News & Events

Haifa, the resort town - B&Bs in every home!

23 September, 2010

City hopes to add 500 new privately owned places to stay within five years

By Shlomit Tzur

In Tel Aviv they grumble about property owners renting to tourists and reducing the availability of housing. Haifa sees things differently. Mayor Yona Yahav managed to get the city council to approve a project he dreamed up nearly 20 years ago - municipal B&Bs in people's homes.

Thus, local or international tourists can visit for a few nights without parting with thousands of shekels for a hotel stay. The municipal B&Bs will offer individuals and families short-term accommodation at reasonable rates. As for infrastructure costs, the B&Bs will be based on existing apartments. The city hopes to add 500 new B&Bs over the next five years. Property owners willing to take part are promised economic incentives and a kind of second career. This is the first such a scheme on a municipal, and not just private, basis in Israel.

The Haifa Economic Corporation has formed a subsidiary with the formal aim of "development, establishment, founding and management of municipal bed and breakfasts in Haifa." The company is needed, city council members were told, because of a growing demand for overnight accommodation from groups not interested in hotel rooms, as well as foreign and local tourists who don't find vacancies elsewhere. The idea is new to Israel but very successful in European cities.

The company will contact the owners of B&Bs and holiday homes, advertise the accommodations in various media and operate a local and international booking center. It will act as agent between B&B owner and guest and supervise the quality of the accommodation and provide ratings. It will also operate as a financial clearing house, taking payment for bookings with B&B owners paying a commission on each transaction.

A second career

The Haifa Economic Corporation presented a plan to the city council, saying today there are only 1,370 hotel rooms in Haifa. The Central Bureau of Statistics figures for 2009 show Haifa has 500,000 overnight stays annually, 55% of them by foreign residents. A market survey indicates the city has about 100 B&Bs privately operated by home owners, and there is considerable demand for affordable tourist accommodation.

Yahav says: "Seventeen years ago, when I was chairman of the Haifa tourism development corporation I saw in my mind's eye a project to increase the number of rooms for tourists in the city." Haifa, he says, "deserves to be one of the leading tourist destinations in Israel, not least because it's stunningly beautiful."

The mayor said developing new hotels takes years so this is a way to solve the problem in a different and more immediate way. The project will also provide different groups in Haifa, such as pensioners living in big homes after their children have moved out, with the option of starting a new career, he said.

Yahav believes the enterprise will bring young families with children to the city, who have tended to visit but not sleep over. "A family could stay in Haifa overnight for a reasonable sum and use it as a base for trips all around, to Acre, Nazareth, Tiberias and the Galilee." The target market, according to data collected by the Ministry of Tourism, Haifa hospitals, the Bahai administration and Haifa University, is first and foremost Bahai, who spearhead Haifa tourism with 130,000 over night stays a year.