MERGER announced – HostelBookers & Hostelworld

HBlogo

Big news finally announced after months of negotiation.

Check out statements from both companies so far and look out for individual press releases!

http://www.hostelbookers.com/content/press/web-reservations-international–wri–agrees-acquisition-of-hostelbookers/

http://www.irishtimes.com/business/wri-acquires-hostelbookers-1.1357196

 

WRI

ACQUISITION of HostelBookers by WRI

HBlogo

Check out statements from both companies and look out for individual press releases!

Here’s what can be said so far:

http://www.hostelbookers.com/content/press/web-reservations-international–wri–agrees-acquisition-of-hostelbookers/

http://www.irishtimes.com/business/wri-acquires-hostelbookers-1.1357196

WRI

Best Value Cheap Hotels

Easter is already here – missed out on a sneaky trip?! Well how about you start to plan where you’re off to later this European Spring or Summer and snap up some cheap accommodation pronto! These hotels have been voted by HostelBooker’s customers, over the last two years, as being the very best value hotel accommodation on offer. From design hotels, boutique hotels, no frills hotels… hotels doubling as premier hostels – all bases are covered,  in all corners of the globe…. city breaks, beach escapes. Which will you choose?!

Western Europe

Superbude St.Pauli

Superbude St.Pauli

Eastern Europe

Fusion Prague

Fusion Prague

Oceania

Asia

North America

South America

Africa & the Middle East

This is just a small handful of excellent value hotels around the world – if you have a recommendation, I would love to hear from you! Happy travels 🙂

Hostels with the Best Staff!

Why are staff so  important? Because they make or break your business. Staff that are upbeat, helpful, courteous, fun, professional and knowledgeable – they will keep your customers coming back. Word of mouth goes a long way too… other travellers they pass along the way will learn of your property largely because of the impression the  staff make.

A hostel could have anywhere from a couple of staff to upwards of one hundred – across areas of reception, cleaners, cooks, guest relations officers, promotional crew, restaurant and bar service… that’s just the ones we see!

There are plenty behind the scenes too – an award for staff is a real team effort, something that all employees and employers should be massively proud of.

As Product Manager for HostelBookers, I am pleased to announce the hostels with the ‘Best Staff’ for 2013 – as  brought to you by HostelBookers ‘Awards for Excellence’. All awards are based primarily on customer reviews. While I have the joy of selecting the winners, it is you – the customer, who has spoken!

Winners from around the world include the following:

Western Europe

oneparelelo

Eastern Europe

hostelone-prague

Oceania

Blue Parrot

Asia

matchbox

North America

usa

South & Central America

bossa

Africa & the Middle East

rainbow

Congratulations to all properties and their owners and staff – and happy travelling to the reader!

For a full list of HostelBookers ‘Awards for Excellence’ 2013 winners – view here

http://www.hostelbookers.com/2013-top-accommodation/

Most European destinations mentioned are cheaply reached by budget airlines

I prefer to use Ryanair or Easyjet

Hostels with the Best Atmosphere!

What makes a property have great atmosphere? It can be a range of things – from fun at the property through events, music, lighting, overall ambience…. the mood, the vibe…. atmosphere is however you interpret it to be. Ultimately, atmosphere should aim to be a combination of all things that are aesthetically pleasing, that awaken the senses and make you happy! To a traveller, it can feel like you have hit the jackpot… an oasis of calm in a city of craziness – or perhaps a whirlwind of craziness and happiness when seeking thrills and adventure.

As Product Manager for HostelBookers, I am pleased to announce the hostels with the ‘Best Atmosphere’ for 2013 – as  brought to you by HostelBookers ‘Awards for Excellence’. All awards are based primarily on customer reviews. While I have the joy of selecting the winners, it is you – the customer, who has spoken!

Winners from around the world include the following:

Western Europe

alfama

Eastern Europe

atillas

Oceania

dreamtimes

Asia

spicypai-backpackers

North America

nomadas-hostel

South & Central America

wildrover

Africa & the Middle East

waka

Congratulations to all properties and their owners and staff – and happy travelling to the reader!

For a full list of HostelBookers ‘Awards for Excellence’ 2013 winners – view here

http://www.hostelbookers.com/2013-top-accommodation/

Most European destinations mentioned are cheaply reached by budget airlines

I prefer to use Ryanair or Easyjet

ACATUR tackles illegal hostels in Barcelona

Barcelona is booming. Tourism levels are at an all-time high… and everyone wants a piece of the Catalan pie! Unfortunately, it’s only natural with so many properties on offer to tourists that some are going to be ‘illegal’…. Times are tough in Spain – people want to make money… but at what cost? At who’s detriment?

As Product Manager of HostelBookers, I have learned that especially over the past few years there has been an alarming influx of these ‘illegal’ properties trying to infiltrate the market. This may mean that they:

A. operate without a business license altogether OR

B. operate without a valid business license IE – not a true representation of the type of license they should hold, in comparison to what they are

While a lot of these licenses are legible in the various languages they are submitted in, it is also quite common that they are written in a regional language other than a standard Spanish understood by many OTA  employees. In Spain, there are seventeen different regions, each region usually with their own laws and language. In Barcelona, Catalan is common for legal documents – very difficult for many Spanish staff to interpret every line as meant. While OTA’s have multiple dedicated departments, they are not dedicated legal specialists who are able to decipher every contract in every region, for every language… the amount of time needed to achieve this is largely unattainable.

So what happens when these ‘illegal’ hostels and properties are operational and ‘stealing’ bookings… what can the legal properties and organisations like ACATUR do? They report them to local authorities, who visit the property to view the license and premise. In turn, they fine them and grant them a period of time to obtain the correct license. The property is not immediately shut down… and therefore will sometimes stay on the books of OTA’s… this happens again the next month… and the next. Another small fine in comparison to what the property earns, with further extensions granted.

ACATUR logo

ACATUR logo

Frustration ensues from the ‘legal hostels’ of the lack of action of local authorities to follow through their job professionally. They feel they are not supported. Who can they go to who will listen – who will assist? OTA’s are limited in the actions they can take. It really does greatly start and finish with the local laws and authorities – the people that govern and oversee this part of the industry in Barcelona.

ACATUR have obviously presented their case on T.V (see link to program in Catalan) and at various conferences held by OTA’s. Their concerns are not just for their businesses, but also the customer. Fire & safety issues are raised, especially if there are not adequate escape routes on premise for a business operating on incorrect licenses. This is detrimental to the customers, the holidaymakers who unassumingly and potentially are putting their lives at risk.

READ ACATUR presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/chrisGomio/update-on-the-hostel-scene-in-barcelona-carles-gras-from-equity-point-hostels

Mats Diedrichsen, Director of Ecommerce at HostelBookers, flew to Barcelona recently to discuss the concerns of ACATUR. While sympathetic to their cause and happy to explore what HostelBookers can do to help their situation, he admits that there are limitations… and agrees that the local authorities must do more to lead – not just assist. Asked on his impression of ACATUR, he states ‘ They are a very well organised hostel organisation…by far the best that I am aware of. The PR coverage in local press in Barcelona is very impressive. Other destinations that have similar issues should really take a look and follow their lead.’

Many new properties that have entered the Barcelona market recently are not just legal – but huge. St Christopher’s already opened last year and made a big splash – winning ‘Best Newcomer’ in HostelBookers ‘Awards For Excellence’. In the lead up to Summer 2013, over a thousand new dorm beds are estimated to be on the way. Generator is set to open a hostel and a hotel imminently…. and multiple applications are made from new Barcelona properties weekly to advertise on OTA sites. No wonder why other hostels who have had it so good for so long are sweating. Their businesses are being hit from all angles… and they have little control of this.

Having monitored and being well informed of the illegal property situation, Miguel Moreno, Product Team Leader at HostelBookers states ‘Generator, St. Christopher’s – this is the type of competition that ACATUR and legal hostels and properties don’t mind, as it is fair competition. These are the types of properties that give our industry a good name… they don’t ruin the good reputation of the legal hostels like Urbany, Equity Point and Be Hostels. It is the illegal hostels, the ones that don’t have a proper reception, that do not have to pay for things like licenses, insurance, pay tax for employees…. these are properties that introduce an uneven playing field… they pay nothing, but poach business and earn the money that should be distributed to valid businesses. If they wish to play, they should do so on an equal basis. They need to pay for proper licenses or face being closed down by local authorities’.

Carles Gras – Director of  ‘Equity Point’ and President of ACATUR, was kind enough to comment on the situation that ACATUR and Barcelona find itself in today. When asked about their next steps, he states ‘Next steps for ACATUR are to reinforce contacts with local authorities so we are their contact for whatever happens related to the hostel industry. We also participate in the new law for hostels in Catalonia. At the same time, we have started contact with all portals selling hostels beds’.

I ask, ‘Have there been any property closures recently, based on the work you have done?’ Carles replies ‘Yes, there has been one property closure, and a second one is very close according to our information.’

The growing strength behind ACATUR has led to an influx of interest on membership and benefits. Carles clarifies this area with, ‘To be a member of ACATUR you just need to download the form from internet, www.acatur.cat and send it to us with your licences from the local authorities (all of them). Only fully licenced hostels that have passed all controls can be a part of ACATUR. The association has a low cost for members and there is no commercial work to be paid. We do all our work by ourselves using our time without any paid salary from ACATUR’.

So what are the benefits? Carles says, ‘The benefits should be visible the following years if we can regulate the sector. We want the following – that being a part of ACATUR represents for our members a signal of quality in the market’

So – ACATUR have definitely made progress. People are waking up…people are listening and understanding the problems that Barcelona’s legal hostel and hotel industry currently face. OTA’s are making the effort to fly to Barcelona, to explore ways that ACATUR and the industry can be supported. The hostel industry is still far away from being regulated, but at least there is a start – a foundation for others to build off. Like New York’s problems before it, Barcelona will not be the last city to experience illegal operators who destroy the industry’s good name and consumer’s perception. However, new organisations like ACATUR can be formed in other cities… to stand up and make a difference.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Famous Quote from Edward Everett Hale

25 Cool Hostel chains worth staying in

…… in no particular order

1. Generator – founded in London, soon to open its tenth EU hostel – a juggernaut! Check them out

2. St.Christopher’s – teamed up with the ‘Beds & Bars’ group, funky, chilled, food and drink, good EU locations

3. Oasis – Lisbon, Malaga, Seville, Granada…. all very cool

4. Base – Australian & Kiwi hospitality at its best

5. Sant Jordi – an incredible 6 locations in Barcelona

6. Equity Point – great quality properties in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and USA

7. Flying Pig – Amsterdam, Uptown & Downtown… and by the beach in Noordwijk

8. Home – two central in Valencia, one in Barcelona… chilled

9. Dizzy Daisy – cool, four Polish locations and one Prague

10. Nest – funky Spanish, a favourite for travellers in Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, San Sebastian

11. Hatters – UK: Liverpool, Birmingham & Manchester

12. Smart – UK: multiple, central London locations

13. Journey’s – UK – three London, one Brighton… extending to Asia

14. Bohemian – cool hostels in Prague, well known group – look them up!

15. A&O – founded in 2000, largely German…. expanding through EU – considered the biggest chain

16. Meininger – well known German, plus London, Vienna, Brussels… set for big expansion

17.USA hostels –  California anyone?! Backpacker hostels in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego

18. Wombats – Austrian & German, recent opening in Budapest… next stop, Milan?!

19. PLUS – great hostels, plus camping…. Italy, Czech, German….. Berlin is amazing

20. Baxpax – funky German styling, three Berlin locations

21.Hip Hop Hostels – about a dozen in Paris – a collective

22. Palmers – posh UK, London times two…. and an opening in Zagreb, Croatia

23. Nomads – a brand affiliated with properties all over…. bigger in OZ & NZ… looking for world domination!

24. YHA – a brand affiliated with properties all over… big in UK, Scotland but some key Australia properties are best!

25. HI – a brand affiliated with properties all over… big in USA and Canada

There are so many great hostel chains and independent hostels out there… I have been so lucky to have visited a lot! Are there any not on this list that you think should be included?

Happy travels ))

Most European destinations mentioned are cheaply reached by budget airlines

I prefer to use Ryanair or Easyjet

HostelBooker’s Product Department – spotlight on!

Managing the Product Department at HostelBookers, I have the privilege of working with some great people both within and out of the workplace. I have five years expereince with the company and have seen numerous changes and realignments of strategies. Even my Department (once the contracting department) evolved into the Product Department about one and a half years ago, in order to manage the relationships more efficiently with properties and provide day to day account management.

Working in Product has the team oversee a number of projects and tasks, from gaining great rates and extra availability for customers, handling awards and merchandise for properties, contracting new properties to increase our product offering and attending business trips and conferences to broaden our own product and industry knowledge.

I thought it would be fun to introduce some of the team, what it means to them to work at HostelBookers and what some of their favourite and recomended properties they deal with are. All the team have regional accountability, so let’s start with one of the Team Leaders, Alida Zecca, who looks after the Italian market! Alida has worked in various departments so has a good understanding of how we call all work together well to achieve common goals.

Product Team Leader

HostelBookers Product Team Leader – Alida Zecca

Time at HostelBookers and best memory

“It’s almost 4 years! My best memory has to do with meeting amazing people that I am proud to call my best friends,  Anna R. and Marina! Even though they have left recently, they made my life in London and in HostelBookers much easier…. And of course, they were also part of a nice excuse to fly to Mexico and spend a couple of weeks with”

As Product Specialist, what are the favourite cities in your region… and why?

“Has to be Venice and Florence!

Venice – simply because it’s the most romantic city in the world. The city is a dream land, all the beautiful buildings, the crazy small alleys and the amazing canals. They make sure every step you’ll take…will take your breath away!

Florence – it’s also extremely beautiful and romantic, especially after the sunset! A strength of Florence is also the great food and wine they have there… If you like you steak rare and your wine red, then Florence has no equals in the world!”

Which properties would you personally stay in and would happily  recommend to other travellers?

“Hmmmmm….. I think ‘Ostello Bello’  in Milan – super fun , super quirky, amazing location and Aperitivo!

‘Palazzo Guardi’ in Venice – incredible boutique hotel, amazingly posh and elegant… ideal for a romantic break or just to make you feel a little special.

‘Aramis Guest House’ in Florence – Beautiful and extremely well-kept B&B in the heart of Florence, minutes from everything with all comforts included!

‘Seven Hostel’ in Sorrento – a piece of paradise.”

Senior Product Specialist

HostelBookers Senior Product Specialist – Lilia Taguiam

On of my Seniors and longest-serving members, Lilia Taguim, looks after the largest and most diverse region at HostelBookers – Australasia! Lots of challenges with different time zones and language barriers, however this does not deter the cheeky, angelic warrior tackling a huge amount of work and requests on a daily basis.

Time at HostelBookers and best memory

“I have been with HostelBookers for over 5 years and as I have grown older, I have developed and nurtured good relationships with my team mates so they are my friends. I have also been given the chance to grow within the company and be the best that I can be as a professional.”

As Product Specialist, what are the favourite cities in your region… and why?

“Melbourne, Australia – Huge city with just so much attractions to offer and visit, easy access to everywhere. City and beach… love the trams, food, shopping etc.

Hong Kong – Good for families because of theme parks like Disneyland, Ocean Park…great value shopping, food, Wi-Fi everywhere”

Which properties would you personally stay in and would happily  recommend to other travellers?

“In Hong Kong: Bishop Lei International House – a rooftop pool where guests can unwind and sunbathe, lovely staff.

In Melbourne: Space Hotel – Great location, very clean and well maintained property, big kitchen, lovely rooftop, movie room, good staff. Everything was clean, spotless & perfect

In Sydney: Bounce – Amazing Rooftop! It has a cover that is remote-controlled, so when it rains they can close it so the rooftop furniture doesn’t get wet. They also have big and spacious common areas and a restaurant next door. It’s walking distance to Central Station. Again, great staff, very clean and well maintained.

In Singapore: Bunc Hostel – after all my property visits, I could say this was the best hostel there is in Singapore. It’s located in Little India where you can find the only 24 hours shopping centre “Mustafa”. There is a ladies room, rooftop deck, kitchen…. And if you don’t want to cook, then restaurants in the area offer exotic food such as “cereal prawns, salted egg crabs, Chili Or Black Pepper Crab, BBQ Stingray etc”

Product Specialist

HostelBookers Product Specialist – Khalid Ichaoui

Khalid Ichaoui started off as an apprentice with me at HostelBookers and is one of the success stories of what a lot of hard work, diligence and great work ethic can lead to. Now a fully fledged Product Specialist, the youngest member of the team primarily looks after the very important and growing North American market… and has recently taken on a few extra countries for good measure, including Argentina and Cuba.

Time at HostelBookers and best memory

“Three and a half years, working my way up! My best memory…. Hmm…. does this have to be work related? Right now I’m thinking how I scored a goal at Upton Park – and was the first Moroccan to do so!”

As Product Specialist, what are the favourite cities in your region… and why?

“Los Angeles – best weather in the US with a yearly average of 18°C! The “City of Angels” has so much to offer, from star spotting on Rodeo Drive, the Griffith Observatory… to museum hopping between the Getty and LACMA!”

Which properties would you personally stay in and would happily  recommend to other travellers?

“Well – ‘Chicago Getaway Hostel’ – awesome facilities, very clean, fun staff and great value for money! Our customers think so too, as the hostel was voted our #1 property in North America!

Freehand Miami –  Ever wondered what it’s like to stay at a boutique hostel? The Freehand Miami offers an experience not be missed. You will enjoy a unique design with hand crafted interiors, local food and drinks at the hostel bar (The Broken Shaker), all in a sociable environment with other like-minded travellers. Oh… the hostel is situated between Miami Beach and South Beach!

USA Hostels Hollywood: The USA Hostels Hollywood offers fun, clean, value-driven accommodation for travellers who want the most for their money. The hostel is situated in the centre of Hollywood surrounded by theatres, the world-famous walk of fame and LA’s hottest bars!

USA Hostels San Francisco: Another winner at the HostelBookers ‘Awards for Excellence’ 2013. The hostel won an award for best staff two years in a row! In addition to the fun driven environment, the hostel is an ideal location for exploring San Francisco. You are minutes away from Union Square, Chinatown, Japantown, the historic cable cars and some of San Francisco’s best shopping!”

Overall, we have ten Product Specialists who are happy to give you their tips and recommendations…. just drop me a line and let me know where you are going – and we will be in touch!

Most European destinations mentioned are cheaply reached by budget airlines

I prefer to use Ryanair or Easyjet

Best new Hostels to visit in 2013

Best new Hostels, based on customer reviews and according to HostelBookers ‘Awards for Excellence’ 2013 are:

Western Europe

one80

Eastern Europe

circus

Oceania

14

Asia

Hatang

North America

HI

South & Central America

ukelele

Africa & the Middle East

nari

For a full list of HostelBookers ‘Awards for Excellence’ 2013 winners – view here

http://www.hostelbookers.com/2013-top-accommodation/

Most destinations mentioned are cheaply reached by budget airlines

I prefer to use Ryanair or Easyjet