Israelis lead race as Micronesian tourism paradise is raffled off, at $49 a ticket
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'We’re ready to pass the baton to someone else'

Israelis lead race as Micronesian tourism paradise is raffled off, at $49 a ticket

The owners of the Nautilus Resort are moving back to the mainland, but they’re selling the hotel in a rather unusual fashion

Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.

Aerial view of resort on the Micronesian island of Kosrae. (Courtesy)
Aerial view of resort on the Micronesian island of Kosrae. (Courtesy)

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Australia and Hawaii, lies a deal almost too good to be true: Through July 26, a $49 raffle ticket buys an opportunity to win the Nautilus Resort hotel on the tiny Micronesian island of Kosrae. And although it is almost 8,000 miles from Israel, an astounding 12 percent of all tickets sold so far have come from the Holy Land.

Think this atypical approach is unusual for the resort? Think again. In fact, even its genesis was spurred by flouting convention.

“We saw a documentary on TV back in 1991 about Micronesia and we were totally awed by it,” says owner Doug Beitz.

After happening upon an article on business opportunities in the diminutively-named island country, Doug and wife Sally decided to pack up their three young children and leave office jobs in their native Australia to take a gamble on a dream.

“I was too young and naive to realize that it would be too hard to do, so I just went ahead and ignorantly built the place,” says Beitz. “The dream of doing it was way too strong for any of the challenges that came along while putting it all together.”

The Beitz family has been running the Nautilus Resort for 22 years. (Courtesy)
The Beitz family has been running the Nautilus Resort for 22 years. (Courtesy)

The business has been thriving for 22 years, allowing the family to live “like [on] a perpetual holiday” while the children grew up. But with the arrival of a new young grandkid Beitz, Doug and Sally are ready to head back to the Australian mainland “to be closer to our little angel and any other grandchildren that come along.”

“We feel like a new chapter in our lives is beginning, and we’re ready to pass the baton to someone else,” Doug says.

The deal caught the eye of Israeli Giyora Nicklas and his adventurous family, a clan of seafaring globetrotters with “some business experience in the hotel and restaurant industry.”

Nicklas, owner of Wild Spirit, a travel and event company, first heard of the raffle through an article on Ynet News. Within minutes he’d spread the word to his loved ones on WhatsApp. Taking the story as a sign, the 55-year-old resident of Poriya Illit purchased first one raffle ticket for his son before snapping up four more.

Though one of the first Israelis to take a shot at a dream, Nicklas is far from alone.

More than 1,200 tickets have been purchased from Israel to date. According to the Nautilus Resort, Israel’s scant population of eight million is by far the highest buyer of tickets per capita worldwide.

The owners of Nautilus Resort on the Micronesian island of Kosrae do things a little differently. Rather than sell to the highest bidder, they are raffling off their business of 22 years to anyone with a dream. (Courtesy)
The owners of Nautilus Resort on the Micronesian island of Kosrae do things a little differently. Rather than sell to the highest bidder, they are raffling off their business of 22 years to anyone with a dream. (Courtesy)

What’s causing all the Israeli love for the Kosrae estate? Perhaps it is Micronesia’s history of consistently mimicking the US voting pattern at the United Nations, effectively making it one of the world’s greatest supporters of Israel. So potential Israeli expats can rest easy that they’re still doing their patriotic duty while relaxing in a tropical paradise half a globe away.

Beitz says that Kosrae was almost completely converted to Christianity back in the 1800s when US missionaries visited the island. He notes that the native populace are “very God-fearing people.” Can you say “amen?”

Whether or not Micronesia’s close ties with the motherland have anything to do with it, the contest has fast become very popular here.

When the “Win the Island Estates” raffle was featured on Channel 10’s “Layla Calcali,” or “Economic Night,” it caused a midnight traffic spike so large that for a few minutes, Israeli buyers even crashed the website.

So, what does the winner get for their $49?

The 16-room hotel comes with a pool, a private beach, a dive center, and an on-premises restaurant stocked with $5,000 worth of food. The package also includes a separate home and two one-bedroom apartments, and the lucky winner would have ample transportation with five rental cars, a pickup truck, and a couple of vans.

Israelis are known for their healthy sense of skepticism, so entrants will be glad to know that according to the website, they’d be getting a “debt free and profitable business” with a great rating on Trip Advisor.

For those worried about lack of business experience, the Nautilus Resort comes “staffed by 16 long-term employees,” and the winner can “recline and enjoy the island life” while a manager runs the business, bringing home the bacon — so to speak — for them.

Notorious for sometimes being among the most difficult tourists in the world, the irony of operating such an establishment is apparently lost on the Israeli crowd. The winners need not worry too much. While some Israelis travel through — “a dozen or two,” according to Beitz — the current owners have nothing but praise for the Levantine guests.

The resort hotel has drawn a large share of Israeli pleasure-seekers looking for a cheap ticket to island heaven. (Courtesy)
The resort hotel has drawn a large share of Israeli pleasure-seekers looking for a cheap ticket to island heaven. (Courtesy)

And Beitz says that the new owners wouldn’t get too homesick — an Israeli family owns and operates a large scuba diving business on Palau. While helping him obtain another dive boat, they hosted him for a meal.

“Tova is a wonderful cook, and has even published a cookbook,” Beitz says.

Apparently, Micronesia even comes with the perfect Shabbat dinner venue.

Tourist karma aside, the prospect of operating a remote beachside resort does sound pretty tempting — maybe even enough to wager $49 on. And since the contest has soared in popularity, the outgoing owners have eliminated the minimum ticket threshold, meaning someone is guaranteed to win.

“Luck is something we create in our life, a combination of actions and taking responsibility,” says Nicklas. “But once in a while real luck can knock at the door. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened this time?”

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