A delegation of hostel owners and executives from around the world is pushing the New York City Council to allow licensing of hostels, saying the city is missing out on up to $500 million in annual tourism and tax revenue.
The group during a visit to New York on Wednesday asked for a public meeting on council Bill 699, which they say would fix a 2010 state law that inadvertently banned hostel occupancy. They plan to meet with Councilwoman Margaret Chin, sponsor of the bill, and Jumaane Williams, who chairs the committee on housing and buildings.
Hostels provide inexpensive accommodations, often in dormitory settings, aimed typically at young travelers.
A public hearing, possibly as early as December, would be an important step for the bill, they said. They have also discussed the bill with city economic development officials and representatives of trade groups, including the Partnership for New York City.
"New York is disadvantaged right now because of the existing law, and we're keen to work with the City Council," Fergal Mooney, chief executive of Hostelworld Group, said on a conference call. Dublin-based Hostelworld, the world's largest hostel booking platform, is leading the thrust.
The 2010 law clamped down on single-room occupancy units after widespread complaints of illegal rentals through websites such as Airbnb. The law made collateral damage of the hostel industry.
Also visiting were executives from hostel operators Meininger, Generator, Clink and Yellow. They say the show of force could make this effort more successful than those of previous years.
"This is a full-court press," said Jerry Kremer, president of Uniondale, N.Y., lobbying group Empire Government Strategies.
Mooney said operators could develop youth hostels in commercial districts that include Long Island City, Queens, and parts of Brooklyn.
"Millennials, under age 30, total about 75% of our business and they cannot afford the price of hotels in New York," said Mooney. "They're looking for an experience that's much more social."
Kremer, former chairman of the New York State Assembly's House Ways and Means Committee, called hostel development "perfect for the city's plan," noting that development could cluster around new transit hubs such as the East Bronx, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is funding four new Metro-North Railroad stations.
"They would be located on the city's economic fringe, parts of Queens and Brooklyn, and not in residential areas. They would take properties that nobody is interested in right now."
According to Kremer, the city in 2015 generated $234 million in tax and tourism revenue, only one-third of its potential. "New York City is missing out on an opportunity," he said.