A five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the Holy City, a desert resort in southern Israel, and the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were recognized as some of the best travel destinations in separate categories in the August 2019 issue of travel magazine Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, an annual travel program run by the upscale New York-based publication.
The program is based on an annual survey that asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe and rate “airlines, airports, car-rental agencies, cities, cruise ships, destination spas, hotels, hotel brands, islands, tour operators, and safari outfitters,”according to the magazine.
This year, the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel ranked sixth in the magazine’s “Best City Hotels in North Africa and the Middle East” category.
“Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities,” Travel + Leisure wrote.
The Inbal hotel positions itself as the “ultimate gateway to explore Jerusalem’s authentic atmosphere, a pure reflection of the city in which it resides.”
“Combining a sophisticated elegance with warmth and comfort, the Inbal offers a range of rooms and suites to match every kind of visit — from relaxed family vacations to weddings, large conferences to business trips,” the hotel explains on its official website.
Inbal unveiled the second phase of a massive renovation project in late August 2018. As part of the renovation, the premier hotel added 52 new luxury rooms and also completed renovation of the public areas. It also updated its Sofia restaurant from a dairy concept to a grill.
“The Inbal is thirty-seven years old and we decided that it was time to rethink the hotel. It’s a large renovation – not only are we adding dining areas, but we are also reinforcing safety measures for 2018, making the Inbal nearly an entirely new hotel,” said Rony Timsit, general manager for the hotel in an interview for a Times of Israel blog post. “We have redone the lobby, making it much more modern. We renovated the courtyard. We are creating a whole new dining experience and adding new rooms, as well as suites with their own elevators.”
It’s not clear whether the renovations affected the Inbal hotel’s ranking on the travel magazine’s list of top city hotels.
The first spot in the category went to the Royal Mansour in Marrakech, Morocco, which Travel + Leisure says makes every guest “feel like nobility.” The hotel, which offers 53 private, multistory riads where staff enter and exit discreetly via underground passageways, is the personal passion project of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, according to the magazine.
In the “Top Resort Hotels in Africa and the Middle East” category, the Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel ranked fifth, dropping two spots from last year’s awards where it came in third in the same category.
The Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco ranked first in this category for its “charming getaway where internationally sourced antiques fill the interior, and roses, cacti, and cherry trees colors the gardens” as well as its staff. Travel + Leisure learned the hotel makes it a point to hire employees from nearby Berber villages.
In the “10 best cities in Africa and the Middle East” category, Jerusalem ranked second, moving up from third place last year, and Tel Aviv ranked sixth, slipping from fourth place. Cape Town, South Africa came in first for the second year in a row, while Marrakesh, Morocco and Beirut, Lebanon took third and fourth spots respectively. Fez, Morocco came in fifth.
Travel+Leisure said the criteria for choosing the top cities were “very specific.”
“A strong sense of historical and cultural identity is crucial, as is beautiful scenery. The food and shopping scenes are important, too. And the hotels, of course, must be world-class,” the magazine said.
Readers who responded to the survey raved about Jerusalem’s extraordinary historical and cultural legacy, Travel + Leisure said.
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“Fascinating city,” one reader wrote, “Tragic, beautiful, rough around the edges. Friendly people, great food, and lively nightlife. Hard to find a place with as much history and diversity.”
It was also noted that Jerusalem is a WBA Hall of Fame honoree. The designation means that Jerusalem has been voted onto this specific World’s Best Awards list consecutively for the past 10 years.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv ranked sixth on the list, but its ranking had fallen two spots from the previous year’s fourth-place ranking. Tel Aviv had quite an eventful year, hosting the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in May for the first time in twenty years, as well as welcoming a record 250,000 attendees, for the annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade, many of them tourists.
In December, Travel+Leisure named Tel Aviv-Jaffa among the magazine’s “50 best places to travel.” The magazine focused on a number of new hotels and attractions in Jaffa, the ancient port city that is part of the Tel Aviv Municipality with its own authenticity. It noted the opening of The Setai Tel Aviv, the new luxury hotel on the Jaffa coast, built on the site of a former Ottoman prison, and the opening of the W Hotel and Residences.
Tel Aviv-Jaffa was also named among the Wall Street Journal’s ten “most intriguing travel destinations for 2019
Jerusalem – A top travel destination
Jerusalem’s rise in the Travel+Leisure ranking comes amid an important recognition of Israel’s capital as the fastest-growing travel destination in the world for 2018 and a top global tourism spot for the year, according to a report by UK-based market research company Euromonitor International.
The report, “Top 100 City Destinations 2018,” was first published by Bloomberg and covered over 600 cities worldwide, measuring international arrivals.
According to the report, international arrivals in the Holy City grew by 32 percent in 2017 and were expected to grow by 38 percent in 2018 to 4.8 million arrivals by the end of the year, due to “relative stability and a strong marketing push.”
Jerusalem was named alongside four cities to watch in the report, alongside Mumbai, Osaka, and Portugal’s Porto.
The report noted that global inbound arrivals were expected to grow by five percent in 2018 to 1.4 billion trips with arrivals to this year’s top 100 city destinations set to grow by 7.5 percent.
“This is a continuation of a trend which sees the top cities outperforming global arrivals growth, with city hubs extending their importance for the global travel industry,” wrote travel analyst Wouter Geerts.
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism said in a statement that the report showed that “with hard work and intensive marketing, it is possible to transform Israel into an attractive tourist destination and, as a result, an incredible agent for economic growth,” but also noted they were not surprised by the results as “the facts speak for themselves.”
The Jerusalem Development Authority said that Jerusalem has seen immense growth over the past several years, with an increase of 47 percent in the number of overnights stays in the city.
The authority, a joint agency of the Israeli government and the Jerusalem Municipality, said that a series of projects and services have been launched to make the city “more accessible and convenient for tourists,” including easier travel options on the city rail.
“The goal is to put Jerusalem in line with other major cities around the world, as a hot destination for tourists from Europe,” the authority said in the statement.