Will Hostels Ever Catch On In America?

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Ask an average American if he or she would stay at a hostel and you’ll probably get a puzzled look. If Americans even have a clue what hostels are, they probably associate them with young budget travelers looking to party. On top of that, they probably think hostels only exist in Europe.

But the reality is, there are approximately 350 hostels in the United States, and they are geared toward people with varying ages and interests. The number might seem surprising, but it still pales in comparison to the more than 51,000 hotels across the country.

Budget accommodations seem like a no-brainer. So what’s holding the United States back from becoming populated with hostels? Lots of things, the biggest of which is simple: demand. Americans and visitors travel differently in the Land of Opportunity. Unlike Europe, where close cities and sophisticated rail lines provide the perfect incubator for backpacking culture, major cities tend to be more spread out in the United States. It’s no coincidence that most hostels are found on the Eastern Seaboard and in central and southern California, where hopping from place-to-place is more economically viable.

Still, there is an up-and-coming type of hostel that might work in the United States. “Boutique hostels” offer the same cheap, often dormitory-style accommodations, but in a design- and tech-savvy environment. These types of places are generally geared to millennials, who desire amenities like free WiFi and on-site nightlife over free cable and luxurious rooms. And to ward off any stigma, marketers don’t usually put the word “hostel” in their name.

So what do you think? Can hostels make it in America, or are the impediments too big? Weigh in below.