s “Serenity & Action” package includes a choice of two hot attractions for the whole family: IMAX Theater/Underwater Observatory/Ice & Space, when reserving for a minimum three nights. The hotel’s “Romantic Serenity” deal for couples features pampering amenities such as breakfast for two in your room, one gift dinner, spa treatment for two, as well as a 45-minute pedicure and manicure.