The difficulty in creating a customer-hostel relationship

There is a variety of levels and compositions when it comes to relationships between the customer and the supplier, in this case the supplier is a hostel (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Which kind of customers a hostel has depends on various factors, for example the location. However, in general they are people who are travelling on a low budget and the majority are younger single or duo travellers.

There are 2 sorts of relationships, primary relationships and secondary relationships. A primary relationship is a long-term and interpersonal relationship based on emotional bonds, there is also a common feeling of obligation involved. A secondary relationship is a short-term relationship with a low degree of social interaction, they are more easily replaceable (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). When looking at hostels and their customers, hostels tend to have a more secondary relationship with its customers. This because hostels are normally used when on a holiday, normally travellers only stay for a couple of nights and hostels are in most cases in another country than the customers home country. This makes it very hard for individual owned hostels (IOH) to create a long term (primary) relationship as the chance of them returning to the same place is very small. Creating a primary customer relationship is easier for hostel chains (HC) like St Christopher’s Inn located in Europe. In General, this because if a customer had a good experience with a hostel from a hostel chain they are most likely to look for the same hostel when visiting other destinations as they already had a good experience and know what to expect.

I can take myself as an example; when I stayed at a IOH in Slovenia I didn’t really feel a connection with them even though I had a good experience staying there. This because I only stayed for 2 nights and all I needed was a nice and cheap place to stay. I guess for those kinds of customers creating a relationship is almost not doable. I felt different when staying at a hostel of a hostel chain called YHA hostels in Australia. I had a good experience with them the first time and when travelling through AU I always looked for/stayed at a YHA hostel, even though these are not the cheapest hostels. I guess this is also due to simplicity.

Figure 1, Payne, Peelen et al, Schijns

This being said; if we look at this pyramid we can place customers from IOH in the customer section whereas HC customers could climb up to become a client or even a supporter.

It’s now clear that for hostels in general it is hard to maintain a relationship with a customer. However, they can do a lot to create a meaningful experience when they are there, but this is a whole other story. You can read how this can be done in the blog ‘Offline and online co-creation within hostels’ written by Milou kok.


Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management . Pearson.

Figure 1, Payne,1996; Peelen et al, 1989; Schijns, 1998


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