The Hostel RoadTrip Podcast is currently traveling around the USA, with some plans to venture out to other areas later on. But when I listen to these American casts, I notice a recurring topic: America does not have a firm grasp on what a hostel is.
The word “hostel” has a stigma in the States, and that seems difficult to dislodge. Backpacker Hostels have been in America for years. And yet Americans have either never heard of them or they think hostels are strictly for people down on their luck.
Paperwork, Zoning Laws and Funding
Joe Hindman talks about his struggle to open Modal Hostel in Greenville, South Carolina. There was a considerable push back about getting licensing and consent on his property from city officials and lawyers who have no idea how to classify a hostel. “So…. Is it a BnB? Or a Hotel? We have no legislation for hostels on the books….”
Eventually, with lots of communication and documentation, Joe got the official paperwork needed and then started looking for the right location. He mentions the frustration of finding the perfect location, but then running into trouble with zoning laws and buildings codes. He would find something he really liked, map out where everything was going to go, then be disappointed when that building couldn't work out for them for whatever reason. There were some serious moments of desperation.
But Joe didn’t give up. Joe says, “Don’t get your emotions involved when you are first starting out.” When you find something you think is perfect, try not to set your heart on it straight away. All too often, it doesn’t work out, but it is just a matter of balancing what you want with feasibility.
So, then how do you get funding for a project that nobody understands? Joe and his business partner decided to go with CrowdFunding to get some dough for their venture. They hosted events for locals and other business owners to come and be a part of their ideas. They solved their funding problem and got local people excited about the prospects.
And now they have a hostel. Modal Hostel isn’t quite open yet but due to open this year. It is a small hostel, only 28 beds, set in a repurposed dentist office which ended up being the perfect building choice for them despite all the initial headaches. Plenty of small sinks already set up in the rooms! And, apparently, there is a wonderful courtyard area where the hostel can host some small, local musicians, events or gatherings, with the intention to introduce locals with travelers. What a great idea!
Moral of the story is, this scenario is happening over and over again across America. If you want to open a brand new hostel in the States, it’s a good idea to get in touch and talk with other hostel owners here on Hostelmanagement pages or in Facebook Group. Find out what they did and what methods they used to get up and running. It could save you some headaches and heartaches along the way.