Ever ready to cater to the various tastes and needs of its guests, Haifa constantly widens its array of hotels. The last decade saw an immense increase in the number of hotels and rooms the city has to offer, and this is just the beginning
Each year, the number of foreign and local tourists visiting Haifa is gradually increasing, and it seems that the lodging attractions the city offers increase in number accordingly. Only recently two new boutique hotels sprouted in the city, each presenting its own conceptual twist, and this is merely the tip of the iceberg: there is an ongoing, unprecedented increase in the number of hotels in Haifa.
Ariel Waterman, City Engineer of Haifa: "Haifa was originally a magnificent industrial city; in the days of the British mandate, it was the Empire's biggest industrial area outside of England. However, over time, all production all over the world moved to the East, and industrial cities like Haifa had to find a different direction. One of the financial supports such cities founded was tourism, especially when it came to beautiful attractive cities.
"With this in mind, we went into action and began a very comprehensive tourism development in the city. In 2006, we received recognition from the State as a prioritized tourism development area. This means that the State finances a quarter of the investment in a newly built hotel. Starting up a hotel is an expensive project; the initial investment, before you start seeing profits, relative to other businesses, is very large. You are risking a lot of money. Therefore, this is where help is very necessarily and that is where it made the difference. After many years, decades in fact when hotels were not built here, a new boom began. Fortunately, the Ministry of Tourism sees blessing in its investments; capacity is certainly respectable, so they continue to give us the subsidy. This if far from trivial, because generally cities like Jerusalem, Eilat and Tiberias were prioritized. The Ministry of Tourism put us on that list because of our potential. It also helps with attractions—the Turkish Market and Natanzon Street, very vibrant centers today, were previously destitute. Their renovation was also carried out with the help of the Ministry of Tourism.
"This is the background. What happens once the process concludes will be much more significant, and it will happen when the urban seafront opens up. It would be a game changer. On a scale of international cities that rein in millions of tourists on cruise ships.
"In 2007 we conducted a survey and introduced Haifa to travel agents worldwide and asked for a comment. The unequivocal response was that Haifa has its attractions. What are those attractions? Tiberias, Tel Megiddo, Acre, Caesarea, which is great—it is called a hub, and this means that we are a sightseeing base. In other words, a tourist who is serious about seeing Israel would have to stay here for two or three nights. They sleep in the big city, go to day excursions in the places I mentioned, and party here in the evenings.
"Once you realize this, there really is room for increasing the amount of hotels. At the time, we set a goal of increasing the number of rooms in the city from 1,000 to 3,000 and then to 6,000, which is a very modest goal. Not only is it a modest, if we do not reach it, we will not be able to address large conferences and events of the kind."
Rachel Sarid, Entrepreneur Relations Coordinator, accompanies projects and entrepreneurs on their rocky way to get a permit. "We started this move with some thousand rooms in ten hotels, almost a decade ago; today we have 1,795, nearly double. In the last decade, during Yona Yahav's tenure, we established 24 hotels, with 776 rooms, more than the number of hotels ever built in the city since its foundation! True, most of them are motels, but now we start building the big hotels, such as Nitsba's Ben Gurion 5 with 256 rooms, Haim Shitrit's Ben Gurion 50 with 163 rooms, etc.
"There are currently four hotels under constructions (approx. 510 rooms); eight are in the process of planning and licensing (approx. 950 rooms), such as Gil Dankner's 68-room Bat Galim Casino, Braun Hotel on HaHistadrut Ave. (50 rooms) and so on. Some hotels are in advanced stages of Land Use Zoning (Taba): Egged's Hof HaCarmel Central, 200-250 rooms; the Stadium Hotel, 200 rooms; Salim Khayat's hotel on 119 Yaffo Street, 44 rooms; and so on. I am certain that within two years they all will be operational.
"Right now, on weekends, one can't find a vacancy in the city. Midweek occupancy is lower, of course, but Haifa's average yearly room occupancy in 2016 was 63.6%, while the national average is 62.3%. Therefore, when one owns a hotel in Haifa and sees that it works well, they want to build another one. This is hard work but it pays off in the end. There are some truly luxurious hotels in the city, with meticulous attention to food, design, furniture, everything."
Haifa's Urban Seafront. Simulation
Waterman: "The survey pointed out that hotels should preferably be located along the German Colony and the Carmel Ridge route, but we see that initiatives are spread all around the city; there's a phenomenon of successful boutique hotels, each with its own uniqueness.
"I believe that during the next decade, when we see the urban seafront come to fruition, people will stop being skeptic, especially the Haifaites, and Haifa will reach its true place, because its beauty is a fact. She just slept because of all the years that the shoreline was blocked, while the streets should reach down to the water. Eventually, all our streets will be open to the waterline, with cafés and restaurants and stunning hangars unparalleled in the world."