The “Wow!” effect.
With the summer travel season getting into high gear, that’s what Israeli hotel managers are trying to create for their ever-more-sophisticated foreign tourists.
“It really wasn’t that long ago when a chef in an Israeli 5-star hotel could serve up boiled chicken on a fancy plate to American tourists on Shabbat and receive a round of applause,” quipped a veteran chef, who has worked at some of the finest hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
“Today,” the chef continued, “many American tourists will book reservations in top hotels only if they know in advance they’re going to enjoy a sophisticated culinary experience — and not boiled chicken either.”
Creating palate-pleasing adventures for guests is but one of several challenges that many upscale Israeli hotel managers are dealing with this summer, as globe-trotting tourists seek a guaranteed variety of stimulating experiences and personalized services before booking their reservations. As recently as three years ago, most hotel managers could count on bookings from many clients via their travel agents at least several months in advance. The advent of the laptop computer and Smartphone technology has revolutionized the dynamics of the tourism industry. In fact, it’s no longer unusual for some foreign tourists to book their rooms only 24 hours in advance of their arrival.
“Today, globe-trotting customers want quick check-ins, fabulous food, Wi-fi capability, immaculate rooms and friendly service without being ripped off,” said Bruno DeSchuyter, general manager of the five-star Inbal Jerusalem Hotel.
When it comes to location, “No doubt, Jerusalem is still a prime focal point for American tourists, especially during the summer months, when many families look to celebrate bar mitzvahs at the Western Wall, etc.,” said Rafi Beeri, the Dan Hotels’ vice president of marketing and sales. “But more and more couples and families are booking reservations in places other than Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.” He cited other Dan properties in Herzliya, Caesarea and Haifa as increasingly popular with the American market.
Based on consumer feedback, Beeri has been able to pinpoint what today’s American tourists are looking for during in an Israel vacation. “Both Americans and global travelers in general are looking for the quality hotels to create a ‘Wow’ effect,” he said. “This doesn’t have to mean adding another apple to the fruit bowl in their room but rather personalized services, fast connectivity via Wi-fi, true hospitality and yes, colorful displays of tasty cuisine in the dining room and restaurant. With many Americans, having a good time is not just defined by the physical amenities. It could also encompass who is sitting next to you in the dining room or out by the pool, where you can engage in pleasant conversation and shared experiences.”
If you are still deliberating about booking a mid-summer trek to the Holy Land, there are still a variety of good deals available at many of the top hotels in Israel. Here is an abridged rundown of some of them:
Inbal Jerusalem Hotel
July rates begin from $160 per person in a double room, based on a minimum three-night stay, while August rates vary from $160 per person in a double room based on a minimum five-night stay. There are also a variety of enticing bar/bat mitzvah packages for the entire family. In August, the hotel’s popular Kid’s Club will feature a supervised multimedia game room and a host of round-the-clock activities. The hotel’s renowned Sofia restaurant serves up a variety of fish and pasta dishes, as well as an assortment of unique summer dessert delicacies, prepared by its executive chef, Moti Buchbut.
Deals include special rates with no minimum night requirements at the Dan Boutique Hotel in Jerusalem. The Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzliya highlights special four- and seven-night rates for guests. The Dan Carmel in Haifa features a special two-night rate starting from $225. GoDan Club members also enjoy a variety of discounted prices and perks throughout the chain.
Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers
The hotel is debuting the “Sheraton Social Hour,” a premium wine program. Developed by premier wine experts and the Sheraton’s global food and beverage team, it offers guests a menu of premium wines and weekly tasting events. Designed to create and foster social interaction among guests, the Sheraton Tel Aviv will host Social Hour tasting events on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 7 and 10 p.m. Sheraton Hotels already piloted the new program in 19 global properties. Guests will be treated to a premium wine menu, with a rotation of three Israeli wines for sampling including: Golan, Carmel and Barkan.
The Royal Rimonim Dead Sea recently opened its plush “Royal Lounge.” The lounge, situated on the floor above the lobby, boasts panoramic views from a large terrace overlooking the Dead Sea. The lounge includes: private breakfast and dinner as well as light snacks and drinks throughout the day. Wine, soft drinks and hot beverages are served throughout the day and during dinner. The lounge is open from 2 a.m.-10 p.m. Children are able to enter the lounge during meals when accompanied by their parents. Complimentary entrance to the lounge is offered to guests staying in the hotel’s Royal and Deluxe suites. Guests staying in the hotel’s Panorama rooms, Deluxe rooms and Family rooms may purchase a VIP package including the entrance to the Royal Lounge and entrance to the hotel’s private VIP Spa.
David InterContinental Hotel (Tel Aviv)
The Sunset Lounge on the deck by the pool attracts lots of attention from guests during the summer. It’s open every evening from 5 p.m. and offers a perfect setting to watch a romantic sunset on the Mediterranean while enjoying a special menu of delicious Tapas and house cocktails. During the Olympic Games in London, the hotel will be screening the events on a giant 197-inch HD screen. IHG Hotels (InterContinental chain) has partnered with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics games as the Official Hotel Services Provider and a Tier Three commercial partner. In light of this partnership, the hotel has created an interactive blog for their community. It will serve as a platform for the hotel to share stories and experiences and provide guests with first hand knowledge from the 2012 London Olympic Games: //davidintercontinental.tumblr.com. The hotel is also offering special summer rates from July 8-28. Visit the website for details.