Ritz-Carlton cut the ribbon of its first hotel in Israel Sunday at the Herzliya Marina, featuring the branch’s first kosher restaurant, after over four years of preparation and NIS 600 million of investment.
“The Ritz-Carlton chain is happy to open its first hotel in Israel and provide its guests from all over the world the opportunity to enjoy the service whose name precedes it and the award-winning guest experience,” said Ritz-Carlton president Hervé Humler.
The Ritz-Carlton is the first of a wave of international luxury hotels slated to open in Israel, including a Waldorf-Astoria in Jerusalem and a W Hotel in Jaffa.
“We’ve been wanting to get into this market for a while now, because we do have a lot of guests who stay in other Ritz-Carlton hotels who are from Israel or have roots here, especially in the US,” the Ritz-Carlton’s Market vice president for Europe Sandeep Walia told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview.
In addition to the 115 rooms for rent, the hotel put 82 halftime luxury residential units on the market, which are to serve as hotel rooms for one half of the year and residences for the other.
Rooms range from $300 to $2,500 for the presidential suite, which at 220 sq.m. is the largest in Israel.
The chain hired 200 people to operate the 12-story hotel, drawing a significant portion of its hires from the country’s immigrant population, finding an asset in their knowledge of foreign languages and international cultures.
The hotel company chose Herzliya as the site of its first Israeli hotel, because it lies at a nexus between the hi-tech world of Herzliya Pituah and the nightlife and leisure of Tel Aviv, said Walia.
However, the company has its eyes on expanding in Israel.
“We are looking at opportunities moving forward to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, in particular, we need the right location,” Walia told the Post.
The decision to make the restaurant – a branch of Tel Aviv’s Herbert Samuel – kosher offers a different strategy in the high-end food market, where many restaurateurs forgo kosher certificates in favor of a wider ingredient list.
“We’re very sensitive when we go to a new country to learn the local culture and local community,” said Walia, observing that as one of the few high-end kosher offerings in Herzliya, it may fill a niche in the local market. “As someone coming from outside, I might not even realize that it’s kosher. There’s a big market for it, and we feel it can be very successful.”
Asked if the company was concerned about the volatile security situation and how it might affect business, Walia responded that the hotel takes ups and downs in the business cycle as given.
“I think more and more people are ready to experience Tel Aviv and this country,” he said. “I have to say I rather found Tel Aviv very fascinating, because everyone is out celebrating life even more than anywhere else I’ve been.”
The hotel is set to officially open its doors on Tuesday.