The hospitality industry is doomed. Hostels are doomed.


Is it? Are they?

As the recent Cloudbed’s Global Sentiment Survey showed, hostel owners are pessimistic about the outlook on their reservations through the upcoming months of 2020.

The social distancing restrictions in the post-COVID19 reality are touching heavily the hostel industry.

After all, we are all about socialising. In most of the cases filling in shared dormitories will be impossible in the nearest future. 

*Sound of crickets in the deserted common areas*

toy story meme: silence everywhere

This sounds pessimistic

The “social distancing” is everything opposite to what hostels stand for. The whole idea is about getting people together. Hitting the road with the “we’ve just met yesterday in the hostel” person. Sharing.

The “Social distancing” in hostels is like walking in flip flops, while outside is 0 degrees. It doesn’t match.

But you know, as they say: when life gives you lemons, you can squeeze them and make lemonade (or add them to vodka). 

It’s time for your creativity. Seek revenue in different ways: contacting trip providers, working with car rentals, offering a parking space. Especially that driving can become a popular option between travellers.

Maybe you already do all these things. So what else?

Embracing technological solutions

It’s time for embracing tech solutions. They were here for quite a while. Yet you might not consider them before: online check-in and chatbots.

During the Hostelskills Conference in Krakow, there was a lively discussion about chatbots. As the socialising and the personal customer service is in the core of each hostel, it’s hard to make this mind switch to automatization.

Sure, you might be scared to lose the personal touch. To sound robotic.

The same goes for online check-in. What about this first face-to-face experience? What about the personal touch that is so important in hostels?

people gathered inside house sitting on sofa
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

I know that automatization can sound scary. Yet solutions like property management systems can take your business to the next level. 

I won’t go deep into chatbots. However, I believe that creating an automatic reply (in your tone of voice) to the most common questions can save you and your staff a huge amount of time. 

And it comes from the mouth of the receptionist who often spends hours responding to the same questions (which in the end makes me feel like a robot).

Giving the guests an easy way to communicate with reception is a way to go. You can offer a WhatsApp number via which they can contact the reception.

Online check-in at your hostel – reasons for making that investment

You need to adapt your hostel to the new reality. Make your guests and staff feel safe. And one of the trends in safety measures is avoiding the need to approach the reception desk.

Tho the need for the reception staff will be always there and online check-in doesn’t mean you don’t need staff. If you are a receptionist reading this post, don’t worry. If guests still need our help in using Google Maps, I highly doubt they will not need us with the Online check-in apps or kiosks.

You need to adapt your hostel to the new reality. Make your guests and staff feel safe.

Hostels like Steel House Copenhagen were embracing the check-in kiosks with success before we even heard about COVID-19. Not to mention that online check-ins are a standard in the airlines, so the whole idea is really nothing new.

self check-in kiosks in Steel House Copenhagen
Photo source: Steel House Copenhagen

I have prepared you a list of good reasons to make that investment:

  • You speed up the welcome process – guests are usually tired after the journey. So the check-in paperwork is not something they are looking forward to when they arrive.
  • It will improve the guest experience- no more waiting in line to the reception.
  • Your staff will win more time to focus on more personalized customer service.
  • By gathering essential data (like arrival time), you can create more personalized service. Say yes, to the early check-ins! Knowing when they arrive, will give you time to prioritize rooms with an early arrival.
  • You can easily offer available upsells and experiences

What does your online check-in system need?

As Hotelminder specifies in its post “Best Hotel Online Self Check-in and Kiosk Systems of 2020”, you need to focus on the “perfect integration”.

Your hostel system and online marketing need to be aligned and work together seamlessly.

Fortunately for you, many Property Management Systems already offer the online check-in option. And definitely in the post-pandemic reality, the demand for that option has increased. Which means that the PMS providers work hard in optimizing this service. 

Let’s not forget that equally important is, that your guests are notified in advance about the possibility of check-in online. You can check with your PMS provider if it offers the personalized email notifications, which are sent automatically to guests. So they can use this option in advance.

Plus spreading the word in your social media about online check-in is a great content idea.

So which hotel or hostel systems offer online check-in?

As I have mentioned, this idea is not a new thing. Yet, your tech-savvy travellers like Gen-Z or Digital Nomads will appreciate this solution. Also, it’s nearly obligatory right now (or at least highly recommended).

woman having a video call
Photo by Edward Jenner on

Property Management Systems like Front Desk Master or MEWS  already offer the online check-in. Plus you have the option to create customized check-in messages with instructions and a welcome message.

[So don’t worry about not being personal]

Self-check-in Kiosks

Another interesting option is to place in the reception kiosks, where guests can check-in themselves. That’s a great idea as a complementary option to online check-in apps. Especially if many of your typical guests are not tech-savvy and don’t use smartphones to their fullest capacity (and there are many out there).

Sometimes PMSs already offer this solution (like MEWS). If this is not your case, it’s important to make sure that the kiosks are compatible with the system you’re already using.

Here are some examples of the self-check-in kiosks: 

The optimistic future

Even though right now, you can be more negative about the upcoming months, the travellers will come back. What the recent events have shown us is the need to embrace technology. Zoom, online communicators, emails, social media – as hostellers we can’t fall behind.

Applying the recent tech solutions help you in building a better and personalized customer service. And save you time so you can spend it with your guests. 

Which in the end is your ultimate goal: exceed guest expectations and make their face a happy face.

Getting to know better their needs and creating a safe environment should be right now in the core of every business on the planet.

Let’s sum up

Online check-ins in hotels, hostels and other accommodations are not some futuristic fantasy. They are the way to a more personalized experience which we all strive for in hospitality. Each day.

Who knows, maybe using these possibilities will surprise you and improve your business for much better? (hint: it definitely will)

But I digress…

Do you have online check-in in your property? Let me know which providers and solutions you use in the comments below.

Also, you can always send me an email or connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.

Signature of Ewa
Posted by Ewa Gabara

Posted by Ewa Gabara

Founder of Don’t Mess With The Receptionist. I geek out on hostels and I’m a long-time receptionist turned into a copywriter. I help the hospitality and travel brands conquer the world with words.

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