For people from abroad or the far reaches of Israel visiting Tel Aviv on business trips, the traditional standbys for executives are no longer de rigueur: Funky boutique hotels, hostels and Airbnb apartments have begun staking out a claim for business travelers.
Abraham Hostels, whose bread-and-butter business is budget tourist and backpackers, has begun offering what it calls the “Abraham Business” package of 1,400 shekels ($366) for five nights (officially four – the fifth is free) for a standard room. A suite costs 1,930 shekels.
“There is a certain sector of customers for which this is appropriate,” explained Nitzan Kimchi, whose chain includes locations in Jerusalem and Nazareth as well as Tel Aviv. “We don’t try to compete on fancy mini-bars but offer business people something different, less heavy and artificial. There are business people who are tired of big impersonal hotels and rooms and want another experience, one that’s more personal.”
The Abraham Business package includes access to meeting rooms and work space.
Abraham’s Hostels isn’t for the top-of-the-line business person, for instance someone coming from abroad, perhaps for his or her first visit to Israel, as the representative of a big multinational company.
For them, the choices remain the Tel Aviv heavyweights – the Hilton, Sheraton Dan or David Intercontinental – the five-star properties that line the Tel Aviv beachfront. They offer standard rooms during the middle of the week – the peak time for most business stays -- that can run to as high at 1,350 shekels a night, including breakfast and access to a business lounge to entertain clients or relax with a free drink or light refreshments.
There’s also a developing middle market for business people who want something other than the usual hotel experience but aren’t prepared to share breakfast with backpackers: A growing number of small and boutique hotels offer a distinctive, usually funkier style.
With far fewer rooms and located out the central business areas, they offer a more intimate experience than the big hotels.
Prices start at 800 shekels a night for the Port & Blue, which is located near the old Tel Aviv Port, with its shops and restaurants and clubs. The hotel not only promises “architectural fusion of an industrial metropolis and a universal, cosmopolitan, colorful and vibrant tourist attraction” but a conference room and a spa and gym to open soon.
For a little less money – about 650 shekels a night for a standard room – business people can opt for the Diaglev, housed in a Bauhaus building in Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood, or Hotel 75 from the Prime chain, or the Fattal chain’s NYX, near the Sarona shopping area.
Sivan, an Israel brand manager for an overseas cosmetics company who asked not to be identified by her last name, said she picks hotels for visitors from her company’s home office by various criteria – and it’s not always about price and prestige.
“When we pick a hotel, the lowest price isn’t the most important factor, rather the experience and comfort they offer our guest coming from overseas. They need to get a good impression of the company and of Israel,” she explains.
That changes in the case of frequent visitors. “The price becomes an increasing important factor because it’s not something that’s going to create a first impression and it’s become more like route work,” she said.
That’s where boutique hotels can aspire to attract clientele for whom cost isn’t an issue, because they are often the most convenient locations for executives who don’t want to contend with traffic and Tel Aviv’s inefficient public transportation.
“For really short visits, the location is critical because time is short and being near the office and meetings is the most critical thing,” explained Sivan.
The lowest tier of the market more typically counts Israelis coming from the far north and south of the country who don’t want to try to squeeze several hours of driving into a schedule of meetings. It doesn’t just include just hostels like Abraham, but has now been invaded by Airbnb. Even though it means making your own bed and breakfast and scheduling meetings at a café, Airbnb apartments at the upper end of the offerings can be quite elegant – enough even to host clients.
Israel’s Tourism Minstry estimates that in 2015 some 10,000 homes and apartments were listed through the global applications, 6,500 in in Tel Aviv alone.