What kinds of features and qualities make up an ideal hostel? What are some common problems that could be avoided?
I'll start the list. These are just personal opinions from traveling and working at hostels for many years. I would be interested to hear others' comments.
A partial list of features that an "ideal" hostel would have:
- SECURITY LOCKERS: There would be security lockers in every room. They would be large enough for a laptop and a camera. Backpackers are increasingly traveling with high-tech gear. This is more of a problem in city hostels. I mention it because I am on the road right now, staying at a city hostel that advertises security lockers, but that does not have them. There is only a small safety deposit box behind the front desk. They offered to put my laptop behind the front desk, but I've been to a couple of city hostels where theft by employees was a problem, so I don't feel comfortable with doing that. All city hostels should have at least one locker for each guest.
- COMMON KITCHEN: Many backpackers are on a tight budget and like to self-cater as much as possible. The advantage to a common kitchen is that it is easier to keep clean than multiple kitchens, and it is a place where all of the guests can come together and meet.
- ACTIVITIES COORDINATOR: Whether this role is taken up by one of the existing employees, or by someone whose sole job is activity coordinator, it is important for the hostel to make sure that the guests are meeting each other and are having fun. To some extent, the most important thing that will leave a positive or negative impression on backpackers is whether or not they met other people and had fun. Even if they see a cockroach, if they met other backpackers and made new friends, they will remember the hostel as being a great place. Example activities that could be coordinated by a hostel: volleyball at the beach, barbeque nights, "open mike" night, walking tours of the area, pub crawls, game tournaments (e.g., chess), etc. Anything to encourage guests to interact.
- MINIMAL TELEVISION: If anything, televisions at hostels seem to get in the way of people meeting each other, especially if there are TVs in the rooms. Nothing wrong with an occasional "movie night", but many great hostels do well without a TV at all. The same goes for loud music. If there is an area where loud music is played, there should be a place where people can gather that does not have radio or CD music pumped into it all day. Musical tastes are too varied.
- 24-HOUR TALKING AREA: The ideal hostel would have a place where guests could talk 24-hours a day without disturbing other guests or neighbors.
- HOSTEL CLEANLINESS: Some hostels have cleanliness problems. The best hostels keep themselves very clean. Designing the hostel facilities well in the beginning can help. Dirty hostels are often a result of work-exchange cleaners that aren't supervised well.
This is just a start to the list. What qualities do you think would make an ideal hostel?
EDIT: See also the Start a Hostel Wiki Guide.