Tel Aviv looks to lure tourists with posh lifeguard digs
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Tel Aviv looks to lure tourists with posh lifeguard digs

Winners of online selfie competition to stay in pop-up luxury hotel built in converted beach station

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

A view of Tel Aviv's pop-up lifeguard tower hotel (under construction) that will be open for 10 days only this March (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
A view of Tel Aviv's pop-up lifeguard tower hotel (under construction) that will be open for 10 days only this March (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

It’s the dream hotel for any beach lover. Situated on the sand, just meters from the Mediterranean Sea, stands the Lifeguard Tower, a luxury pop-up hotel that will host guests for just 10 days this March.

“It’s a one-off,” said Leon Avigad, the Tel Aviv hotelier behind the Brown Hotel chain of boutique accommodations, who partnered with the Tel Aviv municipality and Tourism Ministry to create the luxe, five-star hotel on Frishman Beach.

The two-room hotel — the only one in Israel located this close to the water — will accommodate guests who win the Hotels.com competition featuring Instagrammed photos of themselves dressed in beachwear, photographed against the background of their own city. The winners (one couple from each country targeted by the Tourism Ministry as having potential for increasing tourism) will be flown to Israel for a four-day vacation in Tel Aviv, spending their first night inside the lifeguard tower.

They’ll even have their own, private, female butler and room service provided by the Dan Hotel, just across the street.

A computerized rendering of the luxurious bedroom in Tel Aviv's beachside pop-up hotel (Courtesy Tel Aviv Municipality)
A computerized rendering of the luxurious bedroom in Tel Aviv’s beachside pop-up hotel (Courtesy Tel Aviv Municipality)

It has cost hundreds of thousands of shekels to redo the simple, two-floor shack, but the results will be worth it, said Avigad.

The bright exterior is painted with Tel Aviv icons by graffiti artist Etgar Rafael and the first floor will house the bedroom, an ode to urban and resort vibe designed by Aline Langlieb, with a king-sized bed and oversized jacuzzi looking out on the cerulean sea outside the window.

Upstairs, guests can peer into the telescope at the outside bar, or head inside to the living room with wraparound windows open to the sea air, lounging on the deep-cushioned couch or window seat.

The upstairs living room of the two-floor lifeguard shack that will be transformed into a luxurious hotel for 10 days in March 2017 (Courtesy Tel Aviv municipality)
The upstairs living room of the two-floor lifeguard shack that will be transformed into a luxurious hotel for 10 days in March 2017 (Courtesy Tel Aviv municipality)

The paneled ceilings will be hung with retro chandeliers curated from local flea markets, along with the surfboards and lifeguard rings that will remain to retain that beachside aura.

“It’s the equivalent of a year’s marketing budget,” said Avigad, “but it’s worth the one-off, out of Zionism, out of love for Tel Aviv and its creative spirit.”

The usual interior of the Frishman Beach lifeguard tower, now under construction for its March 15 opening (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
The usual interior of the Frishman Beach lifeguard tower, now under construction for its March 15 opening (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

The lifeguard tower has to be restored to its former, spare interior at the end of March and the beginning of the Tel Aviv beach season.

But it’s an idea that’s been in the making since 2011, said Avigad. The municipality had contacted him, pointing out that it’s already hot in Tel Aviv in March, while Europeans are still skiing the Alps and Dolomites, just three hours away. They wanted to lure them over to Israel.

“It’s the perfect ode to Tel Aviv,” said Agivad, whose Leopard Hospitality hotel group with his business and life partner, Nitzan Perry includes the Brown TLV, Brown Beach House, Brown Beach House in Croatia, the soon-to-be-opened Brown Villa in Jerusalem, the recently opened Poli House on Allenby, and the Gordon Boutique Hotel.

Leon Avigad, the hotelier with a vision for what makes a Tel Aviv hotel, is behind the pop-up lifeguard tower hotel (Courtesy Leon Avigad)
Leon Avigad, the hotelier with a vision for what makes a Tel Aviv hotel, is behind the pop-up lifeguard tower hotel (Courtesy Leon Avigad)

“Tel Aviv is something different than other cities,” said Avigad. “The hotel can be small or big, but how do you get deep into the experience and passion and authenticity and vibe.”

Details like high-quality linens and toiletries have to be a given, said Avigad. Yet even high-end hotels in Israel may have maids whose aprons don’t fit perfectly, but whose smile will be genuine.

It’s an industry that Avigad, 44, has been working in for his entire professional life, starting at the locally-owned Dan Hotel chain, and then training in Europe before returning to Tel Aviv, where, with Perry, he began opening up sharply-designed and focused hotels with funding from local investors.

“Tel Aviv is one of the funkiest cities on earth,” said Avigad. “This just proves it.”

Participants in the international competition in partnership with Hotels.com are invited to upload a photo of themselves to Instagram, against the background of their city, wearing the beach gear (bathing suits, flip flops, etc.) that they would take with them to Tel Aviv. In addition, they must be photographed with a sign bearing the hash tag #TAKEME2TELAVIV” and an explanation why they deserve to win this unique hosting. The participants must register on the competition website http://en.citiesbreak.com/. The most creative and viral submissions will be selected by the project committee.

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