Two years ago New York City effectively made most hostels illegal. The new bill said that that no residential building is allowed to rent out any apartment for less than 30-days. Since most hostels in NYC were held in apartment buildings, this forced most hostels to close down. With a few loop-holes like having a non-profit hostel, some hostels were able to survive. Hostelling International for example has been able to stay open. There are currently 35 hostels throughout the entire city listed on HostelWorld. Compared to many other large cities around the world, that is a sad number. It really hurt the hostel industry in NYC.
There’s a bigger issue though that might have played a role into the passing of the bill in 2010, hostels get a bad rap in the United States. They’re often seen as dirty places and Hollywood hasn’t made it any easier with movies like Hostel where they’ve given the image that hostels are dangerous.
Why has American culture not picked up on the hostel culture but in Europe it does so well? There are some sweet luxury hostels throughout Europe. In comparison, there are over 500 HI hostels in Germany while the US has over 50 HI hostels. Germany is slightly smaller than Montana so try to imagine Montana with 500 hostels. Are there even that many hotels in Montana?
What do we need to do to support the industry and help it grow as it does in Europe? For one I think we need to be sending out a clearer message to Americans that there are really incredible hostels in the US. The HI in San Diego has a full kitchen for all guests to use, it’s located right in the middle of downtown, has free walking tours, and a free pub crawl. I don’t know ANY hotel that provides all of that.
There’s also this misconception that hostels are only for young backpackers which is not true. Everywhere else in the world, I see families taking weekend trips to cities while staying in a hostel. Many hostels have private rooms so if dorms aren’t your thing, private rooms are still available and still cheaper than staying in a hotel. Even the level of service can often be better than a hotel.
Not to say I don’t say in hotels but I think hostels in the US are often ignored. There’s a time and a place for a hotel and sometimes you can find great deals for them too. But if you’re looking to stretch your money and you’re traveling in the US, please support the hostel industry here and search for a hostel too. Hostels allow for greater discovery of a destination and money gets spent locally rather than to only a few select big corporations. You’ll be surprised to find we have a lot of really great and unique hostels with a lot of personality.