The safety and security of the guests should be primary concern for all hostels. But, this safety doesn't happen by accident. It needs be constantly kept in mind to avoid any future problems. Even though, you can't fully control the guest's safety outside your hostel; you can control what happens in your hostel.
Nowadays, it is very common to travel with valuables such as: computers, cameras, smartphones, tablets, personal documents, money, etc. Guests search for a high level of security with these types of belongings. This security is so important to the extent that many OTAs factor it into their reviews and rankings. With this in mind, note that good security will help with positive reviews and avoiding negative ones.
Certain precautionary measures can be taken so that your guests feel comfortable about not only their safety but the security of their belongings. Let’s talk about some ways you can improve safety and prepare and prevent situations from happening, not repair and repent that they happened.
First and foremost, the lockers in the hostel need to be visible and accessible for every guest. Make sure they are ample in size. Ideally they should be able to fit all of the guests belongings but they at least need to be able to safeguard the most valuable items. Some hostels have even gone far enough to include electrical plugs in the lockers. This gives the guest the option to charge their devices with the peace of mind that it won’t be stolen while he/she is out or sleeping. These little things can make the biggest difference. Note: Offer locks to rent or borrow with a deposit incase the guest forgets theirs.
Reception Desk 24/7
Don’t be startled. I am not saying there is a need to have the check-in and check-out around the clock (although that could be something to consider) but have someone available 24/7. One never knows when an emergency might arise that needs attention or if something may happen during the evening. More importantly, you can control who is entering and leaving your property at all times of the day.* *
Controlling the Front Door
We all understand, that especially in very large hostels, it’s not an easy task to always control who enters and exits the property. However, there needs to be at least a basic amount of control. One thing to consider is what needs to be done when friends of guests arrive. With the amount of valuables that can be in the property, it’s best that they are not allowed to wander. Have them wait at the front desk till their friend arrives. Also, it might be good to set rules that limit them to the large common areas and not the shared rooms. For even more control, give only the receptionist the power to let people out. This limits the possiblity that guests open the door for strangers when the receptionist is not there.
Feminine Dorm Rooms
The idea of shared rooms in hostels isn’t just for cheaper housing but also for the communal experience. However, some women feel more comfortable while sleeping in an all female room. Just for that, it’s considerate to have that option available for them. The final objective should be that the guests feels as comfortable in your hostel as if you were inviting them into your home.
Comfortable Sleeping Arrangements
Some hostels have gone the extra mile with how comfortable the beds and rooms are. And no, I am not only talking about how comfortable the mattress is but by how comfortable the guest feels in his/her space. Consider the following additions:
- Small shelves on the top bunk to store belongings, whether it’s a book or eye glasses
- Slidable curtains on the bunk beds to bring an extra sensation of privacy
- Reading lights or outlets to plug in their devices while they sleep or to use them in bed
- Wi-Fi in all the rooms
- Bunk beds that give them proper room to sit upright in the bed without hitting their head
- Bed bug free sleeping by following this guide by Darren at Pacific Tradewinds Hostel
These additions can go a long way in making your guests not only feel more comfortable but safer in their rooms.
SafeHostel is a system that gives a quick glimpse of the travelers arriving to your hostel before they even get there. You can quickly see if the guests have had any sort of problems in other past hostels. Such problems can include: disrespectfulness, violent, prone to heavy intoxication, damages property, left without paying, etc. The sharing of this knowledge can be vital tool to ensure security in between hostels. Fortunately, safeHostel is integrated into BananaDesk to automatically report these guests to you. With this information you can defuse problems before they even happen. However, this advanced warning only comes if problematic guests are always noted in the system. It is a team effort for all the hostels to keep the system as up-to-date as possible.
Security Cameras in Common Areas
Installing cameras in the common areas, although quite the investment, is a great idea. As you can’t always count on the staff to be everywhere at once, installing cameras can give access to areas previously unseen. They also help keep video records of what is going on in those areas. It is good to at least have some cameras installed near the lockers or at the front door. In the end, this will allow the staff to now spend more time monitoring the front door and to positively interact with guests.
Nowadays, especially in hotels, key cards are replacing the traditional key to access the rooms. Some hostels are already going down this road and have been happy for the following reasons:
- Keys can be designed to be reprogrammable for other rooms or to delete access after a determined amount of time
- They are very inexpensive to replace if lost and can given away as a souvenir
- Reception can monitor who enters by forcing key card access after certain hours
- Branded key cards with hostels logo can be used for advertisement
- Promotions for returning guests discounts when they return with past key cards
- Further advertisement happening when guests share the key cards with other travelers
Advice on Informing Your Guests and Teaching Your Staff
As rules can vary per hostel, it is important to clarify all the rules. Rules regarding the admittance of alcohol or drugs, check-in/out times, sleeping hours, breakfast times, kitchen rules, etc. To best avoid problems, the safety policies/rules need to be posted and taught by the staff. _The staff is the gateway in which the guest is informed. _When initially showing the guest around the property explain everything from security measures and where to store or charge valuable devices to the differences between dorms/privates and policies of who enters the premises. All of these things are best told right away to avoid any future problems.
The guest should also be thoroughly informed about how the city is outside the hostel. This means, for example, noting certain neighborhoods that are less safe than others and the nightlife hours. This can go a long way in reassuring the guest and making sure their experience inside your property is the best it can be. But it only happens if they are properly informed.
Also, you need to find the best way to handle situations when someone breaks the rules. It is impossible to eliminate all infractions but what matters the most is how you solve them when they happen. Managing them quickly and effectively directly affects how safety can be viewed inside the hostel.
TIP: What to Do When There Are Problems with a Guest
Problems with guests don’t usually happen but that doesn't mean they won't ever happen. When they do happen don't be afraid to stand up and confront the guest._Note: If the guests are never confronted they will think they can do what they please even if it is in violation of the rules. _When problems arise:
- Maintain calm and controlled. Show that you are in control and not afraid to confront the situation
- Start by showing the rules. Have a basic set of guidelines already set up in the hostel.
- If the guest is doing something that isn't explicitly said in the guidelines, explain that it is not allowed and why.
- Show the guest what you expect out of them and what they should do instead.
- If the offenses continue or are grievous, don't be afraid to ask the guest to leave.
- Remember: The security/safety of everyone inside the hostel is more important than occupying one bed for just one night.
All of these ideas will take you one step closer to fixing problems after they happen. But it's always best to fix them before they happen. As soon as you see a problem and don't fix it, then it becomes your mistake. Whichever way the mistakes happen, remember, it is how we handle them that matters the most.
Having proper safety and security can be the cheapest and most effective insurance policy. So, take the next step and make your hostel a safer/more secure place where mistakes don't happen and security is not a concern. You might find it not only more relieving for your guests but also for you.
If you have any ideas or extra tips to add, we would love it if you shared them with us!
Some of the ideas in this post were inspired from the Hostel Management Panel, specifically Darren Overby's bed bug tips.