Having organized activities is not only one of the most common characteristics of a hostel, it’s also one of the most important for setting a hostel apart from hotels or other budget accommodation options. Overall, implementing regular activities can give a great guest experience, which can in turn boost reviews and ratings. However, there are many reasons why organized activities are crucial to a great hostel beyond creating a fun and adventurous atmosphere. Below are four of the most notable.
1. Help travelers get to know each other
Many hostel guests are solo travelers who stay in hostels looking for shared experiences. However it can be difficult to initially connect with other guests, especially in today’s world when everyone is on a device instead of talking. Having organized activities provides an easy ice breaker for guests, especially those who may be more shy. It also encourages an inclusive atmosphere. Most people inherently want to belong and activities where everyone is welcome offer that potential.
2. Increase the chance of guest extensions
There are two main reasons why I see consistent activities work in a hostel’s favor for increasing bednights. The first is that having a robust events list inspires confidence in guests that staying there is the right choice and they don’t need to move on quickly to have a good time. This works especially well if a current guest knows what’s coming up in the next day or two (i.e. “I want to extend because that pool party tomorrow sounds awesome!”). It also works for future guests who may not know exactly what is happening during their travel dates but will book a multiple day stay knowing that the hostel will always have something fun going on.
The second reason is that since activities help travelers connect, guests who were planning to move on quickly may extend their stay in order to hang out longer with their new friends. I’ve seen this happen many times as a manager, and I’ve been in it as a guest. While at a hostel in New Zealand several of us strangers-turned-friends stayed a few days longer than planned just so we could all party and play together longer.
3. Showcase your destination
While activities can be basic things like ‘Hostel Movie Night’, they can also be used to highlight local activities, culture, and fun. This in turn can promote your destination to future potential guests, especially when shared on social media or spread through word of mouth on the traveler’s grapevine.
Activities can also connect you to local businesses, not just to showcase your city’s unique offerings, but also to form relationships with these places. You can create discounts and promos that benefit both of you, and therefore creating new business and future clients.
4. Provide a traveler volunteer position
Using volunteers at a hostel varies widely by location, and there are many factors as to what a volunteer should or shouldn’t be doing. But for hostels who enjoy having volunteers, running events can be a great fit. It’s generally an easy gig training-wise, which is important for quick turnover positions, while retaining the high enthusiasm that is often only possible from short term people. Even if they aren't the ones running the activities or events, volunteers can be used to engage the guests socially and point out what upcoming events are happening on the communal events board.
Extra tips for activities:
1. Keep them free or low cost. This may be obvious as most guests are budget travelers but remember that simple aspects like the potential of camaraderie/connection and having a suggestion of what to do in a new place are often more important than something flashy and cool.
2. Have some component that would not be possible if the guest was purely on their own exploring your city. Sometimes this may be a discount or connection that isn’t possible to an individual but it could also just be the differing experience of doing something in a group vs. solo.
3. Tie activities in with local culture or places, and try to find off the beaten path events and experiences.
4. If doing a main tourist draw, try to have a component that is more unique. For example, if you were going to take guests to see the Eiffel Tower consider including a stop at a small locals’ favorite cafe that they likely wouldn’t find otherwise.
5. Have a sign up list if you can get at least a few names to start. People like to join things others are going to, so it encourages more participation, but no one likes to be the first one. To fix that problem, go around the common areas at peak times. Ask people if they want to join whatever future activity you’re promoting and get their names right then and there.
6. Advertise the daily/weekly events in easy to see familiar places beyond the main events board. For instance, you could post in the reception, kitchen/ eating areas, bar, or bathrooms. I liked that at Che Hostel in Tulum, Mexico they had interchangeable signs for the dorms (shown below) informing you of what was going on that night. It was a really easy way to be in the know, and also to plan around it as you got ready for the day if it was something you didn’t want to miss.
Remember, your activities don’t have to be fancy, flashy, or perfect. Almost anything budget friendly that can bring people together can work, but having organized events of some kind is one crucial step to hostel life that should not be missed.
Do you do activities in your hostel? How consistent are you with them? Have you noticed any of these benefits, or others not mentioned?
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