With last summer’s Gaza war in the rear-view mirror, Israeli hoteliers are looking ahead, with two words in mind: renovation and expansion.
And with them has come a guarded sense of optimism about this summer’s travel season. The Inbal Jerusalem and the Ramada Jerusalem have upgraded their facilities, as has the Dan Hotel chain, one of Israel’s biggest chains. Taking advantage of the mood of optimism, the country’s other major chain, Fattal Hotels, is set to open four new hotels by the end of the year, according to published reports.
“We have used this time [between last summer and now] to improve our product; this is an industry-wide trend at other major Israeli hotels,” said Alex Herman, vice president of sales and marketing at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel (inbalhotel.com). “With new online and mobile technologies available to customers, reservations, which used to be made months in advance by couples and families etc., rarely exists anymore except for the major holidays such as Pesach and Sukkot. The trend is more towards last-minute reservations. … There is renewed interest among American travelers to come to Israel. Business will pick up again, as long as things stay quiet.”
As a stand-alone property competing against local and international chain brands in Jerusalem, the hotel, whose owners reside in the New York area, has undergone a top-to-bottom transformation, “while preserving its Jerusalem character,” emphasized Herman.
By mid-July, all of the hotel’s rooms, Herman said, will have been completely renovated, including new bathrooms, LED televisions with streaming capability from handheld devices and free high-speed Internet. The culinary offerings have also been upgraded; the hotel’s Italian-themed Sofia restaurant features a new menu prepared by Chef Nir Elkayam, while the Inbal Grill in the hotel’s courtyard offers a Brazilian Steakhouse experience with a selection of Israeli prime cuts of steak, chicken and kebabs.
Across town, the Ramada Jerusalem Hotel (ramadajer.com/en) just completed a $2 million renovation project, which included the entire ground floor and all of the guest floor hallways. The noted interior designer, Galit Avinoam, created a new modern look in the lobby, which now appears larger, brighter and more inviting.
Over at the Dan chain (danhotels.com), Rafi Baeri, its vice president of marketing and sales, said the chain is spending “$20 million to $30 million a year in renovating and updating properties.” Hotels that are in the midst of upgrading, he said, include the Dan Eilat and Dan Caesarea, which is located next to Israel’s only 18-hole golf course; the upgrades will take about a year to complete, he said. The swimming pool area at the Dan Caesarea has already been renovated and features three different pools, including one for kids and a half-Olympic-size one.
In the last year, many of the chain’s other hotels, which attract significant numbers of American tourists, have been spruced up, Baeri added. At the King David in Jerusalem, the fifth and sixth floors have been renovated, “resulting in even more luxury accommodation,” he said. The Dan Panorama Jerusalem has introduced a new category of “Deluxe Rooms.” And the Dan Accadia in Herzliya Pituach has recently opened a new restaurant, The Accad, which offers a seasonal menu with ingredients sourced from selected growing regions.
Fattal Hotels, Israel’s largest home-grown chain (34 and counting), is in the midst of rapid growth; by the end of the year, the chain is looking to open at least four new facilities, under its various brand names (fattal-hotels.com). The Israeli business daily Globes reported that the cost of the openings will be at least $125 million.
The chain, according to Moshe Elazar, its director of sales for North America, has opened a new property, the 250-room Herod’s Herzliya, in Herzliya Pituach, which is located on a peninsula adjacent to the marina and surrounded by water. A little further north, the chain has recently opened the Leonardo Plaza Hotel along the beachfront promenade in Netanya.
In Tel Aviv, Fattal is poised to open two upscale facilities, Leonardo Midtown and Rothschild 22. The Midtown, Elazar said, “will be aimed at business people as it is located in the heart of the city’s commercial district and high-tech hubs.”
“Rothschild 22,” he continued, located on Rothschild Boulevard, “will be a high-end hotel aimed at what one would call a ‘yuppie’ crowd. Rothschild Boulevard is attracting tremendous interest in the hotel industry because it’s booming with posh restaurants and pubs.”
The Rimonim hotel chain has recognized the growing potential among American tourists who wish to explore mystical Safed and the nearby lush Derech Hayayin (wine route) Galilee and Golan Heights regions. During the past few months, it has transformed its Ruth Rimonim facility into a “story hotel” (English.rimonim.com/ruth-rimonim-safed).
“This is the first ‘story hotel’ in Israel, where we are retelling the story of Safed within the context of the hotel’s own history,” said Keren Amir, Rimonim’s sales director.
There are six historical corners in the hotel, tracing the city’s history back to the 17th century. When guests check-in, they get a map of the hotel with stories about each corner.
The hotel also offers free tours of the historical city, which are led by an English-speaking professional guide. The hotel is ideally located near the town’s renowned art galleries and ancient synagogues and highlights include its own wine cellar, stocked with local wines.