Boutique and chic

British-born hotelier Howard Fink made a transition that may have seemed surprising at the time but now appears to be part of a trend.

Boutique and chic (photo credit: Courtesy)
Boutique and chic
(photo credit: Courtesy)
He left his job as general manager of Jerusalem’s posh 384-suite David Citadel to run the Alexander, a small boutique hotel in the Tel Aviv Port that has just 70 rooms. The move raised eyebrows because Fink, who comes from a well-known family in Manchester, is one of the most respected people in his field after stints at the Hilton and Intercontinental in Tel Aviv, Herods in Eilat and top hotels in England.
But Fink believes that just as he shifted from a large hotel that was built as part of a massive international chain, so too will people looking to come to Israel on vacation. The trend toward boutique hotels and away from standardized chains that demand top dollar because of their brand name has been spreading around the world; and in Israel, Tel Aviv is leading the way.
The advantage of boutique hotels is that with fewer people, service can improve. For instance, waiters can remember how you liked your coffee yesterday and have it ready when you come down for breakfast the next morning.
“The transition from big to small can be summed up in one word: ‘personal,’” says Fink. “With 200 people coming in and out every day, you can’t touch them personally. People are looking for more. When people come here, there is an instant bond that has to be made with the guests. Here we can deal with each person individually; we can metaphorically hug them when they come in. They won’t come back if service isn’t good.” The Alexander was built in 1990, with Orthodox Israelis as the target clientele.
The three-star apartment hotel had a kosher restaurant and 56 rooms. When the rooms were not occupied, some were rented out and became consulates and diplomatic missions.
When British owners purchased the Alexander five years ago, they decided to expand and renovate it and make it into a five-star luxury designer hotel. Since the remodeling began 18 months ago, half the rooms have been completely renovated to a high standard that is unique in Tel Aviv. By the end of the year, Fink hopes to complete renovating the remaining rooms and build a pool, spa and hamam.
What makes the rooms special is that at an average of 45 square meters, they are much larger than your typical Israeli hotel room. All the rooms have kitchens, living rooms and at least one private bedroom, which makes it easier for a family to take a vacation together.
“A lot of thought has gone into these rooms to make them as comfortable as possible,” says Fink. “The special designer light fixtures, the mirror that is heated so it won’t fog up, things here are a bit more quirky, inviting and homey.”
Hotel rooms are decidedly modern, with black carpeting, linear furniture, an espresso machine in every kitchenette and mirrors on many of the walls. The furniture is plush and inviting, with beds so cushy it’s hard to get out of them. The bathtubs are extra deep, allowing for an extra-luxurious bath.
The Alexander also boasts a two-floor presidential suite, which at 550 sq.m. is the largest presidential suite in Israel. It has its own private swimming pool and indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi, a dry sauna and 110 sq.m. of deck overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The presidential suite has recently been rented by international and local celebrities, whom Fink is not at liberty to name, Russian oligarchs, families and hi-tech companies. It can be rented for catered events of up to 100 people.
There is also a business lounge where newspapers, drinks and snacks are available round the clock in a comfortable, quiet atmosphere for those times when you just have to get out of your hotel room to focus on your work.
Another of the hotel’s selling points is its location in the trendy Tel Aviv Port, within walking distance of outlet malls, designer clothing stores and the romantic boardwalk.
Although most of the restaurants in the area are not kosher, there is a good kosher steak restaurant called Meat and Eat, more commonly known by its Hebrew name Lehem Basar.
Breakfast is served in an open, airy room, or on the balcony overlooking the ocean, with your choice of seating at a table or on couches. Aside from standard Israeli breakfast fare of eggs, breads, spreads, salads, fish, and cheeses, there are unique options such as warm cranberry muffins and a sumptuous bread pudding. You can also have an omelet or shakshuka made to order.
While the hotel now targets tourists from the United States and Europe, local religious Israelis still feel very comfortable there. Their children can watch television in the living room and let their parents sleep in the bedroom.
An effort is also being made to make the hotel environmentally friendly, with solar energy, a heat recovery system, LED lights and a policy of sending bills via e-mail rather than printing them. And smokers are relegated to designated areas outside the hotel, where the odor will not be felt anywhere inside the hotel.
“There is increasing awareness among our guests of the need to enjoy clean air and avoid harmful cigarette smoke,” says Fink. “Smoke in hotel rooms is a thing of the past. Boutique hotels that care about their clientele is a thing of the future and the present.” The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Hotel Alexander,