Tag Archives: Hostel

Hostels and the city: 5 ways to engage local networks

Hostels and local networks: Scaling up your localness!

You can be a big ass hostelchain or a small and cozy local hostel, running on volunteers, depending on your uniqueness locally. In both cases there are effective and affordable ways of making the most of your localness!

Below are 5 scalable ways to engage local networks with. Scalable in the sense that all 5 of them are reachable for small and big hostels alike!

1) Be a local stakeholder, not (just) an international one

A hostel or cityguiding company, aswell as touroperator, should try and be a local institution. Tapping into the local urban grain actually connects you to the local culture, cultural institutions, startups and local networks;

Source: Bevolo 2016
Source: Bevolo 2016

2) Local culture is a carrier of localness, not of your brand

You’re being all wonderfully local and all that, ofcourse. Remember to see local culture as carriers of localness- your main trait -and not neccesarily lf your brand. Don’t make them wear your t-shirt but BE  the t-shirt; adopt it and it’s underground qualities!

(...) we’ve set up programmes like Stay ‘n’ Play and ClinkCREATIVE which give musicians and artists free accommodation at the hostels in exchange for playing a gig or displaying their work (...) Liam Doyle (Clink Hostels)

3) Use your international network!

Most tourism stakeholders forget to utilise to local stakeholders, that what would give them actual influence: their own international networks!

4) Utilise the non-tangible networks the city has to offer

Where there is culture, there are buildings. Where there are buidings there is place, mobility, perception of practice and hundreds of years of mobility along the same structures. They are more often than not tangible in their form, nor are they easy to discover and address. People around cultural hubs in cities, are highly mobile within different kinds of networks.

Generator Hostels has become known for its successful use of urban, local networks. ClinkNoord in Amsterdam, part of Clink Hostels, try to integrate local culture and art as much as possible within design and events.

www.urbanexploringtours.nl/
www.urbanexploringtours.nl/
Urban grain and tourism-coproductions
Urban Exploring tours seeks to integrate local urban grain into the localness as understood by the travel industry.

The commercial interaction-chain of buying, using and selling, has different rules there, as it utilises ways of reciprocation that run through several layers of exchange and mobilty, often hidden from sight by for instance local habits, festivals, exchanging gifts, producing services and by perceptions of the urban grain.

Artists are wellconnected and move around different networks they don’t neccesarily use directly, but will know when to access through embeddedness and communities of practice.

Liam Doyle of Clink hostels continues:
It gives creativity and collaboration – between tourists and locals, artists and audiences – the chance to flow through our hostels and out into the cities. We really love that and think it makes Clink really unique,
Liam Doyle at WYSE Tavel conference 2016

5) When you’re starting up, why not be a startup?

Since you’re starting out- beit a hostel, a cityguiding company or even just a new local project, why not actually be a local startup?

  • It positions you on the new-and-happening side of entrepeneurship;
  • You can actively penetrate the local businessmarket;
  • Tap into local business-networks and expats;
  • Leverage your ideas and investments
  • Expect to be smiled upon by large community of highly skilled and well networked people.
  1. https://angel.co/amsterdam/online-travel/jobs
  2. https://www.startupfesteurope.com/site/traveling-to-amsterdam/
  3. http://startupamsterdam.org/partner/travel-bird/
  4. http://www.eu-startups.com/2016/03/amsterdam-based-travel-tracking-app-polarsteps-secures-e500k-in-funding/
  5. amsterdam startups-list.com/startups/travel

Your place isn’t just anywhere

And neither are you

It takes understanding your customer, their movement and expectations, but also the pacing of their day and time and their perception of “homeness” . In that respect, the locations travelled through some of the locative games, are consumption zones, without semiotic narratives or meaning, other than the often very real sense of fun, associated with it. However not as authentic.

Creating Homeness with more than optional thrillseeking

Due to several factors such as better infrastructure and public transport and commodification of rural difficult to reach areas- formerly the realm of the adventure-backpacker, the thrill and exitement for the actual act of traveling, has decreased. At the same time, the desire to engage in other specifically designed activities within a smaller scale, has increased greatly. A sense of authenticity is still very important.

Backpackers want to feel the real atmosphere of the destination and therefore do not fit within the the package arrangements, often intended for mass tourism.

Remember, there is a difference between backpackers, travellers and tourists. I will go into these differences some other time, but the point is: they all share the same infrastructure. Different needs, wants and expectations.

Travel and the body

The mind does not only exists within the bounderies of our skulls. We experience the world and the act of travel through our bodies aswell. Mediated by, guided by, formed and transformed by the landscape and our bodies.

Through walking, we are allowed to know the landscape in all its features. Step-rhythm generates thought rhythm. The path through the landscape activates a path of thought.

A new thought often looks like an old landscape feature, as if thinking were travelling» (Solnit, 2000). There is a vast body of knowledge on the relationships between travel, the body and mind and landscapes. It is quite impossible to create a singular structure within the boundaries of this blog (and my expertise). However, a few founded and grounded topics, I shal not withhold from you.

A lived experience

Backpackers use their body as an instrument of passage, not just movement. The act of leaving for a new destination and arriving there, through travel, is as much meaningful to his sense of selfness, as is the pre-travel dream and its representations. There is a shift in research towards the multisensory experience and corporeal engagement. Big hotel chains have yet to embrace this, which gives them an immense backward position. Embracing new and less common insights, does not make everything else obsolete! As experience designer and concepter, I find this highly remarkable and ignorant. Furthermore is the tourist not just gazed upon as a mere consumer, but approached from a wide variety of scientific research.

As a professional, I find this highly remarkable and ignorant.

The bodily sensation, corporeal experience has gained in interest and popularity, also by professionals such as myself. I use all manner of research from different scientific sources, to be able to do my work as best I can. The deliverables usually, are written in the language of the client and stakeholders. I can acknowledge the fact that a more holistic approach in the deliverable, usually conjures up more questions than can be answered in a few oneliners.

Tourism research is very much focussed on the visual. By commodification of image culture, place branding, city marketing, placeboosting, this was very much about politics of representation.

To be perceptive of the landscape, is more than just travelling in it. The landscape has given us- since the time ot the hunter-gatherers -ways to make meaning and to remember. To remember more than just the individual life and lifespan. To cite Ingold:

‘‘To perceive the landscape is to carry out an act of remembrance, and remembering is not so much a matter of calling up an internal image, stored in the mind, as of engaging perceptually with an environment that is itself pregnant with the past.’’

Landscape, travel, mind and body are very much culturally linked. Vast distances to travel between families for instance, will produce a totally different sense of space and distance, aswell as time. Tourism has both spatial and temporal dimensions. After the journey people describe themselves as being wiser and emotionally and more socially adept. A very noticeable characteristic of backpacking narratives is the way they describe deep and profound personal changes, after having made the trip.

The experience of mobility is conditioned and co-produced through interaction and engagement (willingly, non-willingly, accidental, subconsciously) with ordinary structures, shapes and materials, such as a folded newspaper, a laptop, mobile phone. Not to mention the circulation of affects such as stress, being tired, irritated etc. They all play roles in the creation of a particular travel atmosphere.

Although backpackers seek to connect with different cultures and localities, they have the tendency to very easily become part of an isolated and self-contained community of travellers, with little to no local connections. The backpacker enclaves have become important surroundings for exchange. The provide an important source of information and information-exchange.

The backpacking sociability and presence as ” a community on the road” was in the past a fleeting and short-term sight, as a perceivable community. Now, in the age of social media, not only the tourist-geography but also the construction and location of social bubbles and hubs, are more visible and traceable.

As traveller by train or bus, your perception of time, travel time and transit, is part of a delicate interaction-sequence and performative structure that defines mobility; Complex socio-technical systems, that afford, restrict or prevent particular mobile practices. Refer to Wilsons Affordance theory here.

These can be seen as the design-structure of your mode of transport. This design-structure includes not only the above and you- it is comprised of different materialities. Textures, movement, hardness, colour etc.

Tourism research is very much focussed on the visual. By commodification of image culture, place branding, city marketing, placeboosting, this was very much about politics of representation.

The Nature of Cities

To be perceptive of the landscape, is more than just travelling in it. The landscape has given us- since the time ot the hunter-gatherers -ways to make meaning and to remember. To remember more than just the individual life and lifespan. To cite Ingold:

‘‘To perceive the landscape is to carry out an act of remembrance, and remembering is not so much a matter of calling up an internal image, stored in the mind, as of engaging perceptually with an environment that is itself pregnant with the past.’’

Creative gastronomy in your hostel

Gastronomic events?

The consumers’ attention has to be captured by the development of experiences. When you’re planning something special on the gastronomic level, make sure your guests actively participate in the setting you have staged for them. They can be employed to create a sense of community among your guests. Very well suited for lobby-events!

Meals are in essence sequential: breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between, which provides a natural setting for the framing of a gastronomic event.
Make surprise gastronomic experiences a key- service for your hostel but make it feel like a random and kind event.
Ask guests to provide local recipes for food and drink and invite them into the kitchen.
Why not take it a step furter? Invite guests to cook for other guests. Include a budget and give them a chance to invite other people to their dinner.
Invite local producers into your hotel.
Buy from them for the hostel kitchen and stock.
Have them come over for tastings with guests.

Transform your hostel to a social being-space!

In hostels, guests often use a communal kitchen. Eating with eachother is usually a random act- depending on who is near at that time. Guests are both producers and consumers of the experience. Backpackers are used to the creative and open atmosphere in hostels, aswell as the cheap fees. However, there is a distinct danger that they will primarily see your hostel as being a cool place to stay, but not to participate in! Participation in the creation of experience.

ClinkNOORD-Social-Area-360x180there is a distinct danger that they will primarily see your hostel as being a cool place to stay, but not to participate in

Do your guests cook for themselves in a communal kitchen?

Design a board with recipe cards, emphasising healthy locally produced food.

Reaching the guest with big and rich, full-on experiences, engaging all the senses, is getting somewhat out of fashion. That is to say: we still make them, but tourists increasingly want more “real” and local experiences, lived through the locality and negotiating spaces. Staging such allround and full-on experiences, still apply within settings such as winetasting or a guided visit to the local brewery. You could compare it to the loss of producer generated flow in television. The audience can no longer be captivated on their terms, for the duration of the program (due to commercial breaks), but the viewer can experience a fuller and broader event, within a wider spatial setting. Food is good for tourism experiences as it is often a short detour or entrance to local culture. It brings locals and tourists together.in a shared cultural experience.

Anyone interested in placemaking and the more anthropological side of tourism will know that food bonds  us with place, identity and culture. A very important role to play, considering the growth of the ‘network society’.

Misconception: Gastronomic events are not for small hostels and they are a bit elitist.

Definitely untrue. This perception of elitist and toffeenosed events. is largely due to the producers of consumer- and tourist-experiences- FOR the consumer -who aimed at the more discerning connaisseur. Nowadays, eating and drinking is very much a broadly accepted and enacted activity. Not in the last place because of new collaboration methods and modes of co-producing experiences. On the consumption side of things, the ‘foodies’ don’t really go for the haute cuisine anymore. Nevertheless, one has to remember that food and gastronomy is highly bound by culture, which automatically creates a sense of both inclusion and exclusion.
Democratising both food and travel has led to a huge amount of food travel websites. Still, they do look or more rare and foreign foods, prefably not easily accessable by the large public, therewith establishing and maintaining there foodie lifestyle plus being able to spread it among other groups.

2015_part-one_cover

Our Community Kickstart program is an in-depth workshop-format that truly prepares your community for success in food and drink tourism.
Our Community Kickstart program is an in-depth workshop-format that truly prepares your community for success in food and drink tourism.

Some links!

Will travel for food

Eat your world: foodblog

Intrepid Travel: Tours for foodies

World Food Travel Association

Foodtourist

Narratives of travel: Telling it to the self

When does an experience become a story?

Anyone travelling loves to tell stories. During travel, after the journey, whenever resting around a campfire. But these stories are more connected than you might think, although they are told at different points and places within the travel experience, using different voices and stances. Together they form a typical narrative. Pre-tour narratives are carried throughout the journey, shaping and scripting the journey. Whatever happens during the journey, provide material for post-tour narratives, which after a period of time, may change the pre-tour stories altogether.

As a traveller you interact with your environment through all of your senses. Sensory modalities are symbolically structured. They are mediated and go far beyond the mere textual. The larger pre-tour narratives are nowadays for a large part construed through visuals, through the use of social media and internet.

A highly superficial way of doing ones pre-tour research but unavoidable. Also the pre-tour planning is a narrative structure, as people tell peers through social media, exactly in which stage of planning they are.

The master narrative

The object of a photograph on the web, is less that of the narrative or actual biographical or ethnological depiction of the main subject, but a visual that was already predestined to provide commercial imagery for the tourist sector, before it was even taken! When it no longer resides within the personal and private domain of the owner or depicted subject, it has no biographical meaning or relationship to its’ context, in whichever country the photo was taken. For the regular tourist, the photograph meets the expectations he has from the destination in very broad and commodified terms.  Photographs offer a point of departure (Barthes, 1984): a pregnant surface from which narratives can be launched, a fertile social soil for memories, identities, daydreams to grow on. (Noy, 2014)

Imagery

The actual time and occasion of taking the photographs are for the larger part staged and framed, both by the tourist industry and by the tourists themselves. The circulation of the imagery is very much NOT coincidental! The way Europeans look at the third world, is still very colonial. Not withstanding recognition of equality and fairness, the view of the third world is still very much of a grown civilisation, based on big 19th century constructed narratives. Mind you, this says nothing about looking down upon them. The big narratives of the 19th century grew within us, but not neccesarily within the same direction as the actual country in question. These established master narratives are of huge significance and influence. They make meaning, shape action and movement, the form tourist behaviour and direct the infrastructure for foreigners. They are therefore stories of power, aswell as meaning.

The master narrative is a perceptual framework that works as a filter which includes as much as it excludes (Bruner, 2005).

Backpackers are usually somewhat quieter when preparing for the journey. The usage of social media by backpackers, is significantly lower than that of the emerging flashpacker. Figures from 2014 indicated 26% of backpackers and 41% for flashpackers (G. Richards).

On a personal note, I wonder if the quest for “otherness” by backpackers- who are more reflective and internal in orientation -creates affordance for both a lower degree of social media use and more methodological and less visual pre-tour planning?

Backpackers often start their journey alone or as a couple. They frequently end up travelling in a small group. When on the road, the sources of information vary greatly by mode of travel. In groups, local guides and agents are the primary storytellers, with additional material by standard guidebooks. Backpackers use hostels or sites along the route as an additional primary source of information.

An experience- as it happens -is much more laden with rich sensations than any story could begin to approach. An experience turns into a narrative, as soon as you say to yourself what is happening on tour. When transforming a sensory occurrence into a plot structure.

” From the point of view of the experiencing self, the journey consists of a series of sensations, but from the point of view of the remembering self, it becomes a narrative, and a severe selection from reality (Kahneman 2005). “

However, the routes create their own sources for information- outside the tourist-industry – as can be read in the blog on volunteering abroad.

Volunteers and the knowledge created through volunteer-travel and religious travel, supply important modes of information and narration, like well informed non-professional guides, offering services. Some of them are skilled, other less so.

Most of the ones I have listened to over the years want to be entertaining as well as educational, but most do not have an anthropological understanding of culture but rather present unrelated snippets of information, or interesting random stories about the people or locality. Bruner; 2005

toerist

Learn it from a pro?

Servicedesign and guest citisenship

Recovering poor service on the workfloor

As could be read in earlier blogs, even if you are a small hostel, a familiy-run bed and breakfast, a low-budget accommodation: It is inexcusable not to think thoroughly about the services you provide. Simply NOT doing something, does not constitute a service! Nor does leaving things out, because it is your hostels policy not to provide too much guest-services for not being economical or simply too much work for the staff you have or don’t have.

Loyalty

Your guest really is perceptive enough to see the contours of the `deal’ that he is presented with. Chances are he was already familiar with it, before he even came to the hostel. That is- however -not the same as guest loyalty. He is simply providing behaviour that ties in with his side of the bargain! As written in earlier blogs, low prices are not the only thing the backpacker chooses your hostel for. The matter of ambiance is hugely improtant (see the post on creativity). Not only does a creative ambiance give the guest a good feeling on a personal level, it also creates a space for him, in which to interact with others, causing him to use the interaction with fellow-guests and space, as an interface for social interactions.

Service provided by guests

Many hostels employ volunteering travellers and backpackers as their staff. See also the post on volunteering abroad. It is important to give your volunteering traveller a good deal aswell, always making sure you remain on the giving side of the deal. It is perfectly acceptable to ask your volunteer to maintain certain standards and behaviours in handling guests. Instructing them, providing scripts, making sure they read a servicedesign manual you might have created. But make sure you discuss these things before they arrive. Furhermore, motivate them beforehand to apply if they have the personality traits ands skills you require of them, to communicate your servicelevel with. But again, make sure you remain on the giving side of the deal.

Contrary to popular belief, the loyalty of your guest can still be maintained and be put to good use, if they are happy with your service recovery effort. If something goes wrong, make sure you correct it and use the dimensions:

  • Competence
  • Excitement
  • Sincerity
  • Sophistication and
  • Ruggedness.

In short, make sure there is room for your guest to experience empathy for you and your efforts. When you have recovered their satisfaction, make sure the guest experiences this in a full recovery of the expected services, including all dimensions- tangible and intangible.

Loyal guests usually attribute errors to unstable factors, over which the supplier has little control. In the case of volunteering staff, guests are more likely to accept service-recovery, but it is important to understand that volunteers are often part of the group, with little to no distance to the guests, and therefore likely to choose the side of the peer-group rather than playing the role of experienced hostel manager. And who can blame them? Ashforth and Mael (1989) found that social identification lead persons to perform activities that are congruent with their identity and support institutions that embody that identity. So the volunteer-employee might be just the person to handle these things. If handles correctly, they will identify with the hotel organisation.

complaints

Guest behaviour after service-recovery, is much more likely to be a guest-citisen- also known as customer voluntary performance, varying in behaviour from using less towels as to have less costs for the hostel, to helping out during breakfast and giving advice to other guests.

So the production of your service is very much a joint effort with volunteers, paid staff and ofcourse your guests, which includes a good briefing of volunteers before they arrive.

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

Renk van Oyen

Contact me

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

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.