ILH, the Israeli hostel network, recently finished the sixth installment of their Hosteliers and Entrepreneurs Workshop, a two day seminar designed to prepare anyone interested in starting a hostel for the challenge of organizing and opening their business.
I had the opportunity to participate in the workshop, and I was thoroughly impressed with the level of support, openness, and encouragement that the ILH members showed to the prospective hostel entrepreneurs. On top of the excellent information that they shared about how to open a hostel, there was also a very positive message about cooperation. The presentations stressed the importance of building a strong hostel industry as a vital part of the operation and success of an individual hostel.
Approximately 20 participants with a variety of backgrounds took part in the workshop. Each of them was considering opening a hostel or a small accommodation business, but only a few had any previous experience with accommodation services. Other professional backgrounds included the food industry, human resources, agriculture, and a wide array of others, making a very dynamic group of entrepreneurs.
The workshop was focused around the hostel industry in Israel, and most of the participants were considering opening in that area. The ideas, however, apply to the global hostel industry and could be applied anywhere.
What did they teach?
The workshop included presentations from established hostel owners and business consultants and covered a wide range of topics such as:
- Success stories from ILH hostels and the challenges they had to overcome along the way
- Making the jump from dreaming to opening a hostel
- Preparing a business plan (complete with spreadsheets and data from real hostels)
- Choosing the right property for your hostel
- Marketing a hostel before and after opening
- Using technology to streamline management and operations
- Examples of mutually beneficial collaboration between hostels in the region
The workshop also included tours of existing hostels and a lot of time for asking questions.
The workshops are historically quite effective, too. 13 new hostels have already been opened (or will open soon) by previous participants in ILH workshops.
There is a question that some people in the industry may be wondering:
Why would existing hostel operators encourage new competitors to open and then teach them how to run a hostel? Are they out of their minds?
Not at all. The purpose of the workshops is to share knowledge and experiences, and to increase the number of well-run hostels in the industry. This helps to benefit the entire hostel industry in addition to individual hostels.
It can be disastrous for any market to have new hostels open up without knowing what they’re getting themselves into and without being prepared. What someone wants and expects the business to be like during their planning stage can be very different from the reality. It’s easy for a new hostel entrepreneur to quickly find himself overwhelmed.
Add to this the fact that there is a steep learning curve for new hostel operators, and finding solid information and advice can be difficult. Competitors are often reluctant to share their information in the hopes that what they perceive as a new threat will fail and disappear. Well-intentioned friends and colleagues frequently offer misinformed advice without any understanding of hostels. There are also plenty of wolves in sheep’s clothing offering advice and services to new entrepreneurs who don’t realize that they are being mislead or taken advantage of for someone else’s benefit. It’s important for new hostel entrepreneurs to have a good source of accurate information.
In the worst cases, when the proper planning isn’t done or things don’t go as well as a new hostel owner had hoped, this can lead to desperate measures including dirty competition tactics and price wars that damage the entire market. Unless, of course, that hostel owner has been prepared for challenges and how to respond to them, and he has a good relationships with his competition.
If more hostels would adopt the ILH mindset, then perhaps a lot of negative situations could be avoided and more hostels could succeed and thrive throughout the entire industry.
Other benefits to sharing knowledge and experience include:
- Establishing a continuing trend of mutually beneficial cooperation between hostel operators
- Avoiding unnecessary challenges and conflicts down the line that could have been avoided with a little education and cooperation in the beginning
- Recruiting members for the ILH network that will continue to benefit from shared information, cooperation, and healthy competition
- Establishing a strong infrastructure for budget tourism that supports all of the hostels in the area
The ILH Hosteliers and Entrepreneurs Workshop is specifically designed to give the information that someone new to the industry needs in order to open a hostel. Anyone thinking about opening their own hostel (especially around the Middle East!) should strongly consider participating in this event.
Along a similar line, if you are an established hostel operator who has already gone through the process of opening your business, you should consider participating in a Hostel Management Unconference where you can share experiences with other hostel professionals from around the world and continue to learn and develop your business.