New System for Classifying Mini-Hotels Causes a Stir Among Hoteliers
Published: June 1, 2011 (Issue # 1658)
A new system for classifying mini-hotels in the city has caused mixed reactions among hospitality industry professionals.
The Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy Ministry has launched a new system for classifying accommodation, accordingly to which hotels with five to 15 rooms now fall into the category of mini-hotels. The new rules are aimed at preparing the Russian hotel industry for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. However, if in the Black Sea resort the classification is obligatory, for St. Petersburg hotels it is voluntary.
“Mini-hotels can now officially call themselves hotels. Up until now there was no way of classifying them. Tourists will now know what sort of service to expect,” said Sergei Korneyev, Northwest regional director of the Russian Travel Industry Union.
“It’s quite difficult to decide on a suitable place to stay just from photos and information provided on the Internet. The presence of an official sign speaks for itself,” said Korneyev.
Up until now, the five-star classification system that mini-hotels were using was unofficial and it was up to the owners to decide how to rate their own hotel. However, in the “mini” hospitality business, there’s no reason to try and cheat clients, say hoteliers.
“The official classification system will allow hotels to integrate themselves into the global community, but it is not necessarily a bad sign if the rating was assigned unofficially,” said Tamara Builova, president of the mini-hotel owners’ guild. “There is no reason to mislead the client and then end up with bad references. We had a case in which a hostel in St. Petersburg made itself out to be much better than it really was, but then the tourists were not satisfied and wrote bad reviews.”
The official classification promotes mini-hotels by listing them as a place to stay in official registers.
“The criteria for being included on the register should take into account the way these mini types of accommodation have been functioning during the last 10 years,” said Vladimir Vasiliev, president of St. Petersburg’s mini-hotels association.
Most hoteliers do not agree with the current classification demands and insist that the rules should be improved.
“One problem is the number of rooms criterion: According to the new classification, a mini-hotel contains five to 15 rooms,” said Builova. “So, if there are three or four good quality rooms, the place cannot be regarded as a mini-hotel,” she said.
The most disputed new regulation is the requirement that hotels have two separate entrances: For guests and staff.
“This is simply a mistake. Hotels with 15 to 50 rooms do not need separate entrances, but mini-hotels must provide one,” said Builova.
“Having to provide a separate entrance is almost an unrealistic demand, since most mini-hotels are situated in residential buildings, having been converted from former communal apartments,” said Oksana Stepanova, deputy director of the Nouvelle Europe hotel. “Reconstruction would require a lot of difficult changes.”
According to Russian Tourism Industry Union data, 80 percent of St. Petersburg’s mini-hotels are located in residential buildings. As a result, they cannot be called hotels.
“While the question of the legitimacy of mini-hotels being located in residential properties hangs in the balance, many mini-hotels will not be able to be included in the register,” said Vasiliev.
Another demand that many mini-hotels are finding difficult to meet is the requirement to contain a cafe. According to hospitality industry experts, it is unprofitable for an establishment with fewer than seven rooms to provide a cafe or restaurant.
“For 15 rooms, possibly a cafe is necessary, but a cafe would mean the end for smaller yet comfortable five-room hotels, since they are unprofitable,” said Builova.
The requirement to mount neon signs outside the building could also bring some hoteliers located in historic buildings into conflict with demands from another legislative body: The Committee for the State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Landmarks.