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When is a Backpackers Hostel Not A Hostel?

Published 13-10-2009
 
by Paul Dow ~ 1 min, 10 secs read
hostel dorm

Does having a dorm room define a place as a hostel?

Recently I had a comment left on the article 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hostel by Josh from HostelManagement.com.

The article suggested:

They take up a huge portion of the current travel industry – It is now estimated that there are two million hostels across the globe.

But Josh commented:

I can only imagine that it’s a typo or a mistake that their editor missed. I’ve been in the hostel industry for 8 years and the “2 million” number is just not anywhere close to reality.

Now, personally I’m not really sure. I’ve emailed Hostel Bookers (who wrote the original article to see what they say) so we will find out soon. I put forward the view that perhaps it would depend upon what you defined as a hostel.

Josh then pointed me to hostelmanagement.com were there was a discussion about what the definition of a hostel really is.

For me there are lots of places that I would class as a hostel that don’t have dorm rooms, my own defination would be a place that is fundamentally communal. Communal kitchen, facilities, common room etc would be enough to define the place as a hostel.

What do you think? Does a hostel have to have dorm rooms to class it as such? I’m not so sure.


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Paul Dow is the Editor of TravMonkey.com and has travelled solo for 2 years through Asia, Oceania, New Zealand and South America. Now based in London whilst exploring parts of Europe and further a field when given half a chance.
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4 Comments, have your say...
  1. I think that as long as you are sharing what is normally said to be “personal space” with strangers, then it is a hostel. Sharing bathrooms, living rooms or bedrooms with people you didn’t know before you arrived, makes it a hostel.
    Then, following your argument, if a room has 2 beds, and you don’t know the person who is sleeping on the other bed, then it’s a hostel. I totally agree with this!

  2. I strongly believe Josh is right here.

    The biggest hostel booking website has 20k properties, others continue with 15k, 10k, etc.

    So lets sum them up, remove duplicates, there should be 25k-30k hostels registered at booking services. Add 10k for independent hostels, the summation would be 40.000

    This is with pensions, guesthouses, B&B's, campsites and even 5 star hotels. As far as "pure hostels" i dont think there are more than 10.000 across the globe…

  3. Thanks for the mention.

    IMHO, here are some more things to consider:

    If "hostel" means just having communal bathrooms and kitchen, then is a campground with some bungalows and a kitchen a hostel? Is a "hostal" in Spain a type of "hostel"?

    (The answer is "no" in both cases. The main defining characteristic of a hostel is the shared sleeping areas.)

    How about "sociable" hotels with common areas like Club Med and Denzien? Where is the defining line between a hotel or guesthouse and a hostel?

    Hostels don't have a monopoly on shared common areas. There are guesthouses and other types of properties which overlap with hostels in that aspect. There are guesthouses that offer dorm beds — I would call them "guesthouse & hostel". A property without shared accommodation is not a hostel though. I am sure these non-hostels that call themselves "hostels" have confused backpackers regularly showing up looking for dorm beds.

    There are different classes of accommodation with different definitions. What do you call an accommodation provider that offers shared rooms? A hostel. If people start calling places without shared rooms "hostels", it makes the word hostel meaningless and undercuts the genuine hostels. If the definition of "hostel" is expanded to include hotels and guesthouses, it will seriously affect the hostel industry in a negative way.

    If you want to know more about why it's an issue for the hostels themselves see the interview here and here.

  4. As a hostel owner I know that what really annoys guests are people turning the lights on in the middle of the night, for god sakes get a headlamp or a simple flashlight it should be a basic part of your gear, and see you at bambu hostel in david panama..we are new with a pool and a great place to meet backpackers from around the world

    http://www.bambuhostel.com

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