If there’s one thing the last year has taught us, it’s that we need community, and giving backpackers temporary communities and a sense of belonging is something hostels do so well. In 2020 priorities switched and hostels empty of travellers shifted their gaze and focused on supporting their local communities. These five hostels were selected by the HOSCARs’ judges, as truly extraordinary community and social impact hostels. Which hostel is your community-minded HOSCAR winner?
1. Envoy Hostel (Armenia)
Envoy Hostel’s ‘Superb’ rating shows how valuable it is to travellers journeying through Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. Like so many hostels, COVID had a big impact, but as if dealing with that wasn’t enough, war broke out on Armenia’s border with neighbouring Azerbaijan in September 2020. This compassionate and fast-acting team opened its doors to humans no longer safe in their homes. Housing around 40 refugees, mainly women and children, the team hosted fundraising events and reached out to their global connections, to ensure they could feed and clothe their guests. The team travelled to nearby villages and assessed impacted families’ needs, helped find employment, bought Christmas gifts and a sewing machine, enabling one new guest to earn an income making bed linen. The war has now ended, but due to bomb damage Envoy continues to shelter those who need it. The team say their global community of travellers gave them the support, warmth, and encouragement to keep going.
2. La Bicicleta Hostal (Nicaragua)
This cosy hostel in Managua packs a big dose of community spirit into its 5-room hostel. Facing a triple crisis in 2020, Nicaragua battled the ongoing violent socio-political unrest, COVID-19, and then Hurricane Etta, closely followed by Hurricane Lota. Local communities of the Tola region heavily rely on tourism which had evaporated and many homes were destroyed, with 3,300 families unable to access drinking water. La Bicicleta Hostal partnered with other local businesses to find a long-term fix, fundraising for water filters, a sustainable and scalable solution. They managed to buy 176 water filter units, giving families access to clean water. The team at La Bicicleta are thankful to travellers who’d stayed with them in the past for supporting the initiative and helping them to create a chain of solidarity.
3. Hostel da Villa (Brazil)
Hostel de Villa is a ten out of ten hostel, found in Ilhabela Brazil, where travellers stay in treehouses and teepees. Surrounded by rainforest, this hostel supports its local communities by teaching travellers all about Caiçara culture. Living off the land, planting and fishing are central to these small island communities’ ways of life. By teaching its guests all about their lifestyle, they encourage respect and real connection. The hostel also sponsors two promising young surfers, Kauê and Luan, enabling them to buy equipment and travel to events, which in turn inspires other local children to follow their dreams and one day travel the world.
4. The Wanderers Hostel (Jordan)
Already loved for its outside spaces, backpackers can usually be found enjoying this Amman-based hostel’s rooftop or relaxing in the garden hammocks. When the pandemic struck, The Wanderers’ team recognised the importance of community, outside spaces, sport, and play. They saw the mental health impact of COVID-19 and intervened to create ‘PLAY Jordan’, an NGO opening spaces for less affluent communities to enjoy sport safely. Creating a free outdoor park, with equipment and accessible facilities, the team worked to ensure equality was prioritised. This hostel has undoubtedly made their community’s lives a whole lot richer, during the pandemic and beyond.
5. JO&JOE Paris (France)
Jo&Joe Paris was a hostel destined to serve its community. When Paris City Council launched the city-wide project ‘Réinventer Paris’ with the aim of revitalising the city’s forgotten sites, Jo&Joe won a competition for their hostel site in the Gentilly neighbourhood. In collaboration with a local organisation, they offer free training courses for those far from employment, to learn how to cook, bake and other skills in the catering industry. Their open-house policy means locals can enjoy their facilities, alongside travellers, so that’s their restaurant, bar and 200m2 rooftop! As skateboarding is part of this hostel’s DNA, they’ve given ‘Paris Skate Culture’ a room and now shop with skateboards for guests to hire.
Have you cast your vote? Once you’re done, head back to explore more EXTRAORDINARY HOSCARs finalists, or have a read through their entries in these posts: