Hostelling International (HI) is a worldwide federation of lodging establishments that has existed for nearly a century with the goal of providing safe and affordable accommodations for travelers in over 80 countries. Since its inception, HI has essentially created the modern hosteling experience as most people understand it today. In 1934, the US hostel association now known as HI USA opened the first US hostel in Northfield, MA. HI USA now oversees approximately 50 hostels across the country, 35 of which are directly owned and operated by the organization. They range in size from just 30 beds to a whopping 735 beds in the New York City location.
Determined to be more than just another lodging establishment, each association is incorporated in its home country as a non-profit organization that shares HI’s larger mission of building awareness of different cultures and beliefs through the shared experiences as a way to bridge social and political divides.
“Academic research shows that exposure to other people and cultures helps develop a more tolerant mindset,” explains Aaron Chaffee, Vice President of Hostel Development at HI USA.
To accomplish this mission, each HI USA hostel offers a variety of experiential and educational programs that allow their guests to learn about their fellow travelers and get involved in the communities they visit. HI USA even provides scholarships for novice travelers in hopes of getting more people out into the world to explore and meet people from different backgrounds.
Chaffee describes the struggle for modern hostels as finding the balance between affordability and expectations. On the one hand, they want to stay true to the original purpose of hosteling: to provide a shared experience in which every guest can connect as equals. This means creating amazing and engaging common areas that encourage travelers to spend time together, as well as providing safe, secure, and comfortable dorms. This starts, of course, with good beds and quality mattresses, but the dorms are also constantly being fine-tuned to include features like curtains at the bunks, lockers, charging stations, and individual bed lights to increase comfort and privacy.
On the other hand, hostels face steep competition from hotels and motels that have the resources to offer services and amenities that don’t necessarily conform to the expectations that many travelers expect from hostels, but that nonetheless draw potential guests away. To combat this, HI USA has started experimenting with alternative lodging options in certain locations that can make their accommodations appealing to more travelers without sacrificing the things that make hostels unique and keep them affordable.
In New Orleans, this meant adding ensuite private rooms that guests could rent for an additional fee. While the standard dormitories in the New Orleans hostel have built-in bunk beds, the private rooms utilize standalone adult bunk beds from Francis Lofts & Bunks to sleep more people and accommodate small groups traveling together. Beyond the private sleeping space, the general amenities are still shared, so guests staying in these suites can still enjoy a traditional hostel experience for the most part.
Bunk beds have long been closely associated with hostels. When asked why this is, Chaffee described the key aspects of staying in a hostel as affordability and shared experiences, and that nothing represents these ideas better than the site of a room full of bunk beds. Said bunk beds allow hostels to fit multiple people in a single room without wasting floor space, which allows them to keep costs down and remain affordable. It’s also a way to keep couples or groups of travelers together in shared spaces, while making sure that every guest has their own individual place to sleep and no one has to share a bed (unless they want to). In a more abstract, but no less important way, Chaffee says bunk beds also evoke a feeling of exploration, adventure, and independence that is exciting for people between the ages of 18-35 (the largest demographic of hostel guests).
Chaffee came across Francis Lofts & Bunks while searching online for a modern bunk bed to furnish the private rooms under construction in New Orleans. What started as a general search quickly turned up exactly what he’d been looking for: a sturdy, stable, and attractive adult bunk bed that could be customized to complete and enhance these new private spaces.
Strength and durability were considered a baseline requirement for the hostel’s new bunk beds. Since they would be expected to host hundreds of adults of all shapes and sizes each year, Chaffee knew he needed beds that would be safe and secure for years to come. The high quality aluminum used to build our beds provides a massive 2,000 LB weight capacity and incredible rigidity that easily met his specifications. However, it was really the contemporary design that stood out to him and solidified his decision to purchase 20 twin size bunk beds. He wanted to make sure that the beds would serve a purpose of form as well as function, creating an aesthetically pleasing experience that could match or exceed comparable hotel rooms.
The private rooms have been in use since earlier this summer. Upon finishing the rooms and assembling the bunk beds from the initial order, Chaffee and his team realized that some of the beds would require additional customizations to meet HI USA’s high expectations, which included adding end rails and wall anchors. He worked with our customer service team to get these extra accessories ordered, crafted to match the existing bed frames, and shipped out in just under two weeks to ensure that the rooms would be completely ready to go when they were opened to guests.
So far, the adult bunk beds are a smashing success at the New Orleans hostel, providing safe, secure, and comfortable sleep for many satisfied guests. If you’re ever visiting this exciting city and are interested in trying out one of our heavy duty bunk beds — or you just want to have a great hostel experience — you can book a room with HI USA by visiting www.hiusa.org.