With the exception of the COVID pandemic, the past decade has seen a significant increase in hospitality industry activity in Israel. Given the high demand, there is now a housing shortage. In an attempt to fill the gap, the Ministry of Tourism, as well as local councils across Israel, are trying to encourage the launch and expansion of accommodation facilities using different mechanisms, such as: Ministry grants of Tourism, non-compliant use permits issued by local councils, etc.
One type of tourist accommodation that has gained traction in recent years is backpacker hostels, known simply as hostels, to meet the demand for low cost accommodation.
Like any other accommodation establishment, hostels must also meet certain regulatory requirements and physical standards. In this article, we will focus on the physical standards and requirements put in place by the Department of Tourism for hostels.
Physical standards for hostels
The Physical Standards Booklet issued by the Ministry of Tourism establishes and defines different types of accommodation establishments recognized and approved by the Ministry of Tourism.
The main objectives of physical standards are: (1) to ensure the physical quality of tourist accommodation facilities of all types and levels in order to ensure that the hotel product is of an adequate standard corresponding to generally accepted standards in most country of origin of inbound tourism in Israel and countries visited by outbound tourism from Israel; (2) establish standards for developers wishing to plan and establish a tourist accommodation facility; (3) protect hotel-designated land reserves; and (4) to extend government support by providing benefits and subsidies through various avenues where tourist accommodation facilities are established and/or expanded and/or converted (for more information on this, please see our article “Government incentives for the development of the hotel industry“, published in November 2020).
The physical hostel standard was formulated, as mentioned above, to meet the demand for budget accommodation with low maintenance and construction costs, with the target audience being individual travellers.
It should be noted that in order to convert existing buildings for which a request is made to change their designation to hostels and which would undergo structural adjustments, the Ministry of Tourism will grant certain exemptions, at the discretion of the Ministry, depending, of course, of the existing structure, the adjustment required and requested, the location of the hostel, etc.
In general, the physical structure of a hostel is characterized by relatively spacious rooms so that they can accommodate several beds in each room on the one hand, while remaining sufficiently spacious on the other hand. In addition, the rooms must be combined with sanitary facilities on each level, as well as public spaces.
Below are a number of physical requirements set by the Ministry of Tourism for hostels:
– Minimum capacity of dormitories – 25 beds.
– 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 space of the room will not be less than 8 square meters and, in any case, the hostel cannot have less than 3 sleeping spaces.
– Up to 25 beds will be allowed in a single space.
– At least 50% of the beds will be in dormitories (containing at least 4 beds).
– Necessary equipment in the bedrooms – storage solutions (such as a locker for each bed in the sleeping area), power sockets, reading light.
– Common bathroom solutions should be placed on each floor.
– The bathrooms must ensure privacy (padlock on each bathroom cubicle).
– The key for shared bathrooms is 0.5 square meters per bed.
– In rooms with attached bathroom, the floor area of the bathroom will not be less than 2.5 square meters.
– The hostel must provide public spaces where sleeping is prohibited, such as: dining room, lounge area, play area, computer stations, etc. The area can be divided into several designated spaces or be in the form of a single space.
– The hostel must provide a common kitchen for self-catering.
– The hostel is responsible for providing self-service clothes washing and drying facilities.
Minimum spaces – the hostel lobby, offices and public areas will have an area proportional to the number of beds in the hostel.
Also, we should briefly mention the issue of ranking hotels in Israel. Recall that the star rating method came into effect in mid-2013. This is a voluntary method and participation in it is at the sole discretion of the hotel. However, implementing this method for certain types of hotels and tourist accommodation facilities, such as hostels and boutique hotels, is problematic. The difficulty is that the criteria set for the purpose of ranking apply mainly to large hotels and may not fully and reliably reflect the level of service offered, for example, by a boutique hotel. In any case, the ranking system does not apply to hostels.
This hotel ranking system has failed, with only a small percentage of all hotels applying for ranking. Today, the common practice in Israel and around the world is to rate hotels based on guest reviews – a practice that has its origins in world-renowned tourist websites such as TripAdvisor and hotels.com. Of course, these websites offer ratings for all types of accommodation establishments, including hostels.
It is very important to comply with the physical standards issued by the Ministry of Tourism in each tourist accommodation establishment, including hostels, in two main aspects: a – compliance with the standards of the Ministry of Tourism conveys the message that the hostel meets certain standards set by the Ministry of Tourism (as mentioned above, to set the standards, the Ministry of Tourism also relies on the standards applied in most countries where most tourists come from); two – this is critically important for the purposes of government support and Ministry of Tourism grants in the case of setting up a hostel, as failure to meet Ministry of Tourism standards may disqualify the promoter of the hostel hostel to receive subsidies.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.