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How Public Perceptions Of Hostels Have  Changed

Image adapted from original by Oh-Barcelona.com

Hostels – A Changed Industry

‘Youth hostels’ have always existed since 1912 playing second fiddle to hotels due to their lack of luxuries. Although they struggled to appeal to the masses hostels have always been popular among backpackers because of their cheap, no hassle accommodation. Since 1912 the term ‘youth hostel’ has become obsolete and outdated. Today hostels have re-established themselves as serious contenders for budget travellers. Most travellers will compromise on cheap accommodation if it allows them to stay on the road for longer. Hostels have long been associated with unsanitary, grungy backpackers seeking refuge. Now these institutions are flipping the script, many offering a luxurious and inexpensive alternative to hotels.

Over the last 5 years hostels have really transformed the backpacking game. Hostels have become more organised and business focused, adhering to stricter regulations in terms of hygiene and amenities. Major players already existent in the hospitality industry have invested, bringing their marketing and business expertise to rival the hotel industry.

The travel bug has revolutionised the hospitality industry, with millennials prioritising social interactions and shared adventures with newfound friends over expensive hotel suites. In a new study 9 out of 10 hostels are now equipped with private rooms. The report also found that 72% of US backpackers travel solo, seeking social connections and that hostel travellers are likely to spend more on trips. Hostels have become serious competitors for hotels with many such as YHA, Base and Nomads operating as chains.

   Ottawa Jail Hostel is indeed a former prison. The accommodation includes a tour full of spooky stories. My Personal Experience of Hostels

As a backpacker I was naïve to the progression and quality of hostels in the 21st Century. During the summer of 2016 to the spring of 2017, I spent 10 months traversing the globe.  As I was planning the first leg of my trip I enlisted the assistance of my now ex-girlfriend who when I told her I was planning to travel for 10 months and stay at hotels, looked at me dumbfounded.  

A totally logistical reaction but mildly patronising. My perception of hostels was one shared with many virgin backpackers as cheap, grungy and unhygienic but through first-hand experience and her guidance this negative attitude soon vanished. Whilst every hostel you visit won’t drip luxury and glamour (because they are hostels at the end of the day) thousands can offer a more comfortable and inexpensive way of traveling than previously thought. I was flabbergasted by the array of amenities and facilities on offer. Services to rival some boutique hotels. Such as free WIFI, bars (sometimes with free drinks tokens), safes, free bike hire, cooking facilities and some now even include swimming pools and fitness centres. If you’re backpacking what more do you need?

As a single backpacker or traveling with company, hostels offer something that is incomparable to hotels - this being a pure, unadulterated immersion into culture and diversity. These structures create encounters, e
nvironments, and engagement that harbour cultural interactions between travellers.   

With its temple-like appearance, the Azores Youth hostel makes you feel like you've already started your sitheghtseeing tour without leaving the accommodation.Hostels provide an environment where backpackers from all multi-cultural backgrounds can congregate in large groups, something that I had previously not been fortunate enough to witness. Interactions may vary from playing cards, watching a movie or sharing a drink. The majority of hostel-goers share the same wanderlust and excitement to travel and sample a culture alien to their own.  Therefore I found people that stayed in hostels to be a lot more approachable, friendly and more interesting to talk to compared to a hotel or local bar from your hometown. This might sound obvious I know but it may surprise you. For me hostel life creates an atmosphere of unity and comradery.

This might be a refreshing sight if you’ve been travelling with the same person for an extended length of time or if your interests are different, as there are plenty of people to interact with where you may share a mutual interest.

Having spoken to multiple friends undergoing a similar experience they have shared this attitude.  If you are open to socialising with other travellers the sheer abundance of cultural diversity may provide you with fresh cultural insights. Although you both may be thousands of miles from ‘home’ you undoubtedly share one common interest which is to travel. The stories and experiences you share will develop into lifelong memories long after you both depart and lead your separate lives. Successful conversers may even be given open invitations to visit in the future. Or the really lucky ones may begin a new romance.  At the end of the day it’s always cool to tell your friends you now have a network of friendships that span the globe. Some of whom you may talk to more regularly than people from home.

So if hostel life is something that you think you can handle and you can happily live out of your rucksack, then what are you waiting for?! Don’t bother spending unnecessary money on mini bars and room service; exchange it for rounds of pool and skydiving!

By Matt Couldwell - Online Media Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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