Recently while traveling through the US, I stayed at Bunk + Brew Hostel in Bend, Oregon. Before departing, I decided to jump on a live stream on my personal Facebook page called “5 Reasons Why I LOVE Staying In Hostels”. I know a lot of my Facebook audience is Americans in the Pacific Northwest, so I thought it would be a fun plug for the hostel while also a chance to educate people who aren’t as familiar with the concept of hostels.
I thought about this after, and how important it is to continually educate others about our industry. Not just your potential guests, but also your local community. This is especially important for areas where hostels are not that popular yet (like the US), but can be vital anywhere. I know of hostels that have opened in countries or cities where there are already many hostels, but the neighbors are hesitant to have another thinking they are just a cheap, divey place to stay or a total party place that will be disruptive.
A great way to help educate others is by writing a blog post promoting both what you offer, but also tieing in your local community. One way to write this blog would be similar to the FB Live I did. Something like “5 Reasons Hostels Are Awesome” or “Our 7 Favorite Things About Hostels”. With each reason you could show what your hostel specifically offers in that area, while also educating around the general concept. A blog like this is also an opportunity to educate why hostels offer something that a hotel, motel, Airbnb, or Couchsurfing simply cannot in the same way (or sometimes at all).
Here are some ideas of what you could include:
This is an obvious one for many of us in the hostel industry but such an important aspect to share with the world! Hostels are built around community, versus many hotels where people just come and go and do their own thing. This is a great spot to share what makes your specific community unique, or why your guests love joining it so much. Talking about the community aspect of hostels is also a way to educate those who aren’t familiar with the benefits of solo travel. There are many people who want to travel but feel stuck when they don’t have a partner or friend to join. This is a chance to let them know how many other solo travelers also join your community and that they will never really be alone. New friends are waiting!
Atmosphere really goes along with community, but it’s worth noting on its own as well. While other accommodation options can have nice atmospheres that are friendly or welcoming, there is something truly unique about a hostel atmosphere. The best hostels immediately welcome their new guests into the community, and the atmosphere is often described as a ‘home away from home’. Note that this doesn’t matter if the hostel is a tiny cozy hostel, an adventure hostel, or a crazy party hostel. Whether the guest is welcomed with a cup of tea, a shot of tequila, or an invitation to go cliff jumping in an hour, a hostel’s atmosphere is one of inclusion and fun. Be sure to explain what your atmosphere is like so guests know what to expect and get excited.
Hostel guests come from around the world which means cultural exchange is really built into the product without even trying. There are so many reasons why this is beneficial, and perhaps you can outline some of your own in this area. One of mine is that solving the world’s problems will always require dialogue with people, even if we disagree, and hostels provide an interesting space to practice just that. From my experience people are also much more open to hearing others in a hostel environment over a beer...whereas other situations bring more of a hostile environment (buh dump chh! ...I know, I know, I couldn’t resist).
Safety & Security
For many people not familiar with hostels, the idea of ‘sleeping with a stranger’ may sound a bit uncomfortable or even crazy. Besides mentioning specific safety features such as lockers in every room, secure key entry, 24-hour reception, security cameras, etc. I like to remind people of the general idea of ‘safety in numbers’. While incidents can and do happen in hostels (like anywhere) it’s also a lot harder for someone to try something when there are always people around, or coming and going. Some guests may also worry about the safety of belongings, but incidents like opportunistic theft can easily be mitigated by using a locker. Now many lockers even come with power points inside so guests can charge their devices while they are being stored. How convenient AND secure!
Many people jump to the low cost first when they think of hostels, which is fair since they are usually significantly cheaper than hotels. It’s helpful to point out the low price point for those who aren’t familiar and might think travel has to be expensive. Understanding how much money they can save on accommodation may be enough to sway them to take the trip instead of wait.
However, it’s also helpful to explain how hostels help travelers save money in other ways as well. For instance, extras included in the price like free breakfast or free wifi (it’s amazing how many very expensive hotels still charge for wifi on top of the base price!). Many hostels also offer low-cost dinners, discount vouchers for popular activities, partner discounts at local cafes, restaurants, & bars, and advice on cheap or free things to do in the city. Be sure to promote the specific ways your hostel helps travelers keep their costs down.
Connection w/ the Local Community
Hostel travelers are well known for wanting to be ‘travelers’ versus ‘tourists’. They generally cringe at the latter and are always trying to maintain street cred for the former. Since they are frequently trying to get off the beaten path, and many hostels are staffed by young locals or other adventurous travelers, guests often have an easy ‘in’ to find out about cool local happenings that they wouldn’t otherwise know about.
This is a huge plus for the guest, but also for the local businesses who can increase their income with another revenue stream. Highlighting some of the ways you connect with your community is beneficial for both your potential guests who really care about supporting local, and for your neighboring businesses who may see the new biz on the block (you) as an asset over an inconvenience.
One huge way hostels set themselves apart from hotels or other accommodation are the numerous activities they offer. Whether it’s pub crawls, community dinners, museums days, beach picnics, adventure hikes, city outings...the list goes on and on. The activities really tie in many of the areas above. They are a catalyst for creating community, by bringing everyone together, while also helping guests to keep their travel costs down since they are often cheap or free. They also are opportunities to bring in the local community, as mentioned above. This is a great place to outline all that you offer, both for your guests and your neighbors.
Amenities may not be the first thing that pops into someone’s mind when thinking of a hostel since it often has the reputation of being cheap because of a lack of amenities. But we all know this is not true! Hostels can actually offer more amenities than a hotel or Airbnb, and usually included in the price. Whether it’s some of the standard inclusions, like a full kitchen for cooking (save money! meet friends!), free wifi, and clean bathrooms, or some unique extras, such as a sauna or free sports equipment. There are so many options of what you can offer as extras and amenities. I’ve seen everything from free beer on arrival to a free sock wash at night.
Don’t be shy about promoting the unique offerings your hostel has, but remember that even your ‘normal’ amenities may be a surprise to someone not familiar with hostels. Explaining that you have a full kitchen with an oven, stove, and anything you could need to cook including olive oil and spices could be a game changer for someone who had no idea that would be available to them. Use this as an opportunity to fully educate your potential guests!
Hostels almost always have fantastic locations, both because it’s smart for tourism but also the need for easy access by public transit. Be sure to explain why your location is so prime, especially if it’s in a neighborhood that isn’t super well known to an outsider. Those infamous tourist areas are rarely where hostel guests would actually want to stay once they are in the know, so educate them! This is also a great chance to talk about local businesses around you and everything your neighborhood has to offer.
How to promote this type of blog:
Naturally if someone is on your website or social media they are likely a traveler who is already familiar with hostels. So how can you use this? Tie in as many local businesses as possible when you talk about these different areas. Do you have an activity at a local business? Name it when you give examples of where your staff takes guests. Do you offer discounts at a local bakery? Say that in your low cost section. Do you have a fantastic pub just around the corner? Share it in your location description.
After you have written the post, promote it on social media. Then you can either tag the different local businesses, or if there are too many (you don’t want it to look messy, and you want them to feel special, not one of many) you can privately message them. Let them know that you have mentioned them in a blog about XYZ, and you wanted to share it. You can also ask them to please share it on their own social media, as you’d love to support their customers as well (especially great if you have mutual discounts/partnerships). The goal is to educate your local businesses about you, but also reach their customer base who may not be familiar with hostels yet.
Have you written blog posts and included your local community? How did it go? Sign in and comment below.
**I know many of you comment on these blogs on the site's FB page, which is great, but it would be even better to have the comments directly on here for everyone to read. Thanks for your input and helping to further our knowledge.**
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