Glamping. Bleisure. Poshtel. These newly coined words are a reflection of the changing times in our industry and remind us that old traditions are giving way to new mashups that appeal to evolving desires for how people want to travel and see the world.
Until recently, Poshtel wasn’t even a part of my travel vocabulary. It stands for posh hostel and I’ve come to appreciate it not only as an apt descriptor of an emerging style of accommodation that blends elements of boutique hotels and hostels, but it’s also a leading example of how various consumer and lifestyle trends have manifested themselves into a new kind of travel experience.
For any discussion using the word hostel, it’s important that you get beyond the idea that it’s about backpacking teenage kids traveling the world on $10 a day, hanging out in the street and playing loud music all night. While the product clearly speaks to a young Millennial audience, the reality is that poshtels are increasingly being sought out by people of all ages.
The trend-setting European poshtel brand Generator has stated that 15–20% of their guests are over age 30 and St. Christopher Inns, another European hostel chain, reports that travelers over 30 represent 35 - 40% of their business. The website poshpacker.co, which specializes in bookings for this style of accommodation has found that they’re attracting significant numbers of older travelers including those in their 40s and 50s. Hosteling International USA long ago dropped “Youth” from its name, and today half of their 46,000 U.S. members are older than age 25, including 10% that are 55 and older.
Poshtels are attracting this increasingly diverse audience by embracing a concept that is heavily focused on the universal appeal of art and design, delivered in a highly distinct, authentic and accessible aesthetic that exudes energy and screams local. There’s none of the mass-produced look and artificial pretense of the emerging Millennial-focused brands being developed by many of the leading hotel chains.
Not surprisingly, you’ll also find a tremendous sense of community within a poshtel, along with the desire to expose guests to new places, new cultures and new people by proactively cultivating activities and guest experiences that connect travelers with the local scene. At each of the Generator properties, they have appointed an event coordinator charged with bringing in music, art, fashion, design and things from the city that all contribute to a very vibrant and social atmosphere. At these and other poshtels it’s not unusual to find rooftop yoga classes, comedy nights, flamenco and salsa classes, walking tours of the city, poetry slams, and discussions with local artists and tastemakers all designed to engage guests, inspire interaction and create memorable and sharable moments.
Poshtels are also designed to leverage a shared economy—offering both private rooms (with ensuite bathrooms) and shared accommodations under the same roof. If Airbnb can successfully sell a spare guest room or living room couch, why shouldn’t we think a modern and well-designed poshtel with three bunk beds in a room can’t have similar success? This kind of accommodation sharing has gone from outlier to insider, and doing it in a hip, purpose-built environment, complete with additional cool factors, helps further elevate the experience and adds to its appeal.
Most importantly, poshtels represent great value. Freehand has built a 236-bed poshtel in Miami that sells rooms for over 50% less than neighboring hotels, while offering a James Beard-nominated restaurant and a cool, active vibe every bit the equal of its more expensive competitors just a few blocks away. By relying on an appealing and busy food and beverage outlet and the sale of merchandise and other items (from t-shirts to toiletries to padlocks to secure your stuff in a shared room), poshtels are looking to combine low cost, high occupancies and multiple revenue streams to make the concept viable.
Indeed, it’s this value premise, in consort with the hip surroundings, artful local vibe and guest profile of like-minded travelers looking for a sense of shared community that really distinguishes the poshtel concept, not only from its hostel brethren, but also from other hotel products targeting Millennials. As the chairman of Generator put it, “You don’t have to be wealthy and you don’t have to be privileged to experience something unique and special.”
If you want to keep your eye on growing hot spots of the travel revolution, you need to familiarize yourself with the new travel lexicon.
Starting with poshtel.