Will Tel Aviv get a Eurovision boost?

Officials at the Expo Tel Aviv are hoping the song contest will help market the city as a destination for international events.

The lawn outside the press center at the Expo Tel Aviv this week.  (photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
The lawn outside the press center at the Expo Tel Aviv this week.
(photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
After the smoke and sequins have cleared from the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, it will take a little time for things at Expo Tel Aviv to return to normal. 
Officials at the European Broadcasting Union estimate it will take 96 hours to disassemble the extensive stage, lighting and camera infrastructure, compared to the 54 days needed for construction. And it will take close to a week before the Expo hosts its first post-Eurovision event, a conference on May 25. 
Despite essentially shutting down all other operations for a month, executives at Expo Tel Aviv were thrilled for the opportunity to host the event, which they see as not just a promotion for the venue, but also for the city of Tel Aviv. 
“They’re seeing us in an additional light,” said Iris Mazel, the vice president of marketing at Expo Tel Aviv. “Not just the tourists and the bloggers, but also the delegations – for a lot of them it’s their first time in Israel... I think this was a big step for us for tourism and for our image.” 
While the biggest logistics were handled by EBU and KAN, the Expo staff was on hand for all the other details. 
“We’re the venue, this is where it’s happening. We have to make sure that operations-wise, everything is set up,” Mazel said, from the air conditioning to the lawns, the maintenance and cleaning staff, lighting and the food sold to Eurovision ticket-holders. 
And while the Expo – a 60-year-old institution known in the past as the Tel Aviv Convention Center and the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds – hosts many large events, none have come close to the scope of the 2019 Eurovision. 
“We do a lot of big events here,” Mazel said. “The big difference here is the fact that everything is broadcast live to 200 million people. That’s never happened in Israel.” 
Each year, Expo Tel Aviv hosts the Festigal, a musical act geared to children that holds four shows a day for 30,000 people – but even that can’t touch the intensity of the past week’s events. 
“Here it’s broadcast live, and it’s with Europe, and there are 41 delegations. It’s a different scope,” she said. “The handling of it, the treatment of it, is a totally different experience.” 
And when it’s all over and done with, the convention center is hoping it will be remembered as an ideal home for international events. And that the upgrades installed in time for the Eurovision will make them an even more attractive destination. 
“Everything we’ve done will help us for everything that we’ll do in the future,” Mazel said. The venue rushed to open its outside pavilion in time for the Eurovision, and also carried out a variety of green updates. 
“We switched all the lights outside to LED lights, so we save a lot of money and it’s more environmentally friendly,” she said. “All the water from the air conditioning in Pavilion 2 goes to watering the lawns, the waste is all separated” into recyclables and non-recyclables, and the food is served on biodegradable bamboo plates. 
And they are utilizing the grand finale weekend of the Eurovision as the ideal time to showcase the venue and the city to potential future clients. The Tourism Ministry and the Tel Aviv International Convention Bureau hosted a delegation of conference industry professionals this weekend – on their way to the IMEX trade fair in Frankfurt. 
“The aim is first of all to show them Tel Aviv, and show them the rest of Israel,” said Mazel. “What better way to show an organization that has not been here before how the Eurovision is being hosted here? There is nothing more international than that – when you have to deal with different countries with different cultures, to organize them, and bring them from one place to another.” 
And already, Mazel said, there has been increased chatter about Tel Aviv as an international hub. 
“There is increased interest in the destination, to see what’s in Tel Aviv and to hear about it,” she said. “I think [the Eurovision] was a big step for us for tourism and for our image.”