A CHANGING U.S. HOSTEL SCENE

Hostels of all different brands, designs and sizes seem ready to enter the United States. When it happens, millennial travelers will have a wider range of choices, and that’s a change worth embracing.

That’s my feeling after conversations and observations at two global hostel conferences held last week. The first was in Dublin at Hostelworld’s dynamic two-day annual conference that drew about 500 hostel operators from around the world.  And a day later, STAY WYSE hosted its inaugural Global Hostel Business Conference in Amsterdam which attracted about 220 enthusiastic participants.

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The 2016 Hostelworld Conference opens in Dublin

The hostel marketplace is sizzling in Europe, and both Amsterdam and Dublin are hotbeds of development and innovation. HI USA staff took several days to tour a dozen or so hostels, coming away with ideas and impressions that can inform our work.

America appears to be next. That’s the message presented at the Hostelworld conference in a well-received Phocuswright study of the US hostel marketplace. And in Amsterdam where I was a panelist at an opening day conference session that included the COO of Freehand and the CEO of Generator — two well regarded corporate hostel chains with venture capital funding — both publicly shared plans for their US expansion.

From the dais, I welcomed them both, as well as other quality operators.   Here’s why: as corporate ventures their goals are certainly different than HI USA, yet their presence can help improve the visibility of the entire US hostel sector.

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STAY WYSE Hostel Business Conference in Amsterdam

As a nonprofit, HI USA’s purpose is to inspire in our guests a greater understanding of people, places and cultures for a more tolerant world.   Our focus is on promoting intercultural understanding, not generating a profit.  Our investment goes way beyond our buildings, to experiential learning and the innovative programs we design to entertain, engage, and educate.   And our aspiration is to get travelers out into local communities for exploration and learning, rather than planted inside buildings.

It’s always heartening to know one’s efforts are appreciated, and HI USA was again named by Hostelworld as one of the top 3 hostel networks in the world, based on guest feedback through their reservation engine. In a sign of the times, Hostelworld also announced plans for an outreach campaign in the US to promote hostel use.

As more of a global trade association, STAY WYSE successfully focused on surfacing investment trends within the sector (technology emerged as a key driver) and on providing a venue for hostels and suppliers to explore potential business relationships.

A dynamic hostel sector depends on ideas and energy, and both were on display last week in Dublin and Amsterdam, with thanks to Hostelworld and STAY WYSE. With the United States poised for new hostel entries, a mission-focused HI USA will continue to operate our hostels with our own unique spirit and drive, while welcoming others.

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