This year has seen quite a few changes in the world that affect our industry. How has your hostel been affected, and how have you reacted to those changes? Are you ready for the changes that are coming?
For example, despite legal challenges and setbacks, AirBnB is still getting bigger and more popular. That has proven to be a challenge for some hostels. On the other hand, the global economy is picking up again, and with that upswing tourism has started to bounce back as well. That has been a benefit to many of us and made our lives easier.
But as far as major changes in the hostel industry itself, it seem like things have been pretty quiet since last winter. Does that indicate that things are nice and stable for everyone now, or is this the calm before the storm and something big is just around the corner?
At the moment, the biggest change that many of us are facing is the switch from high season to low season. As the number of guests declines, how are you reacting? What are you doing with the spare time? Are you making renovations and fixing up your properties? Are you conducting staff training? Are you focusing on networking with local and regional partners? Are you focusing on marketing to attract more guests to your area? Preparing for next season? Taking vacation and recharging your batteries?
When it comes down to it, our individual businesses can be immediately affected by all kinds of factors.
- Things can break at any time of day or night, be it furniture, technology, a heating unit, or anything else out guests can get their hands on. Is your team trained and prepared to resolve the issues?
- Bedbugs can invade from one night to the next, and we have to cope with the aftermath of concerned guests, repeated treatments, bad reviews, damage control, and increased efforts to reestablish our reputation. Do you have a strategy in place to prevent or eliminate an outbreak?
- New competitors can open and we have to decide how to compete, whether by price, quality, services, atmosphere, or some other distinction. What will you do when a new competitor opens up next door?
- Popular travel routes change, airlines add and remove flight services, and new destinations emerge as the latest hot spot. If you’re lucky enough to get a boost in tourism, have you thought about how to maximize that exposure? If you’re in a declining market, what can you do to keep your occupancy up?
- Laws can be passed and repealed, which could change the way your hostel operates. Maybe they affect the taxes you pay, or limit the services that you can offer, or maybe they provide new opportunities for your business to expand.
- Natural disasters like fires, earthquakes, and volcanoes can have a huge impact, even from great distances away. It’s critical to have emergency procedures to keep your guests safe in such an event. Would you and your team know what to do in an emergency situation?
- War can break out like it did in Israel this year, devastating the entire tourism industry in an area almost instantly. In response to international travelers “playing it safe” by choosing other destinations, the hostels in Israel switched their focus to the domestic market where there was less fear and more immediate opportunity.
- Disease and other health threats can cause huge problems for hostel operators that go beyond lost business and affect the health and even lives of the people around us. For example, Ebola has created a scare across the world. As hosts to international travelers who explore the corners of the globe we may find ourselves on the front lines of a major health risk that could affect every person in the hostel. Are you informed about the risks and how to react?
As Courtney mentioned in her blog Misadventures in Hostel Management: A Look Back, changes provide the opportunity to learn. With every change comes a new opportunity or a new disaster, depending on how we choose to approach it. And if you don’t choose how you want to address a change, then the decisions are likely to be made for you by someone else. Can you afford to let that happen?
So what changes will the coming year bring? How will the industry and the way that hostels operate react in response? What new trends will emerge? What will we learn and how will the industry improve as a result? Are you ready for a change?