Laromme anticipates surge of pilgrims

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NEW YORK -- The year 2000 will be a "rare time" in the Holy Land, according to Omri Krongold, general manager of the Laromme Jerusalem Hotel, a premier property in Jerusalem.

"I expect it to be a unique situation, the first and only time many Christians will visit," he said on a visit here.

The Laromme Jerusalem HotelAbout 20% of Laromme Jerusalem Hotel guests are Christian pilgrims, but that figure is expected to jump to as high as 45% for 2000, Krongold said. The property's principal market is Jewish, and he said families celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah (a Jewish teenager's coming-of-age ceremony) is a growing market.

The hotel has been redecorated and it smoke-free, Krongold said, but a Cuban cigar smoking area is located near the new 14 Martinis bar. Renovations to kitchen and ballroom facilities are due to be completed by September and will provide facilities for groups of between 10 and 1,000 people, he said.

But "the most important thing is the staff," Krongold said, adding that personnel training began last January to facilitate requests by pilgrimage groups with which the employees might not have experience. "Priority one for 2000 is to shape the attitudes and service of the employees, from housekeeping to management.

"Some [of the pilgrims] might feel lost," he said. "We will help make them feel at home and make sure everyone gets special attention." Training has focused on increasing awareness and service to guests who come from all cultures, including American, French and Spanish. As head of the staff, Krongold said, he makes it a point to be available personally to any guests who need him. All guests get bottled water, a fruit basket and a robe "to help them feel important."

The property adjoins Liberty Bell Park, with its replica of the symbol of U.S. independence, and is in walking distance to the Old City. The Laromme's guests frequently include diplomats and dignitaries from around the world.

Special attention also is being given to making the facilities accessible to travelers with disabilities, he said, noting that the entrance to the hotel is at street level.

Some industry people in Israel are concerned about having too many pilgrims during the turn of the millennium -- some are predicting as many as 6 million in a country accustomed to receiving 2.5 million annually -- but, Krongold said, roads have been improved and the country is ready.

Regarding concerns over the Y2K computer bug, Krongold said all the Laromme computers will be ready by May.

He added that Israel, which has achieved worldwide prominence in the software field, will be ready as well.

Of the hotel's 294 rooms, 16 are suites. Rack rates start at $163 for a double room, with a full Israeli buffet breakfast for two. A child up to age 18 can share the room without extra charge and pays $16 for breakfast.

A Boutique package will be available during the summer high season, from April 28 to Sept. 21, with rates starting at $225 for a double room, with breakfast for two. Agents earn a standard 10% commission.

Laromme Jerusalem Hotel, Address: 3 Jabotinski St., Jerusalem 92145. Phone: (011) 972-2 675-6666; Fax: (011) 972-2 675-6777; Web: www.laromme-hotel.co.il; E-mail: [email protected]

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