Welcome to our newest member – CheapSleep Helsinki
Interview with Oliver Lewis – Owner CheapSleep Helsinki
Tell us your story. How did CheapSleep Helsinki get started?
I was attending the University of Helsinki studying Development Studies so starting a hostel seemed a logical career move! That’s the short story. The slightly longer story is that a friend was working the night shift at a local hostel and I would stop by and hang out. I slowly came to realize they were doing everything wrong and I could do it much better. And although perhaps a little arrogant, as I had zero experience in the hostel trade at that time, a lot of my starting assumptions turned out to be right. I found a business partner, a property, raised finance and opened in May 2012.
What makes CheapSleep Helsinki different from your competitors?
A number of things. We are a young, dynamic business that entered a market that was surprisingly old and stale. We made sure our IT and distribution gave us a real edge when we opened. We partner with local universities to offer internships and work placements for students studying hotel management. So, we have a young, enthusiastic and competent, professional team. From the customer perspective, there are unique service elements like everyone gets a free buffet breakfast. There’s also our Fun Ambassador programme, where staff hang out in the common rooms to arrange parties on Fridays, Saturdays and on days when the hostel is especially busy. We make sure we have all the basics done: great WiFi, well designed dorms, single contactless keys for all locks including the locker, real time public transport screens and a lot of other small but important details that add up to a well-run hostel. At almost 300 beds we are the largest hostel in Finland open year-round, so keeping the focus on guests and always trying to find ways to improve requires focus and dedication. I think we’ve built a team that has that.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
We had a unique situation where a competitor used our builder and some of our design team and decided to open an effectively identical hostel next door to us. They were much better funded, had mainly corporate backgrounds and we were very young (27 years old!) and scared. In the end we simply ran our hostel better, they lost a lot of money and we were able to buy them out and double our size. Life is funny that way.
Also, I think just being able to get open and raise finance was a huge achievement when you think about how bad the economic downturn was back in 2011, and that we had no assets or background in the industry.
What can we expect to see from CheapSleep Helsinki in the future?
We want to add more private rooms and improve our food and drink menus.
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
Probably fairly generic insights, I’m afraid to say. We see large increases in tourism from Asia, especially fed by Helsinki’s superb flight links to Asia. There is a move towards private rooms and more broadly, higher quality hostel experiences.
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with CheapSleep Helsinki?
Naturally, health and safety is treated very seriously in Finland, as I think it is in all the Nordic countries. Helsinki itself has very low crime and is overall a very safe place to visit.
We have clear policies and training for our staff on how to act if someone is injured or unwell. Our property meets the latest fire and building codes and is inspected regularly by state authorities.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
We really want to make contact with buyers and develop our groups business more. We have a large number of groups with many thousands of overnights per year already but from my perspective we have been too passive. Instead of waiting for them to come to us, we want to reach out to the market. Also, the WYSE team have been incredibly kind and helpful, and I really enjoy the events, so joining makes a lot of sense in this regard too.
Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? (WYSTC, STAY WYSE, WYSE Exchange Australia, WETM-IAC) If so, what was your experience with the event?
Aside from seeing the team at ITB, I attended the STAY WYSE Amsterdam and was very impressed by the quality of the event and the quality of the participants there. It’s simply the best hostel business event that I know of. Simultaneously, it was more relaxed and business-like. It felt efficient but personal. WYSE have pulled off quite a trick. I will be attending the STAY WYSE Miami event in Miami in November, and I hope I will meet a number of you there.
CheapSleep Helsinki is Finland’s largest hostel open year round. We offer beds for up to 280 guests. We have 25 private rooms made up of twins, triples, doubles and family rooms. We also offer capacity for about 220 dorm beds, in dorms ranging for 4 to 26 beds and everything in between.
We are located in Helsinki’s hip Vallila neighborhood, just a short tram ride from the central railway station, and we have superb public transport connections 24/7. We always include breakfast, WiFi and our reception is always open.
We started operations in May 2012 and our entire property was renovated in October 2016.
We really want to meet buyers to gain their business and are willing to be flexible and supportive to achieve this.
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Associate Member
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