All posts by Byron Bunda

plane

Learning from the experts: a conversation with Thor Harris

Recently I had a chance to speak to the CEO of Percepture, Thor Harris. Percepture is a digital marketing company. Their clients include hotels, cruise lines, tourism boards, even a railway! They have one big hostel client right now, but for most hostels, hiring Percepture would be like using a flamethrower to light a cigarette. Regardless, even a little hostel can learn from what a travel industry leader has to say, so read on!

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HostelSkills group shot

What I learned from attending HostelSkills Lisbon

The HostelSkills conference in Lisbon saw more than sixty industry insiders gather in Portugal for two days of presentations, networking, and parties. Many American hostels asked me about the conference, whether it was valuable and worth attending. Today I'll describe the big picture of why the HostelSkills conference was a valuable experience. If you missed the conference, subscribe to the blog to receive future posts sharing specific learnings from the presentations. Were you at HostelSkills Lisbon? Leave a comment and share your perspective on the conference.

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Motto by Hilton

Hostels can sleep easy. Hilton chickens out with “Motto”

In 2017 Hilton’s CEO Chris Nassetta announced that they were developing a new brand for a “hostel on steroids.” Wow, the fourth largest hotel company, with 8,976 properties in the world getting into the hostel space. Can you imagine? The resources they’d have at their disposal would make Generator look like a little guest house. That would be pretty scary for hostel owners or would-be hostel owners. Sure, many backpackers enjoy staying exclusively at independent hostels but with plenty of chains like USA Hostels, Vietnam Backpackers, Mad Monkeys, and HostelOne, it’s clear there’s a huge segment of our audience that’s happy to stay with a chain, so why not Hilton Hostels? Yesterday Hilton announced their new brand, “Motto by Hilton” and although there may be steroids, there’s no hostel. Here’s what Motto is going to be about and why they dropped the S and decided to stick to doing hotels.

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bed bug

The ultimate guide to bed bugs for hostels

It’s amazing how much we can suffer from a tiny little bug that doesn’t do any real harm. Bed bugs are the scourge of the hotel and hostel industry, even though they don’t transmit diseases. Being infected with bed bugs is just so unsettling that the sting of your hostel being hit with bed bugs is way worse than their actual bite. How would you like to pay $200 an hour to have a bed bug detecting dog sniff around your hostel to ensure you've eradicated the pest? What about $3,000 for a heater that will kill raise the room temperature high enough to kill them? 

To add insult to injury, once the bugs are gone, the stigma remains. A study from the University of Kentucky found that bed bugs lower the value of a hotel room by $23 per room per night for leisure travelers and $38 for business travelers.¹ 

Bed bugs are a big issue and this ultimate guide to bed bugs for hostels will help you handle bed bugs if you already have them, or hopefully prevent problems before they. start

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Drifter Jack's & Ember

Thinking about opening a second hostel? Read this first

Is your hostel humming along smoothly? Are you considering starting a second? There are still so many cities that either need a hostel or need more hostels that now is a great time for operators to consider a second location. Andy Ward is the owner of Drifter Jack’s in Austin and Ember in Denver, two top-rated hostels. He joins us today to tell American Hostels what it was like to start a hostel, the second time around.

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Route 66

Return of the road trip

Did you know that road trips are back in fashion? Turns out we can only watch so many fiascos  or suffer through so many baggage fees (paying for a carry-on? Really? ) before many of us decide it’s time to pack up the SUV and hit the road. The particulars of the recent uptick in road trips can be a boon to the hostel industry. In particular, isolated, off-the-beaten-track hostels should take notice of the recent road trip trend.

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How many people are hitting the road?

Out of all American travelers, 46% are taking road trips. In 2016, 39% of all our vacations were road trips. This is up 17% from the previous year and road trips show every indication of increasing their share of our vacation time. Even more impressive is the increased spending on road trips. US spending on road trips exploded from $66.6 billion in 2015 to $113.7 billion in 2016.

Hostels can cash in on road trippers

Millennials are the core demographic for hostels and a third of their vacations are now road trips. The number one reason they choose a road trip is to lower their vacation costs. This is no surprise. America is a car country. Compare that to Europe where they have half as many cars, because who needs one when you’ve got 20 euro Ryanair flights, and the best public transportation in the world? 76% of road trips are with the traveler’s own vehicle, and when Americans have time off, that’s the easiest and cheapest way to explore.

Hostels should be an easy sell to these domestic millennial travelers and we should be doing all we can to persuade them to shun the $90 a night dingy motel and come to join us for a barbecue and a $30 bunk. Besides being more fun, sharing helps travelers stay on the road longer. The US Travel Association found trips with sharing economy accommodations lasted 7.4 nights in comparison to 3.7 for hotels, motels, or B&Bs. Besides tripping longer, road trippers are coming back more. MMY Global found that 55% of millennial and Gen X’ers without children, aka “Freewheelers,” say they will return to a destination previously visited this year. After all, you only need to climb the Statue of Liberty once, but do the Rocky Mountains ever get old?

Why road trips help the little guys

The road trip fad helps the hostels that are otherwise the most disconnected because you travel differently during a road trip. 54% of the road trippers that Ford surveyed said they prefer to take the scenic route. If your location rating is one of the weaknesses for your Hostelworld rating, know that trippers don’t care that you’re off the beaten path. Road trips are also beneficial to hidden gems because a whopping 32% of road trippers choose their accommodation on the fly, which means they have the flexibility to book in only once they’ve found a backcountry hostel.

A bi-partisan vacation trend

The time feels right for more American road trips, and more American road trips supported by hostels. Now is the time for Americans in our densely populated coastal regions to jump in the car and go experience the Midwest; to understand how we wound up in the Trump Era. 75% of road trippers say experiencing different cultures is a motivation for travelling, compared to 69% of non road trippers. The communal hostel experience is all about that exposure to different cultures.

The takeaway (the driveaway?)

The road trip trend is a valuable tailwind for the US hostel industry. It’s a great opportunity to widen our appeal to domestic US travelers, particularly budget-conscious millennials. Like hosteling, road tripping is a way of traveling that promotes cultural exchange.  Because of the spontaneous, wandering nature of road tripping, smalltown hostels are especially primed to benefit.

Bleisure backpacker

Are you making the most of bleisure travelers?

Have you heard of bleisure? Even though it sounds kind of “bleh,” it’s actually one of the most important trends in travel right now. Bleisure (noun) is the practice of tacking on a couple days of vacation before or after a business trip. This practice has grown 40% in only the last two years. Here in the United States, we’re up to 60% of business trips turning into bleisure and who knows how much more room there is to grow? Based on the characteristics of bleisure, it’s clear that hostels stand to gain the most from capitalizing on this travel trend. Let’s dive into some bleisure insights provided by our friends at Expedia and see what we can learn.

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Who are the bleisure travelers?

So, who are these business travelers turning a work trip into an excuse for a vacation? The majority of bleisure travelers are hostel’s core demographic, you guessed it, the millennials. If you’re a business traveller ages 22 to 35 you’re 50% more likely to make it a vacation than the middle-aged business travelers,  and four times more likely than older business travelers. Plenty of millennials prefer an Airbnb over a hostel, but here’s why when it comes to bleisure, a hostel might be their best bet: 65% of bleisure travelers are going solo. During bleisure there’s no renting a house with all your friends, not even sharing a room at the Marriott with Ted from accounting. It’s easy to see why a millennial business traveler might prefer to spend their two extra leisure days in a hostel with their new best friends than at the Ramada all alone. 

Why bleisure can be big bucks

Although it is affected by weather, bleisure is not affected by seasonality. Business travelers want some bleisure time during the offseason just as much as during the high season. Bringing in bleisure could mean filling some unsold rooms.

Another point related to occupancy: Bleisure travelers are likely to add an extra 1 or 2 nights before or after to a 2 or 3-night business trip. Because they’re here for work, they’ll keep your rooms occupied midweek when they’re there to work, before or after the weekend. For hostels that struggle with weekday occupancy, this could help.

Who can welcome the bleisure backpackers?

It’s no surprise that to benefit from bleisure, your hostel needs to be of high quality. The average bleisure traveler makes $79K, meaning if they choose a hostel, it’ll be for the experience, not the price. If your hostel is cheap and cheerful, this might not be the travel trend for you.

It definitely helps if your hostel is already receiving business travelers. 82% of bleisure travelers stay in one place for the whole trip, to avoid the hassle of switching accommodation. Before you close this tab, assuming that you’ll never lure any bleisure backpackers away from the corporate hotel down the street, know that just this month, BridgeStreet, a business travel company with more than 5 thousand corporate clients, started adding hostels to its inventory. You know that when a 20-year-old corporate travel firm is getting on the hostel bandwagon that this movement is going mainstream.

The Bleisure trend will help city hostels more than the country ones because 79% of bleisure takes place in the same destination as the business trip. If your city is already a well-known business center, pay extra attention to bleisure. 

isaacs hostel

Got $11M? Isaacs, 3rd largest Dublin hostel, for sale

If you’ve got an extra 9.5 million euros lying around, boy do I have the opportunity for you! Dublin’s third largest hostel, Isaacs, is for sale. Dublin is booming and this big hostel is in a prime location. Isaac’s parent company declared bankruptcy back in 2012, but with an 8.6 average rating on Hostelworld, it seems the guests didn’t seem to notice. Here’s why if you have 10 million euros to spend, Isaacs would be a great buy.

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An easy way to add value to your guests (without costing you a dime)

Have you ever ordered hotel room service? Sure, in terms of the prices, it’s a scam. But it’s one of those fun unique elements people enjoy about staying in a fancy hotel (kind of like a bidet!). Most hotels don’t have restaurants and so they’re using food delivery apps like GrubHub to substitute for room service, but with the ability to order from a smart device in your room and earn hotel loyalty points for your Chinese food delivery. Here’s how we can take this practice and modify it for the hostel scene.

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airport do not enter

Make your hostel website like the airport

When you get off a flight at your final destination and make your way towards the airport’s exit, you always pass a certain point where you’re no longer in the secure area of the airport. If you left something behind, you’re out of luck, because at this point, you cannot return to where you came from. Wouldn’t it be great if your hostel’s website could work like that? A backpacker arrives at your website after using an OTA to get there, and after looking around they don’t go back. Instead, they just book directly. Cornell School of Hotel Management named this the Billboard Effect and found that 65% of guests who book directly, first visited an OTA. Unfortunately, unlike at the airport, there is no security guard to prevent a potential guest from re-entering the OTA’s website, but you can give them every incentive not to.

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