After two decades without a rating system in Israel, at the end of 2012 an international tender for hotel rating was published. Invited to place bids are companies who rated at least 100 hotels using the European Hotelstars Union System.
By Irit Rosenblum /
On February 7th the tender prepared by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for preparing a hotel grading system will be closed. The tender is part of the Ministry initiated reform to lower the cost of vacationing in Israel and a ministry obligation to raise the quality of service given to Israelis and tourists alike.
“The grading of hotels in Israel will add to transparency in the hotel sector, motivate competition, and a reduction in the cost of vacation packages in Israel, ” stated the retiring Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov, who allocated 5 million shekels for that purpose.
In the past Israel had a mandatory hotel grading system, but this terminated in 1992. When the Ministry of Tourism decided to renew hotel grading, the Hotel Association established a committee to select the best hotel rating system. The committee was headed by Yosi Fisher, an expert in tourism and the hotel industry.
The committee recommended the European Hotelstars Union system of hotel grading, as, according to Fisher, 60% of the tourists who visit Israel come from Europe where Hotelstars is the most popular system of hotel grading. “This is a uniform grading system used by 11 tourism countries within the European Union and it shall serve Israel with some adjustments, ” he added referring to the recommendation accepted by the Ministry of Tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism noted that Hotelstars only accepts members from European Union countries. Israel hopes to become a member of Hotelstars when it accepts countries who are not members of the European Union. According to the Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Noaz Bar-Nir, his office has received Hotelstars approval to publish the gradings. There were countries such as Jordan, which did not coordinate hotel grading with Hotelstars, and as a result did not get an approval to publish any connection to Hotelstars.
The system chosen includes 267 criteria including physical data (such as room size, lobby, etc) and also (quality and character of services rendered by the hotel). Also taken into account are hours of operation and services such as cleaning, room service.
The grading would be voluntary, and any interested hotel will be able to join, provided the hotel holds a valid business license. The grade will be valid for 3 years.
The grading of hotels and the criteria used to calculate the grade will be published in the Ministry of Tourism website in Hebrew, English and Arabic. The website will also contain names of hotels which have applied for a grade, hotels whose grade has been cancelled and other information.
In order to validate the grading system and stop the practice in which certain entities grade the hotels as they see fit, it was stated in the MINISTRY? ordinance that it is forbidden to advertise hotel grading using stars in any commercial advertisement for the purpose of marketing or sale or services unless the grading was permitted by the ordinance. There is no suite obligation with hotels ranking 1-4 stars. Hotels with ranking of 5 stars are required to have a least 2 suites.
There are 400 hotels in Israel and it will take a year to a year and a half for the preliminary grading. Since the grading is voluntary and not mandatory, it is hard to estimate how many hotels will initially join the grading system and it is possible that some will wait and join at a later date.
Boutique hotels will not benefit from the grading as they are not included. The general manager of the Hotel Association, Shmuel Tzurel, noted that “Boutique hotel are different and as such is not subject to grading.”
Hotels which join the grading system will have to advertise the cost of services rendered after deduction of taxes which the tourist is exempt, explicitly disclosing that the untaxed price is for foreign tourists only.
Only in Israel: Synagogue and security guard
Two additional criteria were added to the Israeli hotel rankings: A place of worship and a certified licensed security guard. These are not mandatory but provide added consideration in grading the hotel.
Taken off the European grading for Israel’s benefit was the need for a heater inside the bathroom and a heated towel hanger — items which are more critical for the European winter than the Israeli one. Also taken off the list were an electrical outlet within the safe and a solarium (both for safety reasons), and a special smoking area within the dining room.
It should be remembered that Israel is not a normal vacationing country where many tourists wishing to visit look use the internet to find a hotel which meets their needs. Most tourists to Israel come in groups or pilgrim groups. As such, they don’t look for hotel rooms by themselves.
Ministry of Tourism data from 2010 show that 38% of tourists arriving to Israel, arrived as part of an organized group and another 31% bought tour packages with hotels provided. Over 10% were business people who probably used travel coordinators within their company. Only 30% arrived as independent travelers.
Out of those 30%, only half (meaning 15% of the general number of tourists) are first time visitors. For them, the grading system, which enables comparison with European countries in terms of quality, facilities and service, is important.
Yosi Fisher has said that “hotels that are not graded officially advertise promises which are far from reality.” He added that the new system will force the hotels not only to back their advertisements but also to keep clear standards all along, including regular investments in the hotel and equipment. “Whoever shall not do so will reduce their grade, ” he explained, “Also, new hotels will have to take into account the grading system and will need top build hotels according to the required standards while the older hotels will invest more in order to stay competitive.”
He noted that Dubai is a young country from a tourism standpoint and despite this have introduced a second round of grading. “They updated their system of grading and raised the criteria, as they claimed that the ranking of the 1990’s and 2000’s no longer fit. In the current situation perhaps we should learn from them.”