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The rise and rise of the little-known Israeli hotel chain about to go supernova

21 8 11

The Brown Hotel group started out in Tel Aviv in 2010. If all goes to plan, by 2024 it will be one of Greece’s largest hotel operators.

Brown Hotels likes to call itself the biggest hotel brand no one has heard of. But its swift expansion has become harder to overlook. The company now has 22 hotels open in Israel, nine in Greece and a further 45 in various stages of development in the two locations. After just a few years of operations, its reach now rivals that of major competitors such as Dan, Fattal and other large hotel brands.

The lack of name recognition dovetails nicely with the Brown Hotels’ hipster sensibility. The group specializes in smaller, boutique hotels with edgy, fun and mod vibes. Along the way, it has acquired a reputation for going into unloved city centers, redeveloping office buildings and constructing hotels along seashores overlooked by others.

Founder and co-owner Leon Avigad said his career in the hospitality industry began as a bell boy at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.

“I love the glamor of those older hotels,” he told The Times of Israel.

For his own hotels, though, Avigad and co-founder and co-owner Nitzan Perry have preferred a sleek look that’s more chic than recherche.

As in every good Cinderella story, what seems like an unlikely overnight success is in fact the fruit of careful and thoughtful planning over the years.

The key move may have come during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the rest of the world turned away from tourism, with borders closed and travel on hold, Brown Hotels chose to move beyond its base in Israel and invest heavily in multiple locations across Greece.

One of the hotels is located on Omonia Square, a heavily trafficked central Athens junction that was not seen as the sexiest of locations by Greeks. But the Brown group nonetheless made it into an Athens destination.

This is what can be defined as the Brown approach — deliberately setting out to break the mold, to find cheap but stylish and effective ways to extend its portfolio.

The company only formally entered the Greek market with the Brown Acropol in June 2020.

In Greece, where 40 of the 45 new hotels will be constructed, it has meant extending offerings across northern Greece, which has always been far less of an international tourist destination.

“Brown is playing a distinctive role in going into areas that have not yet been developed,” said Nicolas Christodoulidis, head of the trade office at the Greek embassy in Tel Aviv. “For example, locating their newest hotel on the shoreline a little way outside Athens at what was previously a gap between established resorts.”

Christodoulidis called Brown Hotels “a very significant investor in Greece and a partner in our strategic tourism initiatives,” namely getting visitors into areas that have traditionally been tourism hinterlands or promoting Athens and other cities as destinations for short jaunts by Europeans and others.

“We want to encourage more city vacations, visits to northern Greece, and we find that Brown Hotels is helping us to promote areas that are less well known to tourists,” he said.

In Israel, where Brown is headquartered, the company has 22 hotels and another five in the works. In terms of property numbers, that puts it into competition with better-known brands such as Isrotel (heading for........

© The Times of Israel

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