With the exception of the COVID pandemic, the past decade saw a significant increase in the activities of the hotel industry in Israel. In light of the great demand there is now a shortage of accommodation. In order to attempt to bridge the gap, the Ministry of Tourism, as well as local councils across Israel, are attempting to encourage the launch and expansion of accommodation facilities using different mechanisms, such as: Ministry of Tourism grants, nonconforming use permits issued by the local councils, and more.
One type of touristic accommodation that has been gaining traction in recent years is backpackers' hostels, known simply as hostels, to address the demand for low-cost accommodation facilities.
Like any other accommodation facility, hostels must also meet some regulatory requirements and physical standards. In this article we will focus on the physical standards and requirements put in place by the Ministry of Tourism regarding hostels.
Physical Standards for Hostels
The Physical Standards Booklet issued by the Ministry of Tourism establishes and defines different types of accommodation facilities that are recognized and approved by the Ministry of Tourism.
The main objectives of the physical standards are: (1) to ensure the physical quality of the touristic accommodation facilities of all types and levels in order to ensure that the hotel product is of adequate level which matches the generally-accepted standards in most countries of origin of inbound tourism in Israel and in the countries visited by outbound tourism from Israel; (2) to establish standards for developers looking to plan and establish a touristic accommodation facility; (3) to protect hotel-designated land reserves; and (4) to extend government support by providing benefits and grants through different tracks where touristic accommodation facilities are established and/or expanded and/or converted (more on this subject please review our article "Governmental Incentives for Developing the Hotel Industry", published November 2020).
The hostels physical standard has been formulated, as mentioned above, to address the demand for discounted accommodation with low maintenance and construction costs, the target audience being individual travelers.
It should be noted that in order to convert existing buildings for which an application is made to change their designation to hostels and which would undergo structural adjustments, the Ministry of Tourism will grant some exemptions, at the Ministry's discretion, based, naturally, on the existing structure, the required and requested adjustment, the location of the hostel, and more.
In general, the physical structure of a hostel is characterized by relatively spacious rooms in order that they might contain several beds in each room on one hand, yet remain sufficiently spacious on the other hand. In addition, rooms should be combined with bathroom facilities on each level, as well as public spaces.
Below are a number of physical requirements set by the Ministry of Tourism for hostels:
– Minimal dorm capacity – 25 beds.
– The floor area and bed density will be calculated as follows: 3 square meters per single bed and 4 square meters for a bunk bed.
– The bedroom space will be no less than 8 square meters and in any case the hostel may not have fewer than 3 sleeping spaces.
– Up to 25 beds will be permitted in a single space.
– At least 50% of the beds will be in dorm rooms (containing at least 4 beds).
– Equipment required in the bedrooms – storage solutions (such as a locker for every bed in the sleeping space), power sockets, reading light.
– Communal bathroom solutions should be placed on every floor.
– Bathrooms shall ensure privacy (lock on every bathroom stall).
– The key for shared bathrooms is 0.5 square meters per bed.
– In rooms with ensuite bathrooms, the bathroom floor area will be no less than 2.5 square meters.
– The hostel should provide public areas where no sleeping is permitted, such as: dining area, seating area, gaming area, computer stations, etc. The area can be divided into several designated spaces or be in the form of a single space.
– The hostel should provide a communal kitchen for independent cooking.
– The hostel is responsible for providing self-service clothes washing and drying facilities.
Minimal spaces – hostel lobby, offices, and public spaces will have an area that is proportional to the number of beds in the hostel.
In addition we should briefly mention the issue of hotel ranking in Israel. We recall that the star ranking method went into effect in mid-2013. This is a voluntary method and participating in it is at the hotel's sole discretion. However implementing this method for some types of hotels and touristic accommodation facilities, such as hostels and boutique hotels, is problematic. The difficulty lies in that the criteria set for the purpose of ranking apply mostly to large hotels and may not reflect fully and reliably the level of service offered, for example, by a boutique hotel. In any event, the ranking system does not apply to hostels.
This hotel ranking system has failed, with only low percentage out of all the hotels applied for the ranking. Today, the common practice in Israel and around the world is to rate hotels based on customer reviews – a practice whose origins are in world-leading tourism websites such as TripAdvisor and hotels.com. Of course, these websites offer ratings for all types of accommodation facilities, including hostels.
There is great importance in complying with the physical standards issued by the Ministry of Tourism at every touristic accommodation facility, including hostels, in two main aspects: one – compliance with Ministry of Tourism standards conveys the message that the hostel meets certain standards set by the Ministry of Tourism (as mentioned above, in setting the standards, the Ministry of Tourism also relies on the standards applied in most countries from which most tourists come); two – this is critically important for the purpose of government support and Ministry of Tourism grants in the case of establishing a hostel, since non-compliance with the Ministry of Tourism standards may disqualify the hostel developer from receiving grants.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.