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En-Suite Dorms are Overrated

Dennis Pitcock
Written by Dennis Pitcock


Most hostel managers of just about any size hostel will tell you that their en-suite dorms book up the most. That is true, especially if they are priced very close to their less accommodating dorms. But don’t let that fool you. From a design and operations perspective, en-suite dorms are not worth the hassle.

I am actually annoyed by the experience of staying in an en-suite room. It is a major noise nuisance. The bathroom door opens and closes (although so does the other door with people leaving). I can hear the showers, people singing in the showers (or slightly humming), the hairdryers, the electric toothbrushes, and depending on the type of hostel, the occasional sex in the shower (though I prefer in the shower to in the bunk above me), the regretful dry heaving, and bowel movements. I prefer to avoid all that by having common bathrooms unconnected to any of the dorms.

However, if you choose to do away with en-suites, you better note the following tips:

Keep it Clean

The best advantage to not having bathrooms in the room is that it won’t be as intrusive for your staff to clean the bathroom at just about any hour. You can routinely check for quality control and address issues before they make it to the reviews. If you’re in the development phase, install floor drains, use durable tiles and sealed grout to make the cleaning process easy.

Keep it Clean, Again

Yes, send your staff on another walk-though and tidy them up, again. Keep a schedule on the back of the door where they write in their inspections. I cannot stress this enough.

Keep it Sufficient

There should just about always be an open toilet or shower when a guest needs one. As a guide, I would say one toilet or urinal for every ten guests. Shower-wise there should be more: One shower per every seven guests for those groups, conferences, and group night outs where everyone gets ready at once. I’d say a sink for every twelve to fifteen guests (with a GFIC outlet).

Keep it Pleasant

First off, if the bathroom holds more than six people, I recommend two entrances/exits. It won’t feel as crowded to the guest. Have a little space so the guests aren’t on top of one another. Also, towel hooks and a changing space attached to the shower will be greatly appreciated.

Keep it Close

Another reason guests like en-suites is because they are lazy. Simple as that. They hate having to walk far to do their business. So if you can have multiple small bathrooms instead of one big one, that can really make a difference.

Keep it Fancy

If you are developing or remodeling your bathrooms, this is where the guests will really appreciate the extra details. Frosted shower doors (the strong ones) can really make a difference over curtains, rain shower heads in the ceiling, a small bench in the changing area, raised sinks with a shelf for toiletries; It all adds up. You should even consider a wall-mounted soap dispenser near the sinks and in the shower. It doesn’t cost as much as you think and perhaps a wall mounted hair dryer to really show you care about their bathroom. They will respond greatly.

Inspiration for this article comes from Habitat HQ in the St. Kilda section of Melbourne Australia. They were a purpose-built hostel in the early 2000’s, with 4 communal bathrooms that the guests love. Their design still holds true today. Now, the fanciest of fancy design, which I came across in boutique gyms, I have yet to see a hostel pull it off, but there is plenty of time.

About the author

Dennis Pitcock

Dennis Pitcock

Dennis jumped into the hostel industry after a summer backpacking Europe in 2008. He went from being a guest to a manager within weeks, and currently does consulting for large and small hostels alike in 3 continents. Prior, he worked in eCommerce, so he has passion for the tech side of the industry and is now deeply entrenched in the hostel and activities industry.

1 Comment

  • Time to think disruptively about how best to provide bathroom facilities in a shared accommodation environment. Just building a better mousetrap isn’t the way to go here. How can technology & design provide proximate bathrooms/wasrooms that are easily accessible to sleepers, noise insulated available in proportion to the no of guests in house and regularly cleaned? Thought, first class airline cabins manage it. Learn from them

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