Hospitality from the heart

The Dead Sea has always been a draw for tourists both local and from abroad. Temperate, curative and a virtual natural phenomenon, the area has a lot to offer.

meridian 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
meridian 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
The Dead Sea has always been a draw for tourists both local and from abroad. Temperate, curative and a virtual natural phenomenon, the area has a lot to offer. Yet another draw is Le Meridien Dead Sea hotel. Recently rated the most popular spa resort in Israel in a nationwide computer survey, it also won the World Travel Association's Award as "one of the world's top spa resorts." That's high praise for a hotel that has such local rivals as the magnificent Herods Palace in Eilat and the world-class Carmel Forest Spa. Adding to its wall of fame, the Meridien Dead Sea was named last year "one of the world's 500 best vacation spots" by Travel and Leisure magazine. What makes Le Meridien Dead Sea so special? I had the pleasure of finding out for myself. The five-star, 17-story Le Meridien Dead Sea is owned and operated by the Fattal chain, which has more than a dozen hotels across the country. These include the Golden Tulip, the Nirvana, the Magic Palace, and Club Med. In April 2004, Fattal took over the Hyatt hotel and turned it into the award-winning Meridien Dead Sea. The first order of business, says hotel manager Dudu Oz, was to train the staff in customer service. Implementing the chain's slogan of "Yes, please," their motto is "Hospitality is all about love." The employees undergo a training session in which they learn to be friendly and attentive to the guests' every need. Sporting a heart pin on their uniforms, each of the 570 employees is dedicated to serving the clientele with efficiency, sincerity and a smile. Every request is entered into the computer, says Oz, and each task has an allotted time frame in which it must be fulfilled. No "ma ana" or "bokra" at this establishment. The largest hotel in the Dead Sea region, Le Meridien has 600 rooms, all of which face the sea. The hotel's Mineralis Spa is the largest spa on the Dead Sea. The luxurious spa includes an indoor and outdoor sulphur pool, two Jacuzzis, a dry and wet sauna, a gym, a beauty salon and 25 treatment rooms. Other sporting facilities include a squash court, a tennis court, three sweetwater pools, and mini-football and soccer fields. The hotel will soon open a VIP spa for clients who are not guests of the hotel. It will include such features as double treatment rooms and Jacuzzis so couples or pairs of friends can be pampered together. The hotel has been revamped not only in regard to employees' attitude but also in terms of atmosphere and accoutrements. They redid the lobby, the business lounge, the furnishings, the decor, the landscaping, and built a new suite on the 17th floor called the Masada Suite, replete with computer access and plasma screen TV. Among the many public areas are two dining rooms, an atrium, a lounge, a pub, a shopping level, a synagogue and a business lounge on the 16th floor. The dining rooms serve an assortment of food designed to delight a variety of palates. Kosher lemehadrin, the buffet meals are attractively presented and tastefully prepared. Keeping the guests entertained is one of the hotel's main concerns. "We're located in the desert, so it's very important to have entertainment for all our guests," says Oz. Every night, a band and singers perform in the lounge, and there's a show in the pub presented by the wait staff, otherwise known as the singing waiters. The sea is across the road from the hotel and down a rather long walkway. This, admits Oz, is one of the complaints that guests have about the location of the hotel. But, he says, they plan to remedy that by building a bridge over the street, directly to the beach - pending agreement by the municipality. It will not reduce the distance to the sea, but it will make the walk to the beach more pleasant. In the meantime, the hotel shuttle conveys guests to the beach all day long. It also takes guests to the nearby shopping area or to visit any other hotel in the area. "We never say no to any request," says Oz. "There is nothing we won't do for our guests. It's just a matter of price and time." If a vegetarian guest wants soy milk or Tivol products, a staff member will go to Jerusalem or Dimona to get it, he says. One guest wanted a helicopter to pick him up from the hotel and fly him to a business meeting in another city. "No problem," recounts Oz. And then there was the man who wanted to surprise his girlfriend with a private birthday dinner on the roof. All he had to do was ask. That's one of the things Oz loves best about his job. "It's very creative. Every day we try to do something new." The writer was a guest of Le Meridien Dead Sea.