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How Hostels Are Adapting To The New Normal

By: Andrew Deen


Young female tourists staying in youth hostel

The so-called New Normal hasn’t done any favors to many industries outside of the hand-sanitizer and food delivery ones. The travel industry has (somewhat understandably, given the crisis) taken some of the biggest hits, with lodging being no exception. Staggering numbers surround the hotel and hostel field, with an estimated $400 million in room revenue being lost per day for the lodging industry, as a whole, during the height of coronavirus restrictions.

Just as person-to-person crisis communication is essential to keep COVID-19 at bay, so is business-to-business communication to help keep the struggling industry afloat. Big-name hotel chains have the luxury of taking massive loans, or even temporarily closing some locations, but the struggles are a bit more challenging for smaller business, and hostels, in particular, as they have a lot more common areas than regular hotels.

Here are a few ways that hostels are adapting to the new normal amidst stiff regulation.

Weighing Social vs. Social Distance

The primary allure of hostels, for many travelers is, of course… the price! But the secondary (and often primary, too) reason that so many seek out these places for lodging is the sense of community you can create with a group full of strangers based simply (and understandably) on the fact that you’re strangers in a place where no one knows anyone. As a result, you don’t really feel like strangers for very long. With these “shared experiences” having to change just like everything else related to social interaction, hostels are finding ways to keep the social while practicing the social distancing.

Most countries completely shut down hostels at the onset of the coronavirus. For many countries, improved participation in social distancing and PPE equipment use has allowed for various parts of the economy to open up with a few extra restrictions. For hostels, this meant increased cleaning procedures, touch-free check in and check out processes, and, of course, social distancing.

Following other parts of the tourism industry that involved groups of strangers together, like air and train travel, hostels implemented 6-feet-apart measures in all of the common areas. They also required individual travelers to eat and drink in 6-foot-solitude when they were allowed to open back up. These measures did not, however, mean that guests had to be completely devoid of each other’s company!

On a given evening, most hostels will host some kind of shared meal, or even a potluck, as most have very large kitchen areas where many people can prepare food at once. So large, that 6-foot-measures can be put in place, as well as “Bring your own dishes” orders to keep contact to a minimum. Another key factor is that preparing food doesn’t require a mouth to be open (even though testing your product can be fun) like eating does, and the eating areas were generally much larger to allow for more distance when masks were off for food consumption.

Moving Forward

The first step for helping out the hostel industry is wearing a mask, washing your hands, and being able to say, “well, there are too many people here, I should go somewhere else.” If that can exist in regularity, so can the industries like travel and music that are suffering greatly amidst the (pretty reasonable) restrictions being put in place by governments abound.

The more that society “pays ball” the more industries can be given opportunities to try their adaptations to the new normal. In the same sense that hostels are about community, so is a large part of their ability to survive the COVID-19 restrictions!

Published: September 17, 2020

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Andrew Deen

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business. Twitter @AndrewDeen14.

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