Living Abroad: Safe or Not?

I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately. After graduation in May I will be leaving for one year on a backpacking trip around the world. I’m worried about securing places to sleep at an affordable price while not sacrificing too much around quality, service, and safety. You’d think that I would be making the most of the time I have left in my own bed and in my own home, but I’ve been struggling to lay my head down to rest without knowing where I’ll rest for the next year. Thankfully, hostels and hostel services have started to take notice of this concern that I and many other travelers on a budget have and they’ve begun to take action.

Hostels often have negative perceptions associated with them. Recent stories worldwide include travelers staying in hostels being attacked by other travelers, discrimination against travelers from hostel managers, and drug fueled parties ending in hospital stays. While interpersonal disputes and things out of the control of travelers often cause much of these issues, hostels and services that help travelers find hostels have been charged with projecting a positive image in order to drive business.

Hostelworld, a travel brand that allows travelers to search for a place to stay based on destination, is leading the way. The company reevaluated its priorities in 2017 and made the customer the center of all decisions. Hostelworld knows that marketing towards travelers is increasingly moving towards mobile devices and it is staying ahead of the curve. This included upgrading its mobile app to include a notice board where travelers can interact with hostels prior to their stay. In addition to this, intercultural barriers like language have been broken down by the addition of a translation feature to the Hostelworld app that allows guests to communicate with other guests from around the world. These features undoubtedly would make any traveler, including myself, feel a little more comfortable with staying in hostels. The company even replaced its chief marketing officer role with a chief customer officer position so that any marketing communications are made with travelers in mind. And the changes seem to have helped. Hostelworld saw a 6% increase in total bookings in 2017 and it predicts continued success in the coming year.

While the safety of a traveler staying at a hostel ultimately comes down to how the dwelling is managed, travel sites like Hostelworld can do a lot to inform an individual prior to a trip. With a customer centric approach to marketing, I certainly feel more confident in where I’ll stay over the next year. I know that this is a company that cares about those that use its service and is willing to help make the best living situation decisions possible. That’s all anybody can ask for when finding a home away from home.

Now I want to know what you prefer!

If you use travel services, what are you drawn to in using one company over another?

What do those company’s do to create a connection with you and build enough trust up to make trip plans?

 

References:

Erwin, A. (2018, January 3). Belfast woman accused of throwing knife and pizza at fellow hostel resident. Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-woman-accused-of-throwing-knife-and-pizza-at-fellow-hostel-resident-36455934.html

Gwynn, S. (2018, January 11). Kristof Fahy joins Hostelworld as customer chief. Campaign. Retrieved from https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/kristof-fahy-joins-hostelworld-customer-chief/1454157

Hadar, S. (2018, January 14). Uruguayan hostel sued over refusal to admit Israeli couple. Ynet. Retrieved from https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5071035,00.html

Hobbs, T. (2017, November 6). Hostelworld: Young marketers must play a bigger role in shaping brand purpose. Marketing Week. Retrieved from https://www.marketingweek.com/2017/11/06/generation-exchange-hostelworld/

Percival, G. (2018, January 25). Hostel group sees bookings rise 6%. Irish Examiner. Retrieved from https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/business/hostel-group-sees-bookings-rise-6-824656.html

Powell, G. & Carmody, J. (2018, January 3). Nine hospitalized in suspected mass overdose at backpacker house in Perth; two critical. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-03/nine-rushed-to-hospital-for-suspected-drug-overdose/9300448

Rogers, C. (2018, January 11). Hostelworld ramps up customer focus as it appoints Kristof Fahy as CCO. Marketing Week. Retrieved from https://www.marketingweek.com/2018/01/11/hostelworld-ramps-up-customer-focus/

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8 Responses to Living Abroad: Safe or Not?

  1. Brett says:

    Austin I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I have been looking to travel abroad for some time now and I also had reservations on the idea of staying in hostiles and what that would mean. I’ve heard the horror stories of valuables being stolen out of backpacks and luggage or hostiles being much less safe than advertised. Reading your post made me do additional research in Hostelworld and download their mobile app.

    While I have am yet to travel abroad, I do often use travel sites to book hotels and flights. When booking hotels I find myself booking through Hotels.com over other travel sites. What draws me to using them is the opportunity to earn rewards such as a free hotel stay. If you book ten hotel stays, you get the cost average of your 10 nights towards a hotel. Other travel sites offer deals on hotel rooms, but I found them all to be close if not the same price as hotels.com. So when choosing between the various sites I decide to use one that gives back with rewards.

  2. Mark Carpenter says:

    Excellent post Austin! My wife and I are just coming off of a near-month long vacation in Europe and went through many different travel arrangements from hotels to Airbnb’s. This was our first time dealing with Airbnb and we booked multiple locations in Rome, Venice, and Barcelona. I must say that the entire experience forced both of us to become extremely conscious in our lodging options because we went through the entire spectrum of good and bad places.
    Perhaps the most deciding factors are finding bookers that are accessible and have a long history of positive reviews. For example, we stayed at two different Airbnb’s in Rome. For our first spot, the owner was extremely responsive and had a solid amount of positive reviews. Not only was the place true to the photos posted on the website, but he also added in extra amenities (i.e. international adapters, laundry service, and food). Much different story for our second location, which had a responsive owner, but a limited amount of reviews. Despite the shortage in feedback, we took a chance because the place looked great and the reviews were very positive. However, when we got there, the Airbnb was dirty, not true at all to the photos on the website, and so many items were damaged. Due to the limited locations, we ended up powering through and staying there, but that experience left a really bad taste in our mouths. With all that said, it is really important that there is a high volume of feedback when booking a place and considering how many businesses in the hostel industry are trying to reach out to travelers, it seems reviews will not be hard to find.

    When it comes to connections, I find that the best companies are ones that take a genuine interest in your comfort and really want you to have a great experience. Our Airbnb host in Barcelona was fantastic in making us feel welcome and even months before our trip, he would periodically check in to see how our planning was coming along and make suggestions on places to go. Ultimately, I really feel that trust in a company develops when there are efforts in which they bend over backwards to accommodate you and not make you feel like just another booking.

  3. Rachael Rosner says:

    Austin,
    How exciting that you get to go on this trip! I am definitely jealous of you! I did a study abroad semester in Italy when I was a junior in undergrad and while it was the best experience of my life, I definitely wish some of these Hostelworld features were available then! It was always so tough to find where we were going to stay on our trips and often times we found ourselves showing up at a hostel that looked nothing like the pictures. Sure reviews can help, but sometimes even these are fake. By adding in the feature to speak to other travelers directly about their experience, Hostelworld is helping to solve this problem. In any case, it seems like this is a helpful tool that you will be able to use while on your travels! By the way, let me know if you are going to Italy at all because I have lots of tips!

  4. Jinie Jung says:

    Austin, great post! First of all, it’s awesome that you’ll be taking a backpacking trip around the world for a year! I really enjoyed reading your post, especially since I don’t have any experience staying at hostels before. I also love traveling and have traveled to many different countries, but I was always afraid to stay at a hostel because of the fact that you have to stay with complete strangers, and I have always doubted the quality of hostels. Hostelworld sounds like the perfect app for travelers who are traveling abroad, and the features that they offer should be very useful. I love the idea of having the translation feature for people who have language barriers. With this app, it would definitely help to inform the traveler on the quality and safety of the hostel prior to the travel. Like what Brett said above, I like to use hotels.com or Expedia to book my travels because they have the best deals and also give back rewards for future bookings.

  5. Jason Chou says:

    Interesting post Austin!

    It was a fun read as I never stayed at a Hostel before. Hostelworld sounds like TripAdviser, but for hotels around the world. What I found exciting is that Hostelworld breaks the language barrier for foreign travelers. That helps breakdown any communication gaps between the buyer and seller.

    When I use travel services, I’m drawn to travel websites that have an amazing rewards program. I value customer rewards programs because it makes be feel like a value customer. Whether I’m staying at Marriotts or using my Saks card, my loyalty remains with those companies because of their rewards program. I love it when I’m gold or platinum status because the perks are awesome! I hope Hostelworld has a rewards program that makes promotes customer loyalty.

  6. Raquel Small says:

    Great post Austin! I have been thinking a lot about how to localize apps for different markets and your post made me think of some initiatives at Google to make apps that work with slower Internet speeds and use less data. In some developing markets, data comes at a premium. There is a lawyer I work with from Nigeria who had never seen a full YouTube video until she started at Google because the Internet was just too slow. With an eye towards that thinking, the company is now launching “lite” versions of their apps that load much quicker with slow data speeds. It would be an awesome feature if Hostelworld added something like that to their app since travelers are often (1) on a budget and (2) relying on free wi-fi and foreign data plans.

    I stayed in several hostels when I studied abroad in 2011 and had some of the most memorable experiences. I’m sure your trip will be fantastic!

  7. Austin,
    First off congratulations on your future graduation. I can only imagine the pride and the feeling of accomplishment you must be feeling. Second of all it is amazing that you will be backpacking trip around the globe. This a truly brave act you are taking on. Traveling the unknown and traveling on a budget by hostels. I personally have never stayed in a hostel but did watch the movie and it freaked me out lol. I know that the movie did not perceive a factual hostel environment, but the idea of privacy and theft makes me think that I would not personally stay in one. I like the idea of traveling light on the wallet but to what extent. The world is to unpredictable and if I can help myself at least assure a place to lay my head at night without worry I personally would do that for my safety not to mention a goodnights rest. With traveling abroad it gets tireing and you can’t beat a goodnights rest.

  8. Robyn Wang says:

    Hi Austin,

    Great article! I can totally relate to the concerns that you have about traveling and living abroad, and these things are what keep me from going abroad. For one, the price. Planning a good trip will take a good chunk of money and a lot of budgeting. Not many people can afford that so it is hard to find someone to join you. I am told by a lot of friends just to go alone and stay in hostels because they are cheap, but those who suggest this and have done so are all guys. I hate to say it, but as a girl, you are often told that you shouldn’t do it alone.

    Additionally, with regards to hostels and safety, I have been scarred ever since I saw the movie Hostel in eighth grade. Modern horror stories that we hear also do not help. As someone who would be a foreigner, it makes the whole process of planning out a trip very hard.

    As an alternative to hostels, a lot of people tell me to use Airbnb. It can be a little pricier, but it is more comfortable. Still, there are horror stories that come with renting a stranger’s place. Not only that, people like me, who have yet to use it, are hesitant for a reason. For me, I am hesitant because I don’t completely understand how it works and it just seems like a lot of work to plan out.

    Apps like Hostelworld seem like a very useful real-time, one-stop tool for travelers on a budget, and it takes the guessing out of safety and comfort. Additionally, I think allowing customers to chat with each other about the place is the key to building trust. It is kind of like Yelp where companies are held responsible because bad reviews will affect your business.

    I do hope to travel abroad once this semester is over, and when I do plan out my trip, I will definitely check out that app!

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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