Consulting Opinions The Industry

Must Read Books for Hostel Professionals

Dennis Pitcock
Written by Dennis Pitcock

The hostel industry is rapidly changing and we are all finding it tough to stay on top of the trends. It becomes even more difficult when there is no book, no step by step guide, not even an informative infograph created for hostel professionals such as yourself. To counter that, you can learn and develop useful skills by using resources from outside the hostel industry, and here are some great books to start. Here you will find priceless information, many of which coming from individuals with ties to very successful organizations.  Some of these books are fairly recent, and others are older. All of which are classics and should be within reach to any hostel owner, operator, and manager. So if you can find the time in your busy hostel lifestyle, take a break, grab one of these books and get your learn on.

1. Be Our Guest

By Theodore Kinni

It’s remarkable how one name can be so recognizable in both media and hospitality. What Disney did on the screen he also accomplished in his parks, which is creating magical experiences. In this book, the writer visits the nitty-gritty of how Disney pulls it all off, keeping the guest in mind through their entire journey. Hostels today must be accommodating and experiential; very much more than hotels. So this book will help you create that experience as a foundation to your business. Surely you won’t be building secret tunnels under your hostel, but this book will generate nothing but ideas for you to pull off nothing short than a magical experience for your guests too.

2. Customer Satisfaction is Worthless

By Jeffrey Gitomer

Nowadays it is super risky to just strive to keep your customer satisfied. Satisfaction is not enough, and this is definitely true for the hostel industry. Think of your last meal at a restaurant in which you were ‘satisfied’. Would you go back again? A slight maybe if you were hungry enough. Would you tell others to go?  Not unless they were starving either. You see, your customer must become loyal, and spread the word about you across their network. The concept behind this book is a crucial metric in the online world, know as a ‘net promoter score,’ where customer satisfaction practically does absolutely nothing for you. It doesn’t harm you, which many budget hotels chains across the US have realized, but they have deep pocketed national branding behind them. You do not. So you need to use every guest interaction as possibility to earn their loyalty and praise. Because, as your OTA commissions might tell you, it’s expensive to market yourself otherwise.

3. Change by Design

by Tim Brown

So we mentioned the NPS, and how tech companies use that. Well, this author knows his way around a tech firm or two. Tim Brown is the CEO of IDEO which is one of the top 10 innovation consultancy companies in the world. They worked with Apple and Microsoft, governments and hospitals too. And in this book, he takes you though many successes and failures in design and will inspire you to revisit how you can innovate in your hostel as well. Since this book, “Design Thinking” has became a buzz word rippling though many industries. Everyone must innovate. In the hostel space, a typical hostel with no innovation will have difficulty surviving changes in the industry of their competitive landscape. Perhaps this book can help you find your “Wow factor” and keep guests coming to you no matter what their other options are.

4. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

by Gary Vaynerchuk

Ok. Now you innovated a bit, in both your design and business model and your guests are loving it. They’re telling everyone they know, that yours is the best place to go, but it’s not enough. We’ll you need to up your marketing game. You see, even when your past guests are spreading the word, the return on that is not going to fill you beds immediately. Depending on your market, it could be a  year or two before someone they tell comes to stay. You can grow your social media following and email list until then, but for now, you need to fill those beds. You see, these early guests helped you complete your story, and now you need to tell it to anyone willing to listen. Gary Vaynerchuk knows all about this and growing companies virally online. Here is advocates that you have to give in order to get. Build trust, and then you can land your next guest. You determine what questions your potential guests are answering, and answer them before they ask it. Help them in their planning and exploration stage. Tie these answers into your story, one of which they can identify with and they will book you when the decide on a date.

5. Traction

by Gabriel Weinberg and Austin Mares

Gary Vaynerchuk is a rock star mentor and investor in the US startup scene. Not so much is Gabriel Weinberg.  Gabriel is popular in his own circles though, and his book ‘Traction’ has been helping thousands of startups navigate the rough seas of marketing. This book is full of examples in the tech space, but it can definitely apply to hostels too. Especially if you hostel is expecting any change such as growing, expanding, seeking new markets, or being hit with new competition. The premise of the book is that as companies and their needs change, so does their marketing efforts. You start somewhere, test, adapt, then execute on a larger scale, constantly measuring success and doing it all over again when necessary. The truth behind it is the same marketing strategy won’t work forever and needs to be dynamic. As Vaynerchuk might give you great ideas on what to try, Weinber will help you form an overall strategy around it.

6. The Essential HR Handbook

by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell

We have been focusing so much on keeping your guests happy, now let’s shift that focus on keeping your staff happy too. Richard Branson once said “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” I think that guy know a think or two about running businesses, including some in hospitality. This book may seem a little too professional, but professionalism goes a long way with the guests. When your staff is properly motivated, appreciated, and confident. They are happy. You need them to understand your mission, your leadership, your plan for all that could go wrong. That’s exactly what this book does. There’s even an added bonus for those of you in countries where people like to use lawyers too much; these practices will defend you against lawsuits down the line. You see human resources might seem as if it’s purpose is to help staff perform, but ask any labor lawyers across in the western world and you’ll learn HR’s real purpose is to help the company defend itself from its own employees. More simply put, it derisks what could go wrong with their staff. This book will help you with just that.

7. Complete DYI Handbook

by Readers Digest

Well, we just covered what can go wrong with your staff, which is nothing compared to what can go wrong with your facility. Running a hostel is running a 24 hour anything can go wrong business. This will help you with things that can go wrong with your facilities. Sure you can call in the contractors, but that isn’t enough. You will need to get your hands dirty at some point, and some basic handyman skills will definitely help. The smaller the hostel, the larger the significance of this book will be. Even if you are big, you need to know a thing or two about handwork to better delegate the work to a team member and most definitely defend yourself from becoming a target against the greedy contractors out there.


8. Quench Your Own Thirst

by Jim Koch

Wow. You read this far. Well, grab yourself a beer. Here Jim Koch talks about what worked and didn’t work while building his business of a popular US brewery called Sam Adams. There are a lot of lessons to be learned, that can apply to many hostels too, especially if you have a bar or nano-brewery as part of your business. The most important lesson here, more than any, is that you have to be able to relax and enjoy what you are doing. Take some pride in your work, and grab. Share that beer with those who share your success, and keep on keeping on. The hostel industry is full of people just like you, who are accommodating a resourceful, and able to take on any challenge that might come your way.

Remember, there is no book about a successful hostel business, but perhaps after reading books like this and taking your hostel to the next level. It can be written by you.

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.

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