A great atmosphere can make or break a hostel. You might offer all the services in the world, but having no connection with the guests or having a bleak ambiance is not going to make their stay memorable. Having daily activities obviously helps improve a hostel atmosphere and of course, lots of hostels are doing this right! But smaller places or newly-opened ones might lack the resources, either human or financial, necessary to establish a weekly schedule of on-site activities. However, it is still possible to make it fun for the guests! For your hostel atmosphere rating to go up, guests must be able to meet fellow guests and they must feel like you really care about them. Here is 13 ways that might help improve your hostel atmosphere without having an elaborate schedule of activities.
Make sure you’ve got music playing in all common areas at all time! Silence can be intimidating; guests might be less likely to approach one another. Get great speakers and a common music player for all staff to use. Make some rules: the music played must be enjoyable by most, so no heavy metal or screaming music! Also, don’t blast music all night; people want to sleep! Make sure your speakers are set to start at a certain time or manually turn them up at an appropriate time.
2. Staff must be involved
The front desk staff (and everyone else actually) shouldn’t just answer questions, they should ask some. They must act as friendly as possible with guests, and their attitude should be their number one asset when getting hired. They got to start conversations when guests walk in or when they wander around the hostel. See someone looking at a map? Ask if they need directions. See someone cooking? Ask about their recipe. Guests love to interact and feel like the staff truly care about them.
Try to have a unique style. Get colorful furniture and cozy accessories to make your hostel attractive. Make sure guests have enough space to socialize so they can do so comfortably. Opt for tables and chairs that are easily moved. This way, guests will be able to move around and group as they want.
Offer lots of it! Create little maps of the neighborhood that points out restaurants, bars and points of interests. Hang up big public transportation maps with the most useful bus or train lines. Print out directions for the most popular attractions. Offer a printed self-guided walking tour. All this useful and fun information will get guests to do more during their stay. You might not offer a pub crawl, but you’ve got a handout of the top bars to visit in each district of your city; guests will appreciate.
5. Staff suggestions
Print out big photos of each staff member and put them up with a list of their favorite places, like best underground museum and best happy hours. This way of exposing information to guests is great because it shows the staff actually care about their city and it helps guests “meet” the staff. They’ll know who’s who quicker, and they might come back and thank a few for their suggestions.
6. White board
A quick and easy way to share fun stuff at the front desk is to have a white board next to it. Make sure to write new info everyday! Write about the weather, the free things to do, fun facts about the city, travel quotes, the nearest shops and offer suggestions for the day. Most travelers appreciate such info and will plan their day accordingly. Make sure it is readable! Get your most artistic staff to do it!
7. Welcome note in rooms
During the check-in process, most guests won’t remember the info you tell them.; they might not remember you offer free breakfast. Put up a welcome sign in each room. Mention everything your hostel offers, as well as a list of services available (laundry room, TV room…). List the basic rules and provide quick info about the neighborhood. After dropping their bags off, travelers will be able to relax while reading about your hostel and what you offer.
8. Instruments and games
If you can’t organize activities to get guests to mingle, provide them with things that will help them get together. Buy some bongos and a used guitar and get lots of games. Keep them in the common area or put up a sign mentioning that they are available at the front desk.
9. Lounge table displays
On your common area tables, put up small vertical displays with fun facts about your city, or useful words and sentences in your language. If your hostel is a little out of the way, put up a small local map. Make it interesting for your guests to read when they are just chilling.
10. World map
Install a huge world map on an empty wall. Ask them to put up pins on the city they are from, or to stick their old metro or bus ticket on it. It will instantly fill up a dull wall and will get travelers involved.
11. Suggest activities
If your hostel can’t offer activities, research what’s going on in your city and suggest several options ever day. Make up a calendar showing daily city events and weekly happenings. Help travelers create their schedule. Mention the free museum days, the concerts, the main attractions’ night hours… Everything to make it feel like lots of options to choose from. Guests will appreciate your knowledge about current events.
12. Book exchange
Invest a few dollars in great books (used ones) for your book exchange. It’s kind of disappointing to browse a hostel book exchange just to realize the only books available are these ones. Make your book swapping shelve attractive; it will be appreciated on a rainy day.
13. Bed assignation
Probably the most important but the least obvious! To get guests to hang out together, try to match them. For example, if you see that 4 solo travelers are arriving on the same date and are staying for the same amount of time, put them in the same dorm. Meeting your roommate is definitely easier than meeting other guests.They are more likely to hang out together and have a good time during their whole stay. The worst thing to do to a solo traveler staying a week in your hostel would be to fill up his dorm with people staying only 1 night at a time. This guest will have a harder time meeting other guests and his sleep might actually be affected if people check out from the room early morning every day. Of course that is expected in a hostel but why not make the effort to keep similar travelers together? Group of 2 staying for 3 nights? Match them with another group of 2 staying for 3 nights. It’s a subtle way to get people to hang out more and plan their day together, resulting in a better atmosphere.
Know of other subtle ways to improve a hostel atmosphere? Please share your ideas in the comment section, and if you want to share a photo showcasing one of the points mentioned here, please do so!