The Tel Aviv municipality today presented a 10-year masterplan for tourism. The main points of the plan are development and upgrading of tourist sites and extending them to more areas of the city.
At a press conference presenting the plan, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai commented on the municipality's concern that the city's residents would follow the global trend of opposition to tourism, which is particularly prevalent among residents of Barcelona and Venice. "No one is immune," Huldai said, referring to the projection that the 2.2 million tourists who visited Tel Aviv would double in a decade. "Tel Aviv-Jaffa may be far from the negative experiences of tourists in many cities around the world, but challenges are already visible and must be addressed, such as apartments being shifted from the rental market to tourism, combined with a shortage of accommodations."
According to the municipality's figures, Tel Aviv has 10,500 hotel rooms and the enormous number of rooms, some 17,000, in apartments for short-term rental. 81% of the latter are in apartments that are permanently available for renting. Eytan Schwartz, CEO of Tel Aviv Global, a municipal company managed directly under the office of the Tel Aviv mayor, called the short-term apartment rental market "a market running wild, with no constraints or supervision." He added, "One out of every three tourists stays in an apartment. If we don't do something about this unregulated market, it will cost us in the coming years. There are neighborhoods in which the damage is beginning to be unbearable."
Schwartz commented on the idea being applied in many cities around the world of restricting the number of days for which a property can be leased for short-term rentals to 90 days a year. Such a vision, however, must be anchored in legislation, which requires the convening of a new Knesset.
"In order to meet the demand for tourist accommodations, we will have to add 7,000-10,000 hotel rooms in a decade. 12,000 hotel rooms have already been approved on paper, and we should have already reached the target, but the plans are not being carried out, and the developers are in no hurry for all sorts of reasons. We'll speed up the pace of building," Schwartz declared.
Among other things, the municipality intends to encourage more hotel rooms through conversion of offices to hotels in a faster and cheaper process. In addition to conversion, 2,000-3,000 more hotel rooms in the city are planned. "With no intervention, we'll reach four million tourists in the coming decade, assuming a 5% rate of increase (the usual figure used worldwide, M.R.-C.). Tourism will provide NIS 10 billion in annual income for the city - this is economically important," Schwartz said. He explains that the annual municipal budget for tourism is NIS 18-20 million.
Huldai mentioned the two main barriers to tourism: defective transportation and the cost of living. "Buses are infrequent or don't meet the timetable, or taxi drivers take advantage of the tourists. We failed with taxi drivers during the Eurovision Song Contest - tourists reported this in surveys. Tel Aviv is perceived as a great destination, but one where prices are too high, and we're trying to fix this, too," he says.
If people expect Huldai to announce that public transportation will operate on the Sabbath, after the municipality did this during the Eurovision Song Contest, they will have to go on waiting. Huldai is well aware of the problem of public transportation on the Sabbath in the city, but at this stage, the municipality's solution for the problem is a bus for tourists only that will operate on Friday and Saturday. "The situation today is insufferable; something has to change. Such a bus is a solution for a tourist, not a solution for public transportation at weekends," he said.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 24, 2019
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