Howard Johnson's takes U.S. experience to Israel

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TEL AVIV -- U.S. hotel chain Howard Johnson's is embarking on its first marketing campaign in Israel in anticipation of summer tourism and of penetrating yet another American brand name into the local market.

The franchise for Israel, which made its debut early this year, operates four Howard Johnson's Plaza hotels. A widespread campaign is part of its first steps to win Israelis over to this very American hotel chain and to expand its operations in the market.

"The average Israeli has never heard of Howard Johnson's, so we are now starting a campaign to heighten brand awareness," says Hemda Hoffman, marketing director of Howard Johnson's Israel.

The advertising campaign, by Tel Aviv agency Shimoni Finkelstein, includes billboard ads and radio and newspaper campaigns. The company won't disclose costs.

The hotel chain's U.S. slogan "Makes you feel at home" won't work in this market, however, because, says Hoffman, "when Israelis go on vacation, they're not like Americans who want to feel at home when they're away. Rather, they want to leave home behind." The Hebrew slogan for Howard Johnson's Israel is "More relaxation during vacation."

The aim of the campaign is to "utilize the American brand name, differentiating it from the international hotel brands already in Israel like Holiday Inn and Sheraton," says Hoffman. Some 500 local travel agents will therefore be blitzed with promotions for summer specials and the American concept of activities programs for both children and adults.

Political instability in Israel over the past year has resulted in a drastic drop in foreign tourism into Israel and local hoteliers are now turning to local custom to fill vacancies. "We are marketing American style vacations, and offering Israeli vacationers the opportunity to feel like they're in America without having to leave the country," Hoffman says.

Soon the Israeli franchisees, who have a master-franchise for Howard Johnson's, may also be doing the same for Greeks, Turks and Cypriots.

Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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