Hostelling International respond

I have to give credit to any company that takes an issue and deals with it in a professional manner. So you may remember me complaining about Hostel International and their odd membership scheme. Well they responded, in fact they went out of their way to respond. I still think they are making it very complicated for backpackers and I hope they find a way to unify it a little. What is below is a direct quote from the mail I got from their customer department.

“As we are an International orgnaisation, we do face some challenges when it comes to membership. As a multi-cultural network of over 4000 hostels in 90 Countries, it is difficult to standardise one membership scheme. Each of our National Associations offer their own national membership(s), then we have the HI card membership which can be sold over the counter at participating hostels, or some hostels still offer the older stamp based card scheme, and then we have e-membership which can be purchased online along with your booking.

However, I apologies for the fact that you appear to have been misinformed when you purchased your first membership in Zadar, Croatia, as we have never had a membership scheme that offers free nights accommodation. We used to have an old loyalty scheme where you could earn free overnights called ‘free nights and more’, however this has not been running for several years.

The membership card you most likely purchased was the stamp based membership card, with space for 6 stamps. With each overnight you stayed, you should have earnt a stamp for your membeship card. Once all 6 stamps had been added to the card, this should have made the membership a full membership valid for 12 months from that date. This would have never entitled a free nights stay. Again, I apologies for this poor information being given. I will of course get in touch with the hostel and National Association in Croatia to make sure they fully understand the information about membership.”

Yes the representative is right here, the scheme I was given was the stamp collecting version. My major difficulty still lies in the fact that within the first paragraph they have mentioned at least three different membership schemes. It would make sense to push people through the e-membership but you cannot guarantee everybody has access to the internet so I can see why the plastic cards do exist. They have further confirmed that both e-mambership and the plastic cards are accepted by all HI hostels so that is a good thing.

“Communication is also an issue here, as it does seem overall across the network, more training and understanding is required so that the correct information is being provided at every hostel. We will do alll we can to improve the current system and ensure the correct information is being given.”

This is the tricky bit and I really feel that they want to make this better. It must be really confusing for them to contain this and even more for backpackers. Of course having the same information in all of their 4000 hostels is going to be a task but I am sure it is possible and I believe that the internet is the way to do it. I’m not sure what system they have but if each hostel had to sign in to a system they could announce changes here and have information available to download in a language the owner understands, some sort of internal wiki that is only accessible to hostels. Also if all hostels can order information that they can keep in the hostel you don’t have the problem of having old information in hostels. It’s also interesting that at all of the HI hostels I have stayed at not (currently three on this trip) none of them have offered me to join the membership program, or even offered me documentation on what benefits there are.

So thank you Hostel International for responding, it’s good to know that you are listening and actually taking an active role in what your customers are saying. If you ever need some sort of secret shopper I am more than willing to turn up to any hostel and check anything you like.