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A beachgoer walks near a decorated lifeguard tower which was renovated into a luxury hotel suite as part of an international online competition, at Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv, Israel March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner(reuters_tickers)
By Yuval Ben-David
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - The mayor of Tel Aviv rushed to help the German travel blogger lift her luggage away from the incoming tide as she made her way into the city's newest beachfront digs — a wooden lifeguard tower refurbished as a pop-up luxury suite.
As part of an effort to market Israel as a winter tourist destination for Europeans, the city of Tel Aviv and Israel's tourism ministry have teamed up with a local hotel chain to temporarily transform the tower into a two-storey suite, with hot tub, room service and very unobstructed ocean views.
"There is a phenomenon of hotel rooms in unexpected or unusually inaccessible places," said Eytan Schwartz, head of Tel Aviv Global and Tourism, a department of the city administration.
Only 15 couples, winners of an online competition, will get to stay in the tower, whose stilts are buffeted by the waves.
Boutique hotels have in recent years perched guests in tree houses, construction cranes and salt flats, but Tel Aviv's is believed to be the first to occupy a lifeguard hut.
Israel's tourism industry welcomes around four million visitors a year. The tourism ministry is investing $25 million in a campaign to encourage them to go to both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as complementary destinations.
"Today tourism looks for cities," Amir Halevi, director-general of the ministry, told Reuters.
"We sell Israel through Tel Aviv."
With its beach, warm weather, wealth of restaurants and buzzing nightlife, Tel Aviv has become a popular destination among Europeans, even for long weekends on budget airlines.
In the first two months of 2017, tourist visits rose 20 percent from the same period last year, according to Halevi.
The one-night stay in the beachfront suite is free for winners of a contest run through hotels.com. Contenders took pictures of themselves in beach gear, holding signs with the hashtag #TakeMe2TelAviv.
Fifteen winners from Europe will stay in the suite before it is taken down in two weeks. Plans are in the works for a similar pop-up hotel in Jerusalem's Old City, Halevi said.
(Editing by Luke Baker)