Decoding Bed Station Hostel, a Sanctuary for Backpackers
In any tourist attraction, we always see foreigners with big backpacks on their backs chilling among locals. In the business sphere, this group of travelers is called “backpackers”. Backpackers are mostly teenage foreigners with different traveling lifestyles compared to other groups. One of their differences is the accommodation they mainly choose and they call it a “hostel”. In “The DOTS: Hotel Game Changer by SCB SME”, Miss Phen Jarupa Sunthornpagasit, CEO of Bed Station Hostel, talks about her road to success in hostel business.
What is Hostel?
The hostel is a type of accommodation similar to a dormitory. In a room, there consists of several bunk beds with about 4-16 beds in total. The price is calculated per bed. The toilets and showers are public with basic facilities. It is more of a self-service system that it is more popular among backpackers as a more cost-saving choice. Also, many hostels are renovated from shophouses. So, it seems that anyone could open a hostel, turning hostel into a popular business in the traveling industry. It seems like an easy business to start, but it is not easy to make it successful.
Miss Phen Jarupa, Ph.D. and CEO, shared about her beginning in hostel business about 6 years ago. Originally, her family has a condominium business and they will only receive an income when they hand the room over to the tenants. So, she wants to look for a business that cash will flow in every day. Moreover, the hostel was not popular then and most hostels were not located near underground stations. Miss Phen, thus, sees a chance to open a hostel in a location that can easily access the train stations and the heart of the town like Siam Square. That is how Bed Station Project comes about.
Bed Station Hostel, a House for Backpackers
After looking for shophouses along train tracks for 6 months, a building near BTS Ratchathewi is chosen. Miss Phen renovated a 4-story shophouse into a home for travelers. She sets a concept that these 80 beds will have to be the ‘Best Place to Rest’ and a ‘Home in Bangkok’ for backpackers. She increases privacy and comfort for guests more than other hostels could offer by adding curtains for every bed and equipping every bed with lockers for guests to store their phones or wallets. Apart from that she puts more lockers outside the room for guests to store their belongings as well as installs a large mirror in the bathrooms for ladies to groom up. More importantly, Miss Phen organizes events and activities for any guest who is interested such as Thai food cooking class, Thai language class, and a tour to Taling Chan floating market or Bang Krachao floating market. With a friendly and outgoing behavior of foreigners, guests are able to make new companions. Even if they are away from home, they can still feel the warmth as if Bed Station is their home in Bangkok.
Bed One Block Hostel, another Branch for Asian Travellers
From the tremendous success of Bed Station with a booking rate of no less than 90%, Miss Phen found out that there is a difference in characters of Western and Asian travelers. While American and European travelers love partying, doing activities, and chatting with the staff, Asian travelers dislike talking to strangers and only contact staff as much as necessary. This causes a negative review, for example, Asian guests would complain that Western guests are noisy. On the other hand, Western guests feel that Asian guests’ habit of not mingle with strangers results in an unfriendly atmosphere.
This is how “Bed One Block Hostel”, with 36 beds and situated in the area nearby Bed Station, comes about. Miss Phen has an idea to open this hostel and mainly target Asian travelers. This receives a highly positive feedbacks because it is a hostel that understands the nature of Asian. The clean design of an interior makes every corner of this hostel a photo spot which suits an activity that Asian commonly does, which is taking photo or selfie. There is a stairway leads up to the top of the bunk bed without a need to climb which Asian guests are very fond of. The size of the bed will also be slightly smaller to suit the physical builds of Asians. But the size of the lockers is bigger as Asian guests usually carry luggage. Bed One Block Hostel does not need to organize any activity because the behavioral pattern of Asian guests is to go out in the morning and come back at night and thus, the staff at the counter will only be on duty for 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Forward to Khaosan Road, the Centre of Hostels
Miss Phen told us that there are 3 questions she often asked by the Western guests –where is the gym? Is there a pool? How to get to Khaosan Road? Miss Phen, thus, gets an idea to open a hostel that these 3 demands can be met which is “Bed Station Hostel (Khaosan)”. The third branch is located on Pattani Road and it only takes 2 minutes by foot to get to Khaosan Road, a destination of backpackers from all over the world. This is a newly built hostel with medium size gym and pool as well as a bar that satisfies the lifestyle of Western guests a lot.
Key to Success of Bed Station
From her family background as a property business owner, Miss Phen feels that location is the most important factor that determines the success of the hostel business. This can be seen from the first branch of Bed Station Hostel in Ratchathewi, which is opened in a convenient location near the train station and Siam Square. And the third branch, Bed Station Hostel (Khaosan), is nearby Khaosan Road that foreign guests would love to visit. This makes the guests always give a full review score for the hostel on location.
Staff is also equally important, especially, when a hostel has to establish a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for the guests to feel at ease. Human touches like a small conversation show care to guests and make them want to return again. And because of the staff team of Bed Station Hostel are like family, they contribute to more than 55% of the percentage returning customer of the hostel.
In terms of management strategy, due to the different target groups, different branches will have to fight in different markets. In the first phase of Bed Station Hostel in Ratchathewi, the target customers are Western backpackers and so, it will be opened for booking on hostelworld.com, which is a popular OTA among backpackers. On the other hand, Bed One Block aims to triumph the Asian guests market, so, the booking is opened on Booking.com, Agoda or Traveloka that are popular among Asian travelers.
In terms of resource management, as Bed Station Hostel, Ratchathewi, and Bed One Block Hostel are not far from each other, these 2 branches share cleaners and staff. As for Bed Station Hostel, Ratchathewi and Khaosan are of the same brand, so they are promoted through the same Instagram account with different hashtags. For the question of whether Bed Station Hostel, Ratchathewi, and Khaosan will fight with each other for the same market shares, fear not, Miss Phen clearly separates these two. Ratchathewi branch will give out warmth vibes with soft music playing and the presence of a chubby cat while the Khaosan branch will give a party vibe with a bikini and pool party. Guests can then choose the lodge of their own liking.
Amidst the blooming of hostel business, leading hostels to go on a fierce fight with one another. But the reason that “Bed Station Hostel” can still strive is the passion and care that Miss Phen gives to her business and guests. At the beginning of building up the hostel, Miss Phen spent 20 hours per day and 7 days per week on her hostel. She chats and kept all guests in touch. She took care of their stay and gave importance to all the comments received. This allows her to know whatever that has been going on in her hostel and she also answered all questions by herself. The heart and soul that she puts in makes these Bed Station Hostels a true home for travelers.