Hostel Marketing, Hostel Revenue

Grow your hostel revenue: 16 easy tips [that won't break the bank]

Understanding hostel revenue management is great.

Understanding hostel marketing is great.

Understanding your guests is essential.

But when you do ALL THREE?

That’s when you can slap an “S” on your chest…

…because you’ll be unstoppable.

I have something that will make you feel like you have hostel revenue superpowers:

17 tips (including some creative ideas to increase sales) that you can start using right now to increase your hostel occupancy in low season and implement into your overall hostel marketing strategy.
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1. Groupie Method : Attract travelling bands and musicians to your hostel. [2 prong attack]

Don’t worry!

It’s not as dirty as it sounds.

We all know groupies want to sleep with the band.

Well here, the band sleeps with YOU.

There are numerous sites and platform where bands hangout online and promote themselves.

In a nutshell:
  • Sign up
  • Engage with the community
  • Get bookings and improve your hostel income

Sounds Easy, right?

That’s because it is

Lets take Bandcamp as an example:

Sign up at Bandcamp.com
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Then, get yourself some original (if possible) music to upload

How?

Record…
That Guy That Became Unbelievably Sexy When He Picked Up The Guitar In The Hostel Common Room

Or, The Common Room When It’s Lively

Maybe, Breakfast

How About, Some Other Live Music Or Event In Your Hostel

Even, A Check In

Why Not A Receptionist Playing The Spoons?

A Toilet Flushing, Whatever…

Mix It All Together And Creatively Call It Something Like Hostel Sounds

Sweet!

Profiles complete let’s move on to…

…checking the events pages of your local venues to see how many bands from out of town are visiting and when. (You’d be very surprised)

Here’s a real life example:

Let’s say, I’m in Lyon.

Now, I don’t know any music venues in Lyon.

So I did a quick google search.
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Cool!

I popped over to Sonic’s website to see what’s happening.

On their events page I see a list of all their upcoming events and where the performers are from.

I click through the different events and the second one I find is this:
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Wand all the way from L.A. are coming to town.

Now, how do I connect with them?

Easy.

Scroll further down the page and you’ll usually find:
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A link directly to their website and Bandcamp profile.

Great!

You’ve already created a Bandcamp profile…

… and if you haven’t you will now!

Find them.

Follow them.

F… wait. eh Love them.

Leave a comment on their profile

Now…

Wand and their psychedelic-pop-garage might not be the ones to fill your hostel beds in low season but I think you can see how useful the Groupie Method can be.

Now they know you exist.

What next? 

Engage with the community.

Connect with some local bands.

This also puts you in front of locals that may have friends and family coming to visit at some point and this will put you on their radar…

Phase one complete, you have created your online hostel groupie persona.

Well done!

Phase 2: Make sure local venues know about you and how AWESOME you are.

There are, hopefully, some live music venues not to far from your hostel, and/or you occasionally have live music in your hostel.

There’s a very high chance that your guests have been to the venues, and drop a fair bit of cash behind the bar.

Some of the problems faced by venues are:
  • working with hotels and their policies
  • the cost of working with hotels and their policies
  • trying to find friends with couch space for the band (this happens a lot)

Well...

YOU can create your own policy to work with them

YOU come with with a price that will fill your hostel’s low season and mid-week beds

YOU are more than happy to let them put their promotional posters in your hostel

Which brings us nicely onto same-same but different tip number 2…

2. Use University groups, teams and events to attract students to your hostel

I LOVE this.

With a little bit of research…

A little bit of luck…

Some elbow grease…

You’ll be filling those low season beds in no time.

Universities and colleges generally have many, many sports teams, groups et al, et al.

They compete against other teams from other schools.

There are 5 beautiful things about attreacting students to your hostel:
  1. They love promoting their events on their website. [Easy to find info]
  2. Some Universities sports groups are terribly unorganised (maybe a bit lazy too) and sometimes leave the accommodation to the last minute.[YOU can save the day and become the easy option that’s within budget]
  3. It’s potentially a massive market to promote YOURSELF in
  4. If you can snag a couple of links from the University website, Google will like you just a tiny bit more. It is true that .edu links aren’t as powerful as they used to be but definitely won’t do your Hostel SEO any harm. [more on that later]
  5. They usually pay in advance [never a bad thing]
Reach out to the Student Union (host and visiting university) which can usually be found on their homepage.
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You’ll soon learn how your local universities work.

And can build that information into your strategy for improving your hostel revenue from September to June.

3. Local sports teams and groups will need beds in your hostel

Look.

I’m not just talking about local football and basketball teams here.

The Spanish National Lacrosse team stayed in hostels in England on their recent tour.

“The lodging, which in this occasion was better than a hole in the ground with a bedsheet on top of it (which can’t be said for all our previous experiences).”

https://laxallstars.com/life-as-a-spanish-national-lacrosse-team-player/

There are people in your region that have a varied array of interests and love meeting people with the same interests anywhere.

How to you do it?

Generate a list of alternative sports, hobbies and interests.

Hop over to google and search for “list of hobbies”
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I found a wiki page with hundreds of hobbies.
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Copy them ALL into a spreadsheet. (I know, I know. The local knitting posse aren’t going to need beds. Their grand-kids might though!)

Go back to our good friend Google and run a search.

Try things like:

“rollerderby” + “your town/your city”

“hockey” “team” + “your town/your city”
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It looks like Auld Reekie have an online monopoly here…

You get the idea…

In minutes you will have found some leads…

To help increase your hostel revenue.


Pretty cool!

Then it’s pretty much a case of reaching out to them.

Facebook, email, whatever contact info is there.

Now they know you exist, what your about and where you are!

4. Build relationships with other hostels, guesthouses and B&Bs

Done correctly.

This works a treat.

Question:

Do other hostels send you guests when they’re full?

Do hostels in the next town over contact you to try and book a bed for their guests?

Your thinking:

“Yes, no, sometimes, maybe”

For this to work you’ll need your reception staff on board.

Not only that, but you’ll need other hostels staff to engage too.

What probably currently happens:
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[How did that one even get a job here???]

What can happen:
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When this works both ways, it’s very, very satisfying.

It’s right up there with Laotian Papaya Salad. 

5. Join forces with local businesses to help create a Buzz around your hostel brand

A wise man once told me:

“I’m convinced, I only need one person to fill my hostel”

Image Caption

JC

Wise Man

It took a while for that to sink in…

… WAY too long in fact.

When I saw in real life that it did only need “one person to fill my hostel” I started racking my brains trying to think of ways to find that “one person”.

The idea from getting the bands and sports teams where born from that.

Find that:

“ONE PERSON”

Align yourself with other businesses near you.

Everyone’s trying to make a buck, pound, euro or whatever.

Local cafe – You have guests that drink coffee Local bakery – You have guests that love cakes Local bar – You have guests that drink Local restaurant – You have guests that eat Local museum – You have guests that dig that Local gallery – You have guests that love pretending to love art

Invite the owner, manager, staff around to your place to see what you have to offer.

The “anti-hostel” brigade will be pleasantly surprised at how hostels have developed since that school trip they went on in the winter of ‘84.

Tell them:

You already send guests to their places, which you do, of course.

You’re really just letting everyone around know what you are and what you do.

Adding perceived value for your guests.

Let’s see how long it takes them to come back with a special offer for your guests.

Aligning with local businesses can be great for adding perceived value for your guests and may help with reviews and such.

We need to go back to this:

“I only need one person to fill my hostel”

The more people in the local area you build a relationship with the more likely you are to find that one person.

You have no idea what hobbies and interests your neighbours have and you won’t until you reach out and establish that connection.  

6. Highlight your hostel amenities and USP clearly

Make it clear on your hostels website and on OTA’s what you offer and what makes you special!

7. Shout about your Green credentials

This could just be a simple case of having some recycling bins in the hostel kitchen or…
Germaican Hostel in Jamaica...

...took being a green-eco-hostel to the next level.

1 bucket of trash picked up from the beach = 1 joint
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8. Make sure your hostel website is optimised for mobile

Some facts.

Over 55% of all Google searches are from mobile devices.

That equates to…

…almost 30 billion more searches on mobile than desktop.

In 2015 Google rolled out its Mobile-Friendly Update.

Fine for websites where users traditionally searched using desktop.

But any websites that were getting traffic via mobile and didn’t have their site optimized were hit.

And hit hard.

Google now shows mobile results for ALL it’s searches.

Even from Desktop.

Now you’re thinking…

Shit.

How can I check if my site is optimized or not?

Google has some pretty cool tools in their search console.
Mobile-Friendly Test
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Page Speed Insights
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These tests examine your site thoroughly and tell you what, if anything, you need to get your webmaster-seo-hostel-guru-ninja to fix.

Last bit of advice on this topic for now.

Make sure your website is responsive and isn’t using some other outdated way of getting your site on mobile.(m.myoldwebsite.com)

9. Is your hostel booking engine responsive?

As above

but…

Some hostel booking engines are hosted externally

but…

Most are savy enough to have responsive booking engines

but…

Some aren’t

so…

Just check to be on the safe-side.

10. Improve your website's CTA (Call to Action)​

Make sure you have a clear BOOK NOW button that grabs your future guests attention.

11. Get listed on Metasearch Engines​

So, it is true that Metasearch for hotels has lost a little of its relevancy in the last few years.

Basically, you’ve got the big 3 booking engines and their affiliates so there’s not that much to compare.

Which is perfectly fine for what we want.

We’re going to use metasearch to drive direct bookings to our website.

Why?

Costs differ from one MetaSearch platform to another.

Some work on a percentage of the total booking value and others on a cost per click model.

As hostel owners and managers looking for creative ways to maximise our hostel revenue, our goal stays the same:

Grow direct bookings at a lower cost than that of an OTA.

As you know all too well, commission percentages on OTA channels can be up to 25 %.

Offer a discount on direct bookings compared to your OTA price.

This will drive extra traffic to your website, which in turn should convert to bookings which in turn should help your bottom line.

Less OTA commission – More beds sold

12. Offer something different for direct hostel bookings​

Your guests are more internet savvy than they used to be.

Many prefer to book direct and use the OTAs just to search.

The standard has become to offer a 5-10% discount for booking on your website.

Why not…

…offer something different to prospective guests that have landed on your site. Make them feel like it’s really worth there while to book the hostel directly.

  • Free Breakfast
  • Free Beer
  • Discounts on tours
  • Vouchers discounts for other local stuff that OTA bookers don’t get

Bonus:
You’re reducing that horrendous commission to the OTA and…

And,

You just made your guest feel that little bit more special.

13. Showcase reviews and proof of your great service [Are you brave enough?]

Feed your TripAdvisor reviews directly onto your homepage.

TripAdvisor widgets are available here.

14. Really Work Social Media to help grow your hostel revenue

More and more people are researching where they’re going to stay on social media.
If they feel a connection with your hostel it’ll sway them in your direction over the competition.
Contrary to all the “Facebook is dead” stuff you hear it’s still the most popular platform and if you can only work one platform make sure it’s Facebook.
Build a proper social media strategy. I go into more detail on another page about hostel social media marketing
I’ve also included a list of 42 ideas to help inspire content for your hostel’s social media campaign.
To get started check out  The HostelGirl’s guide to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for hostel marketing.

15. Organise events - For guests, other tourists and locals​

Have events in your hostel?

People love to see the hostel is making in effort to organise things.

Even if they don’t attend.

We all know the staple hostel events like Dinner evenings, hostel bbq’s, backpacker pub crawls and movie nights (Free Popcorn is a must).

Why not make the experience more memorable?

Try more abstract and innovative hostel events like boat races (yep, boat races, on a river), fancy dress (use all those left behind Levi 501’s) or invest some time and effort into devising a treasure hunt around your city.

If you want to organise music events you could sign up as a venue on SofarSounds
They pride themselves on helping venues and musicians organise intimate gigs around the world, in peoples homes, offices and why not your hostel.

16. Add packages to your hostels website design

Hotels have been selling and promoting packages for a long, long time.

Why?

Because it made sense for their customers and WORKS

It is true that hostel guests are different but just see how many people will book breakfast if you add it as an extra to booking.com.

Loads. That’s how many.
Time are changing. Fast.

I think the problem we face when trying to promote packages is we get stuck in this book 2 nights get a 3rd night free or for whatever discount.

How many of those people were going to book 3 nights anyway?

Quite a large percentage most likely.

So what type of things work when trying to sell more hostel beds during quiet times?

Here are some examples of things you can throw in to a package to make booking your hostel more attractive

  • 1 day Bike Rental
  • Pub Crawl
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
  • Hugs
Promote the package prominently on your website.

If your booking engine allows create a Promo Code.

And away you go!

17. Develop a mailing list

Harvest (organs) emails from your (guests) PMS.

Send a nice friendly email once in a while reminding people about yourself.

They might come back but it can help word of mouth recommendations.

What about Booking.com and those shitty automatically generated emails?

You can send an email a few days after the guest departs and encourage them to follow you on Social Media.

This can be automated through most PMS’s these days.
Did you find something useful above?
What are the exciting ideas informing your own hostel marketing and revenue growing strategy—and how are you implementing them?
Let me know in the comments.