Tel Aviv has been recognized as one the world’s smartest city, taking advantage of its flourishing Startup Ecosystem to improve the overall tourism experience. These Smart City principles can enhance Belgrade’s tourism tools and infrastructures too.
We spoke with Mrs Sharon Landes-Fischer Head of Tourist Services for the City of Tel Aviv about the ubiquitous charm of the city and lessons Belgrade can learn from Israeli experience in attracting tourists playing on modernity, youth, and its IT potentials.
Despite the instability in the region, Israel and Tel Aviv have been recorded a constant growth in the number of tourists. What is the secret?
From its foundation over 100 years ago, the City of Tel Aviv has seen itself as a “Lighthouse” of free thought and speech, tolerance, and an overall globally-open character. The city has an open atmosphere and warmly embraces everyone – Muslims, Christians and Jews, secular and religious, young and old.
Today, Tel Aviv-Yafo is the business, financial and commercial hub of Israel’s economy and the heart of its booming high-tech industry. Its most unique economic phenomenon is the large concentration of startup companies – more than 1450 – making it the world renowned “start-up city”.
Dubbed the Startup City of the Startup Nation, Tel Aviv has evolved into one of the world’s leading hubs for technology and innovation. With its mere 52sqkm, the city has over 85 accelerators, more than any European city. The startup ecosystem is continuing to grow and many multinationals have been opening innovation and R&D centers in Tel Aviv, understanding that Tel Aviv is the best place to set up shop.
In addition, Tel Aviv-Yafo is also Israel’s center of art, entertainment, gastronomy, design and architecture. It is home to the Israel Philharmonic, the Israel Opera, The Bat Sheva Dance Troupe, and numerous theatres.
The City of Tel Aviv also organizes major annual events, such as the Marathon in February, the White Night and the Tel Aviv Pride in June and the DLD Innovation Festival in September; these annual events enhance the city’s profile and shapes the image of Tel Aviv as a hub of technology, tolerance and culture, attracting diverse kinds of tourists all year round.
Unlike Jerusalem, Tel Aviv portrays a totally different picture of Israel. What does it really mean to be “the Mediterranean Capital of Cool” in the words of the New York Times?
Tel Aviv is the image and mirror of the people who live and create in the city; artists, entrepreneurs, makers, and all those who choose to live in a city that lives nonstop. It enjoys 318 days of sunshine a year, 14 kilometers of white sandy beaches, one of the world’s most vibrant nightlife scenes, and an extremely young population: 1 of every 3 Tel Avivians is between the ages of 18 -35.
Tel Aviv-Yafo offers a warm home to many cultural institutions, and to artists and creators, which are nurtured by the city and feed its pulse. Tel Aviv-Yafo is a muse and source of inspiration for widespread and diverse cultural undertakings, and is open to any display of original thinking.
Furthermore, Tel Aviv is home to 1,748 bars, cafes and nightclubs. That is 1 for every 231 residents; Tel Aviv also has the 2nd highest concentration of sushi restaurants in the world. The city is also considered a paradise for vegans, 150 restaurants in Tel Aviv are Vegan-Friendly.
In July 2003, UNESCO declared Tel Aviv’s “White City” – a historic and unique urban fabric – a global heritage site. The city center has the largest architectural concentration in the world of buildings designed in the International Style (better known as Bauhaus architecture), giving Tel Aviv-Yafo its special standing in the architectural heritage of the contemporary period.
Since then, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality has marked UNESCO’s declaration every year through a series of White Night events, an all-night celebration of Tel Aviv’s unique culture that incorporate another value of the city: the fact that Tel Aviv-Yafo is the “Nonstop City”. All these attributes led The New York Times to declare the city “The Capital of Mediterranean Cool.
Belgrade is slowly but surely starting to position itself on the world tourism map. What would you recommend Belgrade to do in order to become a magnet for tourists?
Belgrade is a beautiful city with a lot of potential. I would recommend civic engagement and to encourage inclusion of Belgradians in the tourism economy. These days tourists search for the authentic local experience and are curious to meet the residents of the destination.
Technology today enables tourist to buy services from local residents through various applications. These Smart City principles can enhance Belgrade’s tourism tools and infrastructures.
Tel Aviv has been recognized as one the world’s smartest city, taking advantage of its flourishing Startup Ecosystem to improve its residents’ quality of life as well as the overall tourism experience. One example is our free Wi-Fi distribution across the city, making it easier for tourists to access information about the city while they explore. More than 100 zones have already been deployed around the city: at the beach, on the boulevards and streets, in the city squares and public gardens and more installations are underway.
Another initiative of the city in the field of tourism services is the support of digital travel: the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality encourages entrepreneurship in the creation of tourism apps that serve the visitors of the city. For example: location based app providing information in various languages, transportation apps, and apps that customizes fashion and shopping routes.
Cities around the world are beginning to understand the potential of smart tourism. Belgrade has a lot to offer to tourists visiting the city, and leveraging the cities assets with smart tourism tools will only enhance the visitor’s experience, making the city more tourist-friendly and attract more international visitors.
The Belgrade-Tel Aviv flight route has become a very busy one following the recent establishment of air traffic between the two cities. Does this contribute to more tourists from Serbia coming to Tel Aviv?
As anticipated, the establishment of direct flight routes between the two cities have resulted in a rapid increase of tourists from Serbia to Tel Aviv, in fact we have noticed an 80% increase in the number of visitors from Serbia in the past 3 months compared to that same time last year. These figures are exciting, and I’m sure that Mediterranean climate, combined with the city’s sandy beaches, cultural events, bustling nightlife scene and cosmopolitan vibe will appeal to a large number of tourists from Serbia, from families with young children, business travel, students and solo travelers, and organized groups.