Israel is reporting its best tourism year to date for 2018, with more than 4.12 million visitors recorded from January to December 2018, an increase of about 14 percent compared to 2017, and 42 percent more than in 2016. As tourism to Israel continues to increase, the country is expected to show even faster growth in 2019 thanks to new flight options, hotel openings and renovations, and global events.
HOTELS: Nobu Hospitality will be opening a new hotel and restaurant in Tel Aviv. The Nobu Hotel Tel Aviv is the 17th property in the brand’s expanding portfolio. designed by Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Nobu Hotel Tel Aviv is positioned to attract tastemakers and style setters with the concept of a luxurious hotel wrapped around energized public spaces. The new boutique property will have a Nobu restaurant at its core and will be located on the popular Rothschild Boulevard central to one of Tel Aviv’s historic neighborhoods. It will feature 38 rooms and suites, a large garden, fitness center, pool, outdoor spaces and a private rooftop for events.
Mizpe Hayamim, the famed Galilee hotel located just minutes from Safed and Rosh Pina, is slated to reopen in May 2019, just in time to welcome guest back for the summer. The hotel has been closed since April 2018 for renovations, including the addition of 17 guest rooms. It has a large organic farm, including livestock and a dairy, which provides most of the fresh ingredients for the hotel’s kitchen and restaurants. It also features an expansive spa offering dozens of body and beauty treatments, a vegetarian restaurant serving breakfasts and dinners with panoramic views, and the acclaimed Muscat restaurant.
The long awaited Six Senses Shaharut is slated to open in 2019 in the Arava Valley of the Negev Desert. The luxurious and sustainable property will be one of the biggest openings of the year thanks to its 58 high-end suites and villas. The hotel will feature an on-site desert activity center and Earth Lab, camel stables, Senses Spa, authentic Bedouin dining experiences, plus access to nearby activities such as camel rides, off-road driving, mountain climbing, mountain biking, rappelling and an outdoor cinema under the stars.
The Dead Sea Valley Tourism Complex, located on the shore of one of the famed inner sea opposite desert and sea views that attract hundreds of thousands of travelers and medical tourists, is a project backed by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. It includes the construction of a tourist complex with world-class luxury hotels and up to 5,000 rooms. In addition, the project will include state-of-the-art spa and health facilities, leisure facilities, a visitor and information center, a multi-purpose conference center, a commercial and entertainment center, as well as a modish promenade, connecting the hotels and the various attractions/facilities. The project is expected to be completed in late 2019.
TRANSPORTATION: Opened in September 2018, Israel’s Jerusalem high-speed train has begun operating and currently reaches Ben Gurion Airport. In early 2019, the express train will connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. As the first electric railway line in Israel, the new train will take just 28 minutes, down from the current bus transportation of about 80 minutes. Visitors and locals alike can use the new rail line to make it easier and faster to get from one of Israel’s top cities to the other.
Ben Gurion Airport is set to undergo a major overhaul in 2019 that will see it become a more user-friendly airport and will cut down on long waiting lines during check-in. The changes will include six new baggage and security check booths in Terminal Three, a doubling of the capacity and use of Terminal One for short distance flights, common check-in stations that will allow passengers to check in to different airlines at the same station and added self-check-in booths. In addition, the VIP lounges are also expected to be redone to improve the comfort level for passengers. Ben Gurion Airport is expecting to see 25 million travelers pass through in 2019, thus qualifying it in the “large airport” category.
Known as a popular resort town for European travelers, Eilat is becoming a more accessible destination thanks to the new Ramon Airport, slated to open in 2019. This facility will replace the two existing nearby hubs, Eilat City Airport and Ovda Airport, creating a new international gateway to Southern Israel and the Red Sea.
There are now new flights from the U.S. to Israel on United, Delta and El Al. Starting May 22, 2019, United will begin operating its first nonstop flight between Washington Dulles International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. United’s new route to Tel Aviv will be the carrier’s fourth flight to Israel and strengthens the 20-year relationship between the airline and the destination.
Last month Delta said it will be launching a second daily flight between New York and Tel Aviv for the summer of 2019. The new daily flight will operate in the afternoon departing at 3:35 p.m., complementing the late-night flight already in operation from JFK.
Meanwhile, El Al recently announced plans for a new weekly nonstop flight from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv starting June 14, 2019. This will be the first direct flight from Las Vegas to Israel. El Al also will launch its direct flights from Tel Aviv to San Francisco starting May 13, 2019.
Beyond airlines and airports, Israel also is revamping its infrastructure. For 40 years Dizengoff Square, in the heart of the White City district, has been elevated above the street, preferring traffic over people. This year the square began a reconstruction lowering it to street level and making the whole area more pedestrian friendly. The renovation will be finished in 2019.
EVENTS: From May 14 to 16, 2019, Israel will host for the first time in 20 years the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, following its selection as the host city by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) after an extensive inspection and evaluation of the city’s amenities and facilities. Roughly 1,500 journalists and tens of thousands of tourists are expected to flock to Tel Aviv to share in the city-wide celebrations.
The three main events—two semifinals and the final event broadcast live to millions of viewers around the world—will take place at Pavilions 1 and 2 at EXPO Tel Aviv International Convention Center. Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in two decades on May 12 last year when Netta Barzilai snagged first place with her anthem “Toy.”
Over the last few years, Tel Aviv has invested vast resources in developing its facilities and infrastructure in order to become a prime destination for major international conferences and events. Last year, the destination was one of the host cities of the 2018 Giro d’Italia Big Start, the only location outside of Italy, as well as the 2018 European Judo Championships.
For more information on Israel tourism, click on Israel Ministry of Tourism.
By James Shillinglaw