My hostel is such a great fit for me. What do I love so much about my business?
1. The people. I meet incredible, fun, friendly people from all corners of the globe. I'm really glad that Roatan is a destination that people tend to want to stay for awhile: I get many hostel guests that stay for a month or 2 at a time. There are a few that are just in for a night or two, passing through on their way to the neighbouring island of Utila, and there are others that stay for just a few nights to check out the island, but the majority are here at least a week. I think if I was in a destination that most people just passed through for a night or two at a time, I wouldn't enjoy running a hostel nearly as much. I enjoy getting to know my guests, it's kind of like an extended family sometimes. Since my kids and I live on property, I often go down to socialize with hostel guests in the evening, and my boys get to know many of our guests too. I especially love it when we have guests return for another visit- we've had several of these this year, so nice to have familiar faces come back!
2. The projects. I confess, I am a project addict. I usually have several lists on the go of things that I'd like to get done, to improve on our space and add to what we offer. The staff at the hardware store I visit most often all know me by name :)
3. The challenge of growing a business. It's my baby, my little creation that I've nurtured and grown, and it's so rewarding when someone contacts me to make a reservation and mentions that they've heard great things about us.
For those of you who are considering starting a hostel somewhere, a few words of advice:
1. Spend a significant amount of time where you want to start your hostel before you take the plunge and commit to a business somewhere. Make sure you like it enough to want to commit staying there for many years to come- a hostel isn't a business that gets success overnight, it grows as travelers start to talk about it. You'll also want to figure out what your market is going to be there (yes, backpackers, but are they looking to party? Do volunteer work? Staying for skiing, surfing, diving?). If it's a spot that everyone stays for a relatively short time, it's probably worth starting a restaurant right from the beginning, and maybe not worthwhile having a communal kitchen.
2. Start small and grow with your hostel (make sure you have room to grow). It's much less scary and far more feasible if you start off with space for just a few, tweak things to make them work better, get lots of feedback with people staying with you, and then grow a bit at a time. When I started, I wanted to keep my price as low as possible, so I did a surcharge for sheets (thinking there would be some people traveling with sleep sheets) and internet. Everyone hated extra charges- I learned from the feedback, adjusted my rates up a bit and just included these things. I also thought the dorms would be the main interest, but my private options book more, so as I've grown, I've added more privates to fill the need.
3. Own if possible. I think that having to rent a space for a hostel would be tough, as it's not yours to do whatever you'd like to it, and rent pricing can increase.
What are the drawbacks of a hostel? Well, I have to say I'm not a fan of the piles of laundry, and sometimes I feel pretty tethered to my business (I'm mostly a one-woman show, and I occasionally have drop-ins, so getting out and about can sometimes be challenging, and if we go away and have someone run things while we're gone, I feel nervous about leaving my 'baby' in someone else's hands). I occasionally get interrupted during dinner, homework time etc, especially when the hostel's busy. All of these will eventually be rectified when I find the right person to bring on to help me out, and it's all pretty minor. Being the owner of my hostel puts a smile on my face every day. To all those thinking about a hostel of their own, I hope you find the perfect fit for a business that's as rewarding as mine has been!