Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Hostels vs hotels vs couchsurfing: part 2

What do today's budget travellers prefer: a hostel, a hotel or a couch? It seems the debate that I touched on a couple of weeks ago has been continuing over at Vagablogging, the blog of high-profile travel writer, Rolf Potts. The post - "Hostels go upscale as budget travelers discover couchsurfing" - refers to's announcement that hostel bookings by North Americans increased 20% in 2008. The site puts this down to hostels going upmarket and no longer being the last resort for just the skintest of travellers.

Now as hostels install pools and bypass the bunks for more single rooms, prices are inevitably being pushed up. Could they be pricing out their original market? With iPods and laptops now part of the typical checklist, backpacking is certainly not the frugal experience it once was. Last April, the YHA opened London Central (pictured), a £4m hostel offering wifi, pop art and organic cider. Although, from £12 a night, it's certainly not badly priced by London standards.

Vagablogging is predicting more budget travellers will switch to couchsurfing for a more affordable way to travel in these lean times. I think we'll also see people searching for cheap alternatives on the likes of Airbed&breakfast, Crashpadder and LeapLocal.

Budget travellers should be rejoicing. Not that long ago there were no such facilities tailored to their needs. Now we have choices.