A New Breed of Hostel is Emerging South of the Border
Gone are the days of flea palaces and shared bathrooms, Boutique Hostels and Flashpackers have hit the continent and are changing the way we travel. Given that backpacking has not fizzled away the marketing gurus have found a way of evolving the genre and have jumped on the back of the fad of the Boutique Hotel to create a new catch word – Boutique Hostel.
What is a Boutique Hostel?
To be blunt, a Boutique Hostel has all of the trappings of a normal hostel, communal kitchen, open spaces, dormitory rooms, some private rooms, a TV/DVD room and your usual assortment of travel junkies in havaiana flip flops (bought exclusively in Brazil), alpaca scarves (obviously, from the wholesaler in Bolivia) and adventure sports T shirt emblazoned with their feat of daring (New Zealand, Australia, Peru…take your pick).
One supposes that a Boutique Hostel is always glistening clean and has a designer finish in the bathrooms. Even the shared dormitories must cater to a different standard including such finery as orthopedic mattresses, beds longer than two meters and fewer souls all bundled into this shared room.
The Boutique Hostel must not turn its back on its key clientele, the flashpacker – a backpacker who is traveling for shorter amount of time, possibly during vacations from work and who has no financial concerns at all – and who does not wish to be lumped together with a crowd of nomadic hippies intent on sparing every penny and cleaning their toenails in the common areas.
The flashpacker is looking for the ambiance and atmosphere or camaraderie of a traditional hostel but wants the services to be a few grades higher. This person does not thinking of dropping an extra $10 to secure a nicer digs, wireless internet access complete with Skype connection and also wants to put a little distance between himself or herself and the traditional backpacker crowd. He or she does not want to go to the Hilton or another large chain – this is not to say that this is out of their reach – they want a real experience, they still want to hoof it off the beaten track, think little about buying an internal flight rather than suffering a 12 hour overnight bus.
Boutique Hostels in South America
Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil lead the way in this field being well visited and perhaps a different type of destination. In Buenos Aires or Bariloche one can find reasonable Boutique Hostels, equally so in Uruguay’s Punta de Diablo. Perhaps the northern Andean countries are trailing somewhat but there are signs that this is changing for in Bogota the owner of the famed Platypus has created his version of a Boutique Hostel just around the corner, the Casa Platypus.
Is the Boutique Hostel Here to Stay?
For the time-being even in these economically fraught times it appears that the Boutique Hostel is going to stick around. As budget travellers grow in age and wish to keep on travelling as they did in the college years but with a more disposable income, they are looking for the similar experience minus the bed bugs! And of course with the availability of flights to just about any location on earth, this means that the era of the flashpacker is set to continue as well.