For Israeli hotelier, little things go a long way

For Israeli hotelier, little things go a long way

Reuven Elkes builds Rimonim’s reputation on a pledge of quality

The garden at the hotel Ruth Rimonim Safed echoes the city’s distinctive architecture.
The garden at the hotel Ruth Rimonim Safed echoes the city’s distinctive architecture.

Reuven Elkes is thinking big — and small. The new CEO of Rimonim, a chain of hotels in Israel, has plans to be a big player in the field while also keeping a sharp eye on “small details.”

“The hotel industry is all about people,” said the 41-year-old Elkes. “You have to be able to work well with people, and you have to know how to listen.”

Speaking to NJJN in a hotel lobby on a recent visit to New York City, Elkes mentioned that no one from the hotel’s wait staff had stopped by to take any beverage orders.

“Small details like that matter,” he said, adding that if it were his hotel, he’d consider that obvious lack of service a major failing.

Rimonim, a publicly traded company based in Tel Aviv, is owned by the Nimrodi family. The company currently owns four hotels — Rimonim Galei Kinneret in Tiberias, Rimonim Eilat, Rimonim Neve Ativ holiday village, and Ruth Rimonim Safed — and is part owner of Rimonim Optima in Ramat Gan.

In addition, the company manages another four hotels under the Rimonim brand: Rimonim Jerusalem and Rimonim Nazareth and, in Eilat, Rimonim Marina Club and Rimonim Central Park. They plan to add a fifth in January — Rimonim Mineral in Tiberias.

“From day one, we decided to become a big company,” says Elkes, who became CEO three years ago.

In a variation on traditional chains, every Rimonim hotel is unique, especially in decor, amenities, and experience. The clientele, feel, and even the price points are different.

Yet all feature the same attention to detail that Elkes values, including the music offered in the hotels’ lobbies and the cuisine in their restaurants — they are Israeli through and through.

It’s all part of Elkes’ plan to offer travelers an “authentic” experience in an upscale atmosphere.

“We’re proud to be Israeli,” he said. “We want to offer a real Israeli environment.”

The Rimonim hotel in Safed, for instance, features rooms with sunken floors and exposed stone walls, echoing the striking architecture of the ancient city, a center of mysticism. The Safed hotel also offers special tours of the history-rich area and lectures for guests.

Elkes said he believes northern Israel is often bypassed in favor of the better known regions of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in the center of the country. But the north has a great deal to offer, he said, and for those who have visited Israel many times, offers original experiences.

Rimonim hotels are also known for their lavish spa offerings and views from rooms, as well as personalized attention.

“We get a lot of repeat business,” said Elkes. “The staff knows what room our guests want, what food they want. There’s a real camaraderie.”

Elkes, who has two children, Einav, five, and Etai, two, with his wife, Maya, came to his job serendipitously.

After serving in the Israeli military as a sergeant major in a communications unit on the Lebanese border, he became a security guard, then a bartender, at a Crowne Plaza hotel in Tel Aviv, while studying accounting at a local business academy.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance and the Israeli equivalent of CPA certification. A chance meeting with the Crowne hotel’s CFO earned him an entry-level position in the finance department. Then, after a stint at an investment firm, he moved to Rimonim.

“Rimonim” is the Hebrew word for pomegranates, and conjures up a host of symbolic meanings in Israel. Elkes didn’t pick the name, but he appreciates the symbolism of abundance: a small fruit bursting with seeds and flavor.

With 1,500 employees and a goal of growing 845 rooms to 2,500 — they’re at 1,700 right now — Elkes said he enjoys the dynamic nature of his job.

“It’s a big challenge — with a lot of small details,” he says.

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