Category Archives: Hostelconcepts

Volunteering abroad: New tourist or passers by?

Changing travellers and work

Whether be it from loving to travel. doing things for others, having a cheap alternative to travel and stay in another country, having something to do for the summer or fleeing from everyday life and home… All people working as volunteers abroad, have their own reasons for doing so.

Usually, it is a combination of backpacking, wanting to do something for others and sheer opportunism. A combination of both being there for others, and by doing so, implying an reasonable reciprical action. This works usually through social travel and social accommodation. Much like Couchsurfing and houseswapping, the need for symmetrical swapping or exchange, does not apply when bound by certain common qualities. Contact through a community, trust, mutual interests and being endorsed by others, are commonly seen as deciding factors for housing someone, either on their sofa or as guest with more freedom in movement and stay.

Volunteers, working abroad, are usually not familiar with the term volunteer-tourism and don’t like to be called `tourist’, which indicates- similar to backpackers -volunteering abroad is still seen as (partially) idealogical in nature. Baring in mind ofcourse, the idealogical traits can be interpreted as being “social currency”  for travel and staying abroad.

Motives

On the subject of motives for volunteering abroad, there are numerous studies and theories to be addressed. In a study by Tomazos & Butler (The Volunteer Tourist as ‘Hero’; 2010), participants explained their engagement in a programme in different ways:

  • a wish to get away from the everyday routine at the permanent place of residence,
  • a fondness for travel.
  • a wish to repay one’s life of privilege and the need to give help to those who are poor and whose poverty is no fault of their own.
  • growing distrust of all kinds of charity organisations which bring help to victims and collect funds in developed countries.

As the backpacking community changes, so do the parties that provide in voluntary work, that work on a voluntary basis and exceedingly so: the go-between party. Often providing extra services that require payment and registration and work along reciprocal routes that have less bearing on peoples willingness to exchange things without currency, in a symmetric way. When such parties require payment, they can no longer rely on the willingness of travellers, to be as open as they were before. They become “customers” instead of traveller or volunteer, providing and demanding different qualities altogether. People volunteering abroad, increasingly use more bi-directional reciprocity to get where they want to be, meaning that an exchange is made based upon more or less the same value: work for accommodation and food and drink. One example I can mention is the new startup Amons.

amons.co

The way people make use of working abroad as volunteer is highly bound by cultural differences in leisure-experience, the experience of time, global routines and seasonality. American students for instance, will have a summer break for a specific duration. Having a gap-year has more flexible time boundaries and often involve a combination of paid and voluntary work.

You walk the voluntary walk of a pilgrim

Volunteering is specifically popular in Europe. This has a very interesting bit of background. Doing volunteering is related to pilgrimage and religious travel. Although obviously many other factors are important, volunteer-tourism is often been associated with being interested in other cultures; wanting to get to know them better. The length of stay is quite long. Many tourism volunteer projects are also based on the conservation or restauration of heritage. The cultural routes have a strong potential link to volunteer tourism through heritage and through the desire to have intensive experiences with local people. (Greg Richards, 2011)

Poland

In Poland there is a high rise in movement-possibilities, due to emergent new ways of very cheap travel like Polskibus, covering long distances for a very low price. Polish people themselves are as yet less familiar with the concept of Couchsurfing and social travel and are quite pragmatic in their use of transportation and covering large distances, putting an emphasis on the act of arriving, rather than the travel itself. In the past 3 years, the use of and familiarity with social travel and accommodation has increased greatly in Poland.

This brings me to the ideological aspect of social travel within Poland. As much of voluntary work in Poland is regulated through Non Governmental Organisations with quite good and large networks, the possibilities for cultural exchange are huge and rhich in meaning. They provide excellent opportunities for artists applying for grants for cultural exchange programmes and for volunteers abroad, to engage in more spatial experiences, not particular to one single space or place of work. A very good example on a cultural low-threshhold scale, is the work of Kinderzirkus Wanjanini in Germany, with affiliated organisations.

Scholarly travel

Researchers also find an increase in scholarship schemes, to provide Polish young people to travel, work, stay and study. The two largest programs now, are Erasmus and CEEPUS, covering most of Europe. (Joanna Kowalczyk-Anioł)

In commercial tourism, research is often directed towards conversion, to understand motivation just enough to earn money.

In my personal opinion, the tourist geography of both backpacker and volunteer-tourist, should be seen as an organic entity, bound by structures that rise above and flee from the commodified nature of spatial and experiential structure of the everyday world. Don’t forget, travel is an act of cultural production, of meaning making and placemaking along a network of incorporated symbolic boundaries.

Angloville banner

Zach
Volunteer at Angloville (Poland)

Circus-game-in-Malaysia

Polskibus routes
Polskibus routes

Music-travel and opportunities

Working abroad as an artist or busker? There is an increasingly larger amount of academic funding you can apply for, for working and work-exchange on an academic level.

There are numerous reasons why art in general and street theatre and busking, are important in everyday life. Music travels through time and space through a number of modalities, most of which are nowadays considered to have “un-natural” rhythms, in the sense that we are so much attuned and formed by the commercialisation of both music and rhythm that it is hard to concentrate on, and be influenced by sounds that matter for wayfinding, for instance.

Ofcourse, music transforms particular places into tourist hotspots. If you’ve been to Rynek square in Krakow, you know how throughout the day, the square is filled with music. The place is filled with sound and the sound of a place, enters the consciousness of the tourist and becomes part of the experience of the place.

Some links

Interested in more background? A few (of many) readings:

  • Tourist product in experience economy (Institute of Urban and Tourism Geography andrzej.stasiak)
  • The role of experience in consumer behaviour in the tourism market: concept of experience economy and experiential marketing; (Agnieszka Niezgoda)
  • Motivations and Behaviour of Independent Travellers Worldwide (Greg Richards and Julie Wilson)
  • The Volunteer Tourist as ‘Hero (Tomazos & Butler; 2010)

Interested in putting everything into practise and see welldevised concepts turn into proper, unforgettable experiences? Contact me! 

Renk van Oyen

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Takes on eventing for hostels

Thoughts on time and perception

Creativity in hostels is not just important for your guest-experience, it also enhances the quality of life in general. Literature has moved away from objective indicators of quality of life, into the understanding that subjectivity plays a larger role, connected to place, context and perception of time and time-related experiences. Quality of life is connected to leisure wellbeing, depending on factors such as :

  • Arousal;
  • Intrinsic satisfaction;
  • Involvement;
  • Mastery;
  • Perceived freedom and
  • Spontaneity

(Unger and Kernan, 1983)

In eventing for your guests in or from your hostel, make sure their time-perception is different from the commodified urban rhythms most guests are already acustomed to.

New Year in Krakow(1)

Rhythm and spaces

Nighttime should not be the mere opposite of daytime-rhythms. Remember to emphasise local big events, as they hold an important ritual meaning, important for the guest to construct their experiences with. Events as ritual, are bounded and seperated from everyday life.

Events can create ‘small spaces’ (Friedman, 1999), in which the time-experience is enclosed and can be marked and beautified by you as an event-maker. By length and nature and intensity of their qualities (Sorokin, Merton)

The events you organise and present, can create a sense of collective emotional entrainment (Collins), by introducing them to shared rhythms, marked by `zeitgebers’, like the gathering on a square at local big events, in which the guests’ participation within collectiveness is marked by larger markings, like a pre-party in your hostel, a fancy dress or themed gathering.

interaction ritual chain

As signals, they lead to interaction and shared behaviour. The experience and experience of time can be constructed by entrainment and a shared sense of ritual factors, but in this case it can be externally constructed through ‘micro-temporal coordination’, making sure the conditions for entrainment are present: physical density and barriers to outside involvement (Collins; 2004)

Creative hostel?

How creative are you? And your staff?

Hostel guests are primed for gaining new experiences. They have to be actively approached by the hostel staff. Creativity is a very important trait to have for them.

Contrary to cheap and affordable hotels, hostel customers usually seek for a bit more than just a low price. They also want social interaction. Due to the communal character of the hostelpopulation on location, it is easier to control the social situations There is a desire to meet and socialise, with other travelers and with the locals.

Hostels’ customers have usually travelled themselves, have been in other hostels aswell and are familiar with them. They themselves form creativity by their active participation in hostel events. Guests without the urge to communicate that much in hostels but are mostly in search of cheap accommodation, may not engage in efforts to get them participating. This can have a direct effect on the internal use of space and group-agility.

The key element for hostel is ambience.

Your role is everything

Role 1: hostel owner aiming at profits without taking efforts to create a specific marketing environment. Remember, the low cost of stay, is not the defining trait for guests to come and stay at a hostel, you have to provide additional services.

Role 2: The caring and participating hostel owner. They care about ambiance. Many hostel owners have travelled extensively themselves before opening a hostel. They are more familiar with other hostel culture and other travelers. The caring hostel owner is an active participant in creation and is able to weave this into the daily running and operations of his hostel.

So what if you’re in a bad mood? Or your staff is hungover? Being creative and affording to meet your guests, cannot be left to mere chance or spur of the moment. It needs to be an integral part of your servicedesign. This means you have to think it through and know what you’re talking about. It does NOT mean (I can hear you think it… 😉  ) it is veigned and masked performance. Creativity is both spatial and eventual in charactre. Creativity in hospitality includes approaches to space organisation and an active role on your part to build interactions in behavioural and in the marketing environment.

mymarriotthotel

Interwoven wit custumer experience management. Does that mean it’s all rather fakey? Absolutely not. As long as you’re sinsere and know what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and why.

If it is a family run hostel, it has the capacity of being the most welcoming place possible. However, beware of the wear and tear! Showing routine behaviour to your guests is a killer!

Most hostels do not give a lot of comfort in their design and organisation of space. This is compensated by other traits. The use of themed design or familiar decorations, gives an extra affordance to the internal space of the building. It gives guests an extra- albeit conceptual -livingspace, in which they are invited to move around in and make use of.

Four managerial directions:

(Irina Borovskaya, Mariya Dedova Creativity in hospitality industry: study of hostels.)

Targeted recruitment

Segmentation of customers

Organization of space

Organization of communications

Great expectations

Becoming strangely aquainted

There are numerous ways of ensuring your guest have a good time. One of the mistakes you could make, is to try and standardise staff-behaviour too much.
Travel is by all means a sense-making process. Travelers construct te touristic experiences by learning, understanding and feeling the places they have visited.

How strange or astranging is arriving in a hostel full of other cultural influences? Travelers construct a touristic experience by getting to know the places they visit, through interaction, understanding and sensing the embedded culture of a place.

The places they visit and cultures they encounter and experience, are connected to them by “stakeholders”, such as tourists, the government, original inhabitants and minority groups. The touristic experience is mediated through representation by stakeholders or by their being part of the tourism context. Backpackers themselves are certainly stakeholders in the sense that they meet eachother regularly and word of mouth is a big source of information for them.

Check-in

The length oIf the service-encounter at the check-in area can define the service quality in a negative way, if the service is not mediated in a proper way. Short check-in moments can actually be perceived as loose and easy in a nice manner. But not every type of information can be conveyed in that period of time, without giving off all the wrong signals. A longer check- in moment can be really irritating if the check- in desk is too high and there is nowhere for the guest to sit down. It creates a distance between the staffmember and the guest that is hard to correct later. If the check-in moment is short, be careful you only give out information that has a high service level. In Little Havana hostel in Krakow for instance. you were given a long waifer sheet for you to sign with all the restrictions the hostel wants to impose. It would have been better to bring some towels to the room with the waifer discretely tucked away in an envelope.

For backpackers and long time travellers especially, the actual proces of checking in at the desk is not a hugely significant event. However you must realise that the actual act of arriving and leaving at a venue, still holdsa large ritual value. The act of distancing oneself from newly befriended people and the actual physical shift in location when they left home to travel, has been compared to a rite of passage. The mediated environment of homeness in a hostel, can act as a new ‘fire-up’ for the rest of the travel. It is therefore important to make sure their departure is not only noticed but noticebly marked at check-out.

The eventmaker in your hostel can be a powerful mediator, in the right context. They link the tourist to the surrounding strangeness and translates the strangeness into a cultural idiom, that becomes shared and familiar to the visitors. Make sure you give your guests the opportunity to explore. Prefably experiences that are local and experienced through the eyes of the guests.

A tourism experience contains primary and secondary products and services. Although some may be seen as more significant than others, without te smaller or supporting experiences, the peak experience does not happen. If it ails in the supporting experiences, the main or key experience is in danger, no matter how strong the peak experience is.

It is neccesary to identify also the daily routine experiences, experienced by the guest. As guests are continually informed by the world around them, throughout the day he will be continually fed information and new impressions on your hostel; through the media, through other guests and travelers, through leaflets and pictures. It is not possible to deliver a continuous produced “flow”.

Further reading:

The Social Affordances of Flashpacking: Exploring the Mobility Nexus of Travel and Communication

Richards, Greg -Tourism trends: The convergence of culture and tourism

Richards, Greg – Backpacker tourism: the contemporary face of youth tourism

Hostel servicedesign: making the obvious seem extra special

CONCEPTUAL Framework hospitality.pngServicedesign: making the obvious seem extra special

Even when a hostel provides only the most elementary and basic service, these too are called products. Ofcourse they are only a small part of the whole deal. Each element within this deal, contributes to either satisfaction or dissatisfaction and a negative recollection of their stay.

A bed is a bed is a bed, you might think? Through applying different features to your services, the products and the surroundings within you place them, you differentiate from others. A dormitory room with twin-beds, standard room, etc.

Tourism-products

There are 3 levels of tourism products:

  1. The core-product: The essential service or benefit, designed to satisfy the identified needs;
  2. The formal or tangible product: the special offer on sale.
  3. The augmented product: all the forms of added value produced, to make the core-product more attractive.

Complexity

Tourism products can be categorised in different ways. One criterium is the level of complexity, or number of services, embedded within a single offer. You can say you can divide them into simple and compound products.

A good way to let your services standout, is to combine several elements in such a way, that the most important one you want to convey- albeit a “simple” one, stands out.

Basically there are 4 types of simple products:

  1. A service: like guidance, gastromic- or hotelservice, tourist info
  2. An Item: like a guide, map, souvenir.
  3. An object: like a museum, a castle, church
  4. An event: a show, presentation etc.

Simple products can be combined together, to make it into a more complex and advanced product.

Overview Renk on Linkedin

Mediation of homeness

an-introduction-to-marketing-semiotics-8-1024.jpgMediation of homeness

You as a hostel, are the mediator of homeness. Some of these commercially led immersive locative games, miss one very important factor: sense of place. The hostel- although not the actual home of the traveller -is able to recreate a setting that is very near a home situation, familiar to the young backpacker.

Urban is not a corporate word

Urban is not a corporate word

In every city big franchise companies take over part of the touring- aswel as the locative gaming market. They target their audience well and look for places to easily get at them. Gues where? Yup, your hostel is one of these places. Every time you simply point at the rack of leaflets, you are very kindly providing all other parties with customers at your own expense.

Hostels can easiliy provide tours and immersive experiences for their guests.

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