It’s a marriage made in tourism heaven.
As Israel’s business and high-tech industries in metro Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva, Jerusalem and other cities have boomed during the past five years, the country’s hoteliers sensed an opportunity. The result is a new focus in the industry: trendy, new business-oriented hotels have sprung up, and venerable properties are upgrading amenities to attract business travelers from North America and around the globe.
According to Israel’s Ministry of Tourism’s annual tourism survey, nearly 10 percent of all incoming tourists list “business” as the primary reason for their visit. Hotels that were built near some of the country’s bustling “Start-Up Nation” high-tech parks are reaping the benefits of the old saw, “location, location, location.”
Exact figures for business travel are hard to come by, tourism officials say, but they claim, based on anecdotal evidence, that the sector is seeing an increase because of Israel’s rising economy. Said one tourism official: “We know that incoming business travel is constant and rising because, despite the specter of terrorism, if business is good, it’s still a strong motivation to come to Israel.”
Hoteliers are adapting. “Hotels are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to business travel,” said Rafi Baeri, the Dan Hotels’ vice president of sales and marketing. “With modern communications, travelers can carry out their business activities while in a hotel whether for business or leisure purposes. And business travel represents a significant part of the Dan Hotel’s income.”
During weekdays, Baeri said, 80 percent of the Dan Tel Aviv’s and the Dan Accadia Herzliya’s guests are business travelers; the figure at Dan Carmel Haifa is 50 percent. “Business travelers benefit from WiFi access throughout the hotels, while having access to our Business Lounges, where there is an open buffet, computers, printers and private areas for intimate business meetings.”
With 36 hotels now in its stable, Fattal Hotels is Israel’s largest and fastest-growing chain. During the past few years, Fattal has built new hotels specifically catering to different types of business travelers.
“Sixteen of our 36 hotels are aimed at business travelers, and we will continue to develop new hotels aimed at this market,” said Roni Aloni, Fattal’s vice president of marketing and sales. “More and more corporations and business people are investing in all kinds of companies across Israel, especially in the new high-tech zones located in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Haifa, Rehovot and as far south as Beersheva. For example, Intel has a manufacturing facility located in southern Israel, and R&D offices in Haifa. Beersheva is not only in the midst of a building boom but is also becoming a major high-tech development center as well.”
As business travel has grown around the world in recent years, “Israel is capitalizing on this now through high-tech,” Aloni continued. “To our benefit, Tel Aviv has been lionized in the international media as a great city to combine business with pleasure.”
With that in mind, Fattal recently debuted the Rothschild 22 Hotel in Tel Aviv, where business guests are treated to a wide range of amenities including a “deluxe” business lounge and fully-equipped meeting rooms. “This is a new, boutique style-hotel that highlights an upscale style of living, because the hotel itself has been built on the trendiest boulevard in Tel Aviv; we want our business guests to conduct their business in a certain atmosphere and then go outside to experience the essence of city lifestyle,” added Aloni.
He also pointed to the Leonardo Rehovot hotel and the chain’s Herod’s Hotel in Herzliya as examples of properties taking on more of a business-tourist slant. “The Leonardo is strictly a boutique business hotel aimed at business travelers who are involved in developments at the nearby Weizmann Institute of Science or adjacent high-tech parks,” Aloni said.
At Herod’s Hotel, located on an island in the Herzliya marina, “we have created a recreation-meets-business atmosphere, since the hotel itself is an upscale resort, where tourists of all types want to experience a high-end, beachfront lifestyle,” Aloni said. “Business travelers can work at the nearby Herzliya high-tech zone or conduct meetings in our business lounge during business hours, and then can go to the spa or swimming pool either after work or in between meetings.”
As Jerusalem is only now becoming an emerging start-up hub, major hotels are relying on other sources of business travel income. The David Citadel and Mamilla Hotels, which are owned by Alrov Luxury Hotels, have become synonymous with hosting visiting dignitaries from all over the world and showbiz celebrities, ranging from U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden to Latina telenovela superstar Maite Perroni.
“Visiting politicians and governmental delegations from all over the world, especially from the U.S., represents a key part of our business tourism services,” said Adi Nevo, the David Citadel’s general manager.
The hotel’s Executive Lounge has been cited as the country’s best business lounge by Passport Magazine, Israel’s leading travel publication. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been known to use the hotel’s gym and swimming pool.
According to the Tel Aviv Hotel Association, the introduction of new international luxury hotel brands such as Accor and Kempinski into the Israeli marketplace during the next two years, will also create momentum for business tourism. A spokesperson for the association added, “Many upscale international chains from the U.S. and Europe are now creating personalized experiences for business travelers who wish to combine business with pleasure, including cooking lessons with celebrity chefs, VIP tours to art galleries and designer fashion showrooms. These experiences will add a new dimension to Israel’s hotel industry.”