Hostel World VS Hostel Bookers – Part 2

I wrote an article many moons ago on my LivinginaHostel.com site comparing the two top dogs when it comes to hostel booking websites – HostelWorld.com and HostelBookers.com. The online world moves at a super fast pace, and seeing as these are both online brands I think it’s about time I did a 2012 update of that post! Both have implemented changes of some sort since my last post, and so I feel it’s important for anyone searching for hostels to know where they can find the best service and value for money right now when booking a hostel online. Has one site improved over the other in recent months? Who can give most value to their customer? Which site will give you the best deal and/or the best service?

There’s a reason these two companies are the most popular hostel booking websites in the world, but seeing as they are competing for us to spend our money on their site – who can give us the best deal right now? Why should we choose to spend our money on one site over the other when many of the same hostels are listed on each?

(Please note: Neither company has asked me to write this post, nor have they paid me any money for this post. I’m writing this as an independent blogger, giving my honest thoughts on two hostel booking websites that I use myself regularly.)

Money Matters

Most people who book a hostel are doing so because hotels are too expensive. When you’re a backpacker travelling for longer than a typical two-week vacation (which most backpackers do), staying in hostels can make your travel funds stretch much further. This is usually the first reason why anyone decides to book a hostel.

In past years I used to find a lot of hostels on HostelBookers were slightly cheaper than the price advertised on HostelWorld. By this I mean the exact same hostel, booked for the exact same day, in the exact same room? It may only have been for a number of pennies, but every penny adds up if you’re travelling for a long time, such as on a gap year trip for instance.

In recent months I still do find that HostelBookers has some of the same hostels advertised at a marginally lesser price than HostelWorld. This often results in me booking with HostelBookers after checking the price on both sites.

A lot of this is not in HostelWorld’s hands. It has to do with the individual hostel and how much they decide to sell each hostel for on each website. They may think the demographic on one site needs a lower price to produce sales, but the same rule doesn’t apply to every hostel. Sometimes you do find it cheaper on HostelWorld. For that reason you really have to check both sites out every time to ensure you have the cheapest option on every occasion, if the cheapest price is simply what you are looking for.

HostelWorld also still charge a booking fee (as I mentioned in my previous article) on top of the 10% they retain from the overall price of your hostel booking. HostelBookers don’t charge any booking fee, but simple retain the 10%. This ultimately makes them cheaper even taking the differentiation in prices sometimes listed, as mentioned above.

One thing I should add is that HostelWorld do regularly offer ‘Gold Cards’ which waive this small booking fee, but if the booking fee still remains then it continues to make HostelBookers much more competitive for price than HostelWorld when it comes to someone on a typical backpackers budget. HostelBookers therefore win on this key aspect – they offer a cheaper price on most occasions.

I think if HostelWorld could get rid of these booking fees it would make them much more competitive, but I suppose if they’re turning a profit, like any business – why would they get rid of it?

Advertising & Brand Message

HostelBookers advertise regularly as being “8.7% cheaper than HostelWorld”. As I mentioned above, they do appear to be cheaper in most cases in my own personal experiences booking, but it’s not always the case.

If I see a statement saying “HostelBookers are 8.7% cheaper than HostelWorld” then I expect that every time I book a hostel the price will be 8.7% cheaper than it would have been had I have booked on HostelWorld. This is simply not the case.

If you read further into the independent study by Reed Business Insight which produced these figures, you’ll find that the figure comes from 784 properties in 77 destinations, and that they found in these destinations HostelBookers was 8.7% cheaper in 95% of cases. 784 properties is a lot in relative terms, and I have no reason to doubt the proceedings of this research. What I would say however is that HostelWorld has over 27,000 properties listed in 180 countries. That leaves at least 26,216 properties not included in this survey, and therefore unaccounted for. The HostelBookers quote of 8.7% is therefore an average, and an average based on a very small percentage of hostels compared to what’s available on each site. It also doesn’t take into consideration HostelWorld have more hostels listed than HostelBookers and therefore have some prices that can not be comparable, i.e. there could be a cheaper hostel listed for a destination that HostelBookers do not have available on their site, therefore making HostelWorld cheaper in this instance.

HostelBookers don’t try to hide that the Reed Business Insight survey was only based on a tiny amount of hostels listed, but you have to click onto the advert first to find this out. By just viewing the message on the ad you will not know this. To me, in my personal opinion as a customer of their website, I think the statement by HostelBookers in their advertising comes across as a little bit misleading for this reason – although I’m sure that was not the intent. If it’s an average then the word ‘average’ needs to be as prominent as much as the 8.7% figure quoted is. It also needs be highlighted more prominently that only 2.9% of hostels available on HostelWorld were actually included to create the findings.  To put that more clearly – 97.1% of hostels may well not be 8.7% cheaper on average. In fact, there is nothing to suggest HostelBookers may be more expensive over many of the remaining 97.1%. There is no research to prove otherwise, or for or against that remaining 97.1%. This needs to be highlighted in the initial advertisement banner, otherwise some people may go away thinking that when they book on HostelBookers they will always receive a price around 8.7% cheaper, and that perception would not be true.

Service & Social Media Integration

I’ve honestly never had a problem with a booking in regards to either site – and I’ve been using them both for years. The booking process for both is fairly straight forward. They are just helping you find and book a hostel. What I have noticed though is both are active on social media profiles at answering customers questions – which is great!

Where I consider HostelWorld to nudge above the board on service however is in the social media integration and added extras the HostelWorld website offers it’s customers. Every time you book a hostel on HostelWorld it seems there is a city guide, video guide, podcast, and other useful info to do with your hostel and where it’s situated that is above and beyond what you would expect from a hostel booking site. I think this is where HostelWorld remain ahead of the game, and a lot of credit has to go to Colm Hanratty who runs that side of things at HostelWorld for the stellar quantity and quality of the free content made available to users of the website. You actually come on to HostelWorld sometimes just to use these resources.

HostelBookers do offer guides and some other similar material on their website, but they tend to be very short and nowhere near as in depth as what is on offer at HostelWorld, nor does it vary as much in terms of the mediums available to process this guide material. HostelWorld therefore win on social media integration and service above and beyond the call of duty.

Reviews & Ratings Section

The hostel rating and reviews section is probably the most important part to look at (especially the overall ratings) when picking a hostel. I therefore wanted to highlight it in its own dedicated section.

One thing I really like about the HostelBookers website is that the reviews section is very easy to read. Each person puts what they liked and what they didn’t like about a hostel in a different section. You can easily see the positives and negatives for each review, and by splitting it up it makes it easier to read each section as you skim down – unlike the bigger block paragraphs on the HostelWorld reviews section where it’s not always easy to see the positives and negatives so easily on a quick view.

The other thing that I dislike about HostelWorld reviews is that they appear to be deleted after 6 months. This is a real pain in the bum! A lot of hostels are seasonal. A lot of them close in the winter or off-season. This means come the beginning of summer there are no reviews left for that hostel, and someone trying to determine whether that hostel is good or not is unable to make an educated decision. This must result in some people picking ‘bad’ hostels, or other people (like me) opting to use another booking site or choosing another hostel when only a small number of reviews are available. If there’s not enough reviews you can’t trust the overall ratings. HostelWorld need to change this. It will help people choose better hostels and book with more confidence and peace of mind. That said, I do like the ‘HostelWorld Recommends’ elelement now added to selected hostels on HostelWorld, but HostelBookers have a much easier to read and substantial reviews & ratings system.

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I think both HostelWorld and HostelBookers offer a good service to their customers. They make it easy to find a hostel just about anywhere in the world – at an affordable price. That said, both sites could make improvements.

HostelWorld in my opinion really need to change the longevity of their reviews and how long they stay live on the site, as well as making them more easy for the eye to read fast as people to skim down. Nobody wants to spend an age reading reviews, they just want a general consensus of what the hostel is like – fast! HostelWorld also still charge a booking fee. For me, this is an outdated idea and should be quashed if they want to remain competitive on price in the long term. More and more I am using HostelBookers for the cheapest price, and I see a trend in others too.

HostelBookers need to be more engaged with their audience in terms of the content they offer on their site, and communicate what message they’re trying to put across better. Naming your competitors in your ads never comes across well in my opinion. I also think part of the reason HostelWorld remain on top where traffic and global reach are concerned is in part to do with their engagement levels and social outreach.

I guess at the end of the day though you’ve got to check both sites. To be sure of the cheapest price for every hostel you need to try both.

Do you agree with this evaluation of both companies? What are your experiences of HostelWorld and HostelBookers? Tell me in the comments.

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7 Responses to “Hostel World VS Hostel Bookers – Part 2”

  1. Emma says:

    Price wins! Has to be Hostel Bookers.

  2. Laura says:

    Hostel World has the best online content.

  3. Lucy says:

    HostelBookers definitely has the best blog. I prefer the current information on there to the PDF hostelworld guides.

  4. I used to use Hostelworld but have now pretty much switched to Hostelbookers, with price being the reason. I do tend to look at both though because sometimes they have unique hostels that only appear on one or the other.

  5. Hostelbookers for me! I used them for a Riad in Morocco and haven’t looked back since!

    Duncan

  6. Tracey says:

    HostelBookers doesn’t have prices in $NZ… so HostelWorld it is!

  7. Deborah Nelson says:

    I booked a stay at Waikiki Backpackers Hostel online. I paid a $47.80 deposit. When I went to check in, the very nasty, insulting manager would not allow me to check in or stay. I asked for my money back, he said I had to get it from HostelWorld. Meantime, there I am with no place to sleep. I have sent emails and letters and pleaded for my money back, and have gotten no results. I needed that money to eat with!! I will never, ever book through them again.

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