For the love of Tel Aviv

The flourishing tourism industry fosters innovative enterprises to promote the inner workings of Israel’s metropolitan center.

TLVstyle offers boutique fashion tours (photo credit: TLVSTYLE)
TLVstyle offers boutique fashion tours
(photo credit: TLVSTYLE)
Tel Aviv, Israel’s young and vibrant center, often referred to as “the city that never sleeps,” has in recent years developed an international reputation as a tourism hot spot. While challenges present themselves for the city to adapt and focus on new platforms to draw in travelers from abroad, the industry is an essential source of revenue for the city. Tel Aviv is constantly adapting and developing in order to better accommodate tourists.
Despite its being a cultural hub, there is a constant challenge to entertain and impress visitors. Unlike Jerusalem, where historical and religious monuments are a perennial draw, Tel Aviv relies on its cultural charm to attract its visitors. While some of the newer tourism initiatives are engendered by the city itself, others come from independent individuals and locals who started tourism-based businesses to make an income, as well as showcase Tel Aviv out of a sense of pride. Young, hip and fun-focused enterprises are illustrating everything that Tel Aviv has to offer.
MasterShuk, for example, takes the age-old tradition of visiting the local shuk, in this case the Carmel Market, and spins it for tourists as a foodie haven. The company organizes tours, available in English, Russian, Italian or Hebrew, and takes small groups on wine and culinary tours of the market, culminating with a 10-course meal at the gourmet restaurant Hatraklin.
This unique experience gives tourists a more-than-average look at the daily workings of the shuk and helps them discover delicacies they might have not found otherwise.
Similarly, Yalla Basta’s Shuk Bites is a card that tourists can purchase online for NIS 100. It provides six vouchers for samples at the stalls and restaurants of Tel Aviv’s four shuks – the Flea Market, Old Jaffa Market, Levinsky Shuk and the Carmel Market. Cardholders have a direction in terms of choosing what to sample, as they know that what is listed on their card is recommended by professionals.
Tours of various unique areas and trendy spots of the city have also gained traction in recent years. Galit Reismann of TLVstyle gives what she has branded as “boutique fashion tours.” She takes groups of people to various fashion hot spots around the city, including local designers’ boutiques and artists’ studios.
“The idea is to create a bridge, a sort of platform between the local creative community and tourists,” Reismann says.
She tailors the tours to individual clients, who specify what they would like to see and what their fashion interests are. Reismann says that tour - ists love to learn about the unique fashion scene in Tel Aviv.
“Especially North Americans. They are so supportive and curious to learn about the culture,” she says.
“I think that because there is not one ruling heritage here, it makes for an eclectic story that produces a very interesting fashion scene. Israel is a young country that faces many challenges – lack of material, lack of government funding for the arts, re - sources – and for young designers, that really pushes them to be more innovative,” Reismann says.
She believes that her business allows tourists to see a creative part of the city, one that is often hidden from plain view and is harder for out- of-towners to discover on their own.
Tours of the city’s famous nightlife have also become a popular attraction. TLV Nights takes tourists around the town for a pub crawl, an activity popular in many European cities. Every Thursday and Saturday, Ido Weil, owner and operator of TLV Nights, takes a group of around 20 tourists to “four of the coolest bars and clubs. We change the places all the time and try to take them to more underground, lesser-known places as well,” Weil says.
The patrons must be over 21, despite the fact that the legal drinking age in Israel is 18. Customers pay NIS 80, which buys them some alcohol - ic beverages and free entrance to the clubs and bars.
Weil explains that tourists, especially European and American under-30s, love to discover the night life of Tel Aviv.
“Tel Aviv is a relatively young city. You don’t have the sites and the monuments that Jerusalem has, so nightlife is a crucial part of understanding the vibe, atmosphere and mentality of the people,” Weil says.
The Dan bus company has also ventured into the tourist market, creating a special panoramic, open-air bus that caters to tourists’ sightseeing needs.
Tourists can hop on and off the bus throughout the 28 drop-off points and see 50 sites. The tour lasts two hours and is given in eight languages via earphones. Such buses famously speckle the streets of London. Modeling these after what is often a must- do in many major European cities has helped put Tel Aviv on the map as a tourist-friendly town.
While books like The Lonely Planet and the Michelin guide series used to dominate the market in terms of city guides, the Internet and smartphone applications have all but replaced the paperback books for the common traveler.
Blogs and websites such as guide tourists to the trendiest locations in a city, often with a ranked list of the must-see places.
Leah Berwald of explains that tourists’ interest in discovering local, healthy and fresh food is what inspired her to launch her website last summer.
“It actually started with an Instagram account,” she explains.
She and a friend would post photos of dishes they ordered at restaurants around town on the account, and they quickly gained followers who took an interest in where the dishes came from.
She launched the website, where she places only positive recommendations of restaurants around the city, choosing not to write about a place if it doesn’t suit her taste.
“I don’t post anything negative because if someone is on holiday, they don’t want to sift through a whole site to find a good one,” she explains.
Restaurants are broken down into categories, and dishes are featured with bright, close-up photos, making recommendations simple to spot.
Along with tours and websites, tourists also have the opportunity to purchase discount cards that give them discounts at various stores, attractions, bars and restaurants around town. Card TLV offers tourists a card for NIS 50 that is good for three days. The card can be purchased at a number of hotels around the city.
Gal Leshem, the vice CEO of Logistics and Operations at Card TLV, says that discount cards are “the newest thing in the world of tourism.”
The Start-up Nation , as Israel is often called, made NIS 40 billion in tourism revenue in 2013, according to the Tourism Ministry. Tel Aviv, whose international reputation is regularly improving, has chosen innovation and creativity to showcase the city’s attributes. Its community is not hard-pressed to come up with new ways to promote the inner workings of the metropolis, giving tourists an opportunity to experience different facets of the multidimensional city.