BY Lee Saunders DATE 13/02/2018
“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles,” said David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister in May 1948. As the State of Israel moves towards its miraculous milestone of 70 years old, Dan Hotels, the first hotel chain in Israel, has been there every step of the way. The journey from a small hotel to Israel’s premier luxury hotel chain has been astounding and its plans for the future remain as ambitious as ever.
Who could have seen the transition from a small guest house located near the Mediterranean seashore to a luxury chain of 13 hotels, traded on the stock market, and employing approximately 4,000 people.
At the heart of the hotel’s long journey has been an unbroken and relentless focus on the highest quality service to meet guests’ expectations and needs. From the porters and front of house staff to chefs and waiters, to management, the comfort of guests has always been at the forefront of management focus. And this focus on quality is, for once, not just a marketing buzzword as a seemingly endless parade of presidents, heads of state, movie actors and rock stars have joined the legions of visitors staying at the Dan every year since its very beginning.
Indeed, it does not get any closer to the beginning of the State of Israel. On November 29, 1947, as the U.N. General Assembly was approving the establishment of a Jewish state, Dan founders and brothers Yekutiel (Xiel) and Samuel (Samo) Federmann sealed the deal that would allow the financing of the first hotel in Tel Aviv. Spotting an opportunity in the ‘Kaete Dan’, at the intersection of Mendele and Hayarkon Streets in Tel Aviv, they bought the adjacent plot of land, and in November 1953, the iconic Dan Tel Aviv, Israel’s first luxury hotel, was born, later followed by Dan Panorama Tel Aviv.
In late 1958, the Federmann brothers bought, restored and renovated the legendary King David Jerusalem, which had been left derelict and empty after the 1948 War of Independence. Having hosted royalty, including Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, as well as exiled Kings of Greece and Spain during World War 2, the flagship hotel still regularly welcomes world leaders in politics, commerce and entertainment. Consistently recognized as one of the top 100 hotels worldwide by industry publications, the King David was the first of four luxurious hotels in Jerusalem for the Dan, including the Dan Panorama Jerusalem, Dan Boutique Jerusalem and Dan Jerusalem, all with phenomenal views of the golden city of Jerusalem.
With a spectacular view of the Haifa Bay area, the Dan Carmel was the first exclusive Dan hotel to open in the northern city of Haifa, in 1963, on the northern ridge of Mount Carmel. Its gala event opening was attended by celebrities of the day, including the late comedy legend Harpo Marx, but Dan Hotels was serious about its plans. The Dan Panorama Haifa followed, along with the resort style properties Dan Accadia Herzliya, as well as Dan Caesarea, both sandwiched between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
At the other end of the country, a new dimension was added to the stunning Red Sea resort of Eilat when Dan Hotels broke ground and changed history to open the Dan Eilat. As the first luxury hotel to be built on the sea shore, Dan Hotels has since been joined by all the major Israeli hotel chains, ultimately creating a yearlong tourist hot spot ever since. The luxury resort hotel has been voted one of the top 10 hotels in the Mediterranean and Africa by Condé Nast Traveler. Shortly after opening Dan Eilat, Dan Panorama Eilat accompanied it, nestled among luxury yachts in the marina nearby.
With such a long history, the Dan Hotels has managed to remain ahead of the competition by never taking its eye off its core values. In the last year, there has been a design revolution in relation to rooms and suites– a redesign and refurbishment of executive rooms at the Dan Panorama Haifa and Dan Eilat, while architectural changes at the Dan Accadia also underline the Dan Hotels’ commitment to continuously upgrading the hospitality experience.
The industry has changed considerably since the Dan was founded back in the late 1940s. Today, a larger number of airlines coming to Israel, affordability of global travel, and the impact of technology have all energised the hotel market. The immense popularity and relevance of review sites, such as TripAdvisor, has sharpened the focus for those involved in the hospitality and leisure industry.
While the geopolitical situation is at the back of everyone’s minds, Israel continues to attract rising numbers of visitors from all corners of the globe. As commercial ties and business travel has grown, Israel has seen ever-increasing numbers of visitors from India and China, as well as the US and Europe. With the country witnessing a sharp rise in visitors from the Far East, the Dan Hotels is capturing the lion’s share of the market. Chinese politicians and celebrities , such as actor Liu Ye, are treated to a luxurious home away from home, with special amenities carefully attended to, while Chinese New Year is a regular fixture on the Dan calendar.
Not only does the Dan Hotels react swiftly to market trends but it is helping to shape them. With plans to build on the existing closer ties with India, the luxurious chain has recently opened its first hotel outside of Israel – the Den Hotel Bangalore in the Silicon Valley of India. With Bangalore widely known as a city of high-tech, there is an obvious match with the Start-Up nation of Israel.
Meanwhile, as Dan Hotels plans another 100-room hotel in Tel Aviv to be opened in the coming year for the Y Generation, the millennials, this expanding, upgrading and modernising hotel chain is making it clear that after 70 years, it is not only still standing, it is standing tall.
Another 70 years? Sure. Would Ben Gurion call this a miracle? I don’t think so.
Written by Lee Saunders