Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Redesigning the Tourism Industry

Redesigning the Tourism Industry - What happens next?

The health of the global economy has always been inherently correlated with the hospitality sector; holidays go hand-in-hand with wealth, financial buoyancy, and good times. For tourism businesses who have been celebrating the incessant line of millennials on their doorstep, it is now time to re-evaluate, re-design and re-invent. While occupancy plummets and there is a deluge of cancellations - beyond the duration of current lock-downs, we know that a re-evaluation of the industry is the only option. Strategic investment of operational efficiency, revenue generation and cost saving may be what larger companies need to mitigate the downturn, but is it also time for some soul searching on what our business offer really is?

Some macro economical events are impossible to predict, and the exponential growth of travellers in the past decade meant unprecedented growth performances within the industry were followed by huge amounts of optimism. This rapid growth and fragile market which showed accelerated growth but an unsure footing, meant that at some point, the flooded tourism market and bloated airline and cruise figures (which had also lead to complaints about mass tourism), would soon come to an end. Although, we didn’t know how.
Anyone who remembers trying to negotiate with business forecasts during the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud understands the volatility of tourism predictions. We have, in some ways, been here before. However, whereas the industry was hit by cancellations and flight groundings then, we also had guests who were stranded and filled beds. And, more crucially, no one died. We have never seen contagion on this scale, nor the more threatening spread (for the youth segment) of the psychological side: the Panic Virus.

‘Going viral’ has taken on a new (old) meaning, and pandemics, or specifically COVID-19, have also caused a psychological spread of panic which will last much longer than government lockdowns. The ‘Panic Virus’ has caused alarmist reactions for a real virus that is less deadly than many other pandemics, but likely to leave the longest legacy in our lifetime. Although not to trivialise those affected, ill or loss of life, a global shutdown as a response is more down to mental and moral response than actual catastrophe. Given people’s propensity for sensationalist drama and a negative bias, this obsession with pathogens will be around much longer than business shutdowns.

We are confronted with an evolution of human reaction to disaster and presenting them with a business proposition based on a lot of socialising. We also have to contend with increased xenophobia: a huge psychological challenge to overcome on an individual response basis. In all likelihood, we will be fighting against neurosis, prejudice and racism long after we have all contracted the virus.

After Social Distancing

The absolute opposite to what we have been promoting hard for our businesses; people around the world are now being subjected to social distancing, isolation, and heightened xenophobic and racist reactions. The one thing we can hope for this, is that after the mental burden and stress of being subjected to social distancing; people will be desperate to get out there and see the world and unite. Whether they will have been bankrupted in the meantime remains to be seen; but one crisis at a time. As governments take pre-emptive measures to minimise impacts; so must the industry. Apart from deep cleaning and excessive anxiety: what will be left of our community? Unity. This is a time to take stock of business offers, re-evaluate how you operate and create efficiencies within your business model, re-invent ways to generate more revenue, and unite with your network.

A personal response in the age of Intelligence
As we search for new ways to increase revenue and the efficacy of our operations, we need to also turn to technology. We are transiting from the information age to the intelligence age, that huge amount of data needs to be transformed into insights that can actually be used, to leverage personalisation and to drive revenue. We need actionable results that will create a better guest journey. Despite the fact that this information has been there for a long time (we keep talking about what Millennials and Gen Z want, but who is actually providing that?) now this laggard attitude from the industry means stepping up to react to the behaviour of our demographics. Enabling dynamic individualisation (or to put it simply, creating a personalised user journey) relies on several lead factors, such as technology platforms, goods and services that are likely to convert, and data driven offers. If your business can survive a global pandemic, then every booking will count. The ROI becomes more significant in these times, but incremental revenue generation will be necessary to mitigate the losses.

The bottom line is: we don’t know when we can open our doors again, but we know that what we will be faced with will be different from before. As we unite to come out of these dark times, we must look at the renaissance that is possible. After all, one thing we have in common with the virus, is this is all a journey of evolution. With a Darwinian philosophy applied, we have to pursue the line that only the best will survive; and strive to be that.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Keeping your Business Healthy

Keeping Your Business as Healthy as You Can

In times of crisis it is essential to look at the positives: every disaster creates opportunities. Although it may be hard to see those now with costs mounting and revenue sinking to zero, there are some practical steps to take now we are sitting on our hands, for both your online presence and your recovery.

Your Team

For hostels that are closed: many of you still have paid staff still on your books (although they may be trapped at home in isolation). This is a great time to task them with being creative - ideas, opportunities and to contribute to your social media. All the tasks that no one every has time to have: now is the time. Get them to make videos for 'meet the staff' talking about their favourite places in your destination, researching the best online travel blogs to share, and answering all your reviews. Not only are your guests along with everyone else now sitting on social media all day - they are also looking for positive news stories. This is the time to get to know your customers, and get social with them online, try to keep customer relations up, let's call it keeping in touch.

Virtual Tasks

With Real Life on hold and in crisis management phase, it could be a good time to do all those virtual tasks such as updating web content, checking SEO, editing your third party sites, adding new photos to Google Business, checking on your Tripadvisor. This is the time to spring clean your online presence and get more social. Delete all those old pictures, check for broken links, update your foursquare, everything that gets left to the bottom of the list. Think of it as a time for customer relationship management, and an investment in lead generation for the future.

For physical tasks I'm sure you're all busy bleaching your whole building, but it's also a great time to get things ready for receiving guests again with a clean and shiny hostel. Take down all those old posters, add a lick of paint, or fix those squeaky doors. Some things can be done without adding any more costs - so focus on those first. 

Some ideas of online activities to keep your audience engaged or things you can do when you open again:

  • Take people on a virtual tour of your hostel (for those of you open) or re-share old content to when things were more fun (Throwback posts)
  • Run a competition to win free nights stay when you open again!
  • Do you have video guides for virtual tours of your city that you can share? Many museums and galleries have them. Here is an example of a bunch of the world's best. There are also free concerts online worldwide, and theatre.
  • Meet the staff video interviews (staff can film these at home themselves - a couple of minutes about the best things to do in the city, why they love it etc. These don't necessarily have to be lockdown videos! Unless you have some great ideas to be funny)
  • Host an 'Ask Me Anything' #AMA on social so potential guests can ask questions about you and you will actually have time to respond. This should generate leads to bookings in the future
  • Communicate with your customers on social media - reply to comments etc (be social!), ask guests to write reviews so you can add some good ones
  • Try doing a 'secret city' where every day you post a less known tourist place in your city and get people guessing / tell people about it (to create intrigue to come visit later)
  • Get creative, look at ideas for new packages etc to encourage groups later (family and friends reunions?) The Hangover from Corona party will be massive.
  • If you have a loyalty programme, think of an incentives you could run (afterwards)
  • Do you have gift cards or a voucher? People could buy now (before they run out of money) and claim their discount or bed later in the year.
  • Decorate. Invite a local artist to paint a mural on a wall to make you selfie-tastic (if you are allowed out still)
  • Think of 'experiences' you can add to your business later - you have plenty of time for ideas
  • Promote your destination - work with local tourism boards. It looks like less people will be travelling when this all quietens down, and competition will be tough.
  • If you have budget, set up a PPC advertising campaign to run in the future (so when people start travelling again, your pay per click starts to run)
  • Offer stays to bloggers to get you promoted once they start moving around
  • Host events at your hostel - people will be desperate to interact socially
  • Create packages that include local activities to support businesses
  • Keep posting on Instagram! Everyone is sitting at home bored
For a look at the future of the travel industry after this crisis, check out article here.

We hope these tips can help you keep your business busy and inspire you to get creative. Let's try to look at the positives!

For help or advice for your business, contact us at hello@hosteldoctor.com and we will try to help you keep your hostel business healthy.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Booking.com Talks Travel Trends

Thanks to Hostelskills for hosting the conference and Booking.com for this information.

There are now 1.4 billion International Tourists - this is a 6% increase on last year. The biggest group is Europe with 713 million and then Asia Pacific with 343 Million. The Americas account for 217 million with Africa at 67 million and the Middle East at 63 million. The global average growth is around 3 to 4 %. 

5 in every 5 tourists are traveling within their region, which means this is mostly Europeans traveling in Europe.

Booking.com Talks 2019 Trends at Hostelskills

Mobile Trends

Bookings on mobile have increased by 540%. There are 8 billion active devices - more than people on the planet! This is a lot of people using mobile. 60% of travelers are posting pictures on mobile of their travels. 65% of Booking.com customers prefer to use mobile. 

Booking.com Talks 2019 Trends at Hostelskills


76% of travelers say that smart phones are their most important asset to travel with. This enables all their search decisions. 53% of guests are likely to book on their device, but only a quarter of hostels on Booking.com have mobile friendly websites. 

13 nights per year is the average holiday taken
45% of travelers are men, 55% are women, 21% of these are solo travelers with 18% being large groups. Couples are 41% with families making up the other 20%.

38% are in multiple destinations - travelers want to see more places!
Booking.com Talks 2019 Trends at Hostelskills

Booking Methods

The trend in using travel agents has decreased, as has direct bookings with accommodation providers websites. Now bookings are made on mobile or apps, and usually through the OTAs. 

Managing Guests Experience

Dividing guests stay into the pre-stay, stay and after stay. To get the guests attention you have to 10 seconds - and you have to provide quality photos - this the hot spot on screen clicks. Showcase your hostel with good well lit photos, show the chill-out communal areas, details and show the views and surroundings. 

77% of users don't expect to wait more than 6 hours for a reply to their email. Make sure you have automated replies with a booking assistant.

Post Stay you need to get your feedback and reviews. Personalisation is the next developing trend. As seen with Amazon or Netflix - suggestions are made and personalised based on buyer behaviour.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Size Matters: How Important is the Length of my Blog Post?

If you're writing a blog for your business - you should be doing this...

With industry insights pointing to the more blog posts the better, it can be very time consuming to write long posts that are industry relevant several times a week. With a balancing act of frequency, budget, time and relevance, creating relevant blog content requires planning. As content creation has become key as a way to hook page views from the internet, make sure your blog has winning content. 

So if you have time or budget to sit down and write, then make sure you are writing the right kind of posts. Don't be tempted to post short blogs frequently if they have no depth or use! You're better off posting longer posts with higher quality writing. 

You may not be looking to write an in-depth thesis on a subject, but to have an informative opinion or present research, you will need a few words. Google says that a minimum of 300 words are needed to be considered relevant for SEO, but to really talk about something in a useful way (unless it's just promoting an event) then you will need a few more. But don't just waffle on, make sure you have something to say about your subject! 

You will also need to add some keywords to your article which could also be 'words' as phrases are what you're really looking at. Don't stuff it with keywords either as it will make it unnatural to the reader. In general, longer informative articles are much better, so if you feel like writing more, then don't feel restricted. Creating a well written and informative article will automatically make it longer!

Quality AND Quantity

Not only does your post need to have enough substance, it has to be well written!! To have a high-quality blog we would expect the following

Informative - there should be an in depth look or focus on the topic, enough to discuss, provide information and be a complete look at something

Relevant - it should be relevant to your key audience as well and your business

Waffle free - your tone of voice and style is your own, but don't pack it with fillers, pack it with useful facts, info or research. 

Don't get lost! Composition for longer blog posts

If you're writing more than 1,000 words you will want to keep your audience interested and engaged. For this, you need to keep your blog well structured and not get lost in the waffle.

How to keep on track 

Well structured - use sub-headers and sections to avoid your reader getting lost. If the paragraphs are simple and overall structure is manageble it's much easier to read. 

Interesting - If you're writing something technical you can still keep it lively and upbeat - try to mix up your vocabularly and any industry jargon to make it accessible to all and expressive rather than boring!

A Note on Language

You're reading this in English, and a lot of content is composed like this. But make sure you're copy is well written in the language it is in, and especially if you use this original text then for translations. Little mistakes can be forgiven if you're writing in a second language, but if you can get someone to check your copy it's better! Try using Grammarly or similar software to point you in the right direction.

Good luck starting a blog, if you are thinking why a blog is important for your website then check out our article on that.

Good Luck! 

If you need any help with blogging then get in touch with us at hello@hosteldoctor.com for free advice

Friday, 15 February 2019

SEO Hostel Health Check

Keeping your website SEO Friendly

We want you to make the most of your assets, and having a kick ass website is a great way to showcase them. Attract your perfect match with beautiful and relevant content, and a strong message to book direct at this amazing hostel. The purpose of good SEO is to get good positions in SERPS (search engine result pages) - make your website the best it can be for you, Google, and your customers - everyone wins! 

SEO Hostel Health Check

So how do you master this wizardry? Well, there are some basic steps that you can do for yourself before calling in the experts. Here's how to get yourself off the blocks.

Some key points to look out for:

  • Make sure that your site is mobile friendly!! Depending on your audience this could be up to 89% of your traffic. Insane.

  • Be Google friendly. Make sure you are on Google Maps and when you appear on Google business check that your reviews are responded to (nicely) and you have added your own photos and description. This will help your organic views push you to the top.

  • Be user friendly. The user experience is important for bookings and and search engines - you need do to be easily navigable and have a website that makes sense - not a cat's picnic!

  • Keep content relevant. Have your important content on your homepage, optimize it for keywords related to your hostel and destination, keep it interesting and unique. Don't bury the really useful stuff somewhere in the back. Like your address.

  • Be aware of Good Practice rules to avoid penalties. Don't duplicate content or syndicate it to other websites; it has to be unique. And careful what images you use - it's not ok to borrow from Instagram unless you want a copyright fine - always get permission first!
SEO Hostel Health Check

  • Get on top of your content by creating it yourself. Start a blog and try to add relevant topics. Blogs help keep material fresh and make Google bots re-visit and index your pages more. User content is also joyful, but this is something you have to have under your control.

  • Make sure your website also loads quickly for anyone with a slow connection. Have your images and videos set to web pixel sizes and don't have huge files you don't need. Search speed is incorporated into rankings.

  • Keep on top of your tabs. Pay attention to where pages are leading and what information is on them, and match up your content, titles and descriptions to the relevant pages. Just keep it tidy!
SEO Hostel Health Check

  • Be social. Link to your social accounts and make sure they are active and relevant. You don't have to be posting all the time, but make sure when you do it is on brand, with your business tone of voice, and relevant, engaging or useful to your audience.

  • Connect with bloggers and partners with your press releases or getting personal with them. This may be just through Facebook, but don't leave them out when it comes to connecting.

  • Make sure those you do build a relation with have happy SEO and are not going to be bad for you to link with. Links aren't as important as they used to be, but you want to link with authority sites to be seen as one - so avoid a tour company with terrible reviews and dodgy certification - keep it classy!

  • Secure you website with 'https' to give buyer confidence 

So those are your basic SEO health check tips from the Hostel Doctor! Make sure that you are helping yourself get direct bookings with the best organic search you can get. Get this right, and your hostel will benefit from an amazing website! 

We hope these tips help - get in touch with us at hello@hosteldoctor.com for more help with your hostel website. We're here to help keep your hostel healthy!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Why do I Need a Blog on my Hostel Website?

Or... Write A Blog Now!

You're probably thinking it's the last thing you have time to do - but a travel blog is really important for your website! It can also be a lot of fun if you involved your hostel staff - everyone has a recommendation for a favourite bar, coffee shop or place to shop. It's also a great way to get you thinking about your destination in terms of what it has to offer for visitors. You may live there, but to them it's a blank canvas and you have the power to make their trip awesome with your handy tips!!

Why do I Need a Blog on my Hostel Website?

Here are some key reasons why a blog can be good for you

  • Google is your first reason - if you are adding new material regularly then the Google bots will be indexing your pages and a regular basis - which is good!

  • Guests. Potential customers will see your helpful tips and think that you really care about them having a good time and making the most of their experience in your destination. Sharing is caring.
Why do I Need a Blog on my Hostel Website?

  • Bloggers. They might want to share some tips with you or buddy up and provide some good material, inspiration and links.

  • Inspiration. If you post amazing and inspiring pictures and videos then you are going to tempt visitors to come to your destination. We can't take the Balmer's Interlaken snow pictures anymore, we're booking our next trip already. Likewise with sunsets at Athenstyle Hostel, the pool parties at Hostel Pachamama in San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, beach shots from El Misti in Rio, and the idea of Eurovision at Abrahams Hostel in Tel Aviv. We love you all and it's about time for another visit - watch out, we're coming to get you!!

  • Social. You can keep sharing fresh material to your audience - and at the same time inform them of what's happening where you are. Win win.

  • Get your staff involved in being a part of the hostels voice and inspiration - they can guest write if they are wannabe bloggers, or provide cool photos, or interviews, or just share some top tips. Get them involved with sharing what they love about the destination. That way everyone gets to know a bit more about each other. 

So these are some of the reasons we think it's worth having a blog on your website. If you think it's too tiresome and you don't have time, you can syndicate material to add, but remember to keep it on brand and relevant to your hostel and customers.

Why do I Need a Blog on my Hostel Website?

Some ideas for this could be general travel tips such as packing light or cool apps (and a way to promote other brands), or sharing local guides, activities in your destination or events that would be great to check out. It also will help with your SEO! So get organic with Google and start creating your relevant content yourself. 

Good Luck!

If you want any help or advise with your blog posts then get in touch with us at hello@hosteldoctor.com. We're here to help you keep your hostel healthy!!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Hostelskills Conference - Travel Trends from Booking.com

Hostelskills Conference 2018 in Krakow

Thank you to the Hostelskills team for hosting another hostel focused event in Krakow, inviting speakers to share their expertise with others in the industry.

Booking.com - The Journey is the experience

Booking.com Presents 2018 Hostel Trends at Hostelskills

Thanks to Booking.com for their insightful talk on trends for 2018 and predictions for 2019. The following is data taken from their presentation by Ewelina Kondratowicz and Jakub Brzozowski.

Booking.com books over 1.55M room nights every 24 hours in over 1.7M properties. On their website they have almost 26K active hostels worldwide with over 172M guest reviews.
32% of travelers expect to research, book and organise travel this year on mobile - on top of 44% of travellers expecting to be able to book their trip on mobile.

Videos in 2019 will be 80% of internet traffic. Currently 58% on Google are for specific brands or companies. 71% of travel searches on YouTUbe are for destination names.

Millienials (1980-2000)

They want to see as many people as possible, prioritising social interactions adn shared adventures. They are spending more on experience and travel, and they are environmentally conscious. 93% book on mobile, 44% use location as a key factor, 40% use reveiws only and 60% intend to post on social media during their stay. 55% of them say free WIFI is essential. 85% check photos and videos. 88% look at attractions nearby. 80% of last-minute bookings are done on mobile.

Trends for 2018

Luxury Hotels are offering a balance of privacy, amenities and social activities. More than 70% of hostel travelers are millenials, 72% are solo travelers, often requiring more privacy. Luxury hotels are now copying hostels.

Where do your bookings come from? Booking.com uses the following channels to book your property. Affiliate partners and meta searches such as tripadvisor, Kayak, eDreams, easyjet, agoda promote bookings through Booking.com, along with paid search. There is also print marketing through Conde Nast Traveler and others, along with social media and television commercials.

What is so special about Hostels?
Guests love hostels, they love the experience and want to book a bed in a shared communal environment. It´s the second most booked item on Booking.com´s site. Discounts motivate long stays, add-ons like free breakfast encourages bookings, and lastminute deals with price cuts are available a couple of days or hours before the deadline. Loyalty offers, such as ´Genius Program´ gives frequent travelers advantages.

What can hostels learn?
Hostels can learn that being flexible is more attractive. The center of your home page is where your offers should be, your content and your photos also speak volumes. Use exterior, bedroom, bathroom and chill-out places - this helps your guest to imagine their stay. Also don´t forget details and the view!

In summary, to be bookable, make it easy to book via mobile, have flexible availability, conditions and opportunities - such as add-ons, and show everything in your photos!

Great conference in Krakow, thanks to Hostelskills and Booking.com for the valuable insights.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Travel Trends for 2018

What will be the trends in the travel industry for 2018?

Here are our thoughts on what's around the corner for 2018

We think we will see a rise in biophilic design; a focus on natural design that enhances moods and relaxes. The hotel industry has already experienced this with a surge in travelers looking to destress and be ‘mindful’ in a community environment. People are looking to connect. There is always a consumer demand for environmental responsibility so hopefully that will also continue to be an important factor. 

There is also a continuation in the 2017 trend towards all things ‘local’, so I expect to see more local partnerships and artisanal products and locally sourced produce on menus in hostels. 

Creating immersive and genuine experiences, whether this is through local or regional experiences or offering tours or interactive experiences that gives the customer a deeper and more real experience of the destination. Everything is trending toward making a stay experiential, so I would urge hostels to look at what they actually offer other than a night’s sleep. It also doesn’t have to be a long list, it could just be one thing that you do really well and that gives guests a unique stay.

There are also a lot of hostels making time for co-working or “life spaces” to attract business travelers and local people in the daytime to create a community vibe. This changes functionality of your communal areas and leans towards the sharing economy models out there, but also makes the most of the co-living approach which has been popular in Southeast Asia for a while already.

We hope you enjoyed our predictions for Travel Trends for 2018 - find out more on our Facebook page here