Israel's Eurovision Nears: Room Rates Soar, but No Tickets Yet for Sale

Hotel rates in Tel Aviv are running as high as $6,370 for the week of the song contest in May

Netta from Israel celebrates after winning the Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, May 12, 2018.
Armando Franca,AP

Looking to attend the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv this May in high style? Look no further than the Setai luxury hotel in Jaffa that is charging 23,800 shekels ($6,370) per couple for six nights, according to Booking.com.

Don’t quite have the budget for that? The Jaffa Hotel is charging 23,400 for the same May 13-19 dates. The Sheraton and Alma are asking 20,000. The CUCU boutique hotel wants 19,200 shekels and the Orchid Tel Aviv a mere 18,400.

The room rate madness comes as Tel Aviv gears up to host some 18,000 visitors for the music events, not to mention the performers themselves.

The number of expected visitors is a rough estimate based on attendance at recent Eurovision events elsewhere. Tel Aviv may see fewer because European fans can’t arrive by train or car and the boycott, divestment and sanctions is actively discouraging fans.

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But Eurovision is coming at a time of the year when hotels normally enjoy high demand from business travelers and conferences, so even a marginal increase in reservations has a major impact on prices.

Demand for rooms goes beyond Tel Aviv. “I’m seeing an increase in reservations from tourists for our hotels in [the Tel Aviv suburbs] of Bat Yam, Herzliya, Netanya for the Eurovision period. ... No question we’ll be seeing very high occupancy rates on those days,” said Anat Aharon, director of sales for the Fattal Hotel Chain.

Yet, while hotels, vacation apartments, Airbnb renters and youth hostels are booking rooms, tickets for the events have not yet gone on sale.

With just three and a half months to go, Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster hosting the event, has yet to announce when ticket sales will begin, although it is promising to announce the date in the next several days. Leaan, the official Eurovision ticket agency, will commence sales in mid-February.

Kan was supposed to announce the start of ticket sales at the official Host City Insignia Handover Ceremony last week. But Kan is still deciding how to configure the Tel Aviv International Convention Center and what class of tickets will be sold.

French singer Bilal Hassani, will represent France during the 2019 Eurovision contest in May, at the Destination Eurovision France television's broadcast in Paris, on January 26, 2019.
AFP

One of the key outstanding issues is where to locate the green room, where performers wait before going on stage. If the room is placed in the main auditorium, the number of audience seats would drop by 3,000. Placing it in an adjacent building would not only increase audience capacity but offer Kan the chance to sell tickets to spectators for the green room, too.

Ticket prices haven’t yet been determined, but based on prices for last year’s Eurovision final in Lisbon they will range from 35 to 150 euros for seats and 120 euros for standing room in the arena. Golden Ring tickets will go for about 200 euros and premium seats for 2999.

For those who can’t splurge that much for a ticket after reserving a room at The Setai, Eurovision also sells tickets for live rehearsals before the main event that can run as low as 15 euros. All told, there will be nine Eurovision events —two semifinals and the final plus two rehearsals for each.

Room rates at greater Tel Aviv hotels have risen by tens of percent for Eurovision week, compared with the same time last year. Hotel industry sources said that if the event had occurred at a time of the year when demand was seasonally low, rates would not have climbed by so much.

But between conference and conventions and business travelers, occupancy rates in Tel Aviv last year averaged 85% in May and in 2017 83%. Eurovision is going to squeeze occupancy to close to 100%, they said.

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At CUCU, rooms cost on average more than 190% during Eurovision week than the week before. At the Orchid they are 122% higher, at the Setai 83% more and at the Alma Hotel 101%.

The rush to reserve rooms caused Kan to reach out to the hotels in order to reserve lower-priced accommodations for the 42 delegations of Eurovision contestants. They count 1,200 people and need some 800 rooms, but because they are sponsored by public television broadcasters they operate on a modest government budget.

Some chains, like Fattal, responded to Kan’s requests. But many others decided to forgo the glamor of hosting performers in favor of getting higher room rates for tourists and businesspeople. One hotel executive who agreed to host a delegation said he regretted it.

“I’m still waiting to hear from the organizer about this, but I’d rather forget the whole thing,” said one, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I’d rather sell rooms another way and not to delegations. There are business people and convention visitors that booked with me as far back as 2017 and 2018.”

For Eurovision fans looking for cheaper accommodations, the lowest prices currently on Booking.com are for 760 to 1,000 shekels a night. These come mainly from apartment hotels like Assemblage Suites, Modern TLV and Liber Seashore Suites.

Even these accommodations are far more expensive than they would be without the Eurovision. At Assemblage Suites, for example, the 4,570 shekel rate is 47% more than for the week before. At Liber the difference is 39% and at Trumpeldor 40 it’s 53%. On the other hand, at Modern TLV and The Diaghilev the rates are the same for both weeks.

Airbnb, meanwhile, has many apartments listed as available only for the Eurovision week of roughly May 10-20 — although more than a few, anticipating that many visitors will want to stick around for Tel Aviv Pride — the parade is June 14 — offer an option to stay on till midmonth. As for hotels, prices are higher for the Eurovision week. For example, a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment suitable for six people is going for 2,100 shekels a night, with a 1,600 shekel surcharge. The apartment is only available May 13-19.