Fabrika Hostel inspires travellers and locals in former sewing factory
Fabrika Hostel in Tbilisi, Georgia, opened in late 2016 with communal living, working, and socialising as its core mission. Today Fabrika is a neighbourhood gathering space for local artists and entrepreneurs, as well as young travellers and adventure seekers. Ana Svanidze, Fabrika Hostel’s Digital Marketing & Content Manager, affectionately refers to Fabrika as ‘a canvas for creativity.’
What Svanidze calls a canvas many people would have dubbed a crumbling eye-sore until recent years. Fabrika was developed in a dilapidated soviet-era garment factory that sits off Tbilisi’s centre. While tourists were discovering Tbilisi, visitors weren’t meandering across the Mtkvari River to spend money in the historic left bank neighbourhood. However, in the few years since Fabrika opened its doors, the local rejuvenation is palpable.
“We see Fabrika facilitating meaningful and responsible connections between guests, the locals and the city,” explained Svanidze. “There’s a new energy on the streets, residents are curious, they want to partake in the development as this neighborhood is transforming into a real community treasure and cultural hub.”
Creating space for conversation
This success story wasn’t stitched together overnight. Georgian developer Adjara Group, the parent company of Fabrika Hostel, is world renowned for trend-setting establishments in hospitality and lifestyle. The company first brought fresh perspective to this youthful new brand by collaborating with MUA (Multiverse Architecture), a dynamic and innovative team of architects based in Tbilisi.
One of the biggest challenges the team faced in making Fabrika Hostel what it is today was repurposing the massive former factory into an inspiring gathering place. While the space was perfect for fitting 234 dorm beds, it was not ideal for creating a warm and comfortable environment for guests to interact.
“Having such a huge space, that is also open for non-guests, to anyone coming from outside, did make it harder for the guests to find each other,” Svanidze said.
They tackled this problem by breaking up the large, main communal area into smaller sections for both lounging and working. The sterile industrial space is long gone. These days colourful chairs, vintage tables, and even hammocks form eclectic hubs of activity.
In addition to the main communal area, there is a Spark Room which Svanidze describes as a hangout specifically designed for travellers to socialize and exchange their travel plans.
The cosy room is stocked with books, board games, a huge map of Georgia, and ample seating. A guest kitchen and the hostel’s Cocktails & Dreams bar also provide opportunity for travellers to interact.
Making meeting meaningful and experiential
Meeting fellow guests isn’t the only aim for millennial and gen Z travellers. WYSE Travel Confederation’s recent New Horizons IV Survey of 57,000 young travellers worldwide found that more than half of respondents (51%) ‘lived like a local’ during their last trip. This is up from 28% of respondents in 2012.
The research also shows that travellers who undertake local activities are motivated to travel for the opportunity to interact with local people (64%) and experience everyday life in another country (64%). According to the 2018 New Horizons IV Report, 63% of these travellers want to support sustainable travel initiatives, services, or products.
Fabrika Hostel offers guests the chance to get to know locals authentically. The Fabrika courtyard is a multi-functional space where Georgian artists and entrepreneurs have residence in shops, studios, and cafes. Svandize describes the concept as a platform for passionate travelers, emerging young talents and artists. Additionally, she said it has contributed to local economic growth and sustainable development by spurring interest in local businesses, retailers and start-ups.
“We are helping to facilitate meaningful and responsible connections between the guests, the locals and the city. All in all, the vastness of Fabrika spaces, carefully designed, brings like-minded people together, both locals and travelers.“
Keeping travellers plugged in
The desire to live like a local is also strongly linked with the use of co-working spaces and digital nomadism (85%). These location-independent travellers are particularly drawn to professional development and creative activities. Digital nomads, and especially women who identify with this travel persona, participate in more activities than other types of travellers.
Fabrika bills itself as an ‘experience maker’ and if the daily events calendar is any indication, this self-proclamation is accurate. Fabrika Hostel hosts a diverse range of activities including workshops, live music, rooftop Yoga, movie screenings, walking tours, scooter tours, BBQ events, and cocktail hours. A new offering could pop up at any time, but Svandize said the most successful are those which promote wellness and culture.
Although Fabrika’s IRL (in real life) schedule is loaded, the hostel is also facilitating nearly as much interaction on social media.
“Knowing the nature of the modern day digital nomads we try to be as responsive and appealing online as we are offline,” explained Svanidze.
Guests, travellers, and other interested parties can join the Fabrika Hostel Facebook group to exchange travel information and arrange meet-ups. Fabrika also recently created a blogging platform which invites travellers to share their own travel stories and engage with others’ Georgian experiences.
Rethinking hostel trends
While today’s hostels are more experiential, diverse, hi-tech, and posher than ever before, the factors which create and sustain the ideal social space for travellers remain very much the same. A great hostel is much more than beds and wifi at a budget price. It is also more than design-trends and instagrammability.
A great hostel is, as Svandize described, a canvas for creativity, connectivity, and cultural exchange. This is what awaits travellers in the old sewing factory, in that once-forgotten neighbourhood, on the left bank of the Mtkvari River.
Fabrika Hostel photos courtesy of Fabrika Hostels
Does your hostel have a standout social space?
The 2018 Global Youth Travel Awards is now accepting applications in a new category, Best Social Space in a Hostel. Submit your hostel before the 20 August 2018 deadline. The winners will be announced during the 2018 World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in Edinburgh.