The city of Tel Aviv is gearing up to host the 64th Eurovision song contest in May, a year after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai clucked her way to victory with her female empowerment anthem “Toy” in Lisbon, Portugal, earning Israel its fourth overall win in the annual competition.
The city, already an expensive tourist destination, is planning to accommodate the influx of visitors during the events surrounding the competition and the finale itself on May 18 in creative ways – by building a massive tent city (think Burning Man) as a lodging solution, and even setting up people on a 500-room cruise ship off the shores of Tel Aviv.
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The Eurovision, held annually among member countries of the European Broadcasting Union, draws an influx of tourists, delegations, competitors, and entourages from participating nations, as well as fans of the competition, to host cities. Lisbon attracted some 30,000 foreign visitors just for the finale last year.
Tel Aviv says it expects some 20,000 visitors during the competition, which will run May 14-18, and an estimated NIS 100 million ($27 million) in direct revenue. The city is already a popular world destination and it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, a fact reflected in the expensive hotel prices and Airbnb stays. Tel Aviv ranked fourth worldwide in a recent Bloomberg index of most expensive Airbnb rentals.
Following Barzilai’s win, and after Tel Aviv triumphed over Jerusalem as the next host city, hotel prices for May 14-18 hit the roof. According to a September report by Hotels Combined, which tracks prices worldwide, one 4-star hotel on Montefiore Street in southern Tel Aviv hiked its weekend price up by 1,346 percent, from NIS 990 ($270) to NIS 14,318 ($3,870) for May 17-18. A five-star hotel on the famous Rothschild Boulevard increased its weekend price from NIS 3,035 ($820) to NIS 7,390 ($1,998), up 145 percent.
The city went into action, signing a deal last October to bring an Italian ocean liner to Tel Aviv’s shores and rent out rooms on board at more comfortable prices. The ocean liner will house up to four guests per room, with prices starting at $50. The price will include three meals per day, and shuttles to shore, according to an October report by Israel’s Hadashot TV.
“The prices of hotels in Tel Aviv-Jaffa are very, very high,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told the TV channel in October (Hebrew). “It’s very important to create pressure to lower the prices – and bringing a cruise ship to the shores of Tel Aviv, that’s 500 rooms at prices that are sane.”
According to the report, similar deals for more liners are in the works.
Tel Aviv is also building a “tent city” in the Yarkon Park where, for a minimum price of NIS 100 ($27) per night, guests can sleep in a tent. Others will engage in some “glamping”, a portmanteau of glamorous and camping and a term that describes a form of camping but with style (and, more importantly, amenities).
Eytan Schwartz, CEO of Tel Aviv Global & Tourism at the Tel Aviv municipality told Hadashot TV (Hebrew) this week that glamping was one of the “coolest lodging solutions” available worldwide today.
Each structure will also house up to four people at a maximum price of NIS 1,000 ($270), according to the report. Some options will include a caravan, or “campervans.”
“At NIS 1,000, you’re staying in a caravan that has many amenities; [it has] air conditioning, a bathroom, a kitchen, sheets, towels, [a shower], everything,” Schwartz said. “There’s a bar, a supermarket, it’ll be like at a hotel.”
“For NIS 100, guests will get a place that has fewer amenities – in fact, it’s a tent – but it’s still very, very cool. At every big festival in the world, there’s the camp, where people sleep; there are also parties, and celebrations,” Schwartz explained.
The biggest draw, he said, would be the proximity of Yarkon Park to the Tel Aviv International Convention Center, where the Eurovision’s two semi-finals and the finale will be held.
A number of other events will be hosted around the city over May 14-18, including the opening ceremony and red carpet gathering at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the official Eurovision key handover ceremony and the semi-final allocation draw at the historical Town Hall located on Bialik Square.
Tel Aviv also said it was building the largest Eurovision Village, the official “fan zone” of the Eurovision Song Contest, where guests will attend beach concerts and parties, drink, eat, and watch live performances on massive screens free of charge. The village will be housed at the Charles Clore Park in the city to the tune of some NIS 5 million ($1.35 million).
According to Wiwibloggs, a website and YouTube channel focused solely on the Eurovision Song Contest, the Eurovision Village (or EuroVillage), will have seven different zones including one for Israeli cuisine, a sports and yoga area, and a DJ zone.
Tel Aviv is also rumored to be bringing some of the notorious features of the annual White Night – an all-nighter where restaurants, shops, museums stay open and cultural events and raucous parties are held across the city – to the EuroVillage. Forty stages, representing all 40 countries participating at this year’s competition, will be built all over town and will host up to 100 overall performances.