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European hostel chain, a&o Hostels, has recorded its most impressive half-year results in the company’s history, showing the unwavering demand for affordable accommodation among travellers. Founder and CEO Oliver Winter has hailed “an exceptionally strong start to the year”, with total bookings exceeding 100 million Euros, surpassing the previous year’s result by 47 percent. Occupancy rates of over 80 percent saw strong profits throughout May and June, and more than one million overnight stays in the first half of 2023 resulted in full occupancy at key properties in locations such as Berlin, Hamburg and Venice.
The a&o Founder and CEO Oliver Winter has lauded the company’s “consistent momentum from the start of the year”, driven primarily by the continued pent-up demand from group travellers and school classes for multi-bed rooms in the spring. Oliver, who founded the company in 2000, believes there is an increasing demand for budget-orientated accommodation from families and young people, as seen by the strong growth in sales for family rooms and dorms.
Early bookings are becoming increasingly popular
“We are seeing a clear early booking trend,” explains Oliver Winter. “While in 2022 almost 50 percent of summer guests booked last minute, less than 24 hours before arrival, this year that figure is down to around 30 percent”. In the family and group travel segments, the Berlin-based budget group was able to increase bookings once again compared to the previous year – including at properties such as a&o Weimar, which has established itself as a popular choice owing to its outdoor leisure options.
Winter largely attributes the steady growth of overnight guests to the company’s strong commitment to accelerating its sustainability credentials and strategies. “Guests actively demand sustainability, give positive feedback and make suggestions themselves”, he said. “Whether it’s event organisers, schools or guests at the reception desks, the response is gratifying, motivating and very helpful.”
The a&o guest share among those under the age of 30, excluding school groups, is already around 52 percent and a&o has registered a very high level of interest in sustainability issues, particularly among its young target group.
Further half-year figures at a glance
Over 4,000 calls a day to the reservation hotline
72 percent room occupancy (2022: 60 percent)
38 percent increase in visitors to the aohostels.com website in May/June
Average room occupancy around 80 percent in May and 85 percent in June
Summer occupancy of up to 90 percent expected
a&o invests 20 million euros in sustainable renovations
Generating around 3.73 kg of CO2 per overnight stay, a&o is already undercutting the competition by up to 75%. Despite this success, Oliver Winter believes there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure a&o are at the forefront of sustainability thought-leadership within the travel and hospitality sector. “It’s not enough for us yet. If we want to enable sustainable travel and thus be a forward-looking industry, we have to continue to change the way we think and act. Among other things, we still strive to reduce consumption and emissions even more drastically,” he said.
CO2 neutrality by 2025 is the next major milestone for Europe’s leading hostel chain, which currently operates 39 properties in 25 cities and nine countries. In the coming year, the company will invest up to 20 million euros in energy-related renovation measures alone. 90 percent of the a&o locations are conversions of existing properties, which forms a significant pillar of their sustainability strategy, “preservation instead of new construction is a key sustainability motto for us and thus also a growth strategy”, said Winter.
Advancement to Green Sign Level 4: the a&o team with Arben Maliqi (r., ESG Project Manager) Julian Reingraber (l., GreenSign Business Development Manager), and Amalia Martis (Assistant to the General Manager at a&o) following the success of the two properties in Copenhagen.
Reaching the destination in two minutes – digitisation for guest comfort
a&o is also making further progress in terms of digitisation. Since the beginning of August, guests at the a&o Munich Hackerbrücke have been able to enjoy the latest generation of self-check-in. The in-house development allows guests to check in quickly and conveniently with five steps in under two minutes. More properties are to be equipped with the new terminals as soon as possible. a&o has already been offering self-check-in machines since 2018.
Other digital offerings such as F&B ordering via app, mobile room keys and digital guest folders are also being expanded.
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