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The hostel is a type of lodging or a holiday accommodation among the other budget-oriented types as: bed and breakfast, guest house, airbnb, etc. Looking on a dictionary for the definition of the word hostel in English, the online Oxford Dictionary provides us with the following: An establishment which provides inexpensive food and lodging for a specific group of people, such as students, workers, or travellers.
According to a webpage which proclaims to be the world’s largest community of hostel professionals, the hostel will be defined as a: budget-oriented, shared-room (“dormitory”) accommodation that accepts individual travelers (typically backpackers) or groups for short-term stays, and that provides common areas and communal facilities. To be considered a hostel, the property must provide short-term, shared (dormitory-style) accommodation for individual travelers, though many hostels also provide private rooms. The word “dormitory” refers to a room where travelers independently book individual beds in a shared room as opposed to booking entire rooms like in a hotel or guesthouse.
Nevertheless, on the online Wikipedia Encyclopedia, where usually the definitions are a mix of all of them found on the internet, it says: Hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, and private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.
In a few countries, such as the UK, Ireland, India and Australia, the word hostel sometimes also refers to establishments providing longer-term accommodation. In India, Pakistan and South Africa, hostel also refers to boarding schools or student dormitories in resident colleges and universities. In other parts of the world, the word hostel mainly refers to properties offering shared accommodation to travellers or backpackers. Within the “traveler” category, another distinction can be drawn between hostels that are members of Hostelling International (HI), a UK-based, non-profit organisation encouraging outdoor activities and cultural exchange for the young (formerly the IYHA), and independently operated hostels. Backpackers’ Hostels began in Australia and New Zealand and differ from hostels by being open during the day time, often abbreviated to just “Backpackers.”
In 1912, in Altena Castle in Germany, Richard Schirrmann created the first permanent Jugendherberge or “Youth Hostel.” These first youth hostels were an exponent of the vision of the German Youth Movement to let poor city youngsters breathe fresh air outdoors. The youths were supposed to manage the hostel themselves as much as possible, doing chores to keep the costs down and build character, and be physically active outdoors.
With an increasing number of “boutique hostel” options, hostels are beating out hotels for smart budget travelers who demand more than bare-bones accommodation. Nowadays the hostels offers free breakfast, complimentary snacks and drinks, free Wi-Fi, and add-ons once only expected in pricier hotels
There is less privacy in a hostel than in a hotel. Sharing sleeping accommodation in a dormitory is very different from staying in a private room in a hotel or bed and breakfast, and might not be comfortable for those requiring more privacy. Hostels encourage more social interaction between guests due to the shared sleeping areas and communal areas such as lounges, kitchens and internet cafes.
Care should be taken with personal belongings, as guests may share a common living space, so it is advisable to secure guests’ belongings. Most hostels offer some sort of system for safely storing valuables, and an increasing number of hostels offer private lockers; there are other things to consider as well when choosing a safe hostel, such as whether they have a guest curfew, uphold fire codes, 24-hour security, and CCTV. Noise can make sleeping difficult on occasions, whether from snoring, talking, someone either returning late or leaving early, or the proximity of so many people. To mitigate this, some wear earplugs and/or sleeping masks.
In order to make comparisons in service quality, some rating systems were introduced. The star rating system is the most popular of all with ratings from one to five stars, with more star rating indicating better quality of services and facilities. Also the star rating system is based on the guests’ reviews and rating as some online hostel booking platforms provide: hostelworld.com, booking.com etc.
In attempts to attract more visitors, many hostels nowadays provide additional services not previously available, such as airport shuttle transfers, internet cafés, swimming pools and spas, tour booking and car free hire. Some hostels may include a hot meal in the price.
The traditional hostel format involved dormitory style accommodation. Some newer hostels also include en-suite accommodation with single, double or quad occupancy rooms, though to be considered a hostel they must also provide dormitory accommodation. In recent years, the numbers of independent and backpackers’ hostels have increased greatly to cater for the greater numbers of overland, multi-destination travellers (such as gap-year travellers and rail-trippers). The quality of such places has also improved dramatically. While most hostels still insist on a curfew, daytime lockouts, very few require occupants to do chores apart from washing and drying up after food preparation.
Worldwide in terms of hostel type can be distinguished: hostelling international (HI), independent hostels, boutique hostels, mobile hostels:
Richard Schirrmann’s idea of hostels rapidly spread overseas and eventually resulted in Hostelling International, an organisation composed of more than 90 different youth hostel associations representing over 4,500 youth hostels in over 80 countries.
Some HI Youth Hostels cater more to school-aged children (sometimes through school trips) and parents with their children, whereas others are more for travellers intent on learning new cultures. However, while the exploration of different cultures and places is emphasised in many hostels, particularly in cities or popular tourist destinations, there are still many hostels providing accommodation for outdoor pursuits such as hillwalking, climbing and bicycle touring; these are often small friendly hostels retaining much of the original vision and often provide valuable access to more remote regions.
In the past several years, Hostelling International have increasingly added hotels and package resorts to their networks in addition to hostels.
Despite their name, in most countries membership is not limited to youth.
Independent hostels are not necessarily affiliated with one of the national bodies of Hostelling International, Youth Hostel Association or any other hostel network. Often, the word independent is used to refer to non-HI hostels even when the hostels do belong to another hostelling organization such as SIH and Backpackers Canada.
The term “youth” is less often used with these properties. Unlike a hotel chain where everything is standardized, these hostels can be very diverse, typically not requiring a membership card. There are chains of independent hostels throughout the world such as the Jazz Hostels on the East Coast and Banana Bungalow Hostels on the West Coast of the United States, or the Generator Hostels and Equity Point Hostels of Europe, or Zostel of India. Each offers their own niche of services to travellers and backpackers. For example, one independent hostel might feature a lot of in house gatherings, another might feature daily and nightly tours or events in the surrounding city, and another might have a quieter place to relax in serenity, or be located on the beach. This is an independent hostel’s personality and travellers will frequent the hostels that offer the personality that they find desirable. There is frequently a distinction being a “party hostel” or not. As the hostel industry evolves, independent hostels and HI hostels are becoming more similar, with the word “backpackers” also now applying to many Hostelling International hostels.
The general backpacking community is no longer exclusively typified by student travellers and extreme shoe string budgets. In response to demand, as well as increasing competition between the rapidly growing number of hostels, the overall quality of hostels has improved across the industry. In addition to the increase in quality among all styles of hostel, new styles of hostels have developed that have a focus on a more trendy, design interior.
The phrase “boutique hostel” an often-arbitrary marketing term typically used to describe intimate, luxurious or quirky hostel environments. The term has started to lose meaning because the facilities of many “boutique hostels” are often no different from hostels that are not referred to with that label. Also, marketers and online booking websites sometimes include boutique hotels in lists of “boutique hostels,” further diluting any specific meaning of the phrase.
A related term, “flashpackers”, often refers to hostels that target themselves as catering to a slightly older, tech-savvy clientele, but in practice, many of the new class of higher-quality hostels across the industry offer these tech-oriented facilities, and even the flashpacker websites that appeared in 2006–08 during the peak of the “flashpacker” hype are neglected or offline as of 2012 as the term has rapidly lost popularity.
Though very uncommon, a mobile hostel is a hostel with no fixed location. It can exist in the form of a campsite, a temporary building, bus, van, or a short term agreement in a permanent building. Mobile hostels have sprouted up at large festivals where there exists a shortage of budget accommodation. As with regular hostels, mobile hostels generally provide dormitory accommodation for backpackers or travelers on a shoe string budget. The first ever (and only) commercial example of a mobile hostel is Hostival. It has sprouted up at Oktoberfest, Carnival, San Fermin, Las Fallas and the 2010 World Cup.
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