Going to unfamiliar places can be daunting. We spoke to a youth hostel manager, an explorer turned Airbnb host, a flight attendant and a tourism board manager to find out how they help you make the most of your trip
Manager, Wombats Youth Hostel Naschmarkt
The bland façade on the Rechte Wienzeile looks more like a U-Haul outlet than a hotel. In fact, it’s Wombats Youth Hostel Naschmarkt, one of the “in” places to stay for young people touring Central Europe. But once inside, it becomes clear: This is no-frills industrial chic for the college crowd, with giant filament light bulbs and shelves made of packing crates, welcoming and made to live in.
Manager Florian Kritzner is just as unassuming, a tall, dark-haired Upper Austrian in jeans and a polo shirt, barely distinguishable from the guests. Which is just what happened in his first meeting with co-founder Marcus Praschinger; it was only five hours later that he discovered he had just met his new boss.
It is this decidedly un-Austrian workplace that attracted Kritzner to Wombats and has kept him there for the last six years. Having traveled extensively, he had spent one and a half years in the U.S, where he was impressed by how easy it was to get a job even when he had no direct experience.
“They just said, ‘Let’s give it a try, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just move on to the next guy.’ That’s also the attitude the founders have here,” he said, “this American spirit, of ‘let’s see how you do as a manager.’ I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity in another field in Austria.”
This is, in fact, a founding tenet of Wombats: to give young people a chance to prove themselves. It’s also very customer driven: It is the young guests who are determining how the Wombat hostels (now six throughout Europe) should be run. Youth hostels in general now offer the same quality of service as many midlevel hotels, something Kritzner attributes to the rapidly evolving tastes of the younger generation.
“When I was young, I would stay in hostels and just be grateful for a clean bed. Now we even have young guests who expect their luggage to be brought to their rooms!” he laughed.
In his day; no one ever spent much time in any of the hostels either. Now there are guests who stay at Wombats for three days without ever leaving the premises. And in fact, the lounge was full of young people spread out on sofas perusing their laptops in the middle of a summer afternoon.
These days, Kritzner, 38, travels less; he’s happy to have a real home now. But he still comes to work every morning with a smile on his face.
“With such a wide range of people staying here, you never know who you might meet. We have a good time.” And with that, we had to clear the room for some guys starting a game of pool.
Traveling for young people is changing, they’re becoming more confident consumers, and they want to be entertained.