If you thought it was tough being a hotelier during Covid-19, imagine running a hostel. People choose to stay at hostels not only because they want to save money, but also because they want to meet other travelers and socialize. For most hostel guests, staying in a dormer, sharing a bathroom and eating communal meals is part of the attraction. But with today’s Covid-19 restrictions, hostels are suffering.
A recent New York Times article laid out the challenges facing hostels today. First, Americans, which make up 18% of Europe’s tourism market, are not allowed to travel to Europe. Second, hostels are built for socializing. As the article states, “social distancing in a hostel is like wearing a snowsuit to Miami Beach: It’s the exact opposite of what you’re meant to do.” Finally, shared space is the backbone of hostels. Guests cook together, sleep together and hang out together.
So what does the future look like for hostels? Will travelers ever return to shared rooms and communal meals? While it’s hard to know for sure, the best case scenario is that people will come out of the pandemic craving human interaction and new experiences. After being locked in their homes for more than a year, they will realize that a world without adventure and meeting new people is a small life and they will look for social travel experiences that hostels specialize in providing.
More likely, hostels will need to adapt to a post-pandemic world. Management will need to rethink guest safety and make modifications to the spaces to appeal to today’s health sensibilities. For example, travelers may still want to socialize with guests during the day in a big, shared communal space but they might prefer to retreat to a private room at night to sleep. They also might rethink family-style meals and communal cooking spaces and opt, instead, for eating meals out.
This means that just like hoteliers, hostel operators should be preparing for a post-Covid vaccine world by rethinking their operations.
- Like hoteliers, they should put stringent cleaning practices in place and highlight their procedures on the website. Guests will want assurances that the hostels they choose to stay with take their safety seriously.
- Hostels should rethink their total occupancy. It’s going to be a while before travelers feel comfortable around hordes of people again. By limiting occupancy, hostels can help travelers feel confident in their decision to travel again.
- To make up for the limited occupancy, hostels will need new upsell offerings to make up revenue. By dividing big dormers into smaller rooms, hostel operators can get more revenue per traveler and keep guests safer. They can also offer boxed meals, laundry services, tours, classes and more.
- Instead of communal kitchens and shared meals, hostel operators might need to look into other options for breaking bread together while travelers adjust to being around strangers again. Partnering with a local restaurant, for example, for a daily meal deal (similar to an employee meal) or boxed meals.
- While hostels traditionally received much of their traffic through word of mouth and listings on travel community sites, marketing is going to be increasingly important moving forward. Hostels should actively collect email addresses from guests and invest in email marketing to drive direct bookings, in addition to targeted advertising to reach the right demographic.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that all businesses need to be agile to survive. Hostels, in particular, will need to keep a close eye on traveler sentiment and trends in order to continue to be relevant. If you are a hostel operator looking for new ways to drive direct bookings, please reach out to find out whether Revinate Marketing will work for you. Or, for more Covid hotel information, please visit our microsite.