Long neglected, Israel’s Dead Sea resort area will undergo a major expansion and upgrade to turn it into what the Dead Sea Preservation Government Company called “one of the world’s top tourism destinations.”
Under the plan, which was approved this week by the District Planning Committee for the south, the government will spend 1 billion shekels ($276 million) upgrade the two main hotel zones at Ein Bokek and Hamei Zohar and create a new area that will join them into a single attraction.
The Dead Sea has long been a draw for foreign and Israeli tourists alike mainly because of the unusual and health-enhancing properties of its extremely saline water. However, even though the area hosts about one million tourists annually it has never lived up to its potential and in recent years the number of Israeli visitors has declined.
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The Dead Sea’s hotels are aging, there are few restaurants and most of them belong to international fast-food chains. Entertainment and shopping opportunities are few. One hotel industry source told TheMarker that many visitors are surprised after hearing so much about the area to find how underdeveloped the Dead Sea is.
The centerpiece of the new zone will be an upgraded beachside promenade that links all the area’s attractions and services, and will include a bicycle path. The plans also include a central spa available for all visitors as well as a visitors center and convention center that can also serve as a venue for concerts and cultural events.
Some 5,000 hotel rooms will be added, 3,500 of them in 15 new hotels slated for the new area and the rest for Ein Bokek and Hamei Zohar.
The upgraded area will also include three new hotels located on land that will be recovered from the Dead Sea on artificial promontories – a first for Israel. Overall, the plan calls for low-rise construction that will fit the contours of the region’s geography.
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