Hostels and shared hotel rooms take root in America

Hostels, cheap havens on the post-college European travel circuit, traditionally offer stripped-down bunk beds in communal dorms. Now, for those whose tastes have outgrown the backpacking years but whose finances have not, a new generation of hybrid hostels sprouting up on this side of the Atlantic are bringing together better design, bars and lively restaurants and even private rooms, all always well priced.

“The hospitality industry is trying to reshape itself to appeal to a wider range of travelers,” said Douglas Quinby, vice president of Phocuswright, a travel industry research firm. “It almost transforms into a boutique and self-contained accommodation space by offering a distinctive experience that is still within reach of price-conscious travellers.

Most of those travelers are millennials — 70% globally, according to Phocuswright. This travel-loving generation is fueling the expansion of hostels, budget hotel brands like Tru by Hilton, and shared accommodations like Airbnb.

But unlike renting entire houses or apartments, the new hostels put social interaction at the heart of the stay, notably through food and drink, but also concerts, art exhibitions and workspaces. shared.

“Old hotels are trying to become more local, social and personal, and Airbnb is starting to look more like hotels, with housekeeping standards and support, and making owners more professional,” said Chekitan Dev, professor in Marketing at Cornell University School of Hospitality Management. “It’s the third way, somewhere between a traditional, classic, bland, boxy, boring legacy hotel and that wild, wild west of the Airbnb world.”

Hostels are much more popular in Europe and Asia, which account for two-thirds of global trade, according to Phocuswright. Hostelling International USA, a nonprofit organization representing more than 50 hostels here, caters primarily to foreign travelers, who account for 65% of overnight stays.

America’s new generation of hostels — the sleek few found in big cities, represented by the following — are aimed at a broader demographic of travelers who share at least one thing: savings.

In Miami and Chicago, with a Los Angeles location slated to open in February, Freehand makes thrift a virtue with cool thrift store decor and trendy bars and restaurants that tend to attract locals as well. than the guests. Don’t call these places hostels.

“It’s not that we don’t like the term ‘hostel’ as much as a lot of the rooms at Freehand are regular hotel rooms,” said Andrew Zobler, founder and chief executive of Sydell Group, owner from Freehand.

In Chicago, for example, the Freehand offers accommodations ranging from a two-bedroom duplex penthouse to shared quads with bunk beds, each with a privacy curtain (from around $25 per bed). Miami’s most beachy property has a pool. Both operate Broken Shaker cocktail bars. A New York Freehand is slated to open in late 2017 with a similar mix of private and shared rooms.

“The main audience for the shared product is people on a budget but who appreciate high-quality design, good food, a good bar, but see the bedroom for sleeping and don’t want to spend a lot on sleeping,” said M Zobler. mentioned.

In addition to younger solos and duos, this audience included results-oriented entrepreneurs, friends traveling together, and families.

“Kids love bunk beds and it’s really economical, and you have the big Broken Shaker bar in the lobby,” Zobler said. “You can’t get that at a chain hotel.”

Operating 12 hostels in major cities across Europe, Generator will make its US debut in late 2017 in Miami with 406 beds in 102 rooms, 70% of which are shared, in the Mid-Beach area. The company also aims to open several more generators in major US cities over the next five years.

Generator is known for encouraging guests to spend time onsite with a variety of programs including music, art exhibits, and lectures, as well as food and beverage options.

“We call our clients seekers of experience and social interaction, art, music and culture to encounters,” said Fredrik Korallus, Managing Director of Generator. “There is no age difference. We get empty nesters, baby boomers, families, students, young people. It’s a real mix of people looking for social connections.

While Generator started in London in 1997 as a more traditional dorm style hostel, it has added private rooms over the past five years. At the Miami site, which will house a swimming pool and three restaurants and bars, private rooms will accommodate up to four people and are designed for families or groups of friends traveling together; prices to be determined.

“Millennial consumers are growing up and migrating from shared experiences to private experiences,” Korallus said. “The bed is the least important thing we sell.”

Best known for its design-focused boutique hotels in Mexico, Grupo Habita will open its first U.S. property this month with shared rooms at The Hollander in Chicago. In the trendy area of ​​Wicker Park, the Hollander will accommodate 66 beds in 12 private rooms and eight shared rooms, each with its own bathroom. The property includes a bike shop, cafe and room for special events.

The company already runs a hostel, Downtown Beds, in Mexico City, but plans to make the Hollander more social media-centric by offering customers what it calls social stay, the ability to link Instagram accounts to a booking through which other roommates can get to know each other before check-in.

“It’s a social media generation that constantly lives in a visual world and we want to bring them into a physical world, which is a social abode,” said Carlos Couturier, founder of Grupo Habita.

Beds in shared rooms will start at $45 a night (private rooms from $165). The establishment will be next to a more upmarket hotel of the group, the Robey, which will also open at the end of the month.

Las Vegas attracts vacation groups. Now, instead of three for a double bed, roommates can live more comfortably in 12 new bunk rooms at the Linq Hotel and Casino, a Caesars Entertainment property, on the Strip.

Two queen beds and a twin bunk bed each outfit the 350-square-foot rooms, accommodating up to five travelers at rates starting at $69 each per night.

“Bunk rooms are popular for group travel, such as birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, family reunions, and weekend getaways with friends,” Bob Morse wrote. , president of Caesars Entertainment Hospitality, in an email.

Although the neighborhoods are tight, nearby entertainment abounds, including an outdoor mall with the High Roller Ferris wheel and the Brooklyn Bowl concert hall and bowling alley.