Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Turkish baths, in-house massage... this is a youth hostel?

By Daisy Carrington, for CNN
November 4, 2013 -- Updated 0231 GMT (1031 HKT)
In addition to clean dorms, Hangout offers sleek doubles and singles with views of Singapore's Mount Emily Park. The main draw, though, is the vibe. Occupants can play pool, or mingle on the rooftop deck (complete with sun chairs). In addition to clean dorms, Hangout offers sleek doubles and singles with views of Singapore's Mount Emily Park. The main draw, though, is the vibe. Occupants can play pool, or mingle on the rooftop deck (complete with sun chairs).
HIDE CAPTION
Hangout@mt.emily, Singapore
UHostel, Madrid, Spain
The Beehive, Rome, Italy
Palmer's Lodge, London
Stay INN, Lisbon, Portugal
Plus Florence, Florence, Italy
Plus Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Miss Sophie's, Prague, Czech Republic
Lub D, Bangkok, Thaliand
Kex Hostel, Reykjavik, Iceland
Generator Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Ostello Bello, Milan, Italy
Casa Garcia, Barcelona, Spain
Aventura Boutique Hostel, Budapest, Hungary
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gourmet restaurants and private rooms are increasingly common hostel features
  • As hostels change, so do their clientele. Business travelers are starting to check-in
  • Some hostels are even starting to reach out to businesses to grow their customer base

(CNN) -- Hostels were once considered the dregs of the hospitality industry, often conjuring up images of cramped dorms, communal bathrooms and dirt.

Thankfully, a new breed of grown-up hostels has hit the market worldwide. Pools, Turkish baths, massages-to-order and even babysitting are the types of services becoming more mainstream in budget offerings.

"Many hostels have undergone an extreme makeover in the past few years," says Giovanna Gentile, a spokesperson for booking website HostelBookers, who notes that private, en suite rooms and free wi-fi are increasingly commonplace.

One reason for this shift, she adds, is that the median age of customers (at least according to HostelBookers' demographic) has increased.

"What you find is that hostels want to cater to a wider audience. The baby boomer generation -- who backpacked in their teens and 20s -- are now coming back to hostels because they still very much enjoy the social element," says Kash Bhattacharya, who runs the travel blog BudgetTraveller. Bhattacharya and recently published a guide called "The Luxury Hostels of Europe".

The baby-boomer generation, who backpacked in their teens, are coming back to hostels
Kash Bhattacharya, BudgetTraveller

The distinction between hostels and hotels used to be clear, but this is no longer the case as the former cheap lodgings are increasingly offering perks like 24-hour breakfast-on-demand, salon services, organic restaurants on-site, and a few quirky extras like private cinema rooms.

"The line is definitely blurred," says Bhattacharya.

Read more: Pop-up hotels: catch them while you can

"If you check in to The Independente in Lisbon, for example, sure you'll find dorms on the bottom floor, but on the fourth floor you'll find private rooms with a Nespresso coffee machine," he says.

Gentile notes that the digital age has also played a part in changing the wants of many backpackers.

"In the past, backpacking was about exploring the world with as few possessions as possible. Today's tech-savvy generation travel with laptops, smart phones and MP3 players -- they're more encumbered than ever."

Not surprisingly, this new breed of hostel is attracting a new breed of customer; namely, business travelers.

Mathias Schwender, who runs Bohemian Hostels, a collection of upscale backpacker lodgings in Prague, estimates that roughly 10% of his clientele are business travelers -- a phenomenon he says only started happening in the last five to ten years.

Get fit at PlusBerlin with free yoga classes and pool access
Get fit at PlusBerlin with free yoga classes and pool access
UHostel in Madrid has a private screening room
UHostel in Madrid has a private screening room
At Ostello Bello in Milan, you can order breakfast whenever you wake up
At Ostello Bello in Milan, you can order breakfast whenever you wake up

"They're the type of traveler that is not just staying for work, but also wants to meet others, that's key," he says. "Plus, we offer all the basic things they need: wi-fi in rooms, an outlet for their computer and breakfast."

Recently, Schwender has even started partnering with a few local companies to place customers and visiting guests in his properties.

Read more: Hotels, the office of the future?

"Initially, they contacted us. We realized it was something we could capitalize more on and have started reaching out to more companies ourselves," he says.

Though in the past, hostels have been considered bargain-bin buys, these swanker hybrids aren't necessarily cheaper than hotel rooms.

"Our rate (for suites) is similar to a three-star hotel, but then again, our occupancy rate has to be higher to break even," admits Schwender.

Bhattacharya, however, says that price isn't the point, so much as the social aspect hostels offer.

"It can be lonely on the road, especially if you're traveling for work," he says. "Business travelers want to meet people, they don't want to be stuck in a hotel room by themselves."

Schwender concurs, noting that ultimately, it is the opportunity to mingle that truly defines a hostel.

"I think it's important that hostels don't make the mistake of trying to become too much like a hotel.. (they) don't forget what they're good at, which is the communal atmosphere."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
Imagine you're a hotel company with a score of brands that seem, well, dated. All the flash amenities of yesteryear seem irrelevant today.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)
The European firm has unveiled how passengers flying on its new A350 XWB might travel.
March 26, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Would you pay to cut in line for the toilets on a flight?
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Concorde is a thing of the past, but a number of companies are racing to release the first supersonic business jet.
March 3, 2014 -- Updated 0222 GMT (1022 HKT)
Though we're still in the early stages of 2014, it is already proving one of the most expensive years for the travel industry.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1715 GMT (0115 HKT)
At $83,200 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at Geneva's Hotel President Wilson is the most expensive hotel room in the world.
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 0348 GMT (1148 HKT)
From 'ascending rooms' and mini-bars to pillow menus and iPad-controls, discover the evolution of hotel room amenities.
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)
There's a new group of travelers in town -- and it hardly matters which town you're talking about.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 0457 GMT (1257 HKT)
It's Boeing vs. Airbus as the heavy-weight plane makers face off at the Singapore airshow.
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 0203 GMT (1003 HKT)
How airlines are making in-flight maps more interactive and monetizing them.
February 4, 2014 -- Updated 0103 GMT (0903 HKT)
What do new planes have to endure during cold weather testing?
ADVERTISEMENT