When you arrive at the Norman Hotel, you feel like you've reached a true urban oasis. Set on a neighborhood street that has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Center for Bauhaus architecture, it stands out with its stunning facades. The hotel is celebrating four years since its establishment, and it is considered one of the most prominent hotels in Israel - and the world.
Yaron Lieberman, 44, is the CEO of The Norman, since its pre-construction stage. He studied the hotel and hospitality business, of which he says "it seemed magical to me and I really fell in love with it," and after 12 years working for big hotels in New York and Palm Beach, he returned to Israel. After stints at the Sheraton Tel Aviv and the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, he received a call to run the Norman. "As soon as I arrived at the hotel and saw a construction site in the making, I felt that I was being drawn into the hotel's energy," he remembers.
What do you think has contributed most to The Norman's success?
There are five pillars that are very dominant in the construction and daily work of the hotel, of which we do not compromise:
Architecture - These are unusual buildings of strict preservation that were built in the early 1920s, when Tel Aviv wasn't even built. In the vision of the hotel and in its conception of architecture, architects sought to capture the architectural splendor of the 1920s and incorporate the comforts of the 21st century.
Design - The British designer David D'Almada designed a personal and welcoming interior, using architectural elements from the original structures that were incorporated into contemporary textures and materials. Within each, much thought has been invested on every detail of the design, even on the practical level. We have sat and slept on every couch, pillow, and bed. We would get up in the middle of the night to record our impressions of the cushions. We've sat dozens of times on each armchair.
Culinary - The hotel's offering is second to none in terms of types of restaurants. Alena is our downstairs restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers Mediterranean chef cuisine. The Library Bar, also located on the ground floor, is open all day and is a perfect place for business meetings, for guests wishing to enjoy coffee while reading their book, or a light lunch with a cocktail. When the evening lights dim, the atmosphere changes. Dinings, on the roof of the hotel, offers Japanese cuisine at its best. Guests do not have to leave the hotel - they have everything here.
Art - As a hotel owned by an art collector, the art at The Norman was chosen with great care, and the hotel displays works by Israeli artists only.
People - This is the most important part in the equation to the success of the hotel, and any organization in general. We have the slogan - "we select people, we don't 'hire' people". We are looking for people with a hunger to succeed. We all have one interest and it is The Norman's success.
Who are The Norman's customers?
Our audience is made up 70% of foreign tourists, most of them Americans and British, and the Australian market is of great importance. The rest - 30% - are Israelis, which is growing. The Israelis loves The Norman very much because they feel they've entered a hotel abroad. They come for weekends, or a night - from Haifa or from Rothschild Boulevard - and don't leave the hotel and receive everything here.
How do you think Tel Aviv became such a hot tourist destination?
There are several factors: the open skies have brought a global change in tourism; The security situation around the world has made Israel a relatively safe target; Openness in the city - whether it's in its wonderful nightlife, gay community, and the culinary scene that stars in all the magazines in the world; The economic situation that brought many people to seek investments here; The Tel Aviv municipality promoting Tel Aviv as an independent destination, and has transformed it into a destination such as Berlin, New York, Paris or Moscow; And the weather - just as the Americans can escape from the cold in a few hours' flight to Florida or California, Europeans jump over here and enjoy sunny weather most of the year.
The hotel scene in the city is getting more crowded - what do you do in this regard?
We get excited and enjoy watching this whole swing. It's fun for us that they look up to the Norman, meet with me and ask me what I am doing and ask to learn from our success. The Norman has becomes a benchmark. We see this as a positive factor - there is a great demand for rooms in Tel Aviv, and more than once, there is a shortage of hotel rooms, so we need more hotels to open. Competition also requires us to constantly be better and better.
What distinguishes the hotel from other luxury hotels?
A very straightforward attitude toward employees and guests. I say this in the most clear and sharp way. True, many hotels have opened with an attention to detail. It's the physical side that gets better. But one of our guiding slogans is it's all about the people - the employees and the guests. As far as the guests are concerned, we are constantly checking what can be done more for them. One of our guiding values is "The answer is yes - now tell me the question." With the employees, it is important for us to preserve and to help them develop, and to my delight most of our staff is here from the pre-opening stage. Because of this mentality, this hotel stands above the others.
What kind of feedback do you get from visitors?
During the establishment of the hotel we created a kind of "Ten Commandments", the first of which is "guests arrive as residents, leave as friends and return as family". I get reactions from guests traveling in the world that its the best hotel they have ever stayed in. People are in love with this hotel because of the combination of prestige and quality with its sense of familiarity. Most of our guests are returning guests who feel at home - they have the room they love and our staff who knows how they like their coffee. These guests, as well as new ones, see The Norman's progress and improvements. Like a good wine, the hotel only gets better with time.
You've had guests from world leaders to celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld, Draymond Green, and more. What experience do you remember most?
A high-ranking guest arrived here, who indicated that he had a little dog. We did a little research on the dog and bought him a special bed and a water vessel with the name of the dog on it. When the visitor came in, he actually cried from excitement.
What experience do you want guests to have at the hotel?
We think about the details our guests do not even think about. One of our slogans is "perfection is a passion for detail". From the booking process, through to the bellboy and the reception, the smell of the hotel, the towels, the bathrooms, water pressure and flow, the mattress, the sheets and pillows and of course the food - every detail of the experience and stay should be perfect. And above all - engagement and interpersonal interaction with guests is priceless. It goes like a thread throughout your stay - to recognize the guest's needs and internalize them with a lot of understanding. We have a culture of listening, observing, and delivering.
You are celebrating four years with The Norman - what are the plans for the future?
We have been asked more than once to open another Norman, in Israel or abroad, and this is definitely on the agenda, but it requires finding the perfect location and the perfect building with an interesting story. In the meantime, we are developing the opposite building where we will add six suites and a duplex on the roof next to a first class spa. In addition, we are creating A Norman Collection store that sells art, furniture, and design and is associated with us.