ISRAEL – Before worrying about tourists, accommodations have to be made for all delegation members arriving in Israel. The official demand is to set aside no less than 3,000 rooms for a two-week period, although this number is expected to drop. A conservative estimate is that the costs of the room will be over 6 million euros just to host the official representatives and accompanying media.
Eli Ziv, the director general of the Tel Aviv Hotel Association, believes that thousands more will come besides the representatives set to come, and many of them will end up in other cities like Herzliya and Netanya. Ziv added, “May is a business month in Tel Aviv when occupancy rates are at their highest for the year.”
Anyone trying to order rooms privately for Eurovision has already encountered rising prices for the weekend of May 17-19. A random check of prices on booking.com showed that the Crown Plaza and Carlton Tel Aviv are asking $809 and $911, respectively, for two nights that weekend. The weekend after costs just $524 and $763 for two nights at the respective hotels.
Hotel industry sources say that the prices are expected to climb even higher, and the biggest benefactors are expected to be Airbnb owners. There are approximately 9,000 available rooms for short-term rentals, and they are expected to be fully occupied.
Besides preparing for the tens of thousands of tourists who will arrive for the semifinals and finals, there is significant tourist potential for the Euro Village that the city is to set up. Just a day after Barzilai’s victory, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that his ministry would launch a campaign in Europe inviting tourists to visit Israel.
“The Eurovision has an impact on two points in time – both during the run-up to the event next year, and during it,” said Levin. “There is no doubt that the victory generated interest in Israel.” Despite this, the Tourism Ministry has been in no hurry to comment how it expects to draw tourists to the event or what role it will play in the preparations since the announcement that the contest would be held in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem.
Tel Aviv municipal officials get the enormous potential. Eitan Schwartz, director general of the municipality’s City, World and Tourism Administration, said that a task force has been established, the goal being to look at how the city prepares for tourists and “leverages this event for additional benefits.”
Booking.com reported an immediate spike in reservations for accommodations in Tel Aviv within minutes of Israel’s winning the contest. The website noted that although no decision was made at the time of the victory whether the event would be held in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, the company saw an immediate rise in reservations for both cities. The Israel Association of Travel Agencies and Consultants, which is also preparing for Eurovision, commented, “Our colleagues abroad have already begun to inquire about packages and ground arrangements for the week of Eurovision.”
The major problems that organizers expect to run into are transportation, high prices, language difficulties and tough border controls that do not cater to tourists, who often are grilled upon entry to or exit from Israel. Eitan Schwartz said city hall hopes to preempt such ordeals. “We established a municipal task force to prepare for the event at the operational level, from the moment the tourist arrives at Ben-Gurion International Airport to his or her departure,” he said. “It is easy for us to think that Old Jaffa is wonderful, and that we hold a special exhibition there, but that is not the story. Rather, the story is transportation, visibility, information and the high prices here. Even if these matters are not under the authority of the municipality, we are prepared to solve them.”
Schwartz says representatives of the tourism and transportation ministries as well as the Airports Authority are part of the task force. “They have specific missions. For example, placing bus route maps in all the bus stops and increasing the number of shared taxi service lines to solve the public transportation issue on Shabbat,” he said. “Additionally, we are in discussions with the taxi drivers’ association. We are interested in getting to a point where there will be a clear price list for taxis and an explanation about the meter, passengers’ rights and the like.”