Israel's Hotels to Bring Back Star Rating System

A big step for Israel's hotel scene today: Globes is reporting that the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee has re-instituted hotel star ratings after more than 20 years. The ratings will be implemented as of next year.

The committee approved regulations for rating hotels according to 267 criteria, including breakfast, fitness rooms, children's activities, quality control, and swimming pools. The regulations will come into effect within eight months, but will not apply to bed & breakfasts or apartment hotels.

Previously, Israeli hotels were not rated according to the standard international stars system, although this has not prevented travel agencies from marketing them to local and foreign tourists on the basis of ratings as the agencies saw fit, without any official sanction.

Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov said that the approval was a historic step for consumers, which would lower room prices in Israel. In June, he told "Globes" that the absence of a uniform rating system greatly distorted consumers' costs, and that as soon as the regulations were passed, the ministry would publish a tender to choose an international rating agency to rate Israel's hotels on the basis of the European Hotelstars Union model.

Ministry of Tourism director general Noaz Bar-Bir told Globes that the regulations would lower hotel room prices by 5-7 percent, and Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov told the Times of Israel that he hopes lower prices would increase the number of visitors to Israel.

Israel is currently seeing a record-setting year for tourism. Last week it was reported that, so far in 2012, more than 2 million visitors have come to Israel, representing a 7 percent increase over 2011, and 5 percent more than in 2010, which was also a record year. Of the 2 million visitors arriving in 2012, approximately 1.7 million were tourists (many of the rest were business travelers), 3 percent more than the same period in 2011 and 7 percent more than the previous year.

Until 1992, Israeli hotels were required to get a rating, which was carried out by the Tourism Ministry. Since the law was cancelled, many hotels have continued to advertise a “star rating,” but without any formal basis.

Under the new bill, participation in the rating system will be voluntary, with any hotels not participating to be listed as “Unrated.”

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