Israeli hotels showcase a summer medley of adventures


Spurred by a record-breaking number of foreign tourists who visited the Holy Land during the first quarter of 2012, Israel’s burgeoning hotel industry is gearing up for a busy summer tourism season by sprucing up their facilities and offering a variety of titillating vacation packages.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the 752,000 foreign visitors who entered the country between January and March 2012, not only eclipsed last year’s figures by 2 percent, the first-quarter figures also represent a 1 percent increase over 2010, which Israel’s Ministry of Tourism declared was Israel’s best year ever for incoming tourism.

Despite the generally optimistic picture, many hotel managers aren’t assuming that North American Jewish tourists will reflexively book a vacation to Israel when there are myriad interesting destinations to choose from. In order to attract both veteran and new foreign tourists to their facilities, some of Israel’s best-known hotels have undergone a series of physical transformations in order to broaden their appeal, while others have focused on offering newfangled experiences to both couples and families with children.

Ilan Brenner, executive assistant manager of marketing and sales at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, said that the hotel’s staff knows its clients, and in a growing number of cases they have literally grown up with entire families.

“So when a new generation emerges, we already have a good idea about their needs. Both returning and new tourists are always searching for and asking about upgrades, 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,” he said. 

Rafi Beeri, the Dan Hotel’s vice president of marketing and sales, said renovations at Dan properties have included some innovations. “The King David has undergone a major makeover with a new section of rooms and suites. At the Dan Carmel, which debuted in 1962, we have completed a top-to-bottom renovation [that] includes new executive rooms, which overlook Haifa Bay and the Carmel Mountains. With the Dan Jerusalem, which we acquired in 2010, we realized that renovating this huge hotel 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.

“It can be compared to an airline’s business-class environment,” he said. “We’ve upgraded a wing of 120 rooms, 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 stellar reputation among families who seek discounted long-term vacation packages (from seven to 21 days) with a variety of summer activities for adults and children, including its “We Love Kids” program, which features daily entertainment for children, including magicians and petting zoos.

“During weekdays, we offer complimentary shuttle bus service to the Old City, which is an attraction for the parents. And, our outdoor American-style barbecues out by the pool area during August always attracts a large audience of both adults and children,” said Yacov Shaari, general manager of the Ramada Jerusalem Hotel. The growing Rimonim chain recently rebranded four of its upscale properties to create the “Royal Collection,” which includes the Royal Dead Sea, Rimonim Eilat, Ruth Rimonim Safed and Rimonim Galei Kinnereth. Each hotel accentuates contrasting experiences for the mind, body and soul.

“During the summer months, the Royal Dead Sea will feature special spa packages that include the hotel’s new Royal Lounge,” said Anat Aharon, Rimonim’s vice president of sales and marketing. “At the Ruth Rimonim in Safed, we invite guests to let their soul breathe amid the mystic beauty of the hotel’s Galilean surroundings. The hotel also features a wine cellar, where you can sample the best Israeli wines and enjoy small talk.”

At the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel, where North American, British and French tourists converge during the summer months, the “accent” will be on indulging kids and parents alike.

“Last year, we opened a children’s pool. This year, we will complement it with a guarded kids’ playground with games and toys, where families can relax and enjoy the pool while their children are playing,” said Jean-Louis Ripoche, general manager of the Sheraton Tel Aviv. “During the summer, we will be extending breakfast hours in the dining room till noon, so couples and families can enjoy a longer, relaxed morning. After breakfast, we offer adults a free bicycle, so they can pedal around the seaside boardwalk area and beyond.”

It’s important to note that despite a 15 to 20 percent rise in the cost of airline tickets to Israel since last summer, many Israeli hotels have not raised their basic rates. Israeli hoteliers are cognizant of the fact that families are looking to maximize their vacation experience without blowing a hole in their budget.

Here is a guide to some of the hottest summer deals across Israel:

Inbal Jerusalem Hotel
July rates begin at $150 per person in a double room, based on a minimum five-night stay. The hotel’s Web site features several unique summer deals. Guests who book three consecutive nights in a “superior room” are entitled to a free car. Guests who book at least three consecutive nights in “executive rooms” or higher category are also entitled to a vehicle upgrade (such as Mazda 6). In August, the hotel’s popular Kids Club will feature a supervised multimedia game room and Gymboree. The Splash Bar situated poolside highlights an American-style barbecue menu as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for adults and children. The hotel’s Mediterranean-accented Sofia restaurant has received rave reviews for the unique fish and pasta dishes served up by executive chef Moti Buchbut. 
inbalhotel.com.

Ramada Jerusalem Hotel
The hotel’s “We Love Kids” rates start at $198 based on a seven- to 14-night stay, including two adults and one child in a room (including breakfast). Rates are discounted even further 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. This hotel highlights OU mehadrin glatt kosher cuisine.
jerusalemramada.com.

Dan Hotels
Rates for July and August for guests who book “Golden 7 Nights” at the King David start at $480 a night per room (per couple) based on a bed and breakfast excursion. The “Golden 7” special also includes pampering 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. At the Dan Jerusalem, guests who book a minimum of three nights in “deluxe rooms” will receive a free upgrade to “executive rooms,” which includes the use of the hotel’s new King David Executive Lounge.
danhotels.com.

Sheraton Tel Aviv
Hotel & Towers

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. The charge for a child in the room under the age of 17 is $30 per child. There is no charge for children under 3 years old. There is a limited promotion whereby guests who stay for a minimum of five nights between Aug. 5 and Aug. 25 will receive complimentary tickets to the world famous Cirque du Soleil, which will be playing Tel Aviv during August. Rates start from $400 a night based on double occupancy. The special deal can be booked direct via the hotel’s Web site.
sheratontelaviv.com.

Rimonim Hotels
Various deals are available for guests who book directly via the Web site. Rates vary for midweek and weekend vacations. At the Royal Dead Sea
guests staying in suites and preferred room types 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 luxurious spa highlights 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 of 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 both, as well as a 45-minute pedicure and manicure.
english.rimonim.com


Rimonim Royal Dead Sea pool

For business or pleasure, hotels rolling out red carpets


The emergence of Israel on the global high-tech stage as a “start-up nation,” combined with the growing number of international business and Jewish organizational events held in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has spurred a slew of major hotels to invest in upgrading their various services to discerning executives who endeavor to mix business with pleasure.

“The growth of social media, which includes business- and travel-oriented forums, has allowed our staff to engage with people who are planning business trips to Jerusalem and other points in Israel, offering them the opportunity to take advantage of the hotel’s varied services, many of which are tailored to the business tourist,” said Ilan Brenner, the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel’s executive assistant manager of sales and marketing.

The five-star hotel has regularly played host to a variety of business and organizational conferences in its various halls, including El Al, Hadassah and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

“As there are several types of business travelers — ranging from the high-powered executive who seeks a luxurious WiFi-equipped suite with a terrace that overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem, to a salesperson who might want to conduct a private meeting with a colleague in our rooftop Executive Lounge — we can provide a variety of settings based on need and budget,” Brenner said.

In metro Tel Aviv, where the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and many of the nation’s top corporations are located, a number of the city’s finest hotels regularly cater to a business clientele. However, several hotels have tweaked their interior design concepts and external marketing agendas to discourage “family tourism” and focus almost exclusively on luring upscale business travelers.

The posh Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv City Center Hotel, which has been built into the prodigious Azrieli Towers business, shopping and entertainment complex, prides itself on being a concept facility.

“We like to think of ourselves as a leader in the development of the business tourist concept,” said Michael Plesz, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv City Center Hotel. “Nearly 60 percent of our customers are business people, 85 percent of whom come from overseas, including, of course, North America. The upbeat design of our public areas and rooms enhances the notion of a place where one can find the right atmosphere to do business and rest between meetings.”

In addition, metro Tel Aviv’s renowned beach, bar and restaurant scene is a magnet for business tourists. 

Want to know more about who offers the most enticing business and relaxation combination packages? We’ve compiled an abridged list of hotels that offer myriad business services and pampering perks:

JERUSALEM

Inbal Jerusalem Hotel

There are dozens of beautiful suites, executive or deluxe rooms to choose from in this venerable facility. The intimate Executive Lounge features a computer station, a variety of newspapers and magazines, light meals and snacks. In order to keep the lounge as an exclusive benefit, its use is restricted to guest staying in suites, executive or deluxe rooms. There is also a 24/7 business center featuring a variety of services upon request. There are special corporate rates available to companies that commit themselves to a minimal annual turnover.

Many local and foreign business people use the spa and health club in their after-hours down time to work off the daily stress and reinvigorate body and soul. The hotel also offers all guests free tickets to local cultural attractions.

For more information, visit inbalhotel.com.

David Citadel Hotel

The Executive Lounge, located high above the city, offers a majestic view of the Old City and provides a perfect setting for business people who wish to mingle, nosh or conduct one-on-one meetings. The hotel also offers a wide range of rooms that cater to the various needs of business travelers. Special arrangements can be made for private spa treatments in guest rooms or in the hotel’s new spa and health club downstairs. Private concierge service is also available for VIPs, which includes arranging special transportation to local events and cultural attractions. Private tour guides can also be arranged. The hotel plays host to a variety of business functions in its adjustable meeting rooms and halls. The David Citadel complex also boasts the critically acclaimed Scala Chef Kitchen & Bar as well as the rooftop Mamilla Café. For more information, visit thedavidcitadel.com.

Sheraton Tel Aviv Executive Lounge

TEL AVIV

Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers

The entire third floor has been reconfigured to meet the needs of business guests with a new business center, 12 newly designed guest rooms and meeting areas. The new guest rooms feature a work desk, ergonomic chair, WiFi and landline connectivity, flatscreen TVs, Nespresso machines, step-out balconies and soundproof windows that overlook the sea. In addition, all the new rooms feature a stall shower instead of a bathtub. “This is a new market trend, especially amongst the business travel community,” general manager Jean-Louis Ripoche said. “Most of our business guests are too busy to use a tub, or they are just not interested in it.”

The meeting rooms are complemented by a modular, multifunctional hall divisible by means of soundproof movable partitions, each with its own audiovisual equipment — LCD projectors, screens, bulletin boards — and coffee-break stations.

For more information, visit sheratontelaviv.com.

David InterContinental Tel Aviv Hotel

The David InterContinental Tel Aviv Hotel offers two new highly stylized business lounges — the Executive Lounge on the third floor and the Club InterContinental on the 24th floor. In addition, the redesigned Club InterContinental Lounge offers greater food diversity, improved décor and enhanced services. Both lounges offer WiFi and business services, including copier, printer and fax. The Club InterContinental Tel Aviv offers private check-in and check-out services as well as private concierge services with activities designed to match busy schedules, including the handling of itineraries and access to restaurants and shows at the last minute. The newly renovated Aubergine restaurant offers a business lunch specializing in Mediterranean delicacies infusing local cuisine with an international flair. The David InterContinental Tel Aviv offers a full-service spa and fitness center, as well as a ritzy sports and cigar bar called Inca.

For more information, visit intercontinental.com.

Summertime Perks for Parents and Kids


What if you were able to check in at a top Israeli hotel this summer, wave goodbye to the kids at the front desk and then, minutes later, find yourself nursing a fruity Mediterranean cocktail by the sun-kissed pool?

A mirage? Nope, it’s the real deal!

A large number of quality Israeli hotels have worked diligently to perfect summertime family vacation packages that highlight a variety of perks, including indoor and outdoor activities for kids, chill-out spa and poolside amenities for parents and, last but not least, mesmerizing displays of sumptuous culinary experiences for the entire clan.

At one time, in the not-too-distant past, this summertime product was aimed at a mostly Israeli clientele. But as tourism to the Jewish state has risen dramatically during the past few years, Israeli hotel managers have tweaked their packages to appeal to American and European families.

“We have been anticipating this demand for summertime fun for the entire family from our overseas clientele for a while now. Based on the feedback that we have received, the hotel’s summer activities have become a key attraction for our guests,” said Ilan Brenner, assistant general manager for marketing and sales at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel.

In addition to its unique locale (near the Old City) and beautiful interior and exterior architectural design, the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel has boosted its appeal by creating perks for families with children, including adjoining rooms and spacious family units, a poolside grill bar for adults and children, a kids’ club and pool, and a state-of-the-art spa and health club for parents.

Herods Tel Aviv lobby overlooks the beach.

“Because the hotel is isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city and located next to a very quiet park [Liberty Bell Park], the parents can actually sample a bit of paradise in the Holy City,” Brenner said. “We’ve tried to anticipate every detail, right down to featuring a kids’ TV channel. In other words, Mom and Dad can watch the news or a movie in peace in their room while the youngsters can enjoy ‘SpongeBob’ next door, without disturbing their parents.”

The hotel also offers a variety of family vacation packages, some of which include freebies to a number of cultural sites, such as the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, considered one of the top tourism venues in all of Israel.

Four- and five-star hotels within the larger chains invest considerable sums of money toward creating a variety of other fascinating tourism encounters. For example, the Fattal Hotel chain, which boasts 29 Israeli hotels under various brand names (Herods, Leonardo, Le Meridien), is renowned for its cultural and culinary family vacation packages.

“The Fattal chain has built a value-for-the-money concept that is based on a year-round vacation experience, not just summertime, which of course represents the height of the tourism season,” said Roni Aloni, Fattal’s vice president of marketing and sales. “At our resort hotels in Eilat, Tiberias and the Dead Sea, we offer several types of cultural happenings, from in-house entertainment troupes performing for the kids and adults, to headlining some of the top stars in Israeli pop music. All of these events are offered to guests free of charge, which has made our resort hotels a big hit with families.”

Leonardo (Fattal) Tiberias Hotel spa.

The Fattal chain also recently unveiled an ultra-chic business- and family-oriented hotel that highlights a unique time-travel experience. The new Herods Hotel Tel Aviv (the former Sheraton Moriah) has been redesigned from top to bottom to reflect the cultural grandeur of 1930s Tel Aviv, right down to the smart yesteryear uniforms worn by its entire staff. It’s akin to entering an Israeli version of a Hollywood movie set.

The Herods Tel Aviv showcases luxury accommodations with an outdoor pool, indoor spa and themed culinary offerings in the dining room and 1930s-style restaurants.

“We spent over $20 million remodeling the facility, in order to create a true theme hotel. It’s a unique property, with a unique environment located along the beautiful Tel Aviv beachfront that accentuates the best of everything,” Aloni said.

In addition to the Inbal Jerusalem and Herods Tel Aviv, the following are some top Israeli hotels currently offering special summer deals for families:

DAVID CITADEL HOTEL
The hotel’s new state-of-the-art kids’ club is a major feature at the luxury facility. The club highlights PlayStation and Wii games, a kindergarten with corners for stage performances, arts and crafts center, and a large movie screen. The Jerusalem-based hotel is also in the midst of putting the finishing touches on a series of renovations to its lobby terrace area, breakfast dining room, Executive Lounge and health club.

Danyland Kids Club at the Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzliya.

RAMADA JERUSALEM HOTEL
The hotel’s “We Love Kids” program encompasses comprehensive children’s indoor and outdoor activities as well as discounted children’s room rates. The hotel complex features a large, landscaped outdoor pool area and an indoor pool with a health club and sauna. The Ramada has also garnered a reputation for hosting lavish summertime simchas, including weddings and b’nai mitzvah in the main ballroom and out by the pool.

DAN HOTELS
The 14-hotel chain features Danyland kids’ clubs, which are run by an experienced, professionally trained staff. Each Danyland offers a variety of activities, including puppet shows, arts and crafts, sports, movies and cookery. During the evening hours, there are discos, talent contests, magic shows and other entertainment as well. In addition, each child who arrives during the summer receives a gift and vouchers that can be cashed in for a light snack. Dan Hotels hasn’t forgotten about teens and pre-teens. They have access to Danyland Teen Club, which offers sports activities, movies and more.

HOLIDAY INN/CROWNE PLAZA
Formal and informal entertainment for youngsters will be featured in almost all of the chain’s hotels during the daytime, along with nightly musical and stage shows for both adults and children. Guests who stay at hotels in Tel Aviv and Haifa receive free tickets to local attractions. Crowne Plaza Hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are also renowned for their upscale kosher cuisine.

A room at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv Hotel.

ISLAND SUITES HOTEL
Located along Netanya’s beautiful coastline, this new hotel offers a variety of affordable family plans during the summer, highlighted by spacious suites (one and two bedrooms), family rooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a magnificent balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. The facility also boasts a large outdoor pool, kids’ pool, gym, rejuvenating spa with facial treatments, as well as wet and dry saunas. Island also offers a pool bar and a weekly poolside barbecue. During the summer, the hotel will debut its Bleecker Street coffee shop, featuring lunch and dinner menus. Some of the hotel’s other unique amenities include a shopping service and free bicycles.

SHERATON TEL AVIV
The pool deck has been adapted to children’s needs, including a pool for ages 3 and under, sports entertainment and table tennis. From Aug. 10 to Aug. 25, the hotel will feature a Children’s Arena, featuring free Internet, computer stations, PlayStation games, kid-friendly snacks and beverages. In cooperation with the award-winning Golan Heights Winery, the hotel is launching a wine stand in the lobby, where premium wines will be available for tasting and for purchase. As for entertainment, there will be a twice-weekly Jazz Night just before sunset, featuring cool music at the pool area overlooking the Mediterranean.