Israel’s tourism industry leaders held a joint meeting with Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in Tel Aviv on Thursday, in an effort to produce a strategy to turn the city into an internationally recognized tourism brand.
The parties presented their ideas on how to draw more foreign tourists to Israel by marketing Tel Aviv as a destination for people looking for short, close, affordable and fun vacations.
At the end of the meeting it was decided that the parties would hold joint workshops and that within two months would present the minister and the mayor with operative plans.
“Obviously we see the branding of Tel Aviv as a national project and not just a municipal one. We all witnessed the success of the city’s centennial celebrations. Everyone who was involved caught on to the huge potential of the city,” said Huldai.
“When we talk about the success of Tel Aviv, we are talking about the success of all of Israel,” he continued. “Tel Aviv may be the symbol and the focus point, but the benefit [of increased tourism] will be shared by the whole country. Likewise I think it’s important that the effort of branding, marketing and preparing the city for tourism, resonate on the national level.”
While the country as a whole is marketed abroad predominantly by presenting it as the Holy Land, to draw pilgrims and religious tourists, Tel Aviv requires completely differently marketing, officials said.
According to Tel Aviv Hotel Association director-general Eli Ziv, 50 percent of the 750,000 tourists who stay in Tel Aviv hotels come to the city for the sun and the sea and 20% come for the night life. Only 15% come for the city’s historical heritage and to visit ancient Jaffa.
This, he said, indicates where the branding efforts should be focused.
“We must embrace the slogan of Tel Aviv as ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ and continue marketing it as such,” said Ziv.
Ziv said that after closely analyzing the Tel Aviv tourist market, his organization decided to focus on the concept of “City Break” tourism.
“The City Break concept talks about relatively short vacations in urban centers that do not require long-distance travel,” said Ziv. “These types of vacations are very popular, especially for Europeans, and Israel matches the criteria precisely.
“The World Tourism Organization states that 140 million people travel to destinations on the Mediterranean coast every year. We think there is no reason why Tel Aviv can’t draw in merely one percent of those tourists and double our annual occupancy rates,” he said.
Ronen Arditi, the head of the Restaurant Association, said he saw great value in marketing Tel Aviv as a culinary destination.
“Tel Aviv has fine restaurants and the city’s culinary scene is expanding constantly. We in the restaurant business are used to advertising and marketing ourselves independently, but if there was a concerted effort to brand the city as a gastronomic hub, everybody would benefit,” said Arditi.
Arditi suggested organizing a gastronomic festival in the city and producing a booklet featuring all the city’s restaurants.
“Because it is a rich and varied market, there are endless ideas on how to improve the tourism product,” he said.
Ronen Miley, chairman of the Bar and Nightclub Association said Tel Aviv’s nightlife was second to none and could proudly compete with Europe’s most popular destinations in that regard.
“All we need is for the authorities to let us, and we will succeed in bringing in young tourists,” he said.
Miley suggested organizing an annual music festival for clubbers that would draw young people from all over Europe, and the addition of more affordable hotels and hostels.
“The city isn’t attuned enough to the needs of young tourists who can’t afford the five-star hotels. If they have where to stay, they will surely come,” he said.
Eti Gargir, CEO of the Tel Aviv Tourist Association, who ran the Tel Aviv centennial celebrations for the municipality, said an essential way to bring people to the city was to hold special events.
“We have to leverage events like the Tel Aviv marathon or the Pride Parade, that we hold anyway, and use them as a magnet for international tourists,” said Gargir.
Other suggestions she presented were an annual Kabbala festival, an opera festival and an international arts fair.
Meseznikov, summing up the meeting, called on the parties to take the planned workshops seriously.
“The ministry will do what in can in terms of easing bureaucratic
burdens and putting to work our marketing mechanisms. I already have
commitments from the prime minister to aid tourism to Tel Aviv by
placing it on the national priority list.
“I want us to meet again within two months with a formulated three-year
plan to be approved by the ministry and the city. Everybody’s ideas are
welcome,” he said.