The Hostel Handbook

The Hostel Handbook Online was taken down on 1 May 2015.

The Hostel Handbook and the online version had a great run of 25 years. But its time had come.

I know the question will be "why not leave the online listings up? – just let them run". But it's not quite that easy. The updating process worked hand-in-hand with the print edition which stopped in 2012. Since then the online listings were not nearly as up-to-date as I would have liked. It requires some time and energy to maintain those when it's not a by-product of the print edition process.

The short answer is that it no longer worked and it was better to take it down rather than let it become a disreputable and moribund site.

The longer answer is that The Handbook was a casualty of the digital age. It was overwhelmed by the easy and "free" advertising provided by the booking engines. I made a commitment to not connect The Handbook to a booking service. I thought it was a bad idea. I guess I was wrong.

The booking engines will soon be out of business, victims of another set of digital phenomenon: Air BnB, Couch Surfing and the like. It gets even more "free" as the digital age progresses.

But as we know, nothing is free. Your private searches are harvested, "free". Your browsing is provided "free" by extended advertising. (We use to get 15 minutes of viewing time for a one minute ad. Now we get two minutes for 30 seconds of ads.)

I know it's touted as the new digital era and it will open up fantastic opportunities for everyone. I've come to believe it's not true. When Walmart took over the retail environment 40 years ago, the guy who owned the local dry goods store became a greeter or stock clerk at a very poor wage. And the profits were concentrated to the Walton Family and investors in Bentonville, Arkansas. It appears the digital era will continue the same trend, only accelerated. Local taxi companies will be history soon. It will "free" individuals to have their own business working for Lyft or Uber. The reality will be that the limited security provided by the taxi companies will disappear. The new drivers will work for half the rate and the profits will be concentrated to a few individuals in San Jose, California. What of Hostel World, Hostels.com, and Hostelbookers, owned by the private equity firm Hellman and Friedmam? It's the same story – more wealth concentrated in fewer hands.

The concentration of this wealth, in Bentonville, San Jose, New York City, etc is problematic. Our willingness to not only accept it, but to trumpet it as progress, a bright new future with more opportunity, is frightening.

On that note, The Hostel Handbook and The Hostel Handbook online, bid farewell. It was a great run and it allowed me the opportunity to meet some great people.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.

Jim Williams
"Former Editor"
The Hostel Handbook