GROUP travel organisers throughout the world are being urged to book up early as demand for accommodation for large parties increases.
Members of the IGS (International Group Scheme for Hostelling International) which represents more than 200 hostels in 30 countries – all of which are suitable for large parties – say that it is unlikely organisers will be able to secure a booking if they leave requests to the last minute.
“Our members will always try to accommodate a group on the dates which have been requested at the hostel they have requested, but the reality is that there is only so much room in a hostel,” said Sam Newby-Ricci, Groups Sales and Marketing Manager for Hostelling International.
“Although in the majority of cases bookings are made well in advance of a departure date – especially for school groups – it is still not uncommon for large parties to request accommodation just two weeks before they want to arrive.”
Annual events always prompt a surge in bookings. For example at the Dublin hostel in Ireland, beds for St Patrick’s Day festivities were snapped up six months ago. In Edinburgh when the Fringe Festival is in town, you will be hard pushed to find hostel beds, four months in advance. And because of the logistics of trying to accommodate larger groups, it makes it doubly difficult to get what you want, unless you request your hostel well in advance.
“Our statistics have shown that 87%* of organisers who got in touch with us early enough, were provided with their first choice of hostel,” said Sam. “In all cases I would recommend that enquiries should be made as soon as your dates are known. Our hostels are flexible and will always endeavour to work with a group to ensure that they get exactly what they need.”
Catering for groups is always more difficult than hosting individual travellers. Private rooms for leaders and coach drivers are needed; males and females need to be placed into appropriate dorms; classrooms may be required; meal packages are often requested and activities might have to be organised. It is also important that there is no clash in group type. School groups would not be mixed in the same hostel as a group of friends celebrating a stag.
“With that said, we don’t want to put organisers off asking – even if it is at the last minute,” said Sam. “There is always a chance that hostels will be able to accept the booking, especially if it is in the low season. And alternatives might also be found if the preferred hostel is full. It is always worth making the request.”
The IGS sets a minimum standard for hostels accepted into the scheme. These have to be satisfied before they are promoted by Hostelling International. In 2012, the hostels in the scheme generated more than 12,000 enquiries from group travel organisers which represented more than 1 million bed nights.
For more information about HI Groups visit www.hihostels.com/groups
*Leadership Factor survey completed in Quarter 4 of 2012.