Russian law to ban hostels in residential property

Saint Petersburg

Russian lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill to outlaw guesthouses and hostels from residential buildings, a measure industry experts say will hit budget travel.

The Duma voted in favour of a ban on "using residential space in apartment buildings for hotel services," said the website for Russia's lower house of parliament.

The bill, mooted by authorities for years, delays implementiong the ban until October 1, after the summer season.

Hostels and guest houses are frequently located in existing residential buildings in city centres. Lawmakers argue that this violates the rights of other residents.

Such facilities would have to make considerable efforts now to legalise, by including separate entrances, fire alarms, sound proofing and proper sanitation.

The ban will hurt tourism, especially in Saint-Petersburg, Russia's second city where 80 percent of hostels and guest houses are located in residential buildings, said the head of the League of Hostels association Yevgeny Nasonov.

Some of them will inevitably close, he said. "In the end, it will have an effect on the consumer, on tourists, on prices," he told AFP.

The bill is expected to be approved by the upper house, the Federation Council, and signed by President Vladimir Putin in the coming weeks.