After many years in which Israeli hotels were not part of the ‘stars system’ used by many countries, in 2012 the Ministry of Tourism has decided to reinstate this rating system, to allow consumers full transparency, available and objective information and a fair value for their money. The stars rating system gained validity in mid 2013, and is a voluntary system, in which participation is made at a hotel’s sole discretion. However, the system’s implementation is problematic with certain types of hotels, such as boutique hotels, currently being opened at a growing frequency. The problem lies mainly with the fact that the criteria determined for rating are mostly relevant for large hotels, and do not fully and truthfully reflect the service level a boutique hotel offers its guests.
The stars rating system set out in Israel in 1970, when said rating was introduced to hotels. However, since in the following years, technology, communication and structures saw huge breakthroughs and the average tourist’s demands grew, a situation came about which called for a new rating system, one that would enable hotels’ examination and appraisal under uniform criteria keeping up with modernization. Thus, in 1992, it was decided that the stars rating system will no longer apply on Israeli hotels.
In 2001, and following the termination of the stars system, tourism services ordinances (hotels), 5761 – 2001, were installed allowing hotels to publicize the level of services they offered the touristic public in any way they deemed fit, except by using stars or similar signs. Indeed, since 2001 until recently, that is how Israeli hotels operated.
However, absence of regulation of a uniform rating system in Israel created a kind of “vacuum” in the hotels’ field, in which each hotel chose to publicize its services in its own unique way, which disabled consumers from comparing hotels due to lack of uniform criteria. In reality, Israel being Israel, many of the hotels disobeyed the ordinances by rating themselves to their heart’s content and using “imaginary” stars, as if the stars system was still in use in Israel. Thus, hotels mislead the public and caused great confusion.
In light of the above, the Ministry of Tourism decided to install a coherent rating system that will enable an easy comparison of hotels and full public transparency. Accordingly, as early as 2006, a public committee was established, appointed to examine this very issue and two years later the committee provided the Ministry of Tourism with its conclusion, stating that criteria have to be set, where a hotels’ rating company of global repute will be chosen to cooperate with the Hotels’ Association, and jointly lead to the creation of a uniform rating system which will be applied to all of the Israeli hotels.
This recommendation started to materialize only in 2012, and more significantly in 2013, with the forming of the tourism services ordinances (hotels), 5773 – 2013 (the “Ordinances“), under which the Israeli hotels’ rating system was regulated according to 267 parameters.
As mentioned in this article’s introduction, the starts rating system, only recently activated in Israel, is a voluntary rating system, i.e. hotels are not obligated to use it to rate themselves and as of this date, there is not a single hotel that is applying to the Ministry of Tourism for its rating according to this system.
The pros and cons stemming from the stars rating system
As mentioned above in this article, the pros embodied in the implementation of a coherent hotels rating system, enabling the setting of uniform criteria for hotels’ examination and comparison – both in Israel and abroad – mean great pros for the consumers, since then they could make an informed decision regarding the hotel in which they choose to stay in a much easier manner, let alone when hotels will no longer be allowed to rate themselves with “made-up, fictitious” stars without proving they have indeed received that rating from the rating company that won the tender, the Austrian company of Ennemoser.
Unfortunately, the new rating system embodies more than pros. As mentioned earlier, global society is developing daily, so that the types of hotels existing 30 years, 15 years and even 5 years ago, are not necessarily today’s common hotels. For example, in Israel, more and more “boutique” hotels are opening, meaning relatively small hotels, excelling in intimacy, uniqueness and a luxurious touch appealing to a particular customer sector (mostly those of means), that has grown tired of the huge hotels in which it used to stay.
Should the owner of a boutique hotel choose to partake in the new rating system, it is highly likely that despite being a luxury hotel offering services of a very high level, the number of stars it will receive according to the rating system and criteria set in the Ordinances will be small, reflecting a much lesser level than the one it actually offers its guests.
The absurd created by the determination of a uniform rating system for all hotels, is that in reality the parameters themselves do not fit all existing hotel types. For instance, the parameters’ list refers to the rooms offered by a hotel, or boutique hotel for that matter. The set rating system awards great importance and weight to the size of rooms offered by a hotel, so that the larger the room the higher that hotel’s rating. This parameter could cause a problem for boutique hotels that do not necessarily pride themselves on especially large rooms, but rather on rooms of an individual character or one especially tailored to a guest’s desires.
Another example is points awarded to a hotel for bus parking possibilities and\or an underground or roofed parking in the hotel. Many of the boutique hotels in general, and in Israel in particular, are located in popular areas at the city center and in listed buildings, meaning areas in which parking is very hard to come by, let alone the possibility of building a new parking lot meant to service a small number of guests. From that aspect as well, large hotels have a significant lead over boutique hotels.
The last example refers to the facilities offered by the hotel, such as convention and entertainment halls, a pool and so forth. The rating system awards that part of the criteria list a very high score, a part that largely does not exist in boutique hotels that made an informed decision not to offer their guests those services and\or facilities. In this state of affairs, a boutique hotel wishing to be rated according to the stars system will probably find that it is rated much lower than the actual level it offers.
As broadly explained in this article, the consumer pros in the stars rating system returning to our region are vast, both in the comparative aspect available to the public and the transparency aspect which prohibits hotels from publicizing themselves in a potentially misleading manner. However, this system is not fault-free when it comes to the hotels themselves, since in reality, although it became valid in mid 2013, it is still not implemented and one could also argue that its implementation is unfair towards certain hotel types, in which the rating system does not necessarily reflect the true level of service being offered.