The Girl Behind Roman’s Holiday

Why did Roman Abramovich rent an entire hotel in the Negev for $400,000? Cherchez la femme.

It’s no coincidence that Roman Abramovich, billionaire proprietor of Chelsea Football Club, should choose to rent out the 111 rooms of the Beresheet Resort in Mitzpe Ramon for Passover at a cost reportedly in the order of $400,000.

It’s all because of a young woman – the same girl who was largely responsible for his Passover destination in 2009, when he booked an entire floor of the Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat.

Both destinations chosen by Abramovich are owned by Isrotel, the hotel chain set up by British entrepreneur and former RAF fighter pilot David Lewis and now run by his family.

Lewis basically invented Eilat as a holiday destination for European sunseekers in the days before cheap flights. In a huge gamble, Lewis built the King Solomon’s Palace Hotel in 1984, when Eilat was little more than a dusty backwater. His vision of luxury hotels for foreign tourists put Eilat on the international tourist map and prompted the development of the resort we know today. By the time Lewis died in 2011, the chain had 12 hotels, eight of them in Eilat.

When I met Lewis a decade ago, he shared his passion about creating the perfect holiday experience for his guests with top-class service, excellent food and family entertainment. He was also proud that his Eilat hotels stood on their own freshwater spring, enabling him to provide water for his guests without draining municipal resources.

And the young woman? David Lewis didn’t start out in the travel industry. His first business was in fashion, in a chain of stores he ran with his brothers called Lewis Separates. In 1965, the company latched on to the new fashion wave of the Swinging Sixties and created Britain’s first chain of boutique stores, which they named Chelsea Girl.

It was the success of the fashion boutiques that fueled Lewis’s fortune and created the basis for his investment in Israel.

So with the Chelsea Girl behind both the Royal Beach and Beresheet, where else would Abramovich stay?