Nowadays, travelers sometimes still choose to stay at hostels because of how cheap they are. More often though, people are staying in hostels for other reasons: Sharing experiences with new friends and meeting people from different cultures. For most of these travelers, it's much more about a new way to travel and learn about the world than to stay some place for cheap!
So, let's continue building on that idea and talk about some things we can do to stand out, and get more people that are browsing, to be booking! All these points will also help you get better reviews, which will also in turn help you get more bookeings.
1) Common Spaces
More of them! Common spaces are a hostel's soul. It's one of the big differentiators with hotels. In common areas, travelers hang out, share experiences, organize tours or nights out, or just have a beer talking about where they are from or their background. So, as much as possible, you need to have space for common spaces - like a big living room, game room, communal kitchen, a bar or something else. It all depends on the size and layout of your hostel.
This one is a double winner. It acts as a common area (for guests to hang out and socialize) and it also helps guests save money! For guests, it's super important to have a place to cook. Guests can hang out, prepare group meals, or taste each other's dishes from other countries. Make sure the kitchen is well equipped and make sure that you post a sign with some clear rules regarding organization, storage, cleaning, etc.
3) Later Check-outs
Although there are some exceptions, hostels usually target young people. Most of the time, they will be going out at night and will be late to bed. So check-out time is something travelers will take into account when choosing (or not choosing) a hostel. If you're interested in this topic, we've written an extensive post on what to consider when deciding on your check-out time.
4) "Free" Breakfast
When backpackers are setting their daily budgets, food is usually at the top of that list. So, giving them a good, healthy breakfast is a big win! If you can manage to include breakfast, do it - it's no secret that you'll be more competitive and should get more bookings because of it!
5) Free Wi-Fi
There are some exceptions to this one. But generally speaking, having good, free Wi-Fi is a must-have these days. Obviously if you're out in the middle of the jungle, or on a deserted island, then you're probably exempt from this one :P.
6) Useful & Usable Website
Your website is generally the second impression of your brand. The first one happens on the booking channel when a backpacker sees you in the search results! On your website though, you have a lot more control over how you present your brand. Make sure that the style of your website fits well with your brand and that it's easy to use. There aren't that many things guests want to do on your website, so you should make these things very obvious! If you're more interested, we've also written a post about some well designed hostel website that we've found.
7) Tours & Other Services
Any other services that you can offer guests to make their stays more enjoyable will bring you more bookings, more revenue and better reviews. Think about organized tours (paid or free), board games (free hopefully!), bike rentals, etc.