Kashrut, security factored into new Israeli hotel rankings

Tourism Ministry begins a process aimed at establishing an objective ranking system for hotel quality and service by the end of 2012.

tourists at church  (photo credit: Courtesy)
tourists at church
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In an effort to better regulate the Israeli hotel industry, the Tourism Ministry this week began a process aimed at establishing an objective ranking system for hotel quality and service by the end of 2012.
There is currently no formal hotel ranking system in Israel, and tourists, both foreign and local, must rely on guidance from travel agencies or Web sites.
“We are preparing for a revolution in terms of consumer rights after years of debates and committees,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, “Once in place, the new ranking system will ensure better service for both foreign and local tourists. By making the rankings transparent, we hope to improve the quality of the hotels, which will lead to additional tourists and in turn benefit the industry.”
Amnon Liberman, the minister’s media advisor, said the new ranking system would be overseen by an independent company with international experience and expertise in the hotel sector, in consultation with the ministry and such groups as the Israel Hotel Association, the tour guide association, the incoming tourism association and private hotel owners. The company will be required to establish criteria for ranking hotels according to international standards, with adjustments for distinctive Israeli characteristics such as security and kashrut. The ministry’s 2011- 2012 budget has NIS 2.5 million earmarked for the project.
Liberman added that to prevent conflicts of interest, the company that conducts the rankings will be chosen by an outside firm brought in especially for this purpose. A tender for hiring that firm was issued on Sunday.
It is important to note that the system will not be mandatory, and that it will be up to the hotels to agree to the inspection and ranking of their premises and services. However, Liberman said the ministry estimated that between 80 and 90 percent would agree to be ranked.
“We are also providing an incentive for hotels to take part in the ranking by granting those that participate preference in renovation fund monies,” he said. “The new system will be transparent and scientific, and the body that does the ranking will follow up on the hotels regularly to make sure that their ranking continues to reflect their quality.”
Pnina Shalev, spokeswoman for the Israel Hotel Association, said the group welcomed the move, although she was clearly cool in her response.
“The Israel Hotel Association has always opposed a government-regulated ranking system, but would welcome a ranking system administered by an independent body as long as the government isn’t directly involved," Shalev said.
She added that every tourism minister who held the office during the past decade had spoken about a ranking system, although there had been skepticism on the part of hoteliers that it would be put in place.
“We’ll wait to see that the tender is published and that an independent company is selected, before we start getting excited over it,” Shalev said. “The process is still in its very early stages. Right now, the hoteliers are apathetic to the announcement. They don’t feel that a new ranking system will help bring in additional tourists.”
A government-regulated ranking system using stars accorded to such categories as room size, cleanliness, food quality and service was in place in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, but fell out of use. Today, it is permissible for hotels to report on their services and features, although they are forbidden from giving themselves a rating that uses stars.