Eilat relaunches itself as upmarket destination

Tourism Ministry and Eilat Municipality declare their aim to make Eilat “capital of the Red Sea.”

Eilat 311 (photo credit: BiblePlaces.com)
Eilat 311
(photo credit: BiblePlaces.com)
The Tourism Ministry and Eilat Municipality launched their rebranding of the southern resort city Wednesday, declaring their aim to make it the “capital of the Red Sea.”
Pointing to the flight of European tourists from the Sinai amid political upheaval, they said now was the time to bring those tourists to Israel by promoting Eilat as the only Western resort town on the Red Sea, and as an upmarket alternative. In addition, they hope to sway Israelis to visit more often by reducing the cost of package deals.
“There is nothing better than Eilat, and nothing like Eilat,” Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov said at the launch.
“We’re not inventing something new here. We just need to market it in a manner that is both unique and Jewish... in order to differentiate it from other places.”
Neighboring Aqaba, in Jordan, and Taba, in Egypt, “rob us of tourists,” because they have endless beaches, more land, and because their cheap employment of Sudanese means prices are lower there, Meseznikov said.
Israel can’t cooperate with its two southern neighbors to attract tourists to the Red Sea region, Meseznikov said, because the type of tourist who comes to Eilat has no desire to go to Aqaba, and vice-versa.
“In Eilat, because it’s Israel’s only resort city, it can beat its neighbors not through combining with them, but through emphasizing something special.
These are different [tourist] populations altogether.
People who love to dive and who have a smaller budget will go to Aqaba or to Sharm [e- Sheikh, in Egypt]... Those who want extra, who want the Red Sea along with urban facilities, good restaurants and nightlife, will come here.”
Meseznikov said he also wanted to attract back to Eilat Israelis who fly to Turkey or Bulgaria because their package tours are cheaper.
“If we do something they will come to Eilat, because it’s like a mini version of overseas.
I established a public commission one-and-a-half months ago to examine the different costs that go into package tours for Israelis. If we manage to reduce the cost of those package tours by 20-25 percent, believe me, the blue-andwhite tourism market will grow.”
NIS 103 million in government funds has been put into a five-year program, ending 2014, to improve Eilat’s infrastructure.
Fifteen projects are already underway, and 28 more are being planned. These include construction of a new international airport at Timna 18 kilometers north of the city (which has been approved by cabinet), the revamp of parks and the beachside promenade, and the opening of sporting and cultural facilities the ministry hopes will attract worldclass events.
In January, applications will open for construction of Eilat’s first new hotels in a decade.
The plan is to focus building around the revamped eastern lagoon, between the Jordanian border and existing hotels.
The Tourism Ministry allocated NIS 30 million to promoting Eilat overseas, mainly in selected European countries such as Russia and Ukraine. It says its efforts are already paying dividends, with around 25 weekly flights expected from Europe throughout winter, a 64% jump since 2009.
Marketing company Adler Brands was tasked two years ago with rebranding Eilat. At Wednesday’s launch it finally presented its campaign – which will run under the slogans “Eilat+” and “Eilat – more possibilities.”
Managing Director Tamar Reshef explained to the audience that the campaign will target an upmarket European audience, aiming at people taking a secondary annual holiday of four to 12 days. The ideal visitor is someone who wants culture and cuisine on top of the usual sun, sea and sand, Reshef said. In other words, Eilat is searching for the “new tourist,” the person who wants “the best of both worlds.”
Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi said the city would boost its tourist appeal through four simultaneous programs: improving accessibility through the new airport, better roads and a planned train line; expanding accommodation; establishing a reputation as an academic center; and creating a hi-tech precinct.
On the third point, Halevi said Ben-Gurion University’s Eilat Campus should grow from 800 students to thousands, creating a vibrant student scene. He said the city planned to lure hotel and tourism courses away from Beersheba, adding there was no logic to offering these studies in a city where tourism isn’t the main industry.
“Let’s decide today that in Eilat we will established the world’s largest academic center for hospitality and tourism... the meaning of this will be a city that speaks tourism,” Halevi said.