High prices do not seem to be a detractor for Israelis and foreigners alike who will be vacationing in the country this holiday season.
Tourism is up from last year, with 105,000 foreign visitors expected throughout Pessah – a growth of 17 percent from 2009 – according to the Ministry of Tourism, and many hotels throughout the country are sold out.
The Israel Hotel Association says that this Pessah, 90 percent of the rooms in Eilat, Haifa and the North are completely booked, while 80% of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv rooms are already filled.
If you’re interested in a beach-side resort, Eilat is the place to be, though steep prices may be an issue. A room at the Dan Hotel in Eilat, one of the high-end resorts on the north beach, is currently going for NIS 2,500 per night for a double room, a sharp increase from the hotel’s normal seasonal rate of NIS 900-1,300 per night.
Extra care is taken to make the Seder night special at the Dan. Families can conduct their own Seders amid a ‘royal buffet,’ featuring food from all over the world. A second option is a cantor-led, waiter-served Seder, or even private service with a cooked-to-order meal by the chef, costing as much as 1,200 NIS per head.
“The whole hotel prepares for the holiday,” says Gil Ron, assistant general manager at the Dan. “Many distinguished people will [visit]. We offer many entertainments for children – the pool, the discotech – so they will have something to do. We have a different entertainment show every night.”
The mid-range Isrotel King Solomon Palace averages NIS 1,500 per night for double occupancy during Pessah, a steep increase from the NIS 600-1,000 which it normally costs for the same size room. The hotel offers three locations for the Seder meal. The main dining room seats 500 people and features music by the Galgalim. Downstairs is another Seder with Moshe Giyat, or there’s an option for an individual family Seder at the new Marina Grill restaurant.
Shabtai Shay, general manager of the Eilat Hotels Association is cautiously optimistic about the expected influx of tourists to Eilat during the holiday. In March 2008, a reported 143,000 guests stayed in Eilat hotels, while the figure rose to 145,000 in March 2009. Shay says, “At the moment, looking at the charts, with the extra flights coming in from Britain and France, it looks like this Pessah will be better.”
The Israel Hotel Association reports that foreign visitors typically make up only 15% of vacationers in Eilat. During Pessah, this number jumps to roughly 30%, and can be even higher at the luxury hotels. At the Dan Hotel, Ron says that “50 to 60 rooms are usually taken by [foreign] tourists. For Pessah, it’s 200.”
For travelers who cannot afford the hotels’ inflated holiday prices, opting for a room or dormitory in a hostel is another possible option. The Bet Ha’Arava Hostel offers beds for NIS 70 per night, which does not differ significantly from the NIS 50-60 it costs during the regular season. This is a good deal and much cheaper than the NIS 1,500-3,000 price range offered by the hotel chains in the area – although the Seder and an accompanying cantor are not included.
If you plan on visiting the North, the Golan is probably your best bet, though not if you plan to spend the night. According to Shmuel Hazan, head of the Golan Tourism Association, the 1800 guest houses and four hotels in the Golan area are booked to capacity for the Pessah holiday. But Hazan estimates that many more visitors will arrive for day trips. “The Golan at this time is in it’s height of beauty. It’s green, flowing with water and blossoming with colors from across the rainbow.”
Most of the travelers staying in the Golan over the holiday are Israelis, while foreign tourists tend to stay in more central locations, and just stop by for visits, says Hazan.
In Tiberias, the Rimonim Hotel, which includes a full spa, has upped their normal rates from NIS 2,600 per night for a double room to NIS 3,200 for the Seder night.
But if you’re looking for a discount, the Palterin Hotel in Tiberias is charging just NIS 900 for the Seder night, only slightly more than the regular weekend rate of NIS 700 per night for double occupancy.
The Dead Sea hotels have also increased their rates over Pessah, from
NIS 900 at the Prima Spa Club Hotel to NIS 1,400 for the Seder night.
However, if you want to attend a prayer service led by a cantor and a
large Seder, you will have to pay an additional NIS 200 and head next
door to the Oasis Hotel, which is offering its Seder services to guests
of the Prima Spa Club. The Prima Spa Club is, however, offering
assorted entertainment throughout the week of Pessah, including a
comedian and live music.
So for those of you planning to vacation during the holiday, in
addition to ridding your home of hametz, you may also have to empty out