Kiryat Shmona, the largest city in the Upper Galilee, will have a hotel of its own once again, the municipality announced Thursday.
Kiryat Shmona's mayor, Nissim Malka, who has been working with the Israel Lands Administration to get the necessary permits, says he wants the hotel to attract visitors and vacationers to stay overnight in the city, not just to pass through, and to see new jobs created for local residents as a result.
Although Kiryat Shmona, with its population of 24,000 people, is the largest city in the Upper Galilee, there are only 40 bed-and-breakfast accommodations in the city. That is nothing compared to the number of rooms around it: 550 hotel rooms, 700 no-frills accommodations known as "kibbutz rooms" and some 2,000 bed-and-breakfasts in moshavim and kibbutzim.
The contractor, Shimon Moyal, who was born and raised in the city, said that he will begin construction on the 160-room hotel, to be located at the Metzudot junction on the northern edge of town, as soon as he gets the proper permits from the Israel Lands Administration.
Moyal, 58, whose children and brother also live in the city, said: "For all these years my heart has ached to think of the missed tourism opportunity. Why shouldn't we get the benefits of tourism? Until now we've only provided services. When the sewage gets stopped up at Kfar Giladi, they call a plumber from Kiryat Shmona," he said, referring to the kibbutz guest house just north of the city.
"There was once a hotel in Kiryat Shmona, right on the main street. The building is still there, but the hotel failed during the first Lebanon war and the Association for the Well-Being of Israel's Soldiers took it over for use as a hostel for soldiers on their way to or from the Lebanese border. It is still used for that purpose."
As an example of the need for a hotel, Malka mentions the international tennis championship for youth that will be taking place in a few weeks in the city. "The players and their families will be staying in bed-and-breakfasts and hotels outside the city. In the future they'll stay in a hotel near the tennis center."
Malka says the hotel will create 80 or 90 jobs and that its success will attract other businesses to the city. Anat Nissim, who until recently has been in charge of the Upper Galilee Tourism Association, said: "Although the bed-and-breakfast market in the Upper Galilee is glutted, there is place for hotel rooms and hotels for conferences."
She said she hoped the hotel would be high-quality, with professional meeting rooms and conference rooms. It will cater to mid-week tourism, which is enjoyed today mainly by the hotels at the Dead Sea.
Nissim echoes contractor Moyal's feeling that the lack of a hotel has meant a missed opportunity for the city. "True, there are limitations in terms of places to go on the weekend and its urban image compared to country-style accommodations," but she thinks Kiryat Shmona "can definitely make it onto the tourism map."
Moyal, who is also active in a civic group that works to conserve nature in the city, says Kiryat Shmona is the perfect jumping off point for nearby natural attractions such as Hatanur waterfall, Banias and Mount Hermon.
"This can be one of the foundations for changing the image of the city. No longer a gas-station stop on the way to the weekend, but a destination people from Tel Aviv will come to specifically," Moyal says.