Hoteliers tap Tel Aviv popularity

Visiting the city for its own sake is a relatively new part of Israeli tourism and the fast-growing popularity means the city is still short on hotel rooms. But hoteliers are responding. Read More 

Tel Aviv is mostly a city of low-slung buildings, with few of its 1930s, Bauhaus-style structures topping more than four stories.

So the view from my room on the 15th floor of the Royal Beach Tel Aviv offered an amazing, unimpeded view of not just the city but well into the country, with a local friend claiming she could almost see to Jerusalem.

Isrotel, an operator of 17 properties in Israel, opened the 23-story, 230-room modern, beachfront Royal Beach Tel Aviv just over a year ago, as the first major hotel to be built in Tel Aviv in 15 years.

The hotel faces Tel Aviv's long stretch of the Mediterranean beach, so looking one way from my balcony was all sea and sand, while the other was toward the city.

A guestroom at Isrotel's Royal Beach Tel Aviv.Upon entering my Executive balcony room, I immediately thought of the W hotels, which the rooms here resemble somewhat in style, with a colored lamp emitting a purplish hue into the room, part of an overall sleek, modern aesthetic. The artwork in both the rooms and hallways, some of it digital, is also modern and all provided by up-and-coming Israeli artists.

"It reminds you that you're in Tel Aviv," said Hani Sand, Isrotel's sales manager for North America. "We have a big arts scene here, and we've had lots of sales. It's been a nice addition."

The Royal Beach rooms are not large by Tel Aviv standards (mine was 322 square feet), but they are very well laid-out, offering plenty of space to tuck suitcases and store clothing. The bathrooms are laid out in a European style, with the toilets in a separate closet. The rooms come with Nespresso coffee machines, and free WiFi is available throughout the property.

The hotel's West Side restaurant is notable for being a high-concept kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv, which has few kosher eateries compared with Jerusalem. According to Sand, locals are now coming to try the West Side. I had dinner at the bar one night and was impressed with the young bartender who was very willing to chat about Israeli wines and whose enthusiasm about the menu made me equally enthusiastic. I found the food creative, fresh and flavorful, my personal favorite being the Mediterranean fish carpaccio.

Thinking young

The hotel's contemporary feel is part of Isrotel's targeting of a younger clientele for the property. Sand said the Royal Beach is attracting a younger crowd than its other properties, one that's coming from all over Europe and the U.S.

The challenge for the Royal Beach is the same as with all Isrotel properties, and that is getting the word out to people about the brand, which only has hotels in Israel and is not part of any rewards programs.

"People don't know us, that's the challenge," Sand said, adding that the company has only recently started heavily marketing more to create brand awareness. "People come to us for the product."

Isrotel works with many U.S. tour operators like Isram and with travel agents, such as Travel Leaders and Frosch, who Sand calls the product's "ambassadors," as they are able to explain it to clients.

Isrotel has more hotels in the works, including its first Jerusalem property, a five-star, 250-room hotel expected to open in late 2016. Sand said the company is very excited to have a Jerusalem product so that it can provide accommodations for every stop on an Israel trip, especially since the average U.S. tourist spends five nights in Jerusalem and only two in Tel Aviv.

"We want them for the whole trip," she said. "We're not quite there yet."

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