Tapping into boutique hotel trend, Isrotel trades beach-bumming for urban energy

Alberto Hotel, built out of a renovated 109-year-old building in Tel Aviv’s trendy Nahalat Binyamin, offers city chic for travelers seeking something other than behemoth resorts

Alberto Hotel by Isrotel in central Tel Aviv (courtesy Lior Grundman)
Alberto Hotel by Isrotel in central Tel Aviv (courtesy Lior Grundman)

In the four-plus decades since it became part of the Israeli hotel scene, Isrotel has become known for large, flashy waterfront hotels, like Eilat’s Royal Beach, and for commodious luxury resorts off the beaten track, such as the Carmel Forest hotel in the sylvan north and Beresheet in the arid south.

Now, the hotel is trying something new: going small.

Since December, when the hotel chain launched Isrotel Design, it has opened several boutique hotels as part of the sub-brand.

The hotels are not just meant to be bantam versions of their larger properties, but to offer unique, urban-focused aesthetics, bold, stylish furnishings and fewer rooms (and amenities). The largest tops out at 160 rooms.

Isrotel now has six hotels in the group, the newest being the Alberto in Tel Aviv, which opened a few weeks ago.

The Alberto, one of Isrotel’s two new openings in the city this year, is designed to be embedded into the urban fabric of central Tel Aviv. Located on the corner of Nahalat Binyamin and Ahad Ha’Am Street, in the center of the White City conservation area, its restored façade blends in seamlessly with the old-new Tel Aviv vista.

Bedroom in Hotel Alberto by Isrotel, Tel Aviv, August 2022 (Assaf Pinchuk)

The Alberto building was originally constructed in 1913 in the eclectic style but has evolved over time.

Conservationists in Tel Aviv are clear that while the past needs to be preserved, more modern designs may be layered on as well, so long as the additions or renovations don’t take away from what is already there.

The Alberto’s exterior, which preserves the outline of the original building, was redesigned by Feigin Architects, while Michael Azoulai was responsible for the interior.

The site of the Alberto Hotel, as seen in 2015. (screen capture: Google Street View)

The hotel has 91 rooms, including two with a jacuzzi, and two suites. The first four floors, which are designated for preservation, have had historical elements conserved. The rooms have parquet and stone floors, and some have wood paneling on the walls and high ceilings. On the ground floor, rooms open onto a small enclosed porch, while those on higher floors have a balcony.

The top two floors are new and feature large windows offering panoramic city views. Keep going up and guests will find the rooftop pool and bar. The hotel also has other hospitality standards, such as a lobby bar, a 24/7 gym and a spa. In September, the hotel plans to add a restaurant.

The hotel is Isrotel’s first move away from the Tel Aviv coastline, and is very deliberately positioned to expose visitors to Tel Aviv’s local culture and nightlife.

The hotel has its own collection of urban contemporary art, combining works by young artists with those by established names.

Alberto Hotel Tel Aviv city center, August 2022 (courtesy Asaf Pinchuk)

Despite the lavish design and central location, rooms at the Alberto are cheaper than many beachfront hotels.  Room rates start at NIS 882 ($272) per night, based on double occupancy, though the hotel is offering a 20% discount until the end of August. The price includes VAT, which tourists are exempt from, meaning visitors from abroad can snag a room for as little as NIS 574 ($174) if they act fast.

Leave the kids at home, though. Unlike Isrotel’s family-friendly properties elsewhere, kids under 10 are prohibited at the Alberto.

The Alberto is not the only hotel recently added to Isrotel’s portfolio, which now includes the Port Tower hotel, near the Tel Aviv Port, and Gomeh, on the Sea of Galilee. The chain, which suffered setbacks during the COVID pandemic along with the rest of the tourist industry, has plans to continue expanding, particularly in the White City, which it had historically shied from in favor of Eilat.

“According to our development plans, five more hotels are planned [in Tel Aviv] in the next five years,”  Isrotel CEO Lior Raviv said in a recent company statement.

Communal space at Hotel Alberto by Isrotel, Tel Aviv, August 2022 (Assaf Pinchuk)

In total, the expansion will give the company around 1,500 rooms in the city. Nationwide, its portfolio will grow to 32 hotels across the country holding 6,290 rooms, up from 4,402 when it launched the new sub-brand in December.

Currently, Tel Aviv has some 11,600 rooms in 181 hotels across the city, a number that both the Tourism Ministry and Tel Aviv City Hall say is insufficient.

As hoteliers look to make up the shortfall, smaller boutique hotels are expected to play a key role, thanks to their growing popularity and the relatively short time it takes to open the properties. The hotels are often located in renovated buildings, which means less construction time, and appeal to business travelers and tourists who prefer to get a feel for where they are rather than stay in a luxury hotel disconnected from its surroundings.

Empty rooms are seen at a hotel along the beach in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Raviv has said that Isrotel will invest about NIS 3 billion ($930 million) in the construction of new hotels and an additional NIS 270 ($83) million in renovating existing properties. Some of this will be done through partnerships. While Isrotel has full responsibility for operations at the Alberto, the building is owned by a private family.

Tel Aviv has also seen the opening of the five star super-luxury David Kempinski Hotel in March this year, and further hotel development by Atlas (the Fabric Hotel) and by Fattal (Lilienblum 15 and The Kabbalah House), while Isrotel is poised next year to open both The Dizengoff Street Hotel with 130 rooms as a further addition to its Tel Aviv urban collection and a similar-sized hotel on Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa as part of its Exclusive collection.

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