Of Value and Values

I was in the Phoenix airport waiting for a plane back to Washington DC after a two-day, late March meeting with a group of HI-USA leaders. We had assembled for the weekend to plan for building a stronger, better HI-USA, with more reach, more vitality, and more hostels.

I settled into one of those terminal chairs, clutching a bunch of papers that broadcast the HI-USA logo and my own association with hostelling.

A young, lanky Australian glanced over and we began talking. He was taking some time off from college and touring the world. There are hostels in Australia, too, he said. Why aren’t there more in America? And what about HI-USA hostels, anyway?

I shared with him a vision for a more robust hostel network in the USA, in cities large and small. Come back in a few years, I suggested. Experience what we are planning.

And what makes HI-USA hostels special in America, compared to the rest?

Two reasons, I offered. First, it’s about giving superior value to travelers. We have well-located buildings, clean and secure, and terrific staff. We are not seeking to be the cheapest overnight stay; rather, we want to offer the best value for every precious travel dollar. That’s why so many choose to stay with us in the first place — for lodging.

But it also is about our values. We may sell overnight stays, but we deliver high impact, cross-cultural exchange. It’s a big part of our organizational DNA. You find it in the design of our buildings, the focus of our programming, and the welcome of our staff … bringing together diverse people and cultures. As more people learn about what our hostels offer, that’s why they travel with us — for the experience.

It’s all about value and values, I shared. And what results for many are travel experiences that are eye-opening, even life-changing.

We exchanged a few stories before the college aged Australian headed to his boarding airplane (intending to stay in more HI hostels, I ventured!). I sat back into my airport chair waiting for mine. A perfect ending to this particular weekend, I thought.

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