I met Matt Keifer recently through social media. After our initial conversation I wanted to present a feature article here on Happy Bondi about Matt and his innovative idea to rate upscale hostels. He founded HostelGeeks while living in Barcelona, Spain. The most interesting aspect of HostelGeeks is that they do not give you every hostel. They do the leg work for you and make traveling a breeze. Matt’s idea is that by presenting travelers with the best hostels that meet specific criteria such as great design and eco-friendly you will be able to relax and spend your time enjoying your destination more without the concern of trying to find a great place to stay. Matt has developed some guidebooks for travelers – also with the best of the best listed so you will maximize your stay. The great thing is that he recommends some wonderful places you might not know about. Towards the end of the interview, Matt tells us about some of the places he likes to go in Barcelona, his own home town.
About Founder Matt Keifer
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I studied media and communications at university. I started working in the tourism and hostel industry afterwards, as traveling was always part of my life. Now, 5 years later, I am still in the industry working on independent projects.
What led you to focusing on upscale hostels?
In general the reputation about hostels is not very good, and upscale hostels suffer as a result. There is no such thing as a ratings standard for hostels apart from the standards for hotels, but there is a wide range of quality. This is why I decided to launch Hostelgeeks, to put together high-quality hostels based on transparent criteria and values: the 5 Star Hostels. Every 5 Star Hostel features a excellent design, has sustainable and eco-friendly installations, is unique, and sociable. Last but not least the staff has to be great as well. Spiri, the owner of the 5 Star ”Hostel Costel” http://hostelgeeks.com/5-star-hostel-timisoara-hostel-costel/ in Timisoara says: “The staff is the link between the tourists, the city and the hostel.Otherwise it’s pretty much just a goddamn good looking hostel without a soul” – we couldn’t agree more.
When did your interest in hostels and travel develop?
I always loved travelling, and the experience was always better when I was with more people – no matter if I traveled with them, or met them somewhere along the way. And Hostels are certainly a great spot to connect.
How would you describe HostelGeeks.com?
Hostelgeeks is the only website designed to award the most outstanding hostels based on 5 transparent criteria and values: 5 Star Hostels! Every hostel has to fit with the
1) sustainable and Eco-Friendly
2) Excellent design
4) Good Social Vibe
5) great staff
For each destination we only award one hostel. This means you just need to check your destination on Hostelgeeks and we show you the best hostel there. No need to spend a long time searching, wasting valuable time reading different opinions across the internet. Plus you are always guaranteed to stay not just at a well-designed hostel, but also at an eco-friendly and sustainable hostel. Here you always support the local economy just by choosing the right hostel.
Also, for many destinations we offer our popular Geeky Guides including 5 secret tips written by friends, for friends! We keep it simple: we show you 1 great restaurant, 1 unique café or bar off the beaten path, and 3 more unique tips e.g. a magical park (Barcelona), a museum-styled Jazz bar (Paris), cooking classes (Rotterdam), and much more. All Geeky Guides can be downloaded on hostelgeeks.com Last but not least, we love short anecdotes about traveling. We collect travel stories you can read in less than 1 minute. These stories are those kind of anecdotes you would share with your friends back home. Whether it is about the worst coffee you had in Palestine, an elephant attacking your car in Namibia, or the first reggae song you recorded in Jamaica, you can find all Short Travel Stories at http://hostelgeeks.-com/short-travel-stories/
How has your company evolved over time?
The feedback we are getting has been really great so far. People love it, hostels love it, and the media has recognized us. Since its launch back in March 2015 we have been able to build up a community of more than 40,000 users.
Have you been influenced by your travelers?
Constantly! The feedback by our travelers is highly important! We love to hear what people enjoy at Hostelgeeks, and even more important we like to hear what they are missing, or what they do not like at all. So far the feedback has been very positive, and I think one reason is the full transparency, and the values all 5 Star hostels embody! Hostelgeeks is an independent, non-commercial website so you cannot make the booking directly with us. However, we show you the cheapest way to make your confirmed booking.
Can you give us a little insight into your process for choosing hostels?
We contact hostels from our site when we think this specific hostel could meet all the criteria. Also, many hostels apply to become a 5 Star Hostel, and unfortunately we have had to decline many hostels as they do not fully meet our criteria. We compare the hostels in the destination in terms of quality, design, eco-friendly effort, facilities, and character. This process includes a lot of research, which is necessary to ensure that hostels are awarded 5 star status appropriately and to sustain a partnership with Hostelgeeks. Last but not least the personal relationship between Hostelgeeks and the hostel itself is very important to us.
What is most important to you about the hostels you feature?
I think if I had to pick one specific feature, I would say the hostel’s character has to fit with Hostelgeeks! Taking responsibility for the environment and supporting sustainability doesn’t happen by accident, hostels have to put extra effort into this. I think this part tells you the most about a place’s character.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Coffee, laptop, smartphone, and some calm music. My working day starts usually at 7:30am, and it depends on the day when I close the laptop again.
Which founders or businesses are you most inspired by at the moment?
Gary Vaynerchuck and Guy Kawasaki are both inspiring in different ways, especially Gary Vee’s focus on doing marketing like it is the year we’re in rather than running behind the trend.
Your favorite Barcelona neighborhood and why?
I have lived in Barcelona since I was 24, and I refer to it as my hometown. My favorite neighborhood of Barcelona is Gracia. It is the bohemian part of Barcelona, with narrow streets and many squares, art galleries, small cafés, and great restaurants. There is always something going on such as small concerts, performing street artists, theatre, you name it.
Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Barcelona?
I had dinner with a German television camera crew in La Luna, a cozy restaurant, on a hidden street. I had Vegetarian Quesadillas. By the way, La Luna is a great secret tip for Barcelona to get tapas and Mexican food.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
In summer time I love to go with friends to some hidden beaches north or south of Barcelona. This means getting up early, replying to emails, packing the car and hitting the road as early as possible. However, a typical Saturday morning now with Hostelgeeks involves me, a lot of coffee, and my computer.
Where do you go in Barcelona that inspires you?
Barcelona is home to many inspiring digital nomads, travel bloggers, and entrepreneurs. The city offers everything from beaches, mountains, surfing in the summer, skiing in the winter, delicious food, an active culture,…the list is endless. I think the best for me is that I can disconnect when needed and explore the beauty of Catalonia whenever I feel like it.
Barcelona’s best kept secret?
I love this question! As Barcelona is a popular tourist destination you need to know where to go. I set up a Geeky Guide Barcelona including 5 Secret Tips plus a short introduction to Barcelona. You can download my secret local tips for Barcelona right here at Hostelgeeks: http://hostelgeeks.com/5-local-tips-for-barcelona/ However, here is another secret recommendation for Barcelona: The bohemian café Granja Petitbo is one of my favorite cafés in Barcelona with ecological food, tons of vegetarian dishes, and no WIFI – yes, I said no wifi! I love to come here to write, so if you are in Barcelona, stop by and say hi!
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