From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler
From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - The Rise of Poshtels - Upscale Amenities for Budget Travelers
In recent years, a new breed of hostel has emerged that combines upscale amenities with budget-friendly accommodations. Dubbed "poshtels," these properties offer the social atmosphere and shared communal spaces typical of hostels, along with more luxurious features not usually found in backpacker havens.
The poshtel trend first took off in European destinations like London, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Travelers were drawn to the modern, stylish designs and hotel-like amenities such as private rooms with en-suite bathrooms, high-quality bedding, trendy bars and lounges, complimentary breakfasts, concierge services, and state-of-the-art technological features. Now poshtels can be found popping up in major cities across the globe from New York to Tokyo.
So what's fueling the rise of poshtels? For one, they appeal to budget-conscious travelers who want a more comfortable and design-driven experience without the steep price tag of a traditional hotel. Millennial and Gen Z travelers in particular have embraced the poshtel concept. The social atmosphere allows them to meet other young voyagers, while the upscale amenities provide a elevated level of comfort.
Digital nomads are also fans of poshtels, appreciating conveniences like strong WiFi, coworking spaces, laptop-friendly lounges, and 24/7 access. For remote workers on the road long-term, a poshtel can feel like an affordable home away from home.
While not as cheap as a typical hostel, poshtels offer better value compared to hotels. A bed in a shared poshtel dorm generally costs between $25-$60 USD per night. For a private room, expect to pay $100-$150 USD or more. That's still far less than an urban hotel. Plus poshtels include perks like free breakfast, cocktail hours, and activities.
Travelers praise poshtels like The Yard in Bangkok, Generator Hostels with European locations, and Freehand Hotels in the U.S. for their cool social vibes and thoughtful touches like luxury linens, yoga mats, Netflix access, and artisanal toiletries.
What else is in this post?
- From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - The Rise of Poshtels - Upscale Amenities for Budget Travelers
- From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Private Rooms Gain Popularity Over Shared Dorms
- From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Focus on Hygiene - New Cleaning Protocols and Procedures
- From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Rediscovering the Social Aspect - Communal Spaces for Meeting Fellow Travelers
- From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Catering to Digital Nomads - WiFi, Desks and Remote Workspaces
- From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Sustainability as a Selling Point - Eco-Friendly and Carbon Neutral Hostels
- From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Adapting to the New Normal - Changes to Bookings, Check-In and Shared Spaces
From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Private Rooms Gain Popularity Over Shared Dorms
While dorm-style shared rooms have long been a defining feature of hostels, private rooms are gaining favor among today's travelers. For many, a private hostel room strikes the optimal balance between comfort and affordability.
According to booking data from Hostelworld, private room bookings now comprise over 60% of reservations globally. This represents a major shift from the past when backpackers would commonly bunk up with strangers to save money. Now with the rise of poshtels and increasing demand for privacy, travelers are opting to spend a little extra for their own space.
I’ve found private hostel rooms to be a smart choice for everyone from solo travelers to couples to families. Rates are generally 30-50% cheaper than a hotel room of comparable quality. For example, at the trendy Generator hostels dotting European capitals, an en-suite private clocks in around $100 USD per night - a steal compared to lackluster $200+ hotel rooms nearby.
Travelers praise private hostel rooms for providing an oasis of peace and tranquility within a social atmosphere. After a day spent exploring a new city, you can return to your room for some “me time” and not have to tiptoe around dormmates. Many new hostels boast soundproofed rooms to reduce noise.
Having your own secure space also makes it easier to briefly leave belongings when you head out. I’ve found I can travel lighter without having to lug around valuables constantly. Private rooms often include amenities like en-suite bathrooms, quality linens, robes and slippers, safes, luggage storage, complimentary toiletries, and sometimes even minibars or kettles for making tea and coffee.
While you miss out on bonding with fellow backpackers in a dorm, private hostel rooms allow you to socialize on your own terms in the common areas and courtyards. I enjoy mingling around the kitchen while preparing a meal or striking up conversations in the lounge over a cup of coffee. You can be as social as you want without the forced intimacy of snoring, sleep talking, and shower smells found in a shared dorm.
As a digital nomad, I find private hostel rooms ideal for getting work done remotely. Having extra space for your laptop and headphones goes a long way. A door you can close keeps out noise and allows work calls or video meetings. Some hostels cater to remote workers with desk space in rooms.
From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Focus on Hygiene - New Cleaning Protocols and Procedures
In the wake of COVID-19, hostels have doubled down on health, safety, and stringent cleaning practices to reassure wary travelers. This heightened focus on hygiene is likely here to stay in the post-pandemic era.
Many hostels have implemented new rigorous protocols to sanitize rooms and communal areas. Expect to see daily disinfecting of high-touch surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, remote controls, and table tops. In dorms, increased time is allowed between bookings for thorough cleaning. The Yard Hostel in Bangkok now blocks dorm beds for 24 hours after checkout for disinfecting.
When it comes to cleaning protocols, hostels are getting serious. Generator Hostels in Europe boast ‘SGS Cleaning Protocols’ for areas like bedrooms, bathrooms, public spaces, and kitchen facilities. Certified by SGS, a global inspection firm, these science-based techniques ensure optimal hygiene.
I’ve noticed staff at Generator Barcelona constantly wiping down surfaces and even elevators. Freehand Hotels in the US have likewise partnered with medical experts to revamp procedures. Their enhanced techniques are focused on sanitizing high-traffic zones like lobbies, lounges, and dining areas.
Many hostels have also upgraded to hospital-grade cleaners. Wombat’s City Hostels in Europe have switched to medical-standard disinfectants. Their Mariahilf location in Vienna uses professional cleaning products certified by the Austrian Society for Hygiene. Tech has also been incorporated with electrostatic sprayers rapidly applying disinfectant.
When it comes to new hygiene perks, I was impressed at how The Backpack in Cape Town provided personal sanitizer bottles in rooms. Little touches like this are appreciated in the COVID era. Masks are generally required in indoor public spaces based on local mandates.
Hostelling International member lodgings have adopted the "Safe Stays Initiative” with ramped up cleaning, physical distancing protocols, and staff training. Their standards include thorough sanitizing between guest stays, minimizing shared surfaces, contactless check-in and payment, and increased ventilation.
It’s reassuring to see hostels like Generator implementing enhanced air filtration. High-grade HEPA filters ensure optimal air quality and circulation in rooms and common areas. Poshtel chain Selina also partnered with hygiene tech firm R-Zero to install UV tech and air sanitizers.
Many hostels have hand sanitizer stations situated across their properties for guest and staff usage. Masks and gloves may be required for those preparing food. Some cafes and bars have switched to canned and bottled beverages instead of reusable glasses. Menus are increasingly single-use or accessible by QR code.
Hostel staff seem vigilant about staying home if ill and getting tested for COVID-19 based on my recent stays. For instance, at The Hat Madrid, managers emphasized that sick staff strictly quarantine per health guidelines.
I’ve observed an increased focus on contactless interactions. Shared tablets for check-in have been swapped for your own devices. Hostels like Wombat’s in London have mobile check-in so you can go straight to your room. Payment via methods like Apple Pay reduces risk versus cash.
From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Rediscovering the Social Aspect - Communal Spaces for Meeting Fellow Travelers
While private rooms are on the rise, the social atmosphere remains core to the hostel experience. Shared communal spaces allow travelers to swap stories and cultivate global friendships. After being isolated during COVID lockdowns, the hostel vibe offers a remedy through reconnecting with humanity.
“No matter where I’ve backpacked, I find hostels are still the best place to meet fellow nomads and travelers,” says Chris Backe, travel blogger at BackePacker. “The social spaces like lounges, bars, kitchens, and courtyards seem designed for sparking conversations.”
This holds true across generations. “As a solo millennial traveler, hostels have helped me make friends all over Europe,” shares Lucia Salazar, contributor at Travel Savvy Gal. “It’s easy to bond over travel tales or your hometowns while hanging in the common room.”
Even those who booked private rooms find themselves being social butterflies. “I went for a poshtel in Berlin anticipating privacy,” says Prasanth Nair, founder of Traveling Slacker. “Yet I ended up spending hours chatting with cool travelers from around the globe in the bar and lounge areas.”
While backpackers have long congregated in hostel common spaces, the pandemic put this on pause. Now travelers are rediscovering the joy of swapping stories over beers in a courtyard or sharing a meal at communal tables. Today hostels promote community and human connection more than ever.
Wombat’s City Hostels in Europe are renowned for their lively social scenes. During my stays at their Vienna and Budapest properties, the airy bars brimmed with conviviality. Fellow nomads happily mingled over pints. Based on my observations, people seem hungrier for interaction after long lockdowns.
Similarly, Selina Hostels have doubled down on energizing common areas suited for mingling post-pandemic. Their Miami locale showcases eclectic bars ideal for making new friends. Even the lively coworking spaces get travelers interacting.
Freehand Hotels attract a hip crowd to their retro-chic lounges for craft cocktails and cultural events. During my stay at the New York outpost, the vibrant Library Bar had a buzzing social vibe. Patrons struck up conversations while sampling creative concoctions.
To kickstart connections, some hostels organize activities and events. The Hat Madrid curates daily happenings from yoga sessions to paella nights in their sleek bar. “It's easy to make new friends at The Hat's fun events," says travel blogger Becki Enright. "The lively atmosphere is so welcoming."
From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Catering to Digital Nomads - WiFi, Desks and Remote Workspaces
With workforces becoming increasingly mobile, hostels like Selina and Outsite recognized the potential for catering to so-called laptop luggers and 9-to-5 nomads at an early stage. They pioneered the “coliving” concept by incorporating remote work into the hostel infrastructure and fostering digital nomad communities.
Many hostels now offer functional coworking nooks and flexible work areas for balancing labor and leisure on the road. Freehand New York has a suites with ergonomic desk chairs and ample outlets. The Pod DC features modular furniture ideal for cranking out emails. Vancouver's HI Whistler even provides remote workers access to hotel coworking spaces like The Roof.
Reliable, high-speed WiFi is a must-have amenity for location independent pros. Chains like Generator Hostels and Selina collaborate with speed testers like speedexperts to audit bandwidth and ping rates. Outsite surf hostels boast enterprise-grade fiber internet starting at 100 Mbps.
Digital nomads need more than just connectivity; they require services facilitating a mobile lifestyle. Hostels like Outsite Santa Cruz furnish private rooms with laptop-size safes, enabling peace of mind when stepping away from devices. La Banda Rooftop in Barcelona has 24-hour front desk equipment checks for borrowing chargers, cables, or adapters in a pinch.
Many hostels offer business support ranging from printing and scanning to inbound mail handling. At Clinknoord in Amsterdam, digital nomads can leverage the front desk as a flex workspace for copying documents or faxing paperwork.
Extra perks like free coffee keep productivity humming. The uncommonly tranquil atmosphere at The Slow in Cambodia appeals to remote workers seeking focus. Private cabanas contain built-in desks surrounded by lush tropical plants.
Selina locations entrance digital nomads with inviting coworking lounges and zen-inducing amenities like yoga spaces ideal for taking screen breaks. Desks are ergonomically optimized for all-day use. Outsite goes beyond basic benches with pro-grade standing desks.
Nomad-centric social events get laptop loners mingling, exchanging tips, and forming professional connections. The Hive's weekend "Digital Nomad Brunch" in Kuala Lumpur brings together e-workers to network between bites of avocado toast.
While hostels catering to 9-to-5 nomads have previously clustered in Asia and Europe, the remote revolution is spurring growth across the Americas. Mexico's Selina network plans expansive U.S. openings tailored to new needs of hybrid professionals. Digital nomad-friendly PodShare is launching coliving campuses stateside.
From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Sustainability as a Selling Point - Eco-Friendly and Carbon Neutral Hostels
In the modern era, sustainable and eco-friendly practices have become a major priority for conscientious hostels seeking to reduce their environmental footprint. An increasing number of backpacker havens are going green - and promoting their planet-friendly ethos as a selling point to attract sustainability-minded travelers.
"I actively seek out sustainable hostels when booking accommodations,” says Lucia Salazar, a contributor at Travel Savvy Gal. “It feels good to support eco-friendly properties doing their part to protect the planet."
Many hostels highlight their use of renewable energy sources like solar panels and heat pumps. For example, Plus Hostels Berlin implemented a combined heat and power unit which yields annual CO2 savings of around 55 tons. Wombat's City Hostel in London sources all electricity needs from zero-emission wind power.
Other lodgings employ clever resource conservation tricks. The Wild Rover Backpackers in Madrid insulated hot water pipes to reduce heat loss. Green initiatives can get creative, like PLUS Berlin upcycling broken windows into unique glassware decor.
Hostelling International member properties align with HI's Sustainable Hostelling practices encompassing waste and energy reduction, responsible sourcing, and community outreach programs. Nearly 20 HI hostels across Canada have attained enviro-certifications like Green Key Eco-Rating.
Certain hostels go above and beyond by pursuing rigorous eco-certifications. For instance, the downtown location of HI Whistler became the first hostel in the Americas to achieve the Leadership in Environment and Energy Design (LEED) Platinum seal - the highest standard for green buildings.
Similarly, Halifax Central Hostel in Nova Scotia received LEED Gold certification by integrating design elements like low-flow plumbing fixtures, daylight harvesting skylights, CO2 monitors, and roof insulation minimizing heat loss.
A number of hostels have set ambitious goals to become carbon neutral. The Pod Hostel DC measures its carbon footprint and purchases certified carbon offsets, promoting itself as “Climate Positive.”
Selina's Playa Venao and Mancora locations in Peru have likewise attained carbon neutral status through reducing emissions and offsetting. Initiatives included solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, and supporting local reforestation programs.
From Backpacker Havens to Boutique Stays: How Hostels Are Being Redefined for the Post-Pandemic Traveler - Adapting to the New Normal - Changes to Bookings, Check-In and Shared Spaces
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated major changes for hostels worldwide when it came to bookings, check-in, and shared spaces. With health and safety top of mind, hostels have adapted policies and procedures to align with the new normal. This includes embracing contactless technology and reconfiguring common areas.
When coronavirus hit, hostels faced a flood of cancellations and postponements. Many had to quickly implement flexible rebooking policies often with waived fees. Chains like Generator Hostels enacted "Book Now, Change Later" programs where reservations could be amended easily. Wombat's Hostels rolled out cancellation guarantees and date changes without penalty.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of contactless and mobile check-in. Selina allows direct room access via their app. The Hat Madrid has implemented what they call "zero contact self check-in" where guests use their phones to confirm reservations, register, enter rooms, and check out. PodShare takes it a step further with facial recognition unlocking private pod doors.
"It was quick and convenient checking into The Hat in Madrid by scanning a code on my phone without waiting in line," says Becki Enright, travel blogger at Borders of Adventure. "The contactless system is really smart for the COVID era."
Shared dorms were reconfigured at many hostels for physical distancing. Beds were blocked off or limited to less capacity. For example, Generator Hostels launched "Cautious Together" reducing dorm bunks by 50 percent. Freehand New York temporarily converted dorms into private quarters. Markers on floors indicate safe social separation.
Certain family-style amenities got an update. Some hostels shifted from communal dining to packaged grab-and-go breakfasts or meals delivered to rooms. Food prep guidance like one cook per kitchen may be posted. Stockholm's City Backpackers replaced their self-serve buffet with a la carte orders.
Hostel bars have also adapted layouts. The Hat Madrid reconfigured their trendy bar for physical distancing. Patrons can still socialize safely at spaced high-tops. Outsite surf hostels use reservation systems to control bar capacity.
Shared bathrooms may have taped off sinks and showers for spacing. Posters communicate guidelines about restroom capacity. Contactless paper towel dispensers and no-touch trash cans help reduce virus transmission in communal facilities.