Meet new member Never@home, Cape Town South Africa
Described as one of the coolest hostels in Africa, never@home has ambitious plans to develop a design hostel brand across Southern Africa. We spoke to Gareth Davey, to learn how never@home came about and what the company has in store for the future.
Tell us your story. How did your business get started?
In December 2014, never@home opened its first hostel in Cape Town, South Africa. I had previously held management positions within leading hospitality brands such as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and was always aware of the potential in the youth accommodation market from my global travels.
Whilst managing Base Backpackers in Sydney Australia, I recognised the opportunity to create an upmarket hostel brand by combining the best practices and professional service of a hotel with the fun value-for-money environment of an international hostel. Since then I have joined forces with investor Andrew Nicholson and together we have established the largest and one of the coolest hostels in South Africa.
What are your unique selling points? What makes you different?
Never@home closes the gap between guest requirements and the service offering by providing a product that operates like a hotel, while offering value for money shared accommodation in a safe, fun and interactive environment like a hostel. We pride ourselves on:
- Excellent location
- Modern, robust and sustainable design
- Vibrant public area spaces
- Great food and beverage and entertainment facilities
- Cutting edge technology
- A variety of room types priced at different levels
- Excellent security
- Professional, yet fun management
Each never@home property will have a minimum of 150 beds (Cape Town has 230 beds) and will be designed and configured to reflect the local environment in which it operates.
For example, the Cape Town property has bespoke Street Art in its entrance and around the pool deck and bar area. A relatively large capacity creates operational efficiencies, provides critical mass for quality services and facilities, and allows for maximum market penetration.
What are some of your success stories?
Refurbishment of the previous hotel property over a three month period was intense and challenging but a lot of fun. The outcome was a property that really reflects the personality of the brand and also reflects the way that never@home would like travellers to experience Cape Town.
Exceeding the expectation of our guests and making them part of the never@home brand is a key objective of our crew. In terms of guest satisfaction never@home is constantly making advancements.
Since opening in November 2014, never@home has achieved a score of 8.4% on Booking.com, 87% on Hostelworld and 80% on TripAdvisor. Much work is still to be done, but our product and crew are developing a really positive vibe in the marketplace.
Our commitment to the community is also one of our great successes. never@home has been closely involved with a local school in a disadvantaged area since inception and will continue to expand its involvement in educating young people as the brand grows.
What are your future plans?
The objective of never@home management is to develop a design hostel brand in Southern Africa and then expand that brand into other global locations. Critical mass of properties will enable the never@home crew to take advantage of economies of scale, create operational synergies, attract and retain high potential employees and broaden market reach. It will also allow us to focus on providing a guest experience that is uniform, exciting and constantly evolving.
Which trends do you see in the youth travel sector?
- Increasing usage of hostels by young corporate travellers
- Growing demand for large hostels that can accommodate a diverse range of groups (sports team, universities, etc.)
- Increased focus on design
- Innovative, creative and practical use of modern technology (for example, property management systems that reflect our requirement and bed configuration) and also our customers (for example, super-fast internet that is reliable and free is now a pre-requisite)
What challenges do you see for the industry?
- Increasing expectations of hostel guests – expect hotel type services and facilities whilst paying hostel rates
- Hotels/hospitality companies have woken up to the opportunity offered by the youth travel market and looking to play in same space as hostels
- Government policy in relation to tourism in South Africa (visas, security, red tape etc.)
- Attracting and retaining high quality potential employees and convincing them of the benefits of a long term career within this sector
- Keeping contact with the customer in a constantly evolving online World, particularly in relation to the role played by TPIs within our business space
- Network with potential partners and suppliers
- Gain increased exposure in international markets
- Best practice insights from across the Globe
Any top tips for people starting out in the youth travel sector?
- Recruit people with the right attitude. Skills can be taught, attitude cannot
- Train, train and train again
- Get technology right from the outset and accept that the internet is all important both to the market and management of the business
- When choosing suppliers you are likely to get better quality service if you are big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond