Blair leaves Colony Hotel for new digs in Sheikh Jarrah

Official close to Blair says move was initiated for cost reasons; Office of Quartet Representative occupied 15 rooms for five years.

311_Blair at crossing (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Blair at crossing
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Room service, carefully manicured gardens and storied stone balconies weren’t enough to keep former British prime minister Tony Blair, now the envoy of the Quartet, in his Jerusalem home at the American Colony Hotel.
The Office of the Quartet Representative has occupied 15 rooms – the entire fourth floor of the hotel – for the past five years.
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Later this summer, Blair will be moving out of the historical hotel and into his own more spacious accommodations, in a new seven-story building in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Blair’s predecessor, James Wolfensohn, was the first Quartet Representative to set up shop on the fourth floor.
The hotel houses the offices of the Quartet Representative with a dozen full-time staff members, and provided accommodation for Blair while he was in Israel, an average of one week per month.
“We are moving for cost reasons; it’s going to be considerably cheaper in [the] new premises,” said an official close to Blair, who noted that the space at the new building would be about 40 percent of what the office was paying at the hotel.
Both the hotel and the official declined to specify the cost of the year-long lease, but it is estimated to be around $1.5 million, or $300 per room per night. For regular guests, a single room in the off-season costs $380 per night at the hotel.
The Office of the Quartet Representative is funded by the US State Department, the European Commission and the Norwegian Government.
Paolo Fetz, the general manager of the American Colony, said the loss of the hotel’s long-term guest will force their marketing department to work harder to fill the empty rooms in a challenging tourism climate.
Indeed, Fetz noted that the Arab Spring has caused many well-heeled tourists who go on typical whirlwind tours of Jordan, Jerusalem and Egypt to cancel their plans to visit the region.
“It’s a pity he’s leaving – he’s contributed to giving the hotel a good name, but we had the reputation for many years beforehand,” said Fetz.
The hotel often hosts visiting dignitaries, ministers, heads of states and UN officials since its founding in 1902 as Jerusalem’s premier luxury hotel.
The building in Sheikh Jarrah still has significant work to be done before its occupants can move in, including installing windows and other last-minute items.
The lease at the American Colony Hotel concludes at the end of June, though the Quartet has extended it for a few weeks until the building is finished.