Poshtels are the hot new trend in the travel industry -- here's what they are

Freehand MiamiFaqcebook / Freehand MiamiA private room at the Freehand hostel in Miami.

The idea of staying at a hostel brings to mind cramped wire-frame bunk beds, shared bathrooms, and a general lack of amenities.

But a new kind of hostel is on the rise and it’s far from a no-frills backpacker haven.

It’s called a poshtel — a combination of posh and hostel — and it’s bringing together two concepts that most travellers wouldn’t likely use together: luxury and hostel.

Most poshtels offer guests the option of staying in shared rooms or private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Some even have penthouse suites.

Amenities range from free wi-fi to complimentary breakfast, as well as pools, restaurants and bars, gyms, and rooftops with a view.

The poshtel has been referred to by many as one of the defining travel trends of this year, partly because the accommodations are starting to spread from Europe to America.

Most recently, the Freehand just opened in Chicago, a sister hostel to the Freehand in Miami, which first opened in 2012.

Chicago’s Freehand fits right into the young, vibrant neighbourhood of River North where it’s located, an area full of trendy restaurants, bars, lounges, and clubs. The interior — designed in part by Roman and Williams — is full of mahogany mixed with Native American prints and totem poles, printed wallpaper, and tiled walls which give the hostel a retro but cosy feel. The rooms are more minimalistic but still feature rich colours.

Freehand ChicagoFacebook/Freehand ChicagoThe lobby in the Freehand in Chicago.

The Miami Freehand evokes a much more beachy vibe, but still feels just as welcoming. It also offers bocce ball courts, a tropical courtyard, an outdoor swimming pool, and ping pong tables. Both Freehand locations include the Broken Shaker bar — the Miami location’s was a James Beard Award semi-finalist and made it onto last year’s list of the World’s 50 Best Bars. The Chicago location has a coffee shop too (Cafe Integral).

Shared rooms at the Freehand in Chicago start at $US35 per night; at the Miami location they start at closer to $US30 per night. Private rooms are a good bit more expensive. In Miami a solo room starts at around $US125 per night, in Chicago they run closer to $US200 per night.

Broken ShakerFacebook/freehandmiamiThe Broken Shaker at the Freehand in Miami.

That’s part of the appeal of the poshtel; it’s a place where budget travellers go not only to sleep but also to experience the culture of the city they’re in. Like so many travel trends right now, poshtels are meant to be as local as possible, complete with artwork from local artists, and a design aesthetic that reflects their location.

While a poshtel is comparable to a small, independently-owned hotel, what separates the two is the fact that poshtels offer shared rooms, lower prices, and more add ons — think apparel and toiletries that guests can purchase and cafes and restaurants that are part of the hostel.

The trend originally started in Europe, where stylish but affordable poshtels have been popping up for years.

Generator is one of Europe’s better known poshtel brands, with hostel locations in Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamburg, London, Paris, Rome, and Venice.

A double room with an ensuite bathroom at the Generator in Venice.

The brand has plans to open six more locations in Europe in the next three years, in other popular tourist spots such as Amsterdam.

Lonely Planet recently named Generator’s Paris location one of the best poshtels in the world. No wonder, considering the hostel has a rooftop terrace overlooking Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur, an underground disco meant to look like one of the city’s Metro stations, a French restaurant, and an interior decorated with pieces from local flea markets.

Generator Hostel ParisGeneratorA shared room at the Generator in Paris.

At first glance it’s easy to think that poshtels would be geared specifically towards millennials travelling on a budget. But the numbers show otherwise. According to MediaPost, Generator reported that 15-20% of its guests are older than 30, while that percentage is 35-40% for European hostel chain Christopher Inns. Half of Hosteling International USA’s (a nonprofit that operates youth hostels) American members are over 25, and 10% are over 55.

Rates at the Generator in Paris are similar to rates at the Freehand. A shared room is close to $US38 per night; a double room is $US56.

And if you’re wondering how poshtels manage to make any money with such low rates, it’s because accommodations isn’t the only item they’re selling. The hostels rely not only on food and beverage sales from their bars and restaurants, but also on the sales of other merchandise, such as toiletries, apparel, and locks that guests can use to secure their belongings in shared rooms.

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