Destinations Magazine

An Open Letter to Hostel Managers

By Kellyabroad @kelly_abroad

An open letter to hostel managers

Dear Owner/Manager,

I want to like you, I really do. I want to like your hostel. It’s going to be my home, possibly for a long time. I know I don’t have much money. I know I probably look  weathered and tired. But all the more reasons for you to be at your very best. Not your very worst.

To me, the formula for a great hostel is very simple. I know, I know, you’re only one person. You can’t do it all. Amazing places need time and money thrown at them. You don’t have much of either. Hell, you’re probably running the place on your own and sleeping on the common room couch at night. Trust me, I’ve met you before. And I want to help you.

If you want to be good…

1. Greet me properly.

I know this may come as a shock to you, but when I arrive, although I may look ravishing. I don’t feel it. I’ve probably taken a long flight or overnight bus. I’ve walked several blocks or dealt with a crowded metro with a 100 kilo backpack tied to my hips. I’m hot, tired and I need to pee.  I’m probably hungry.

Help me out here. Throw me a smile at least. Don’t treat me like I’ve interrupted your Facebook time. If you can, let me check in early. I need to sleep and shower. If you can’t let me check in, at least point me in the direction of luggage storage and a bathroom. Smile again.

To go the extra mile, give me a map and show me where the closest supermarkets and restaurants are. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy laminated maps. Draw one. Print copies. Suggest a couple of activities for the afternoon. Show me around the hostel like it’s your own home. Don’t make me guess anything later. Anticipate what my next question will be. You get them all the time, you know I might ask for a towel or what the Wifi code is. Don’t make me hunt you down later.

2. Be where you say you will be.

I know you have a life, I know it, I do. I know you don’t want to be chained to that reception desk. But for the love of god, don’t make me look for you. Don’t make me wonder where you are. If I’ve checked a box saying ’12pm check-in’, don’t stand me up, be at your station at 12! If you are going to step out for a few minutes, throw up a sign. “Be back soon.” Don’t make me stress that you’ve left for the afternoon when I need a towel/spare key/change/key to the locker room.

3. Be clean

An open letter to hostel managers

Clean, bright, airy

Please, please be clean. If nothing else. Be clean. If you have a kitchen, encourage guests to clean up after themselves. Supply dish-washing liquid, scrubbing brushes, tea-towels and sanitiser. Clean the fridge regularly. Make sure your utensils and pots are up to scratch.

Bathrooms are important. The key to a clean bathroom? Diligence. I WILL know if it hasn’t been cleaned in more than a day. Missing toilet paper, a full bin, a wet floor and hair in the shower is enough to make me not want to touch anything but myself. Splash out, throw a few hooks up on the wall so I don’t have to leave my towel on the basin. Make sure there’s plenty of toilet paper, mop the floor and wipe down the basin and mirror. It’s all you need to do, five minutes every morning. Please.

4. Put yourself in my shoes

An open letter to hostel managers

A map- amazing !

Nothing irks me more than terrible directions. Supplying an address is okay. Give me directions that I can follow, great. (When you come out of the station, turn down the nearest street and we are the yellow house- not enough detail. Which street? Left or right? Bright yellow? Or that dirty yellow place with the blue trim?) Take the time to email me a map? Amazing. Take the time to let me know to bring enough cash because there’s only one ATM in town? Thoughtful. Send me a list of excursions to think about before I arrive? Brilliant.

Also, a sign at your entrance will do wonders. Too many hostels look like regular homes. Some don’t even have a street number. Have a sign! Grab a bit of cardboard, write down Happy Hostel in crayon, hang. Done.

5. Do breakfast

An open letter to hostel managers

Freshly squeezed watermelon juice for breakfast… yes please!

I mean, actually do it. The amount of times I’ve booked a place specifically because they offered breakfast, only to find that it was non-existent… Disappointing, to say the least. FYI – You cannot call yourself a Bed and Breakfast, if you don’t do breakfast. Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. A slice of toast, a piece of fruit, and coffee or tea. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. When I’m hungry and caffeine deprived in the morning, I will not be feeling amarous towards you or your hostel.

6. Don’t charge me for a heap of crap

Deposit for the key, money for the towel, Internet access costs $1 a minute, if you want to print something, it’s extra; luggage storage is $10 for the afternoon, paying with a card is an extra ten percent, if you check out five minutes too late it’s an extra night.

Here’s my advice. Chill out. If you’re a big place looking to instill rules, rigor and security, I can understand a few small charges. If you’re a small place and we’re your only guests, give us a couple of treats. We’ll like you for it and we’ll review you favorably.

7. Be nice

Right up there with the cleaning. It sounds ridiculous. But at least pretend you want me there. Pretend you like me. Ask me about myself. I know you get a lot of dipshits in your hostel. I work in hospitality too. I hate people just as much as you do. But I’m great at faking at and you need to learn to as well.

And if you want to be great…

Help us book excursions. Pal up with an affiliate tour company, negotiate some discounts. Make life easier for us. Show us where we can rent bikes, book tickets, make reservations. Better yet, have a free walking tour. Organise some hostel excursions, even if it’s just a pub crawl. We’ll love you for it.

Remember my name. Greet me during the day. Find out how the stay/trip is going. Suggest things I might like to do/see. Be hospitable.

Go the extra mile and put on dinner. Spaghetti and sauce, when it’s free, tastes like a million bucks. If you can’t afford it, make dinner an optional. Poets Hostel in Porto, Portugal does three course dinners with as much wine as you can stomach for 12 euros. Cheap food in a social hostel, there is no better recipe for a great stay.

Make the place homely. Believe it or not, I will book extra nights if the place is cosy. How? Have a common area. Throw some cushions, candles and rugs around. Get a bit of background music going. Have an outdoor area where I can drink/smoke/catch the sun. Put some pictures up. Tie a hammock to a tree. Inexpensive but effective.

An open letter to hostel managers

Cosy fireplace, bookshelf… big tick

Have a laundry service. Most of us need it. If you don’t have the facilities/time/money, have a chat to some local laundromats and see if you can sort out a discounted service.

Your turn- what do you think makes a great hostel? 

Are you a hostel owner or manager? What do guests do that drive you nuts?

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