in Hospitality, Marketing

The Hostel Industry Needs To Segment

“I’ll take one car, please.”

Imagine walking into a car dealership and saying that.

That may have worked in 1908 and you were trying to buy a Model T, but today it would probably lead to a confused salesman and maybe a call to security.

If they were patient, the salesman would ask a few more questions. What is your budget? What features are important to you? Where will you be driving this car? How many people do you plan on commuting with? Do you plan to go offroad with the car?

The goal with all these questions would be to bring you closer to the type of car you’re looking for. You’d walk away in less time, happier with your new car, and happier with the concept of cars generally because you got what you were looking for.

If you were to start your search online, every website would begin with you selecting from at least a dozen different body types from coups to SUVs.

Unfortunately in the hostel industry, we’re stuck in the Model T days. Type ‘hostel’ into any booking engine and they’re all lumped together. The result of this lack of categorization is a suboptimal experience for hostel guests and hostel owners. If the industry is to mature, we need to start segmenting. It’s the natural evolution of an industry, and it’s overdue for hostels.

In the hotel industry, this is widely established. A couple spending a night at the 4 Seasons knows to expect a different experience than those at the Red Roof Inn. Wikipedia lists 40 different pages under “hotel types” ranging from apartment hotels to casino hotels to eco hotels to conference hotels to boutique hotels to luxury hotels. Each of those types offers a difference experience. Each will appeal to a different demographic.

It isn’t that only one or the other should exist, it’s that different people are looking for different experiences. The easier you make it for people to match their expectations to their experiences, the better everyone feels.

In the hostel world, accommodation ranges from party hostels to alcohol free hostels, luxury hostels to budget hostels, adventure hostels, eco hostels, surf hostels, family hostels, and more. Each of those hostels provide a different experience.

As hostel owners, we need to accept and adopt this segmentation. Nobody likes being put in a box, but I don’t think anyone would argue against getting more guests better suited for our offerings. The result would be better hostel experiences for guests. Better hostel experiences for guests would mean more hostel experiences. A rising tide lifts all boats.

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