More hotels are catering to the global consumer interest in upgraded budget travel accommodation and leaving the ‘no frills revolution’ behind them. These hotels are sensitive to the rising popularity of a more personalised experience and art-inspired stylish ambience in holiday accommodation. Apart from the more affordable price, such services, apparent from Lisbon to Marrakech, are strong on local flavour and a home-from-home experience and very often, like boutique hotels, design-aware. Even the humble hostel, long almost the exclusive preserve of young backpackers and some adventurous families, is reinventing itself to meet the needs of fussier and an often older clientele – including business people. ‘Boutique hostels’ today offer double rooms with ensuite bathrooms as well as dorms, and rival boutique hotels in terms of location and design, as well as price.
Real Growth of Hostel Market Size in Selected Countries: 2007-2012
Source: Euromonitor International from trade sources/national statistics
Note: Hostels are defined as outlets providing low cost/budget accommodation, often in dormitories; includes youth hostels. Data at constant 2012 prices and fixed 2012 exchange rates and show retail value RSP.
Budget-Boutique Hotels are Not a Contradiction
The selection of cheaper but stylish and comfortable budget boutique hotels is getting wider. And is it more common to see features associated with luxury such as swimming pools, saunas, in-house cinemas and in-house chefs.
Huffingtonpost.com reports on a new crop of budget boutique hotels in the UK: “Superb service, luxury bedlinen and romantic rooms all come at a price – but it doesn’t have to be a huge one”. The selection highlighted offer: “a luxury-for-less hit-list of low-cost boutique chic.”
Many Hostels have Reinvented Themselves to Rival Hotels
Website Budget Traveller currently features a recommended list of ‘poshtels’ or purpose-built luxury hostels that are cashing in on the trend for a better class of budget accommodation. HostelBookers boasts that today’s luxury hostels are legendary. “Spend your holiday down time amid cool décor on roof terraces, in Jacuzzis, extravagant lounges and beautiful beds with the best luxury hostels in the business”.
Author of new ebook “The Budget Travellers Guide to the Luxury Hostels of Europe”, Kash Bhattachariya, says: “I definitely think the line between hostel and hotel is blurring. In fact some hostels now have rebranded themselves as ‘hostel + hotel.’ I think the recession has offered the opportunity of hostels to diversify their product and reach out to a wider audience.... This is a step beyond the no-frills revolution. This is travel with all the frills but without the price tag”.
Age-Blurring at its Best
Whether they bill themselves as “design or boutique hostels” or “hostel and suites,” new budget accommodation offerings are thriving and increasingly popular with older age groups too. In a July 2013 article, the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper revealed that budget accommodation now accounts for more than a third of new hotels being built in Britain.
According to Mr. Bhattachariya: “The hotel industry needs to sit up and take notice. I’m not just finding mature travellers, but even couples and business travellers staying in these luxury hostels”. Consumers are also ‘travelling younger’. People who backpacked in their twenties are now in their late thirties and still enjoying the freedom of independent travel. Boutique budget accommodation appears to have responded to their needs and now offers comfort and convenience perks like private rooms, free Wi-Fi, and a quieter environment.
Positive consumer reviews of luxury budget hotels are everywhere online. Well reviewed offers include the Equity Point spa hostel in Marrakech, Morocco, Plus Berlin with its pool and sauna, and Ostello Bello in Milan which offers cooked breakfasts throughout the day and a popular evening apertivo seeing locals arrive to mingle with guests.