This article was written by Hugo Slimbrouck, our Director of Strategic Partners.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s global city, has in recent years gained international popularity and esteem as what they like to call a ‘Lighthouse City’ – a centre of art, innovation and multi-culturalism with a unique and relevant international appeal.
Home to most of Israel’s leading cultural institutions, the “World’s Smartest City”, located at the epi-centre of Israel’s world-renowned tech-scene and one of the world’s leading LGBT and lifestyle destinations. This vast experience and expertise make it a perfect and safe destination to host events, conferences and incentive travel programs. My visited came at a time when the European Song Contest was in town. Not a greater example of how a great experience can boost the image of a destination.
Our Ovation partner ESHET had arranged for me to join a group that was hosted by the Tel Aviv Convention Bureau, allowing me not only the time to meet and bond with our local team but also to discover the major venues and experiences in a short period of time.
My first impressions were about security, efficiency and true hospitality. How this is handled is second to none. From the check-in of my El Al flight at Brussels airport to being whisked through customs and security upon arrival, I was really impressed. Our personal driver made us feel at home from the moment we set off from the airport, it was like he was welcoming friends.
We kicked off with dinner at SahkiSahki. Relaxed hospitality with the desire to honour the customer with an emphasis on the quality of the food, the tight cocktails and a quality wine list.
When in Tel Aviv, what to do after dinner? Party time of course! White Night Tel Aviv (Laila Lavan) is one of the biggest cultural events of the year. Throughout this celebratory night, dozens of events take place simultaneously across the city. We visited Bialik Square with Live Performances by Israeli Musicians in Honor of Tel Aviv’s 110th Anniversary. What made one thing certain this weekend in Tel Aviv was that God is a DJ indeed.
A wide choice of meeting and conference venues
Our Tel Aviv discovery started with the Hilton Tel Aviv, located in the heart of Independence Park, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The hotel has undergone a complete makeover and looks fabulous once again. The building now houses two hotels: the lower floors are the Hilton Hotel but for their upmarket VISTA brand you need to take the elevator to the highest floor for a truly luxury and authentic service experience. Also the ‘inhouse’ convention centre is impressive and ideal for smaller conferences. According to our partner Eshet, this hotel has offered great value for the Brazilian and the US markets as well as of top delegations that are looking for a high-class experience
The Tel Aviv convention bureau team had a nice activity for us in stall. At the Hilton Beach, one can practice a lot of beach sports or beach Olympics for corporate groups or events. One of those activities is SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding). SUP is a paddle training method that combines surfing, paddling and balancing. Paddleboarding develops all the muscles and strengthens the internal core muscles, enhances stability and balance all while you can admire the spectacular view of Tel Aviv’s shoreline. For those less adventurous amongst our small group, an hour relaxing on the beach definitely helped to reload the batteries. At the Hilton Beach, we were served excellent salads and local Eastern Mediterranean food in true beach club atmosphere.
There is also possibility to do SAP yoga which is memorable especially since it is not as easy as one thinks. After the activity a nice table with fresh-cut fruit is set for the participants whilst they can exchange their experiences.
Surrounded by stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea, the SoHo of Neve Tzedek and historic Old Jaffa, the InterContinental David Tel Aviv has brought the essence of modern luxury to the Non-Stop City. The location is excellent indeed and the hotel makes quite an impression. Their conference and exhibition space is massive, a true convention centre within the hotel. Other than that, the top quality finishes and services one has come accustomed with from this grand brand of hotels. This hotel is great for conferences and meetings and we have proposed it often as they have an excellent inhouse congress centre.
Dining with locals
For dinner, we went to have a surprise dinner. Eatwith is the world’s largest community for authentic food experiences with locals, in over 130 countries. They connect hand-selected local hosts with travellers seeking unique, immersive experiences. Whether they’re home-cooks, food-lovers, MasterChefs, or Michelin-starred chefs, Eatwith hosts all share one special ingredient: a passion for bringing people together through food. You can book your seat at the table and join other travellers or locals for dinner. Or you can book one or multiple venues for groups and incentives. It’s a grand alternative for dining around with a much more authentic and immersive dining experience. We had the pleasure to be hosted in the garden of a family home of a famous former bar and restaurant owner. The food was superb, the company even better with the ‘chef’ sharing the conversation and talking about life, love and living in Tel Aviv.
Guided tour of Jaffa and the Green Side of Tel Aviv.
The following day we started off early with an amazing walking tour of Old Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest port cities. Our group experienced its picturesque, magical narrow streets and abundant history, which dates to biblical times.
Ganei Yehoshua Park is the largest park in Tel Aviv, spreading across 3,750,000 Sqm. The park includes extensive lawns, botanical gardens, sports facilities, outdoor concert venues and many more attractions that serve the residents of Tel Aviv and thousands of annual visitors from around the world. We were toured around by a young woman, serial entrepreneur, feminist, activist and Food Experience organizer who showed us the many ‘open-air’ opportunities the parks presented for events. From a small theatre to the vast prairie where major rock concerts take place. In the middle of the park, you can board a balloon that takes you up in the sky to discover the city from above.
12 points from Belgium!
Tel Aviv Expo is the leading and most progressive venue in Israel for professional conferences and exhibitions, attracting business tourism from all corners of the globe. With new state-of-the-art pavilions, a business hotel, and a restaurant complex which is due in 2025, they thrive to realize the Center’s true potential as an international hub for business, culture, science, and technology.
Tel Aviv Expo is the venue that hosted the Eurovision Song Contest during our visit. A “behind the scenes” tour of the facilities and the main concert hall were impressive, to say the least. For those who watched the show on TV, you have no idea how impressive the stage was. And as for large screens, (number) of pixels in the largest ever produced for a show of this kind. Needless to say that many of the artists had to put on an impressive performance, including mid-show act by Madonna. We did not meet the diva backstage but did have a nice conversation with her friendly personal tailor, Jean-Paul Gauthier.
All this touring made us hungry again, so we went to have lunch at an Italian local in the Tel Aviv Port set in a food hall that offered an impressive range of vegetables, fruits, fish and meat. Food is definitely a big thing in Israel and again we were inundated in a range of the best dishes and tastes. You can either sit at the horseshoe bar and watch the chefs prepare or opt for one of the upstairs rooms if you wish to privatize the space for your groups.
Tel Aviv Port has recently been restored and is now one of the hottest places in town. During the day, Namal Tel Aviv (the Tel Aviv Port) is surrounded by action: Tel-o-fun bikers on their way to Park HaYarkon, shoppers enjoying the outlet overload, families waiting in line for weekend brunch, and friendly fishermen presenting the results of their own catch. At night, the area’s hangars transform into Tel Aviv’s most happening nightlife scene, hosting crazy parties, community events, and all-night Jazz jams.
A pre-concert dinner was served for us at @Par Derriere. Located in the urban neighbourhood of Noga, Par Derriere is a wine bar and restaurant, offering an experience of local food, wine and an enjoyable atmosphere. The meaning of the name “Par Derriere” is “from behind” – hinting at the wonderful garden, which is located at the back of the restaurant. Again here, there are several secluded spaces for a small group. There are also similar restaurants in Tel Aviv with who we have excellent experiences. Onza and Kitchen Market are two trendy restaurants that manifest the great gourmet food that Israel has to offer. And of course, the many Eatwith locations (a concept that was created in Tel Aviv but now gathers momentum in many other cities around the world.
A Eurovision Celebration at the Eurovision Village
The city of Tel Aviv had turned the beach in front of the major hotels into the Eurovision Village, the official festival area during the Eurovision Song Contest. In the Eurovision Village, one could see live performances by artists, DJs, special events and public viewing of the show broadcasted from Expo Tel Aviv.
Peace and Innovation
After a night of partying, it was time to be serious again. Early morning on Sunday we visited the Israeli Innovation Center aka The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation and largest visitor’s centre of its kind. It presents the incredible story of Israel, the “innovation nation” and showcases the diverse fields and people behind Israeli innovations. Our partner Eshet has often used the venues for symposiums, cocktails and even open-air dinners on the esplanade of the building by.
As you cannot do Israel without a tour of the sacred city of Jerusalem we extended our programme with one day to visit the ancient sites. Our tour started on the Mount of Olives’ with a panoramic view of Jerusalem. We then made a stop at Mount Zion to visit King David’s Tomb, the Room of Last Supper and the Abbey of the Dormition. We entered the Old City and walked through the Armenian and Jewish quarters to the recently excavated and restored Cardo, the Roman road. We left a note between the stones of the Jewish Wailing Wall – the Kotel and continued our walkabout to the Christian Quarter. Along the Via Dolorosa we then visited the impressive Church of Holy Sepulcher.
We finished this short discovery of Jerusalem with a light Sunday night dinner back in Jaffa at Kalamata, a Greek restaurant in the Old City of Jaffa. Through the window overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, a unique experience is created. One that combines Tel Aviv’s culinary world with the long-standing heritage of Old Jaffa and its food markets.
My visit to Tel Aviv allowed me to have a long working lunch with Amnon Ben David of Eshet Conferences and Incentives, Ovation’s strategic partner for Israël, on topics such as security and perception of the destination, price-quality ratios of hotels and venues, the fabulous food scene and the ‘city that never sleeps’ attitude with some of the best nightlife entertainment in the world. Tel Aviv is also a global centre for the LGTB community. With over 30 years of experience, Eshet is the go-to partner when planning corporate or association events in Israël.
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