With luxury, the Israeli tourism growth sector enters the tents

Do you want to spend a holiday on the roof of Jerusalem, waking up to a panoramic view of the city? The recently opened Gag Eden offers that for the eight guests it can accommodate at one time. Jerusalem’s first downtown camp site, Gag Eden (play on “Gan Eden,” or heaven; gag in Hebrew means roof) is located atop Claal Center, between Mahane Yehuda Market and Ben Yehuda Street.

This new tourist space and many others in Israel are part of a recent explosion in “glamping,” a combination of the words “magic” and “camping,” which naturally entail camping in relative luxury.

The lavish accommodations come in a wide range of styles and include tents, tents, mud huts, cabins and luxury trailers, all of which allow for a return to nature without sacrificing amenities like air conditioning – and without the need for guests to pitch their own tents.

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Gag Eden camp occupies two acres (0.5 acres) on the terraced rooftop of a center run by the Muslala Community, a non-profit organization founded in 2009 by artists, residents, and community activists in the Muslala neighborhood of Jerusalem. The group aims to promote community and creativity, through projects focused on innovation and sustainability, including a nursery, beehives, exhibition and creative workshops.

Accommodation in tents can accommodate up to three people and comes with mattresses, beds, towels and blankets. Or guests can stay in a slightly larger clay-built capsule. The site also includes a shared kitchen, shower and bathroom. Accommodation costs NIS 300 to NIS 400 ($87 to $116) per tent, per night. It is designed to create a temporary community rather than just an overnight stop for tourists.

Project manager Hillel Moran told The Times of Israel that the unique space “allows campers to see the city from a different perspective, to experience nature in the city amidst a desert from empty rooftops.”

Far from trying to corner the market, Moran said he hopes others will come and learn from the rooftop camp, which was set up to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and that similar green spaces will spread out on rooftops throughout Jerusalem.

There is also a camp site in the Peace Forest in Jerusalem which has about 150 camp sites for traditional do-it-yourself style camping. Tents are available to rent or guests can bring their own. Accommodation costs about NIS 80 ($23) per person, per night with tent and mattress rentals, or NIS 55 ($16) without it.

Itai Kadish Katz, who runs Glamping Israel, told The Times of Israel he has been in the tourism business since 2012 and is now seeing a growing desire from tour groups to break out of the traditional hotel experience.

The luxury camping sites in Katz are mostly pop-ups, often in the North, the Araba Valley or the Dead Sea region, set up to replace a luxury hotel. Often not only overnight stays, but also a full kitchen, a bar with chef, a Jacuzzi and a lounge area for evening entertainment.

These accommodations can replace or take alongside luxury hotel accommodations, providing a different experience without any sacrifice in comfort or service.

Glow Camping presents itself as similarly luxurious, offering spa treatments, yoga, Pilates, campfire musicians, cooking workshops, jeep tours, mountain biking, and off-road excursions. The company prides itself on leaving no trace behind after it dismantled its makeshift camps.

Reports suggest that the growing interest in luxury camping is a global phenomenon, with the market expected to reach $5.94 billion by 2030. This growth is driven by a revival of vacation interest during the COVID era, as well as growing environmental concerns, bringing more people into ecotourism. , limiting the impact of their vacations on the planet.

Currently, booking.com offers 17 luxury campgrounds for rent in Israel, while Airbnb has 17 tents and more than 150 glamping options. They are mostly scattered in the north, the Negev, especially around Mitzpe Ramon and the Dead Sea.

Purchasing land for a permanent camping site is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. While a regular family tent can be purchased relatively inexpensively, tents used for luxury camping tend to be more complex and start around NIS 6,000 ($1,736) although they can cost significantly more. Not only do the bedrooms have more open spaces, but they also have a more complex structure to add height and improve ventilation. At the higher end of the market, it may also require flooring, an outdoor deck, installation of air conditioners and, of course, a need for bathroom facilities. But it remains an affordable way for those who have some spare land to offer a tourist stay.

Millennials and Jane Zers are the two groups most frequently looking for this type of accommodation. Commenting on her stay at one of the luxury resorts of the Dead Sea, visitor Yessica said, “It was an excellent choice to enjoy the Dead Sea in its most natural state, with a great view, in a place that felt super relaxing,” while another guest commented that you can “unwind at the bar with a view.” The most beautiful on the mountains…nice and comfortable tents with everything you need.”

In Secret Israel, Uri Galamish sees a mix of Israelis and foreign tourists looking for new and different experiences. His clients choose lavish luxury over more traditional holiday apartment rentals, and range from extended families to singles and groups of friends. He sees the luxury camping area as a significant growth area and, having worked with both pop-up camp sites and permanent camping sites, is currently focusing on new development in the south of the country.

Urban rooftop camping is still a rarity worldwide. Gag Eden joins an exclusive club of locations in Melbourne, Manhattan, South Korea and Switzerland. But with some enterprising entrepreneurs looking to offer long-term rentals for rooftop tents, it may only be a matter of time before we see more tourist accommodations available on the rooftop level. PJC

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