Hostel Situations: Are Backpacker Hangouts Finally Branching Out?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hostel Situations: Are Backpacker Hangouts Finally Branching Out?

Increased connectivity is in the contemporary buzzfeed. Along with social media and networking platforms, travelers are discovering that the way we travel should, naturally, also be social and fun, which makes the rise in popularity of hostels make perfect sense.

A recent NYT article introduced the Mexico City-based hostel Downtown Beds, a hostel located in the former servants’ quarters of an old palace. It’s run and operated by a company that usually runs with boutique hotels in the D.F. and New York City. The fact that the company has decided to branch into the hostel realm is because it has realized there is a market in this travel sector.

As the director of hostels at Hostelling International USA states in the article, “We’re seeing more and more travelers who can afford to stay hotels, yet choose to stay at hostels for the social experience.”

Internationally, the youth travel industry is estimated at 160 million arrivals per year (accounting for 20% of all travel). That’s a lot of travel, and it has provided a large market for keen investors. Once in a location, travelers are now eager to observe the different environment. 70% of youth travelers state that they are motivated to explore, work or study, ultimately leaving with a higher awareness of responsible travel and social justice.

Hostels used to be looked at as the backpackers’ rugged adventure, likened to going to camp. It had the air that bordered on rustic rural and civil society, with their book-exchange shelves home to the likes of Candide translated into Danish or a Murakami translated into Spanish. Going around the circle with a bottle of beer at the center at the end of a long day, one learned where people are from and mountains they had climbed to get there. It’s the way the everyday person travels, and each person’s story allows the listener to learn something different and new — the reason why he or she traveled in the first place.

It was from this seed planted that the backpackers’ ideal of travel has grown into a $34 billion industry.

The NYT goes on to speculate how this new travel experience may supersede the prehistoric hotel because it adds that extra element of fun to, what can sometimes be, a very solitary situation. It provides solo travelers the chance to gain travel buddies and off-the-beaten-track suggestions that guidebooks from 2009 never can.

The industry is also making it user-friendly with design and technology that eases the adjustment time. It provides that level of boutique comfort, even in the strangest of places.

However, it makes me wonder: Is this amalgamation of boutique backpacking a positive, negative or just the new way? If it’s the new way, I’m okay with it. I just think I would still prefer a little discomfort when away from home.


About the Author

britweaverToronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisurely cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog

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