As a reformed backpacker (I guess once you start flying for business you become more of a briefcase, or is it a satchelista?) I didn’t really think of hostels as being the next big thing in hospitality. I guess that’s what happens when you just come off building a boutique hotel and spending your days talking to your friend Matt about how cool it would be to disrupt the hotel tech industry. And then you end up forgetting that you spent your late teens and early 20s in dorm rooms.
Back then, travelling around South East Asia and Central America, hostels were the only accommodation I knew. They worked for me because I was flexible: I knew that I didn’t want to book anywhere too far in advance because I might decide to go to a completely different place, and depending on whether there were actual roads leading to said place, I didn’t even know when or if I’d be coming back. Similarly, the best thing about hostels was that I knew I could find a bed, and I also knew that if I didn’t know the area, I’d always bump into a few people – locals or fellow travellers – who could tell me where to go, what to do, what to watch out for, etc. (and I always loved being able to outsmart the guide books by having more up-to-date, local info).
Well, fast forward to the point where myself, my friend Matt, and our awesome team are actually disrupting the hotel tech industry with our PMS, and we’re finding that the travel landscape is beginning to resemble that backpacking world, and travel habits and schedules are becoming as flexible as I described above.
When we started building the system, we thought of a future where a hotel brand wouldn’t just have one location, but many distributed addresses around the city. We got lucky in that some of the first people that we spoke to about our concept of a 21st Century PMS, were hosteliers. It meant that we didn’t just think of guests in rooms; we built out buildings that could be apartments, made up of individual rooms, and made up of individual beds.
What most people don’t realise is that it was actually the hosteliers that were doing the sharing economy way before the kids in San Francisco ever decided to rent out rooms with airbeds. Hosteliers were putting in bunk beds for grown men and women to sleep on and selling couches when they could skirt the regulation around rentable spaces. They were the true innovators of our industry, and I would contend that they are best poised to take it into the future.
You can look at some of the leading lights of the hostel industry – Wombats, Clink, Generator, Equity Point, K’s House—and some strong regional brands – Soul Kitchen in St Petersburg, Mosaic House in Prague, etc. – and you see people who know that todays traveller wants the following: a great location, a social space to meet fellow travellers and a diverse offering depending on what he or she is looking for (usually a well-designed space, a comfy bed, and an ability to book a private room). These hosteliers yield in terms of sellable space per m2, and they are unbound by their immediate geography – only by what their housekeeping can clean (in order to offer that reliability of service that professional travellers are looking for).
They understand that the future of Hotels is a future that encompasses all accommodation and gives the flexibility of choice to the customer. The sharing economy brings the ideas, but it still needs to become reliable. We see the wave of professionalisation of Airbnbs upon us, and while these would-be micro-hoteliers look to get their heads around the complexities of brand-building and local regulation, we look to hosteliers as those who will ultimately provide the world with brands that offer a full breadth of management – cooperation with local landlords, Airbnbs, dorms, rooms, apartments, beds, and also (in the future) co-working spaces and unorthodox meeting rooms.
We are proud to work with some of these disruptors and to provide a system that enables their visions to come to life.
Richard Valtr – Founder Mews Systems