Boutique Hostels in Canada lack numbers but make it up with design

Introducing a new breed of young, elite, travellers: the flashpackers.

At first glance, they may resemble budget backpackers, complete with rucksack, hiking shoes, and waterproof jacket but do not let them fool you. Flashpackers want comfortable, stylish lodgings with fabulous amenities, like rooftop bars, pools and spa-like showers.

30516_391739691129_4033692_n-500a00a33d249Sure, they can afford a hotel stay, but many prefer the youthful roar of hostelling and the opportunity to socialize with a diverse group of world explorers. After all, sharing a toilet with strangers will do that.

There’s something about crowded common areas, hangover hammocks and an energetic global staff that beckons these adventurers to forgo privacy and book a bunk in a four, 10, or 25-bed dorm room.

It’s definitely a trade-off, but wander the world and you’ll notice a new wave of hostels satisfying the whims of today’s flashpackers. Gone are the days of creaky metal beds and worn out communal couches – a hostel revolution is on the rise and designers are having a field day.

Call it what you want — boutique, designer, upscale — but there’s a growing global trend of posh hostels with affordable prices to stash your backpack. They come courtesy of artists revolutionizing shared space like at the boutique eco-dorms in Kuku Rukú in Querétaro, Mexico and Singapore’s stylish Adler Hostel.

Canada, for its part, is slowly catching up. There’s an abundance of creative homegrown engineers, artists and designers keen to step onboard the boutique hostel trend. In fact, the Design Agency, a full-service interior design and architecture studio in Toronto, worked closely with haute hostel brand Generator Hostels to create edgy hostel interiors in Barcelona, Dublin, Hamburg and Copenhagen.

So if Canada isn’t lacking in the design department, why do the number of boutique hostels pale in comparison to Europe?

“Canada is more risk averse and low key. There’s nothing too flamboyant. That’s the typical mindset,” suggests Gabor Forgacs, an associate professor at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Then there’s the cash factor.

Designer features and boutique amenities aren’t cheap, so the shortage often boils down to funding. “Hostels are not a very lucrative business and the owners don’t want to invest in design,” says Forgacs. “Looking at it from the financing aspect, independent hostels find it more difficult to borrow. Banks want to work with a known set of variables. If your hotel has a brand, it’s easier to borrow money.”

It’s a theory that applies to for two of Canada’s few boutique hostels. Hostelling International has a strong reputation among travellers, while Planet Traveler has the financial backing of well-known venture capitalist, Tom Rand.