A good general manager doesn’t just focus on his or her hotel, but on the markets where that hotel is based. Yaron Liberman, GM of the boutique Norman Hotel Tel Aviv, is preparing to speak at the upcoming Israel Hotel Investment Summit, Nov. 19-20 in Tel Aviv, where he will discuss the rise of the lifestyle hotel in Israel.
The one-on-one session will focus on the overall lifestyle hotel concept: what is it, what is the investment, who are the customers, what are the opportunities? Liberman also will touch on design and customer experience considerations—what makes a successful lifestyle brand, and why is Israel (and Tel Aviv in particular) ripe for more lifestyle hotels?
Ahead of the Forum, Liberman shared his insights on Israel’s overall hotel market, and the growth of lifestyle properties in Tel Aviv.
1. How would you describe the hospitality market in Israel?
Without doubt, the only way to describe the hospitality market in Israel right now—and for some time to come—is as a growing market. These are exciting times with many new and interesting hotels springing up throughout Israel; hotels from three-star to five-star and with many big, multinational companies coming to explore new possibilities and opportunities. So it's definitely a growing market, and one to watch.
2. What makes the Norman a unique hotel in Israel?
It's the attention to detail in all areas and aspects of the hotel that go toward creating a magical experience. The restoration of the historical building, encompassing three architectural styles and a strong design ethos, are also key. And many other aspects, including our world-class culinary offering, location and rooftop pool. But essentially, it's the people; guests and staff; taking care of our guests' needs and anticipating their specific expectations, and empowering our staff with training and allowing them the space to develop from within.
3. What makes Tel Aviv such a great destination for boutique/lifestyle hotels?
Tel Aviv is small but packs a huge punch with all that it has to offer. Our distance from Europe makes us very accessible, even more so now with the option of low-cost airlines. And with three seasons of sunshine and a stunning coastline, Tel Aviv has all the bases covered.
There are a variety of tourists coming to Tel Aviv—those here for leisure, those here for business—but essentially, all sectors are growing with a breadth of accommodation needs.
4. What is keeping you busy at the moment?
Right now, my focus is on thinking about the areas that can improve our guests' experiences. More than 50 percent of our guests are returning, so [I am] making sure we consistently maintain everything they ever loved about the Norman, while also continuing to find ways to ensure that every visit is slightly different [than] the last. So improving the guest experience as well as developing our excellent team members so they stay interested and motivated is at the top of my agenda right now.
5. Who or what is the biggest inspiration guiding your career?
It's impossible to pinpoint one inspirational figure as I have been so lucky to have worked with many old-school GMs (from the U.S. and Israel). GMs who forced me to work in different departments and encouraged me to gain exposure to new professional experiences. I think I learned something essential from all of them, and was inspired by all of them.
6. What would you recommend a new visitor to Israel to do during their stay?
The offering can be overwhelming, so if it's a returning traveller who loves food, I'd recommend exploring the different cuisines within the country as a unique and different way to understand Israel. The north has its own type of cooking and wines, as does Jerusalem, the Yehuda mountains, Tel Aviv and so forth.
To the first-time traveler, I would say Tel Aviv as well as Jerusalem and the southern region are a must-see. There are so many different faces to Israel; it's sometimes hard to believe they're all in the same country and only a short distance apart. And then I would recommend they book their next trip ASAP and travel to the north.