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Communicating the beauty of the hostel

Once considered a “bummer”, now hostels are modern and designers home away from home. How the communication strategy has changed with the hostels’ evolution.

In the popular imagination, the hostel is still conceived as a “bummer”: when people in their forties think about hostels they remember the travels they made when they were twenty, and they were the least favorite kind of accommodation. True, they were cheap, but also dirty, uncomfortable, often disreputable – the last choice before the sidewalk.

Today hostels are completely different because of their offer and services, but also the kind of experience you can live there, which is more than just a rickety mattress to sleep on. Hostels often have rich and well-furbished common spaces, a kitchen and a place where you can socialize or play, there’s always an Internet connection and the hospitality offer is often combined with a bar service and events. The complementary services are so rich that they make it a unique overnight solution.

There are currently two main overnight alternatives: on the one hand there are hotels, surely a more luxurious, clean and well-recognizable format, where it’s often hard to socialize; on the other hand there is AirBnB – that can make you feel at home without being a real local, because they don’t facilitate meeting new people. The hostel is a mid-way solution, with accommodation facilities and services (now there are not only shared rooms, but also double and single rooms) where socializing is easy. In a time when socializing mainly happens on digital platforms, people who choose hostels know that they’ll meet people from all over the world in real life. We often say that it’s strage if someone approaches you in a hotel, while the opposite is true in a hostel – socialization is something that can really make the difference in your holiday.

One of the most persisting idea that survives in the collective imagination is related to the price, but even this element has changed: the wider quality offer in terms of products and services has inevitably led to an increase in prices, which is compensated for by the experience. The hostel average guest is, commercially speaking, one of the most sought targets: young, educated, connected, big spender.

The Hostel World campaign featuring Charlie Sheen stresses the importance of a new hostel storytelling that highlights all the changes that took place throughout the years. Many hotel chains are now converting to hostels, funds are acquiring small hostel chains created in the past ten years – investments are now going in this direction. There’s a professionalization in a field where the people involved are usually travel lovers who, at some point in their life, have decided to turn this passion into a job. The increase in investments has required a professionalization and hostels now feel the need to communicate a strategy – a campaign such as the one by Hostel World with a famous testimonial would have been inconceivable five years ago.

To present itself, a brand needs to use the classical communication strategies as well as new technicalities. It has to be like a media – in the mare magnum of posts on Facebook and the many ways to acquire traffic, the best solution for Ostello Bello is to produce content: once defined the placement, now the goal is translating that placement into communication initiatives. Ostello Bello can talk about many subject, both from the point of view of people who work there and have a good knowledge of the brand and the city, or changing the perspective and using the point of view of its guests.

In particular, the contact with the guests can help live indirectly the feeling of traveling, a moment when everyone is more curious, open and ready to interact. Ostello is the place where the stories of many people meet and different cultures melt – even locals know that going to the Ostello Bello bar feels like being abroad even if you’re just a couple of meters from home.

The Ostello Bello experience can be turned into content both user-generated or created by ourselves. This way we can keep a brand coherence without the prohibitive cost of a placement campaign.

To reach this new placement we have built a network of professionals coming from the publishing, video production and events world, with whom we have started to create a qualitative narrative: we abandoned the tourist guide tone of voice and focused our stories on the experience of people who really live the city and can suggest not only the most historically interesting attractions, but also the sources of entertainment.

We’re open to the possibility of realizing projects with brands that share our values, useful from a strategic point of view, and with a similar placement, creating content based on the available resources. Getting in touch with our guests’ experience allows brands to use Ostello Bello, its audience and its guests for commercial aims, without any intention of turning OB in an advertising platform.

Our final goal is to make Ostello Bello leave its walls: we’re confident about the originality of the project and the power of its fundamental values and we want to try and use our audience and our communication territory to make something new. Ostello Bello could organize events and become an ambassador of interesting initiatives for our target: today people from 18 to 40 make up the 90% of it.

The plan of content production proceeds in parallel to the institutional communication: Ostello Bello is now six years old, it counts 200 employees between Italy and Myanmar, a five year Strategic Business Plan with very ambitious goals. From an amateurish dimension we have become an entrepreneurial reality talking to institutional speakers, so it’s important to present our industry in the right way.

Ostello Bello is the first Italian hostel chain to have an internal communication team and it can become a leader in the Digital Transformation, which means asking ourselves how the digital tools can enrich the hostel experience, making it more efficient and sustainable.

Every year we host about 75 thousand people only in Milan, we have access to many interesting data about tourism and young people attitudes. Behind our project there’s a very innovative approach regarding touristic themes – innovation for us is making life better for people.