From north to south, Israel has attracted private investment and public funding for a host of improvement projects aimed at enhancing client experiences.
In addition to the allure of the Holy Land for clients seeking religious, cultural and historic experiences, the country’s major cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have become playgrounds for the rich and not-so-rich, the famous and the simply savvy.
It all holds great profit potential for U.S. travel agents, according to the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
The following is a rundown of the new developments.
New attractions in Jerusalem
The city’s historic Ottoman-era train station, The First Station complex, reopened as a major entertainment hotspot in April. The 1.7-acre complex includes seven restaurants, a gallery, a farmers' market and a 2,000-person performance space.
"The new train-station-turned entertainment complex is the perfect example of Jerusalem's dynamic mix of historic and modern," said Haim Gutin, Israel Tourism Commissioner for North and South America.
Named after the former legendary Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, the new "Teddy Park" opened this summer in Mitchell Park beneath the Old City walls.
The focal point of Teddy Park is the Hassenfeld Family Fountain, a colorful display featuring computerized, flood-lit water performances accompanied by music composed by the New Jerusalem Orchestra.
The newly-renovated Train Track Park is modeled after New York City's Highline Park. Located near HaRakevet Street, it features a network of walking and bicycle paths along the city's old train tracks.
The once derelict area, stretching from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, bears signs detailing the history of each location.
Jerusalem’s hotel scene
The long-awaited five-star Waldorf-Astoria Jerusalem will open at the end of the year and is now accepting reservations for next May. The hotel is housed in a historic structure with 223 lavishly designed rooms.
The latest addition to the Isrotel Exclusive Collection is the 156-room Cramim Resort & Spa, nestled in the Jerusalem Hills about a 10-minute drive from the city center.
The former residence of a Christian-Jewish couple from 1920’s Jerusalem, the seven-suite Alegra boutique hotel is located in the city’s picturesque Ein Karem neighborhood. The refurbished building is surrounded by a lush Mediterranean orchard and has a rooftop lounge, spa and restaurant.
New to Tel Aviv
Noga is among Tel Aviv’s newer neighborhoods. It’s located on the cusp of Jaffa. Here, the Bloomfield store, owned by Ofer Shahar, sells art, design items and clothing as well as furniture produced by Ofer and his brother Gilad in their workshop next door.
Hahalutizym 3 may be the most buzzed-about gourmet restaurant located within the Levinsky Market. It’s the first of its kind in the neighborhood. Young Chef Eytan Vanuanu cooks up eclectic dishes in his internationally-inspired restaurant.
Staying in Tel Aviv
The Royal Beach Hotel with 241 rooms and suites is another addition to Isrotel's luxury hotel collection. It’s located on Tel Aviv's vibrant Herbert Samuel Boulevard, near the action-packed promenade.
The 50-room Norman Hotel is slated to open in the first quarter of 2014 in Tel Aviv's picturesque King Albert Square adjacent to Rothschild Boulevard. The structure is a combination of two 1920’s apartment buildings.
Israel’s first Ritz-Carlton property will debut at the end of 2013. A 15- minute drive from Tel Aviv, it is located in the Mediterranean seaside city of Herzliya. The hotel has 197 rooms and suites, a rooftop pool and luxury spa.
New properties throughout Israel
Israel's Atlas Hotel Group’s 55-room Bay Club Hotel opened in Haifa earlier this year. Built on the site of a former governor’s residence, it had been used as a British World War I military base.
Further afield in the Old City of Akko is the Ottoman-style, 13-room Efendi Hotel constructed on the foundations of an 8th century structure and featuring a subterranean wine bar and a Turkish bath.
The Israel Ministry of Tourism also recently announced plans to invest in several new hotels, including projects in Ashkelon, Tiberias, Akko, Nahariya and Haifa.
A recent Open Skies Agreement between Israel and the European Union should make travel to the country easier and possibly cheaper with additional flights from European cities, according to the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
There is also new service from low-cost carriers. EasyJet added weekly flights from Rome to Tel Aviv. It currently operates Geneva, Basil and London service to Tel Aviv.
Eastern European carrier Wizz Air introduced weekly service from Vilnius, Lithuania; Katowice, Poland, and Cluj-Napoca, Romania to Tel Aviv.
Israel will host the fourth Masada Opera Festival June 12 to 17. The event features four performances of Verdi's La Traviata by the Israeli Opera. The festival takes place on the Dead Sea shore in a specially-crafted Opera Village that includes a massive stage, tiered seating for 7,500, open-air entertainment lounges and food stalls.