A recent article on traveller.com.au caught our eye. It tells the story of 26-year-old Dutch tourist, Sietse Peer, who finds himself alone in a four-person dorm room amidst the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It isn’t quite how the backpacker had intended to spend his time travelling, but his isn’t the only story of that kind.

Take German backpacker, Jelena Karanovic, for instance. The 22-year-old is, at the time of writing, ‘trapped’ in Melbourne during the second lockdown. This followed an exciting arrival in January which marked the start of what she’d hoped would be two years of adventure.

In reality, the pandemic has completely changed the hostel experience for her, with many tourists deciding to head home and leave her feeling lonely and unsure about what to do next.

Heading into hibernation mode – and new markets

The Traveller article reveals that 51 of the 70 YHA Australia hostels temporarily closed during the lockdown, but most have now reopened.

During that time, they went into what was dubbed ‘hibernation mode’. This resulted in a reliance on JobKeeper to survive and a need to attract different clientele.

They looked to families, school groups and corporate travellers to replace the loss of foreign guests. These were plans that were put in place for at least 12 months, which is how long YHA Australia expects to be down on their regular trade.

Reducing capacity

Industry experts now believe that six- or eight-person dorm rooms might be a challenge to fill in the future, and that has resulted in some hostels reducing their capacity.

This is in part due to social distancing and increased cleaning measures, but the hostel business is all about communal living, and a reduction in numbers represents a significant dent in its allure.

As one hostel operator points out, “The hostel magic is not created in the rooms as such, it’s actually created in the common areas. That’s our point of difference.”

The hope is that the current reduced capacity won’t be here to stay for the long term, but it’s something that will temporarily reduce occupancy statistics and revPAR across the board.

Looking to the Australian market and staycations

Hostels who are suffering as a result of the pandemic are being encouraged to position themselves around the Australian market.

This seems smart. Staycations are expected to boom for the rest of this year and into 2021. It therefore stands to reason that hostels should look on their own doorstep for a reliable source of business as Australians swap far-flung vacations for trips within their own country.

It represents a challenge, but if staycations really are on the rise, it seems like the perfect opportunity for hostels to show what they can offer price-conscious Australians holidaymakers.

Is this the ‘new normal’ for the hostel industry?

Operators within the Australian hostel industry are understandably concerned about the long term impacts of COVID-19.

Research released earlier this year suggested that the market would enjoy significant growth between 2020-2024, but the outlook now is entirely uncertain.

It’s safe to say that there isn’t a traveller in Australia who expected to have their plans thrown into chaos because of a worldwide pandemic. But that’s exactly what has happened, and they’re having to make some big decisions as a result.

Like every industry hit by COVID-19 (there are very few that haven’t been), the hostel industry will recover and return to a ‘normal’ that feels far more familiar. It’ll just take time – and we’ll be sure to keep close tabs on developments.

CMS Hospitality holds over 30 years of experience in delivering hospitality software solutions. GuestCentrix offers the most complete solution in hospitality software, whether you’re running a hotel, a resort or a hostel. Our highly experienced support and installations team holds a unique understanding of the hospitality industry and will aim to provide software that suits your property’s needs.

Call us today at (+61) 2 9440 9711, or email us at sales@cmshospitality.com. We will be happy to guide you to the GuestCentrix solution that’s right for you.