All posts by Byron Bunda

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5 ideas to help your hostel survive Coronavirus

The Coronavirus has turned the travel industry upside down and many hostels are simply in survival mode. By now you’ve likely had to make extreme measures to ensure the long-term survival of your hostel like renegotiating the terms of your lease or laying off your staff. Now that the initial shock has passed but we are a long way from a return to normalcy, here are a handful of suggestions for improving your hostel’s chances of survival.

BackpackerBiz ideas:

  1. Non-Refundable Flexible Rates
  2. More channels
  3. Long-term guests
  4. Ancillary revenue streams
  5. Reputation management
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The Crash Pad Hostel: where receptionists are treated like owners

How often do hostel owners share their profits with the receptionists? Definitely not often but, as you will learn today, the answer is not, “never.” Enter The Crash Pad Hostel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Have you heard of Tennessee? When you think about The Crash Pad, put away all your stereotypes of “The South” in America.

The Crash Pad advertises itself as “an uncommon hostel.” From the guest perspective this is certainly true. The Crash Pad is a certified LEED Platinum, which means it uses fewer resources, reduces waste and negative environmental impacts, and was constructed to maximize health and productivity. No other hostel currently holds this certification.

Besides their incredibly cool building, step behind the reception desk and let’s talk about what really makes The Crash Pad one-of-a-kind. It’s called, “Open Book Management.”

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Economic Policy Institute’s report on Airbnb: a hostel perspective

The Economic Policy Institute published an in-depth report on Airbnb’s costs and benefits to society. It’s full of empirical research and meaningful conclusions on how everyone from residents, to housekeepers, to local governments is affected by the rise of Short Term Rentals (or Airbnbs as they're mostly known). This article covers the report and how its findings specifically relate to hostels. 

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What Hostelworld data reveals about pricing decisions

Last month Hostelworld released its Evolution of the Hostel Traveler report. We learned some valuable insights into how present and future generations of travelers book hostels. Let's discuss how these behaviors can affect your pricing strategy.

Do you compete with other hostels in your area? If so, you’re probably checking regularly to see how much the competition is charging. If you don’t monitor your competition’s prices carefully, you’re either missing out on extra profit by making your beds too cheap or missing out on bed nights by making them too expensive. 49% of Generation Z backpackers reference price as what will attract them to stay at a hostel. The problem is, how the prices change is only half the picture. When the prices change is important too.

BackpackerBiz Takeaway:

When your hostel changes prices is just as important as how you change your prices. Today’s hostel travelers are price sensitive, they’re booking in advance, and with the vast majority of hostels selling online, backpackers have perfect information into what a bed’s current market value is. Getting smart with dynamic pricing is an effective way to increase your profitability and decrease anxiety from low occupancy nights.

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Discover how STR’s new benchmarks will change the way hostels set prices

We’ve covered before how important it is for your hostel to have a revenue management strategy. One of the reasons why making decisions about your yield strategy feels complicated and scary is because you normally don’t get to see how other hostels in town are performing. Hostels have to make a decision based upon their own occupancy, their own prices, and maybe their competitors’ prices, without knowing how full everyone else is. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

STR has been collecting benchmarking data on the hotel industry for over fifty years, and now they’re starting to work with hostels too. I spoke to Patrick Mayock from STR about their new hostel benchmarking programs and what they mean for the hostel industry. 

BackpackerBiz Takeaway:

  • STR collects Occupancy and Average Daily Rate data from hostels and creates benchmarks.
  • Participating hostels use this data to compare their property's performance to the city's performance and make more accurate revenue management decisions.
  • STR has benchmarked hotel data for more than fifty years but recently started measuring hostels too.
  • Even small hostels that aren't big on number crunching can use this data to make easier decisions about their prices and stop guessing.
  • Hostels that want to work with STR can contact Patrick Mayock directly (

Click here for a video summary of this article

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Do you own a hostel or do you own a job? Why systems are essential

Once when I was working with a small hostel the owner showed me their housekeeping procedures. When it was time to mop the floors, he told me they poured a splash of cleaning chemicals  into the bucket. “Okay, but how much is a splash?” I asked. He looked back at me bewildered, and assured me that common sense applied; a splash means a splash. A few days later a volunteer was asked to re-mop the floor because he had used too much product, leaving a soapy, streaky residue all over the bathrooms.

When the people that power a hostel have to use their discretion, nothing can be planned for and anticipated because each day things will be done differently. One week the mop bucket will be too soapy and the next week too diluted. If your hostel depends on having the owner or a superstar manager there to keep the hostel on track, do you really own a hostel or do you own a job running a hostel? Having systems to run your hostel for you are essential. They allow your hostel to provide a consistent, quality guest experience that’s powered by the systems you have in place, not the people that happen to be operating them.

BackpackerBiz Takeaway:

  • Systems are "the way its done" at your hostel. They are documented and easy for even low-skilled, novice staff to understand.
  • Systems ensure your hostel produces a consistent guest experience regardless of the people operating the hostel.
  • Once your hostel has consistent systems for operating, constant incremental improvements will increase profitability.
  • Without systems to run the hostel, the hostel's performance is entirely dependent on the owner or a great manager's presence.
  • Systems, are motivators because they encourage mastery and encourage staff to influence the hostel by improving its systems.
  • A hostel owner's job is not to run the hostel, it is to create the systems that run the hostel so that the hostel may continue on without the owner.

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Learn 4 things from the only hostel on the stock exchange

Did you know that there is a publicly traded hostel company? That’s right: there is a hostel that you can buy and sell on the London Stock Exchange! This hostel company is Safestay, one of Europe’s fastest growing hostel companies.

Besides the fact that it’s kind of cool you can buy hostel stock, being a public company means we get a glimpse into Safestay’s inner workings; a peek under the hood that you don’t normally get with other big hostel chains. This week Safestay made an announcement on its performance in 2018. Let’s take a look and see what we can learn, not only about Safestay, but what we can apply to our own hostels.

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Four fast lessons from the 2019 American Hostel Conference

Last week I had the privilege of presenting at the American Hostel Conference. My talk was on trends in the economy, society, and the travel industry, and how they will affect hostels in 2019. Just as I hope the hostel operators in attendance learned from my presentation, I learned so much from the other presenters and attendees of the conference. We'll cover some of the topics from presentations in the coming weeks, but today let's recap what we can learn from the conference overall.

BackpackerBiz Takeaway:

  • The U.S. hostel industry is growing, and fast
  • Lots of US cities will soon get their first hostels
  • Established hostels can teach and learn from conferences
  • Everywhere there are hostels, there should be a gathering, even if it's small, casual, and easy to plan.

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Recession: Prepare your hostel now, or suffer later

Bushfires are a fact of life in Australia. Everywhere you go, there are signs letting you know what the current level of fire danger is. In Australia, there isn’t a question of IF there will be a fire. The question is rather, WHEN will there be a fire. Because bushfire is an inevitable part of Australian life, the fire service constantly encourages the public to have a plan in place. If you have a plan for how your family will react to a bushfire, you’re much more likely to survive. Economic recessions are a lot like bushfires in that they occur regularly, you can’t predict precisely when they’ll begin, but if your hostel makes a plan now, it stands a much better chance of not getting burnt down. Today lets talk about how you can prepare your hostel for a recession.

BackpackerBiz Takeaway:

  • Recessions are a natural part of the economic cycle. We are due for a recession but don't know when it will start
  • Preparing for a recession will help your hostel survive
  • Create a contingency plan for staffing levels during a downturn
  • Can you diversify your hostel's customer base to lower your risk?
  • Invest in your hostel while you have the resources to do so
  • Always look for ways to make your hostel more efficient
  • Future bookings hedge against possible downturns
  • Consider the effect on the guest experience when making plans for austerity measures

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Why messages are the secret to higher hostel ratings and sales

It’s a story we’ve all heard or experienced ourselves: A guest at the hostel has an easily fixable problem, but instead of letting the staff know, they keep it to themselves, feeling unhappy, waiting until they’re checking out, or even worse, until they write their review. Naturally this is a frustrating experience for all hostel operators. We can’t help you if we don’t know you need help! However, it’s interesting to see where different hostels place the blame.

Some people say its the lazy millennials’ fault for being too addicted to their phones to walk down to reception and let them know there’s a problem. Others, like Podstel, are adapting to the change by using messaging to interact with their guests. Messaging is the future of communication for customer service. Your hostel can use messaging not only to keep guests happy, but also to make more money. Today we'll cover why messaging is great for hostels, give you some ideas on how to use messages, and then provide a few tech recommendations for making your messages easy and effective.

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