the common area inside a hostel in Austin, Texas


Posted: 01/21/2019 | January 21st, 2019

I’ve wanted to personal a hostel because I 1st began traveling. Throughout my month on Ko Lipe in 2006, I spent my lazy days on the beach dreaming of opening a single in New Zealand with some good friends. It was going to be eco-friendly and named “The Greenhouse.”

A handful of years ago, I in fact ended up owning a hostel in Austin. Throughout that time, a lot of new hostels had been opening in the city. Competitors for guests heated up. Austin is a single of the quickest-expanding cities in the nation right after all.

As my buddy and I had been considering of approaches to draw in guests, we stumbled onto the Hostelworld Elevate system.

(OK, he did. Then texted me all about it!)

What does this system do?

It gouges hostels owners — and lines Hostelworld’s pockets.

As a customer, I’m effectively conscious that booking sites charge a commission for properties to be listed in their outcomes. That is how they make revenue. And also that “featured” properties spend far more for specific placement on major of typical outcomes. (They ought to just place the word “ad” up as an alternative of becoming coy. We all know what’s going on.)

I do not locate something incorrect with that model. Hostels get access to a bigger pool of guests, businesses get revenue, buyers get a a single-quit-buying remedy.

But this Hostelworld Elevate system is a great deal far more insidious than that.

Here’s how it functions:

Hostelworld, like all search websites, has a default search outcomes listing (the a single you get if you do not use a filter or sort by any criteria). Let’s use Austin as an instance:

hostel search listings for Austin, Texas


hostel search listings for Austin, Texas

As you can see, we’re #five in spite of getting the major rating in town.

The regular commission for Hostelworld is 15% per booking:

A screenshot of Hostelworld rank with 15% commission

So how do we finish up quantity 5 on this list?

Thanks to Hostelworld Elevate, hostels can spend far more to rank larger in the outcomes.

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If we spend 25% commission, for instance, we can go up two spots on this list. (That implies the other hostels on this list may possibly be paying even far more than that to safe a larger ranking on the default search outcomes.) It does not place us at the major as a featured listing or something — this is just to move up on this default list.

Hostelworld rank with 25% commission

In theory, we could jump to #1 in the default search outcomes if we paid a lot far more revenue to Hostelworld, regardless of how excellent our hostel is. As lengthy as we are prepared to spend to play, we can be anyplace we want to be.

Having said that, we had been certainly not going to spend the additional charge, even if that implies sitting at the bottom of the default rankings as far more hostels in Austin open up.

But Austin is a tiny sample size. There are only 5 hostels on the list, so even with no paying, we are not most likely to be missed.

But believe about huge cities with hundreds of hostels, like London or Paris or Berlin or Sydney.

Who is going to scroll by means of pages and pages of outcomes? How uncomplicated it to miss even the websites on the bottom of the default list when Hostelworld returns 20 outcomes?

Have you ever wondered why so numerous of the major hostels on the default search outcomes list look to be larger or element of chains?

Here’s London as an instance:

hostel search listings for London, England


hostel search listings for London, England
hostel search listings for London, England
hostel search listings for London, England
hostel search listings for London, England

Appear at all these chains! And here’s Paris as an instance also! Appear at all the related names right here:

hostel search listings for London, England


hostel search listings for London, England
hostel search listings for London, England
hostel search listings for London, England
hostel search listings for London, England

To the hostel owners out there, this is possibly old news, but to me this was a large shock.

To be fair, I do not know the precise formula Hostelworld makes use of to choose the default list with no Elevate acquiring in the way but I do know that if you spend, you can be anyplace you want.

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Which is why you see sooooo numerous chains as the tops outcomes in so numerous cities. I cannot prove it but primarily based on what I know (and the truth these chains have a tendency to have larger costs), I bet they are paying. I’m confident there are some chains out there who do not spend and nonetheless rank effectively. But my guess is that numerous of them do spend for their spot.

Tiny hostels like mine cannot give that a great deal revenue to booking websites. Hostels are not a higher-margin business enterprise. They are typically a labor of appreciate. Tiny, cozy, loved ones-run hostels do not have the beds or money flow to give 25% of their income to Hostelworld. Paying far more for larger rankings would place numerous of us out of business enterprise.

(And you do not even get something additional for paying far more revenue — there’s not even a help quantity or devoted e-mail address. It can take days to get an answer from a person at Hostelworld!)

Bigger hostels with a lot of beds and/or that are element of chains can make that occur. They have the margins.

This may well be why I occasionally see chains with low ratings on the major web page (or like in Paris exactly where three hostels from the identical chain are in the major five). This is, in element, why I believe a great deal of the default list is paid for.

That implies that hundreds of hostels that may well be wonderful are stuck at the finish of the default search outcomes simply because large chains can spend the larger charge for larger placement. (Envision what the competitors have to be like to get to the major in a city like London! Yikes!)

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I get why Hostelworld does this (and why hostels spend). It is a business enterprise selection. But not all choices are excellent ones. I appreciate Hostelworld, but this left a terrible taste in my mouth. There are not a lot of other locations exactly where hostels can go to be located, specially because Hostelworld purchased Hostelbookers, its greatest competitor.

Certain, there’s Hostelz and Gomio, but they lack the inventory Hostelworld has.

So what can you, the customer, do to make a large and good influence on the hostel owners of the planet?

If you are going to use Hostelworld, just:

  1. Sort by cost
  2. Sort by rating

This will make sure that any low cost and/or unbelievable hostels that get pushed down to the bottom of the search outcomes simply because they do not want to spend the placement charge will not, in truth, get buried.

(You’d be shocked at how numerous individuals do not do this. Bear in mind it is a lot much easier to appear at the alternatives provided to you, assume they are the ideal outcomes, and choose from there. No a single genuinely knows how these default rankings perform but a lot of individuals assume they perform like Google. The ideal outcomes are the major outcomes (they are not) so do not scroll additional. This accurate for numerous sites. The path of least resistance generally wins!)

Also, book straight with a hostel. Most hostels give discounts if you book straight as an incentive to go about the massive booking sites. I’ve observed lots of indicators at hostels supplying discounts when you book direct. The hostel keeps far more of the revenue and you get a reduce cost. It is win-win.

What ever you do, when you book your subsequent hostel please do not reward this scheme and only choose hostels on the default search setting.