It’s the age-old question. Hotel or hostel?
Over the years, I’ve stayed in some fabulous hotels. Not just OK hotels, or mid-range hotels, I’m talking about jaw-droppingly fabulous hotels. Private pools, personal butlers, outdoor rain showers, private saunas and jacuzzis. Even a piano in my private villa’s living room that I had no idea how to play but spent most of the evening entertaining myself on anyway… You get the picture.
I’ve also stayed in more hostels than I can count. Some amazing, others less so. It goes without saying that in order for a hostel to operate successfully, it has to be able to operate on some pretty tight margins. During the past six weeks in South America, when I have been staying in hostels they have typically been priced between £10-20 for a dorm bed and £20-35 for a private room. Most of these hostels are not so large that they can justify their prices by the fact that they are making 1000x the profit on each bed that it adds up but, at the same time they often offer spectacular value. Free wifi, free breakfast, comfortable social areas – these are by no means unusual in a hotel but they are almost unheard of not to be present in a hostel.
When making the decision whether to stay in a hotel or hostel, it’s often struck me that there are some lessons to be learned. Hotels, even some of the large five star one could learn a few things from hostels. There were times when I paid more for the internet in my hotel then my friends had paid for their room for the same day. Is that right? Clearly there’s an argument that guests staying in high-end hotels can afford to pay £20 per day for internet access. But does that justify the hotel actually charging it?
So here’s my list of 10 things that hotels can learn from hostels. Any thoughts?
- Wifi should always be free, fast and in every room. The number of hotels that throw you slow internet in one tiny corner of the lobby and then expect you to be grateful for the bone they’ve tossed you is quite frankly, ridiculous. The number that charge astronomical rates for internet, as if it’s some new fangled invention that can only be wheeled out on Sundays is laughable.
- Breakfast, however basic, should be included. Especially if your hotel is in the middle of nowhere on a deserted beach and the only other way your guests are feasibly going to be able to eat is to dive into the sea, catch it themselves and hope the sun is powerful enough to cook it.
- There should be a social area, where guests are not constantly obliged to eat or drink to justify their presence. Sometimes, people on holiday just want to relax without being treated as a gold mine waiting to be delved into at every possible moment.
- Encourage guests to go out of the hotel and explore rather than relentlessly suggesting in-house options to any requests for recommendations.
- Please put power points in the room, and not just one above the desk.
- Take any required pre-authorisations on cards prior to guests arriving. The last thing most people want after a long journey is to scrabble around to provide you with card details you already have to confirm that yes, they really want the hotel room they booked and they’re not going to trash said room to pieces.
- Have a little trust. Do you really need to pre-authorise four times the cost of the hotel room? Really?
- Tea and coffee facilities in rooms. Some people might be above making their own, many aren’t.
- Don’t treat everyone who turns up in a backpack like a leper.
- Stiff politeness is OK, allowing your staff to show some real personality is so much better.
What do you think? Hotel or hostel? Or neither?