“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” – Hilary Hinton
It’s not easy being a hostel owner these days; of course, every hospitality business has gone through its share of difficulties in the past year, but it’s understandable why the impact of this pandemic is especially hard on hostels.
The way hostels are run is being challenged; in the good old days, guests stayed together in dorms, organized activities, went pub crawling, and had family-style dinners – the hostel experience was easier to provide. Now things are different; guests are still seeking a sense of sociability from their hostel stays, but they need hostels to adjust their operations to make them feel safer and more secure.
Many hostels responded by reducing their dorms’ occupancies, enhancing cleanliness, and upgrading guests to private rooms whenever possible. However, every hostel owner knows that this will not be feasible for long; hostelers need to find other ways to adjust their operations and drive more revenue into their businesses.
In this article, we gathered some great ideas from leading hostels around the world to inspire you; here’s a list of ten strategies you can use to help your hostel business survive and thrive in the new normal:
It goes without saying; the primary goal now is to assure guests that they can enjoy the experiences they know and love, without worrying about their safety and wellbeing. There’s a lot of skepticism, but there are also many things you can do to put your guests’ minds at ease:
Install hand sanitizing stations everywhere at your hostel, especially near entrances and exits. That will serve as a reminder for guests to sanitize their hands regularly before entering or upon leaving a shared space.
Set up clear floor markings throughout at your hostel to help direct foot traffic and enforce social distancing guidelines; a distance of 1.5 to 2 meters should be kept in queues, table settings, or any shared spaces. If social distancing cannot be controlled in some areas, it’s better to close them down for now.
If your guests have access to all your bathrooms at the same time, it will be difficult to keep things under control; a great tip is to assign specific bathrooms to one or more dormitories/rooms, and to sanitize those bathrooms on a regular basis.
Your staff needs to learn how to deal with guests in a safe way by wearing protective masks, maintaining their distance, and sanitizing their hands regularly, especially before and after exchanging items or interacting with guests.
There are several ways to go about this; some hostels started scheduling access to cooking spaces and sanitizing them after each use. Other hostels partnered up with local restaurants or started to prepare individual meals to guests themselves.
Your housekeepers need to have uninterrupted access to rooms and common areas on a daily basis; so it’s best to set a specific time during the day for guests to clear those areas. That way your staff can thoroughly sanitize rooms, bathrooms, high touch areas, and shared spaces in accordance to your hostel’s new cleaning guidelines.
Adhering to those mentioned procedures is one thing, but letting your guests know about them is what really makes it count. One sure-fire way to do this is through videos on your social media pages and website; your video doesn’t have to cost you much or be professionally made to get travelers’ attention.
A very good example of that is a video made by ClinkNoord Hostel in Amsterdam; the video featured two opera singers showcasing all the hostel’s efforts to host safer stays. It also looks very simple, a video that you can use any camera to shoot. Their video was so successful that it was featured in an article by Forbes back in July. Check it out and get some ideas for your own video.
Due to the current restrictions on shared accommodation, you probably had to reduce the capacity of your dormitories by at least half, or even switch to offering private rooms only. To optimize your occupancy, why not create packaged offers for families and groups?
You can sell whole dorms that’re big enough to fit up to six members of a single-family or a large group of close friends traveling together. That way you can draw income from all your beds, and your guests get to enjoy safe getaways on a budget.
Cash flow is a constant worry for hostel owners these days, there isn’t a lot of money coming in; due to the uncertainty surrounding travel, guests are reluctant to commit to specific dates for their stays, and that stops them from finalizing bookings.
That shouldn’t discourage you though. Many hostels are now opting to offer their guests non-refundable rates with date flexibility; with these discounted bookings, hostels can avoid future cancellations that affect their cash flow, and guests get to book stays at great prices, with the flexibility they need for travel dates.
Your online presence is crucial at this point; and making your hostel bookable 24/7 to a wide audience can do wonders for your occupancy. If you’re already connected to one or two OTAs, why not advertise your beds and private rooms on more online channels?
One way you can do this is by increasing the number of OTAs you are connected to; since each OTA has its own demand and its loyal bookers, you get to capitalize on more booking opportunities without spending any extra money on marketing. It’s also helpful to integrate your PMS with a channel manager to organize all your online reservations.
The opportunity to connect with others is what people love about hostels. In the new normal, it’s important to provide alternative ways for guests to interact and get to know each other, without them having to stay in the same rooms or hang out in common areas.
One idea is for you to set up an online chat room where your guests can talk, share experiences, and plan activities together. This will be especially helpful to solo travelers who are looking to socialize and bond with like-minded people on their journey, without having face-to-face interactions with too many people at a time.
The new normal may have put restrictions on hostel activities, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to enrich the experiences of your guests; depending on your hostel’s location, you can think of safe ways to resume some of your old activities, or even come up with brand new ones that involve less interaction.
As a general rule, there should be a focus on outdoor events like open-air classes, family cycling and self-guided walking tours. Activities such as karaoke nights, open-mic, board games, or pub crawls can also be organized with hygiene & social distancing protocols in place.
A lot of people are working remotely now and they’ll continue to do so in the future. There are no time restrictions or a physical place of work; everyone will have the freedom to travel and explore new places whenever they like, for as long as they like. The trick is how your hostel can entice guests to book longer stays or extend their current ones.
You can simply show your guests a map with all your local attractions and events, including how long it would take to see each one, or it can be done by integrating your hostel system with guest apps like MyStay to organize that for you.
Offering discounted bundles and loyalty points are also great motivators for longer guest stays; packages that include laundry service, meals, tours, activities, and internet access, assure guests that they can have a great experience, while everything they will need is available to them at a budget.
How many times have your guests asked you about a place to buy a toothbrush or a supermarket to get their groceries? Stocking and selling items that your guests usually need is a great way to tap into some extra money.
At the right price, they will be buying these things from you directly instead of having to get it from outside. You can also act as a middle man by partnering up with local businesses that your guests are usually interested in, and get commissions for things like event tickets, meals, or bike rentals.
Getting things done remotely is the ultimate work-around during the current times, so why not offer this solution to your guests too? Contactless services are not only a safe alternative to usual procedures; they can also be a strong selling point that provides assurance to worried travelers and encourages them to choose your hostel.
When you start using an integrated PMS, your guests can check-in online using their cellphones, even before they arrive at your hostel; you will get a picture ID, a signature and all the information you need, without any person-to-person interactions. Your system can combine all guest charges on one bill, and they’ll be able to pay it contact-free, as well as check-out online.