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So you want to start a hostel?

Here are some tips.

(For more information on starting a hostel, visit this great website: Hostel Management)

Testimonials of
Hostel Owners
Essay On Hostels
by Lloyd Jones
Hostel Management Hostel WikiHostel Management Hostel Forum


"I enjoy running a hostel because unlike renting apartments the people I deal with are happy, helpful and friendly!!" - Sherry Johnson, Skweek's House

"For us, having a hostel is a choice of lifestyle. It allows us to meet people from around the world and to share life experiences while staying at home. We hope more will come and visit us on Magnificent Hill, because we offer an unique kind of hostel experience: one that gives you the opportunity to get involved in daily chores with the animals, or hands on building projects around the farm, or the freedom to do nothing at all. We are located near Algonquin Park making our hostel one of the most Magnificent ones you will visit!" - Lea Kitler, Magnificent Hill Hostel

"Hello! I enjoy running a Hostel because of the awesome people you meet. There is never a dull moment in Holly Park Hostel; the drama is free. There are many rewards that come with running a Hostel including helping people and providing a warm environment for them." - Hollie Davis, Holly Park Hostel

"Hostel Life
H = Helping
O = Others
S = Share
T = Terrific
E = Experiences in different
L = Locations

L = Listening
I = Interaction
F = Food...can't forget the great food cooked up here.
E = Explore...our little corner of the world."
- Nancy Tanner, Beez Kneez Hostel

"We love running our hostel in rural Nova Scotia because of all the many people we get to meet and spend time with from all around the world. We have 3 small children who also enjoy being a part of our hostel. We believe it is a huge educational benefit for them to have an opportunity to talk with so many people from so many places, each with their own separate ideas, beliefs and customs. We've made friends we remain in contact with through the years, and each year we look forward to meeting all the new people who will cross our path, but also chatting with the old friends who return every year." - Trudi & Greg Inglis, Kip & Kaboodle Hostel

"I would say that the greatest pleasure and satisfaction from running a hostel type accomodation is the opportunity to meet really interesting people from around the world." - George Patterson, Tofino Botanical Gardens

"Chris and I are both travellers - we like learning about the world through tangible, first-hand experience. We met while on the road, many years ago. We met while working and living in a hostel, actually - in Edinburgh, Scotland. Once we realized that we could be together, despite the homeland distances and cultural differences, we also realized that we could harness the hostelling lifestyle and taper it to meet our own preferences and tastes.
We opened our own little backpacker's hostel, The Fat Salmon, in Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, in May 2005. We picked Port Alberni because of its uniqueness; we love the outdoors and we love real people. We are fortunate enough to have found a spot that has plenty of both. Since opening, we realize that one of the beautiful aspects of owning and running your own hostel is the ability to live vicariously through your guests. We love hearing the road stories, the challenging stories, the dramatic stories of our guest's adventures on the travelling path. We have put down our little roots for now, but know that we can live through our guests in the meantime, and enjoy it.
We also appreciate being in the position to offer our guests a safe, funky and informative place while they are away from their homes. I like watching guests hug and cuddle Lily, the happy hostel dog, and it never fails to make me laugh as people discover that one of the best places to watch a sunset on Vancouver Island is from the Fat Salmon back deck.
Offering our hostel to our guests, as well as our hospitality - a mix of Canadian (me) and Kiwi (Chris) cultures - is one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever had. I know how it is to be backpacking in foreign places, and I know how comforting it can be for a little home-hospitality when away. I am pleased that my full time job is to offer and provide that, whole-heartedly. Hostel-owning and operating is not just a job, it is a lifestyle." - Charmead and Chris, Fat Salmon Backpackers

"Quelqu'un, un européen, m'a écrit pour me dire que j'avais contribué a changer sa facon de considérer et de traiter ses amis, et ses compagnons de voyage....plusieurs autres m'ont exprimé de la reconnaissance pour la facon qu'ils ont été recus chez nous, a Percé, et je me demande encore qu'est-ce que j'ai fait pour mériter ces reconnaissances. Ces jeunes visiteurs m'ont redonné confiance en l'avenir. Je suis convaincu maintenant que nous avons une bonne releve, et juste pour cela, je suis content de m'etre démené comme un diable dans l'eau bénite, pour satisfaire tout le monde. Nous n'avons pas fait d'argent pour notre premiere année d'opération de l'hotel, mais, que de satisfaction. Je suis heureux d'avoir suivi mon instinc en achetant cet Hotel, et j'espere le garder longtemps." - Daniel Lebrasseur, La Maison Rouge

"I enjoy running the Hostel Bear because of the diversity it provides. It allows me the opportunity to learn and speak many different languages on a daily basis. It allows me to take a sneak peak of life on the other side of the world or sometimes the other side of the country. I find the best advise sometimes comes from people and their personal life stories of experiences they have had abroad.
Being at the hostel allows me to be myself and share that with our guests as we make them feel more and more comfortable.
It gives me the opportunity to meet new people from around the world and appreciate where they have come from.
Running a hostel is fun and there are lots of other benefits. I am able to share my own experiences with people who have never been to Canada and can describe to them first-hand some of the amazing things to see and do here.
One of the best things about working at a hostel is meeting diverse people form all over the world.
Our hostel is a great environment to work in. It provides you with a taste of the world as a whole.
Working at our hostel provides our staff with longevity, opportunity to move and grow as well as prove themselves with operating responsibilities we challenge them with.

J'apprécie travailler dans une auberge pour la diversité que cela rapporte. Cela m'offre la chance d'apprendre et de parler plusieurs langues sur une base quotidienne. Cela me permet d'avoir un aperçu de la vie sur l'autre côté de notre pays, autant bien que le reste du monde. Je trouve que les meilleurs conseils viennent parfois des expériences vécus par des personnes lorsqu'ils étaient dans d'autres milieux. Travaillé dans une auberge me permet d'être moi-même et de partager cela avec les clients, créant ainsi une ambiance chaleureuse entre clients et employés. Travailler dans une auberge m'offre l'opportunité de rencontrer un grand nombre d'individus de nationalités différentes et de pouvoir en apprendre un peu plus sur leurs cultures, leurs terres natales. Travailler dans auberge n'est pas seulement qu'un emploi agréable, il y a aussi plusieurs bénéfices reliés à l'opération de celle-ci. Je peux partager mes propres expériences avec des personnes qui n'ont jamais été au Canada, leur décrivant des expériences incroyables qu'ils devraient expérimenter eux-mêmes lors de leur séjour. Un des points les plus intéressants de travailler dans une auberge est de rencontrer des gens si différents de partout à travers le monde. Notre auberge constitue un environnement de travail incroyable. Cela vous permet d'avoir un avant gout de ce que le monde a à offrir. Travailler dans notre auberge procure aux employés une stabilité d'emploi, des opportunités d'avancements et des chances de se dépasser et d'exceller dans les responsabilités que l'auberge offre." - Matt Galbraith, Hostel Bear

"We established The Raging Elk Adventure Lodge after traveling extensively ourselves and staying in various types of back packers all around the word. We liked the type of people that we meet during our travels whilst staying in back packers, they are generally fun, interesting and have a keen sense of adventure and we wanted to surround ourselves with people of these particular attributes after our travels. We are always trying to strive to provide travelers staying in Canada with memorable experiences by getting to know our clientele on a more personal level and hosting them on our secret favorite ski runs, biking and hiking trails . We love the reactions of back packers when they reach the top of a mountain with amazing panoramic views, or when they see wildlife usually only seen in a zoo, or when they have pushed themselves on a ski or bike run they normally would not do...and they loved the experience.I dont think we would be interested in any other business because of the constant memorable experiences and life long friends we have made through The Raging elk. One day when we are too old to host back packers...ouch! we will retire as aging elks and we hope either our daughter or one of our many nieces or nephews may want to take on the Raging Elk and have the same enjoyment in their job." - Sadie Howse, Raging Elk Hostel

"Working at Global Village Backpackers is special. It radiates warmth, and breeds happiness. My bosses are such good people. The type of good that makes work feel like home. The job automatically brings you into a world of inspiration. It brings exciting people into your life-offering motivating tales of travels around the world that allow for countless changes in perspective. Working at GVB has shaped me in many ways. Close to two years working for this lovely place has enabled me to understand people like I never thought I could. I have grown to be more self-sufficient, patient, curious, and have learned to read individuals from the second they walk into the hostel. There is certainly one setback to working at this hostel-a person must learn to say goodbye to people who touch their life like no other.

Aside from all of that, the bar kicks mad ass in the summertime and throughout the snowier season. The outside patio is constantly full of blissful laughter, and the inside bar gives musicians the chance to showcase their talent to people from around the world. All of us that work at the hostel hang out here all year-it's one of the best places in Toronto to party or just chill out. The staff offers an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment that people are drawn to. Perhaps that's why people have troubles leaving this place? While the job cannot be completely synonymous with simply a good time (afterall, it is work) it does often have me question if a better job exists.

Come stay here for a month and you'll know exactly what I mean!" -Kasia Bulgarski, front desk agent, Global Village Backpackers

"Running a hostel is fun, because you meet many interesting, happy, funny, party loving, at times crazy, colorful, brave and wise travelers, who share their adventurous, wild sometimes ex-saturated humorous stories, make you laugh and widen your horizon by introducing you to new food concepts, spiritual wisdom and jokes.

The first objective however is to meet the physical needs of the backpackers, by providing them with clean, secure, inexpensive accommodation, hot showers free internet and a smile- we offer guests the comfort of "home away from home."

Many guests leave as friends and the contacts remains for years after." -Claudia, C and N Backpackers

So You Want To Start A Hostel?

The hostel movement started in Germany in 1907 but became popular during the 1920’s as a way of promoting peace and world understanding as well as communing with nature with a view to protecting the environment, promoting healthy exercise and camaraderie among other backpackers. It is no wonder that the first hostels in Canada began in the Canadian Rockies. Today hostels are found all over the world.

Collingwood, Ontario: the former Blue Mountain Auberge

Hostels can be inns, budget bed and breakfasts, farms, residences, retreat centres, hospitality homes, camps campgrounds, or houseboats. There’s an ice house hostel, a school bus hostel, a tepee hostel, an old jail, a hostel in rail cars, renovated motels, historic buildings, revamped hotels, a Presbyterian camp, an eco-centre, a white water rapids hostel; the list goes on.

You might own a building that could serve as a hostel, perhaps your own home.

Nanaimo International Hostel

The rule of thumb: are you zoned for the purposes intended? Check with your local municipality is to the rules. Best bet is commercial zoning.

Ottawa Backpackers Inn, Ottawa, ON

Any changes to your structure will require building permits, fire inspection, and even a health inspection.

the former Mabou Hostel, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

You may see a building and say “Wouldn’t that make a great hostel?” Well, pretty historic buildings don’t always see it that way because repairing these buildings can be costly, almost prohibitive. Best bet: look for a building with the correct zoning. . Have you got a common room for people to intermingle? Do you have a communal kitchen? Have you get some outdoor space around your hostel so folks don’t have to stay inside supping tea in those hot sticky summer months? What about parking space?

Establishing your hostel in a business centre of a town or city is usually a good bet, and if there’s another hostel nearby, you can benefit from the overflow of that hostel. Make sure your hostel is better than the other one.

the former Samesun Hostel, Vancouver, BC

Many folks who have used hostels want to start their own. Financing can be a real barrier to fulfilling that dream. You’ll need a friendly banker and a good business plan. The latter is most challenging but many economic development councils in your community will give you good advice. In addition, try the Business Development Bank or the local college and see if they have business plan

St. John River Valley near Fredericton, NB

advice. Sometimes a student can help you (he may need credits for school) and you could work it out with him/her. Consult other new hostel owners; they’d be glad to share information. Know that many hostellers are from overseas (a good 50-60%) and that contrary to public perception, few hostellers hitch-hike (less than 1%). Know that guidebooks (Lonely Planet, Rough Guide) will bring you business and spread the word to them that you plan to open a hostel. Don’t neglect the Internet…this new tool of communication can be a powerful boost to your new business. Get a business email and website.

No more monstrous floods N. Ontario

Your hostel doesn’t need to be in a gateway city like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. Research has shown that if you own a hostel in a rural area, folks will soon find out about them. You won’t become rich overnight but you will succeed. That’s why your hostel may also be your home as well. Why pay someone else’s rent when you can live in your own hostel?

Networking with other hostels is essential. You may have a natural distrust of your competitors down the road, but friendly competition doesn’t hurt anyone. Get to know your tour cycle companies, bus operators, tourist bureau, and the folks that operate trekking and water-related or ski sports. Make up a good brochure and send a few to your neighbouring hostels and even a poster or two. A comment book and a display rack are two common features at most hostels. That way you get a boost for your own hostel and hear comments about the others. Hostellers or backpackers are the best judges of whether a hostel is hot or not.

Freedom of the road

You might plan to offer tours around town, or have recreational nights, slide shows, barbeques. Get a few of the most recent movie videos. Have extra blankets, sheets, and pillows. Consider selling T-shirts of your hostel, post cards and a few items for sale. Have a few bicycles around to rent (or a canoe). Buy a few volleyballs, nets. Offer an internet station. And don’t forget you might need to add GST and PST to the cost of staying with you.

Making of a sign tree Thunder Bay International Hostel

So you’re ready to open. Get a local reporter to cover the opening. Get out the coffee and tea, the doughnuts and have a dignitary (it could be your mom) cut the ribbon.

Go to your local Internet provider for a decent website and a domain name and pick your email address so that you (and others) will remember it. Be palsy with the guide book publishers (especially Rough Guide and Lonely Planet the tops in the business.

Hostel owners can tell you that backpackers are more likely to travel from one hostel to another rather than from one city to another. Encourage others to start hostels especially where none presently exist. Other hostels are feeders to yours. Join your local tourist association- these folks are a wealth of information and support. Be a travel writer yourself and be informed about trends in the tourist industry.

Hostelling can be fun: the world comes to you and you are the richer for it.

Cycling across Canada, Thunder Bay

Many hostel owners and operators can attest that hostels are happy, helpful friendly places. Beez Kneez hostel tell it like it is: H=Helping, O=Others S=Share T=Terrific E=Experiences in different L=Locations. L=Listening, I=international, F=food, can’t forget the great food cooked here) E=explore (our little corner of the world. ) Hostel Life (Nancy Tanner, Whitehorse) Other hosts love meeting people from all over the world. We live vicariously through our guests says Charmead from Fat Salmon Hostel. Sadie House (Fernie Raging Elk) writes, and see people meeting together and becoming lifelong friends. Lloyd from Thunder Bay write: A hostel is hospitality in its rich Biblical sense. Matt Galbraith from Hostel Bear adds: Cela m’offre la chance d’apprendre et de parler plusieurs languages sur une base quotidienne. Claudia from Cand N hostel writes: There is certainly one setback to working at this hostel- a person must learn to say goodbye to people who touch their life like no other.

Proud owner Planet Traveler’s Hostel (Toronto), Anthony Aarts

Information can also be obtained from BHC/ABC at

For a hostel to join Backpackers Hostels Canada/Auberges Backpackers Canada (BHC/ABC) it requires an annual membership fee of $120.00-$240.00 per facility based on the number of beds and facilities and for your facility to match our mission statement: A friendly, warm, healthy and safe place for budget travellers.

Widmer Street looking north, Toronto; middle is Canadiana Backpackers

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