Tel Aviv unveils master plan for booming decade of tourism
City leaders plan to position Tel Aviv as one of the world's "most popular urban destinations" by 2030.
By EYTAN HALON
The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality published its first tourism “master plan” on Thursday, aiming to position the vibrant coastal city as one of the world’s “most popular urban destinations” by 2030.Building on a record-breaking year for tourism in the city in 2019, the decade-long strategic plan targets a balanced approach to significantly boost incoming tourism, while emphasizing the importance of facilitating growth in a sustainable manner.The plan, derived from the municipality’s City Vision published in 2017, includes the identification of relevant audiences for tourism growth, both the city’s assets and challenges as a tourist destination, envisions attractions yet to be established, and evaluates existing or planned tourism complexes. In addition, the municipality outlines the need to “prudently” manage the development of Tel Aviv as a rising tourism destination, highlighting the need to develop infrastructure to attract and assist visitors arriving in the city.Positioning Tel Aviv has a leading urban destination, the municipality said, will rest on the city’s three key “pillars”: the ancient port of Jaffa; the energy and modern business hub of Tel Aviv; and 14 km. of golden beachfront. The municipality intends to give preference to initiatives, attractions and services associated with the three pillars.“In the past few years, we have been witnessing a tourism miracle. Tel Aviv-Yafo used to be a small city that only few tourists visited,” said Mayor Ron Huldai. “It remains a small city, but one whose name is now recognized globally and many people want to experience. This Master Plan aims to sustain the tourism boom, manage it prudently and plan wisely for the future. Tourism in Tel Aviv-Yafo is a highly important economic engine for the city and the entire metropolitan area.”According to the plan, the municipality will target a series of markets and niche groups in the coming years. These include attracting large international gatherings and conferences; increasing incoming tourism from China; harnessing warming relations between Israel and its neighbors to attract more Arab tourists; developing its status as a tourism destination for senior citizens; and developing the city’s religious attractions and heritage to appeal to more Jewish tourists.In 2018, there were 10,500 hotel rooms in Tel Aviv, most of them located along the coast and characterized by high prices and high demand. An analysis of tourism growth trends, cited by the master plan, indicates the need to double the number of hotel rooms by 2030.AdvertisementTo accelerate the supply of available and affordable accommodation, the plan establishes a new municipal protocol to expedite and encourage new hotel construction, calls on the municipality to give greater preference to converting existing buildings into hotels, and improve oversight over the thriving but unregulated apartment rental market.“The work on the Master Plan included an in-depth examination and analysis of the city from a tourism perspective,” said Eytan Schwartz, director of media and communications at Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality. “We carefully assessed our assets and advantages, but were also unwavering in confronting the challenges and flaws.”Prominent tourism assets cited by the report include Tel Aviv’s “vibrant urbanism,” its status as a hub of business and start-up activity, its multiculturalism, and national and architectural heritage. The plan also cites significant challenges faced by Tel Aviv, such as high prices faced by tourists, inefficient public transportation, poor cleanliness, a shortage of hotel rooms, and the closure of key attractions on Friday afternoon, Saturday and holidays.“The municipal vision for tourism aims to position our city as a leading urban destination, while constantly renewing the tourist product and prioritizing the concerns of the city’s residents,” said city engineer Udi Carmely. “We believe that the key to creating a good city for tourists is in finding the right balance between the needs of the locals and those of the visitors.”According to the municipality, 2019 proved to be a “formative year” for tourism in the city, which enjoyed the fruits of unprecedented incoming tourism into Israel and record-breaking passenger footfall at Ben-Gurion Airport. In May, Tel Aviv hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, the largest international event held in the city to date.Breaking records for a third consecutive year, Israel welcomed approximately 4.55 million tourists in 2019, injecting approximately NIS 23 billion into the local economy. Over 24.8 million passengers and nearly 168,000 flights passed through Ben-Gurion Airport last year, representing a record year for Israel’s primary aviation hub. Authorities expect annual passenger traffic to rise to some 30 million within five years.