As Israel celebrates Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the year 5780 on the Hebrew calendar, the Israel Ministry of Tourism takes the opportunity to look back at the successes over 5779 and provide a sneak peek on what’s to come.
A record-breaking 897,100 tourists from the United States entered Israel from September 2018 – August 2019. Along with a significant increase in tourism this year, travelers were delighted to see Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka serve as Tel Aviv Pride Ambassadors while an electrifying Eurovision competition brought together 26 different countries to take over Tel Aviv. With the opening of the Ramon Airport, travelers now have easy access to the country’s southern region while the introduction of the Israel Pass brings discounted entry to top attractions. For the remainder of 2019, Israel will continue to bring more exciting launches, star-studded events, new adventure offerings and much more.
HOTEL OPENINGS AND RENOVATIONS
• Kedem Hotel: The Shitit Group’s newest nature-friendly, 61-room Kedem Hotel opened on the slopes of the Carmel Forest. Integrated into the surrounding environment, the hotel puts an emphasis on providing a “home for body and soul.” Open to guests 18 and older, the hotel has a strict no-cell phone policy to further cater to an intimate and health-focused clientele.
• Kibbutz Ramat Rachel: As Jerusalem’s only Kibbutz hotel, the Ramat Rachel Hotel made significant upgrades, additions and renovations, spending $35 million to makeover its 165-hotel rooms, open a new sports center, pool and baby pool. Built in 1926 and located at the southern tip of Jerusalem, the hotel offers stunning views overlooking the Judean Hills.
• Isrotel: Isrotel announced that it has plans to open 11 hotels in Israel, eight of which will be built by 2022. Five hotels will be built in Tel Aviv, with others will be built in Eilat, Jaffa, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert.
WHAT’S TO COME:
• Brown Hotels: Brown Hotels plans to open seven new properties in Israel in 2019 and 2020 in key Israeli cities including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ashdod. The new hotels will range from upscale and five-star to affordable alternatives, including capsule hotels. The new hotel openings include The Dave Levinsky, The Theodor, Hôtel BoBo and Deborah Brown in Tel Aviv; Brown JLM, WOM Allenby and Brown Machneyuda in Jerusalem.
• Mizpe Hayamim Hotel: Currently closed for renovations to the spa and 17 guest rooms, the Mizpe Hayamim Hotel in the Galilee is scheduled to open in January 2020. The hotel has a large organic farm – among the most diverse in the world – including livestock and a dairy, which provides most of the fresh ingredients for the hotel’s kitchen and restaurants. It also features an expansive spa offering dozens of body and beauty treatments, a vegetarian restaurant serving breakfasts and dinners with gorgeous panoramic views, and of course the acclaimed Muscat restaurant.
• Six Senses Shaharut: Scheduled to open in Spring 2020, the Six Senses Shaharut will open in the Arava Valley of the Negev Desert with 58 ultra-luxe and sustainable suites and villas. The on-site activity center will include an Earth Lab, camel stables, Senses Spa, authentic Bedouin dining experience and more. Adventure travelers will enjoy the nearby activities such as off-roading, mountain climbing, mountain biking, rappelling and more.
• Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka at Tel Aviv Pride: American actor, writer, producer, magician and singer, Neil Patrick Harris, was honored as the official International Ambassador for Tel Aviv Pride 2019, joined by husband, chef and actor, David Burtka.
• Eurovision 2019: In May 2019, Israel hosted the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest where 26 countries battled it out for the winning title. Tens of thousands of tourists flocked to Tel Aviv to enjoy the city-wide celebrations.
• Masada Light Show: Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority unveiled a new 50-minute nocturnal audio-visual show at Masada, titled “From Sunset to Sunrise,” delving into the story of the historic 2000-year-old fortress in new ways to engage younger generations. The show projects 4K video with advanced lighting and video mapping onto the 458-meter high cliffs of Masada.
WHAT’S TO COME:
• 10th Annual Yoga Arava Retreat: With more than 1,000 participants, the Yoga Arava festival in southern Israel takes over the desert and is the largest yoga gathering in the Middle East. Each workshop is led by inspirational yoga teachers from across the globe to share their knowledge in different yoga styles and practices. This year the festival will run October 29 – November 2.
• Open Restaurants Jerusalem: Taking over the city November 19 – 23, Open Restaurants will showcase all Jerusalem’s culinary scene has to offer—from chef led market tours to a slow food movement course called Disco Shuk – guests can sign up to meet with leading chefs and personalities from around the city and sample innovative culinary creations while learning about new culinary trends for the upcoming year. Additional aspects of the festival include events and activities for children and families, events hosted by purveyors, breweries and distilleries and lots and lots of opportunities to eat and enjoy!
• Red Sea Resort of Eilat to Host 35 Festivals and Cultural Events: Over the five-month winter season, the Red Sea Resort in Eilat will feature 35 different events, attracting both international and domestic visitors. These events will include electronic music performances, Greek music performances, an underwater photography gallery, graffiti gallery, wine festivals and more.
• Israel Pass: In April 2019, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority launched the Israel Pass in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety. The Israel Pass combines public transportation with national parks and nature reserves, allowing easier access to a variety of Israel’s famous sites. The pass includes up to a 20% discount on entry fees, public transportation and allows travelers entry to up to six leading national parks and nature reserves, including Masada, Ein Gedi, Caesarea, Qumran, Eilat Coral Beach and more.
• Tower of David VR Tours: The Tower of David Museum and the ToD Innovation Lab teamed up with Lithodomos VR to create the first mobile virtual reality walking tour in Israel to allow travelers to “Step into History” with a variety of Jerusalem VR tours. The tour, available in English and Hebrew, guides visitors through the Tower of David Museum and winds its way down from the ancient fortress through the Old City. Using virtual reality viewpoints at the Western Wall, Robinson’s Arch, the Jewish Quarter and the Cardo, the experience shows Jerusalem today and at the time of the Second Temple 2000 years ago during the time of King Herod.
WHAT’S TO COME:
• New Hiking and Biking Trails: Israel Ministry of Tourism is working to develop ten new biking and hiking trails throughout the country that will open in 2020. The new trails will be located in the Western Galilee, Negev, Yehuda Desert, Timna Park, Eilat and Mizpe Ramon.
• Nonstop Flights Added from Major U.S. Cities: In 2019, El Al Airlines launched three new nonstop routes from Las Vegas, San Francisco and Orlando, while United Airlines launched a new direct flight from Washington DC.
WHAT’S TO COME:
• El Al Airlines and American Airlines Add New Nonstop Routes: El Al Airlines has announced a new direct flight out of Chicago beginning in March 2020, the first direct route out of the Midwest United States region. In addition, American Airlines has announced a new direct route from Dallas beginning in September 2020.
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
• Old City Jerusalem Became More Accessible: As part of a multi-year project costing over 20 million NIS, the East Jerusalem Development Company and Ministry of Tourism worked to make the Old City of Jerusalem accessible for the mobility impaired, including all three of the city’s holy sites, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Working within UNESCO World Heritage guidelines, four kilometers of streets in the Muslim, Armenian and Christian quarters were adjusted; approximately two kilometers of handrails were installed alongside staircases to aid mobility; and clear signage in multiple languages was put in place marking the best routes for disabled persons.
• Ramon Airport (ETM): Opened in January 2019, the Ramon Airport created an international gateway offering easy access to Eilat and the surrounding southern region. The airport replaced two existing hubs, Eilat City Airport and Ovda Airport.
• New Bus Line Connecting Ben-Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv Hotels: Kavim launched a new public bus route, 445, which will operate 24 hours a day, Sunday through Thursday, to connect the Ben-Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv’s hotel areas. Stops will include Ben Yehuda Street, Yehuda Halevi Street, Menachem Begin Street and the railway complex.
WHAT’S TO COME:
• Ben-Gurion Airport to be Expanded: Israel’s Transportation Ministry approved a 3 billion NIS expansion plan of Ben-Gurion Airport, expanding Terminal 3 by 80,000 square-meters, adding 90 new check-in counters, four new baggage hall conveyor belts, and expanding immigration checkpoints and parking facilities. In addition, a fifth passenger concourse will be constructed to accommodate additional aircrafts. This expansion will allow the airport to increase to accommodate up to 30 million more passengers a year.