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Hotel Workers Union Slams Plan to Loosen Hostel Regulations

By Jeff Mays | March 9, 2015 6:15pm
 The Hotel Trades Council has come out against a plan by Councilman Mark Weprin to allow youth hostels to once again operate in the city by regulating them.
The Hotel Trades Council has come out against a plan by Councilman Mark Weprin to allow youth hostels to once again operate in the city by regulating them.
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Pan American Hotel

MIDTOWN—The union representing hotel workers shot down Councilman Mark Weprin's plan to legalize youth hostels saying it would condemn the city's already ailing hotel industry.

Weprin claims the city is missing out on an estimated $280 million in revenue per year from the hundreds of young people who are looking for cheap places to stay, but Hotel Trades Council spokesman Josh Gold argues the city would suffer under the plan.

"With an unprecedented hospitality glut and New York City hotels performing worse then all other large metropolitan markets in the country, loosening regulations on low cost youth hostels in our City's neighborhoods is bizarre," said Gold.

Weprin announced new legislation on Monday that would allow hostels to operate under a strict set of guidelines, including forcing them to be licensed and registered under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The rules would also require hostels to meet fire code and safety requirements, he said.

The 2010 state law looking to wipe out illegal hotels inadvertently led to a major decline in supply. Since the law passed, 55 city hostels have closed, Weprin said.

"I did stay in a youth hostel once upon a time and I was surprised New York had wiped out of the market," Weprin said in an interview.

Feargal Mooney, CEO of Hostelworld.com, said New York City is missing out on revenue.

Visitors to London spent 1.6 million nights in hostels last year compared to just 300,000 in New York City. An estimated additional 200,000 people would visit the city if there were a supply of hostels, said Mooney.

In addition to the $30 or $40 per night hostel visitors would spend on their bed, they could spend an average of $175 per day on food and other activities during their stay.

Despite concerns, hostels would not compete with hotels, because the audiences for both are completely different, Weprin and Mooney said.

"This is not competition for hotels. People who stay in hostels are not looking for privacy," Weprin said.

"The customers we want to offer this product to are different than hotel customers," said Mooney. "They are not coming to New York because hotels are out of their price range."

Weprin's plan would also address safety concerns that have come up with Airbnb, and would limit the length of stay of hostel visitors to 29 days, he said.

"These will not be fly by night places. They will all be registered and regulated," he said.

The issue of the hostels taking space from affordable housing has also been addressed, Weprin said.

"Our bill requires that youth hostels have to be in commercial areas," Weprin said.

Weprin said he is willing to work with the union on the issues. There has been a discussion about a cap on the number of hostels that would be allowed under the legislation, he said.

Mooney said the proposed regulations could help both the hotel and hostel industries.

"The hostel-stayers of today will be the hotel guests of tomorrow," said Mooney.