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Should Hostel Staff Hook Up with Guests?

Dennis Pitcock
Written by Dennis Pitcock

hookupMost employees working at hostels aren’t usually doing it for the money, even less are doing it for their extended career path, and even fewer are doing it in hopes to open their own hostel one day. Despite all this, many hostel employees still genuinely love their jobs for the perks; which is helping their peers from other parts of the world experience their cities. They can take this role really serious, and sometimes willing to go the extra mile to make sure the guest is happy, but should there be lines that the staff should not cross? Should hostel owners worry about the fraternization?

A majority of hostels do not have any rules against fraternization with guests. Some even use it as party of an unofficial benefits package for its employees. There has been bragging among hostel staff over their conquests, and many hostel employees have been known to be introduced to their true love on the job. However, is this ok? What message is the hostel sending to the guest?

For more insight, we can see what our boring older sibling industry, the hotel industry, does. They pretty much do the exact opposite, by having strict anti-fraternization policies at work. For many big hotel chains, a worker is expected to leave the premises when they are not on the clock. Workers have been known to get fired, even if they have a pre-existing relationship with the guest they are fraternizing with. This also applies to major cruise ships too, and not just receptions staff, but bar and waiter staff too. See here for an example.
Many hotels and cruise lines are multi-million dollar businesses with investor expecting returns. A bad experience with one staff member could diminish the long term value of a loyal customer, not to mention the possibility of a law suit in those litigious countries. Many hotels chose not to avoid the risk entirely. But now we see the hostel industry peeking in maturity, There are multi-million dollar hostel brands, some with investors such as Generator, St. Christopher’s Inns, Nomads, and StayatBase. Should they have anti-fraternization policies in place? Should just about every hostel in a litigious country minimize the risk too?

Through my experience, I suggest you have one in place. Staff should realize it is not OK. Enforcing the rules should be a completely other manner. Consider the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. As long as your staff keeps in on the down low, and no drama is produced, then it should be tolerated. But if there is drama, and/or it is affecting their responsibilities, you then have a grounds to correct their behavior is unbecoming or terminate them if the drama continues. This way, if you have investors, or a legal team at your door, you can point to the policies and show you handled yourself professionally.

This applies to small hostels too because a negative word of mouth review can travel fast and it will take long for it to get buried. The rule also stands for employees building relationships with one another, especially hostels that take “volunteers” as employees who spend lots of time around one another. Overall, it is a good rule to have.

What are your thoughts? Should all hostels have an anti-fraternization policy? Please leave your comments below.

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

  • Well… as a Hostel owner I sure how cool is when you have no drama staff and they socialize as well with the guest. The love it’s always in the air when you have people with open mind traveling… they are happy and match exactly with the Hostel vibe. There is no drama if they are discrete and polite.

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