By Shubhangi Shah
Sneha Patra thanks her friend for introducing her to the concept of youth hostels. After all, where else can you get everything related to your stay covered at just over Rs 600 per night? “It’s way better than shady hotels that come in a similar price. Here, one gets a clean bed with a lively interior. The best part is the common space, which allows us to mingle with other travellers,” says the 20-year-old engineering student from Greater Noida who was recently staying with three other friends in a goSTOPS dorm in Amritsar, Punjab.
Aby Matthews, another young solo traveler from Kerala staying at the hostel, agrees. He prefers a hostel to a hotel because it’s “cheap, clean and basic”. “Sometimes the services are better than what you pay for. You can also easily meet other travelers, which is not possible otherwise in a hotel. It’s isolating in that sense,” he adds.
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Although quite prevalent in Europe and Southeast Asia, the concept of budget accommodation has accelerated in India “if you look at co-living and co-working spaces”, suggests Pallavi Agarwal, the founder from goSTOPS, a premium channel for young travelers. hostels which opened its first hostel in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh in 2014.
GoSTOPS allows customers to choose between staying in a dorm with other travelers or in a private room, the latter of course being more expensive. While a private room provides privacy, the common space ensures that you won’t miss mingling. For example, the roof of the hostel in Amritsar serves as the perfect common space.
Well lit, its various seating arrangements allow you to mingle with others as you see fit. There is a games area, a communal TV room and a cafe. The fresh interior, mainly characterized by colorful cushions, adds to the experience.
Starting with Varanasi, Agarwal’s company has now grown to 32 hostels, with plans to expand further. While its initial clientele was mostly foreign backpackers, the current batch includes a sizable share of Indian travellers. “While initially we opened in places like Varanasi, Delhi and Agra which are on foreign backpackers’ routes, we have now opened in Mussoorie, Ooty-Kodaikanal and Coorg which are more popular among domestic travellers” , she says.
Agarwal’s target clientele are mainly young Indians between the ages of 18 and 30. Within this age group, 24-27 year olds are its core target. “They are usually first jobbers, independent of their parents, or living outside their hometown for work, with their friends, and who plan to travel,” she explains. For them, the budget is essential. Although the rate varies according to location and demand, your stay per night in a hostel can cost from Rs 249 to Rs 749 for a dormitory and Rs 1,099 to Rs 2,599 for a private room.
And where do these young Indians like to travel? “Although we are getting good demand across our 32 locations, there are favorites due to catchment areas,” says Agarwal. For example, Rishikesh and Mussoorie get good numbers as they are close to Delhi. Similarly, Goa is a 12 month market, given that it is close to Maharashtra. The same goes for Coorg as it gets a good influx from Bengaluru. “The centers close to the metros are doing well,” she adds.
Covid has been a blow to the hospitality industry, with the hostel sector also experiencing a downturn. “However, just as restrictions eased after each wave of Covid, traveler numbers soared, and it did so with a bang, as people returned with a vengeance,” says Agarwal. Speaking about the changes initiated by the pandemic, she says, “With the new hybrid working mode, people are staying with us longer, going from 1.5 days earlier to 2.5.”
Agarwal believes the concept of budgeted accommodation can change the way people, especially those between the ages of 18 and 30, travel. “Good low-cost housing can certainly increase the frequency of trips. Where before you could cover one location with a certain budget, now you can cover three,” she says.
However, there can be irritants. “For example, having to share a room with an annoying roommate can be one,” says traveler Matthews. “Lack of space to dry your clothes can be another,” he adds.
Speaking on women’s safety, which is a major concern, Agarwal says, “Although in the dorms people tend to behave properly, we are moving to gender-segregated dorms so nothing untoward happens. produce”. Currently, goSTOPS operates mixed dorms, some of which are reserved for female travelers only.