This week’s blog is from Andrew Savage, the man who’s bringing Savannah its first hostel while the rest of us are saying “why didn’t I think of that?” Square 23 Hostel will undoubtedly become a common refrain when locals tell travelers where to stay in Savannah. Read on as Andrew shares his concept and the pleasant surprises he’s finding on his entrepreneurial journey. FYI – The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonders. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map…
A few months ago, I stopped in Nashville on my way back to Savannah. I was traveling solo and didn’t know anyone in town, so I rocked up to the Nashville Downtown Hostel around 8 that night and was warmly welcomed by the staff. By 8:30 I was jamming with a group of other travelers that I just met in the common area. Around 10 one of my new Aussie friends shouted, “Hey Andrew! Are you coming mate?” Near midnight I was listening to live music and line dancing at a honky-tonk on Broadway with 10 new friends from all around the world.
If you knew me well, this story would most certainly come as a surprise. For one, country music is not really my thing. Secondly—and more importantly—I don’t dance. Lastly, the Australian girls… okay, no, the Aussie’s were just fine. Yet it was due to the engaging atmosphere at the hostel that this entire scenario played out at all.
Think about the last time you were visiting a new city by yourself, or even with a friend. Your time in the hotel/airbnb/etc. was mostly spent in your room, and you probably didn’t get to know many other people. There’s nothing wrong with this, but compare it with the story above and tell me which you prefer (unless you just can’t stand Aussies).
I can afford to stay in a hotel when I travel, but the experiences I might have during my stay influence my decision more than price. A hostel provides such a beautiful opportunity to connect with other travelers, and, in general, you can measure an establishment not simply by the quality of the bed on which you sleep, but rather how the atmosphere it creates facilitates meeting new people.
As a natural introvert, I can firmly tell you that no place in the world offers an easier arena to meet people than the common area of a hostel. It’s one of the few places left in society where approaching a stranger and introducing yourself isn’t met with hesitation, confusion, or outright rejection, but with genuine interest.
My Nashville experience is not an exception—it’s the rule. After staying in 47 hostels and in working in two, I’ve seen all manner of places along the spectrum, from shack to villa, but one thing remains constant—time and time again I continue to meet amazing people.
While money may not be the driving factor for a stay, I do not want to discount the financial benefits of a hostel. More than that, it opens up a city to a new demographic of traveler—affordable lodging remains the quintessential reason Europe has become the backpacker’s mecca.
The average nightly hotel rate in Savannah sits at well over $100. A hostel can efficiently utilize space in a way that brings nightly rates down to a fraction of that cost, and this reduced price point makes the city more accessible to young, budget-minded travelers. Millennials, both international and domestic, are looking for ways to visit more places with less money.
According to data from the Phocuswright research group, hostel travelers in the US take over twice as many leisure trips annually compared to the average traveler. Currently, they can find this kind of affordable lodging in cities like Charleston and Asheville, but not in Savannah. A hostel will allow more people to experience the charm of the Hostess City.
Now don’t think that affordability equates to a compromise on quality. Square 23 is not the hostel of decades past, but rather a vibrant space with all of the amenities that a modern traveler requires.
Savannah currently sits on 22 beautiful squares that were designed as a place for people to gather, build community, and experience the city together. Square 23 Hostel has been designed as an extension of that atmosphere for its guests, a place where travelers can build community in an otherwise unfamiliar city.
It’s come as a pleasant surprise that the founding of the hostel has also been an exercise in building community. The connections and relationships that I have formed over the past year while developing this business have been nothing short of amazing. I have met countless people that have been willing to sit down, listen, and advise me throughout the process. Most of these individuals and groups didn’t know me and had nothing to gain by lending a hand. They genuinely care about nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in Savannah.
A year ago, I would have never guessed that I’d pitch this idea and get such valuable feedback at 1 Million Cups and I couldn’t foresee how fast and large my network would grow. I have jumped many hurdles that I couldn’t have guessed would even exist.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I think that idea applies particularly well to founding a new business. By tackling each problem one step at a time, and being open to the feedback from successful entrepreneurs around me, I can confidently say that Square 23 will soon open its doors to travelers from all around the world.
Anybody that is interested in learning more about or being a part of Square 23 is encouraged to contact me at Andrew@square23hostel.com!