July 8, 2020

Hostels are having a rough go at reopening

Living in close quarters with strangers is tricky business.

Please spare a thought for the motel’s hip cousin who went to Berlin that one time.

Hostels were not exactly built for a pandemic — these days, you don’t hear many people exclaiming, “Man, I wish I could wake up near a dozen total strangers on bunk beds!”

But as Europe reopens to travelers, hostels are trying to figure out how to add social distancing to a business model based on throwing together total randos.

A few of their strategies:

  • Cut the number of beds crammed into each room by half.
  • Tape markings on the dance floor.
  • Pivot to long-term stays — who doesn’t love 3 months in a hostel?

Extroverts, beware

In normal times, hostels offer more than a place to sleep. Some host yoga classes, open mics, movie nights, and pasta-making tutorials.

But right now, they look… suspiciously like hotels. Take Tomas Polansky, a student from Slovakia who booked a 6-person room at a hostel in Amsterdam.

When he arrived, there was almost no one there — so he got his own private room.

What about the rest of the dorms-for-adults biz? 

Hostels are sitting empty, but one of their spiritual compatriots has never looked better: co-living communities.

One startup, Common, signed its most leases ever last month, according to OneZero.

Scarcity, another co-living company, at first saw new inquiries fall by ~5x — but the numbers were up again last month. Plus: Scarcity just raised $30m.

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