How hostel culture is rapidly gaining popularity with young people since the pandemic
Interestingly, while the outbreak of Covid had brought the world to a standstill, after the initial setback India’s youth took to traveling with enthusiasm. The dynamics of travel had thus undergone a major change. One of the most visible changes is the rise of backpacking culture among young Indians. Covid has not only impacted the way young people travel, but has also changed a few socio-economic constructs that have been simmering behind the scenes for some time.
With the advent of social media and the rise of OTT culture in India, young people have been exposed to cultures and experiences from around the world, albeit virtually. These exhibits along with various technological interventions like the use of mobile devices with maps, apps, etc. have inspired the culture of travel among young people. Our young people today are more adventurous when they travel. Unlike previous generations, young people today have the ability to plan their vacations in the blink of an eye. Imagine a discussion between colleagues on a late Friday afternoon that easily turns into a real trip. OTAs are available to book both transportation and accommodation. GPS is enabled on most mobile devices, making it easy to not only navigate the roads, but also know where to pit stop for a bio break or a quick cup of tea. The use of voice and video calls over the Internet ensures that loved ones are aware of one’s whereabouts. Plus, there’s a certain joy in knowing that one can easily send live locations in the event of an SOS.
The post-Covid era has not only seen an increase in the youth travel segment, but has also seen a major shift in the demand for hostels for young Indians. Let us dive into the same and see how hostels had a significant impact on the accommodation segment and introduced backpacking culture in India.
A sense of community
Perhaps the most glaring change that differentiates a hostel from any other accommodation choice is the sense of community. The community is at the center of hostels. What is a community? Why is this important? Humans are social beings. And especially for young people, community is at the heart of everything an individual does and aspires to. So, is it strange that community-centered housing is favored by young people. Hostels are an intersection or a meeting point for various travelers – solo, group, pro, rookie, et al. Although all of these travelers come with their own individual travel plans, they share their space with other travel companions. Dorms come with bunk beds, but what sets hostels apart are the common areas. From indoor games to amphitheaters and workspaces, these spaces are designed with the aspirations of a youth in mind. Here, travelers can meet other travelers, share conversations or indulge in games. This is where they swap do’s and don’ts with people who share the same passion. From a co-traveler to lifelong friendships, from tears of joy to failures and ambitions, the common rooms bear witness to so many rich and vibrant stories.
Shared economy – save more, travel more
As a reminder, hostels are built around the idea of a shared economy. This brings the ADR to an average of INR 500 per night. The sharing economy is not a new concept anywhere in the world, and especially not in India. A country as large as India uses night trains, buses, etc. for decades. Civil aviation is also an example. With over 66% of the population under the age of 35, India has the largest youth population in the world. A country that has brands built around a young person’s aspirations, has only a handful of accommodation options built around their sensibilities. Hostels offer young people the opportunity to stay in a shared space, not at the expense of privacy, but with the safety and security of a community. The spaces are designed to include more beds both horizontally and vertically. Thus, young people benefit from facilities similar to those of a 4-star hotel – common areas with play areas, free high-speed Wi-Fi, 24×7 cafes, work spaces, laundry services on demand, etc. – for almost a quarter of the cost. This allows young people not only to travel longer, but also to travel more than once or twice a year.
WFH now stands for Work From Hostels
Covid has redefined a lot of things for us. Most importantly, it has redefined the way an individual finds the balance between their personal life and their professional life. With the world in total lockdown, companies have had to adapt and change the way they work. Working from home or anywhere has become the new norm. While most workplaces have learned that various roles can be performed remotely, young people have learned that they can work from anywhere.
Recent years have seen a change in the goal-oriented lifestyle of a young Indian. While in Western countries taking a gap year to travel used to be the norm, today a young Indian experiences and travels more. People’s way of life has undergone a major change – a young Indian is getting married and starting a family much later than 10 years ago. Without liabilities like a family or NDEs for the car and home, these young people are more mobile and open to adventure. So after the first wave when the economy started to open up, young people were the first to navigate travel again. The dream of working while lounging on a deckchair on a beach or sipping a cup of tea while breathing in the fresh mountain air was finally coming true for many people working in the corporate sector. They chose to stay in hostels, meet other travelers and explore the country like never before. The common rooms have become a meeting point to not only exchange travel stories, but also a networking zone.
Experience is a big yes!
Travel opens the mind, he is an excellent teacher. It makes us realize how small we are in the larger scheme of things – we realize how little we may know about certain things. Most great stories have always started with a journey. From Vasco da Gama to Mahatma Gandhi, history is full of examples of the transformative power of travel. Experience is a huge marker for young people. From hiking to adventure sports like paragliding and rafting, today’s youth love it all. And hostels are a unique space to host purpose-built experiential activities intrinsic to the local region, whether it’s a hike to the local sunset or a cooking workshop. Since these spaces are designed with the demands of young people in mind, the experiences have played a huge role in promoting the culture of hiking in India over the past couple of years.
The path to follow
To travel is to live, learn and grow. With the largest youth population in India, the hostel as a choice of accommodation is still in its infancy. The important thing to do at this stage is to understand the pulse of young people, to improve the product and to make the culture of travel an important addition to the growth of an individual. Hostels will lead this change, as statistics show that of all the leisure travel taken in recent times, a large portion of travel is taken by young people. No matter how far an individual has traveled, they will have to stop and start again. What better space to do so than to be covered by the safety and hygiene of a hostel nestled within the safety of a community.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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