We were now lucky enough to chat with Goran, who runs the Chill Out Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia. You can read the interview below. Previous Hostel Interviews:
Travel-Hostel: First of all, tell us a bit about yourself, the staff, nationality, mix of cultures, what keeps it going etc.
Goran: My name is Goran Osredečki and along with my girlfriend (Nikolina Kuhar) we operate biggest hostel in Zagreb – just 1 minute from Zagreb’s main square [Chill Out Hostel]. We have around 20-25 people working thoughout the year, all young team of professionals in finance, sales & experience in traveling with large accent on innovations. Almost every member of our staff is from different parts of Croatia. We also get big support from our volunteers who come from all around the world. All of this makes a prefect culture mixture that is pushing the limits every day in form of fun, content & experience for our guests.
TH: How would you describe a regular day of your life – what you do, what problems you have… what’s it like being a hostel owner?
G: Very dynamic & intensive…You never now what to expect in the morning when you wake up and come to work. Large scale of different cultures sleeping together can be challenging from time to time.
TH: What about these different cultures? How are they like?
G: Englishman do know how to drink and make clowns of themselves, Dutchmen do know how to get along with everybody and have fun at the same time, Frenchmen want to improve everything, Germans feel like at home (bilingual staff – most of them speak German), & Americans who are cool all the time.
All kinds of different people visit us so the situations (problems) are very different. Someone has a problem with a hair dryer, other ones want a tanning salon, and the others couldn’t get any sleep due to roommates that are making noise in shared dorms. Most problems are fun because you can solve them easily. On the other hand every guest thinks how only his problem is the biggest one. But real problems are within the staff relations, honoring government laws and group demands which can be really a challenge to fulfill. Disadvantages are working hours that can spread throughout hole day, and day can become a week, and then you realize that you haven’t been on vacation for more than a year. Its ease to get lost in time if you have a job that you love. Group negotiations can also be a drag, but not always.
TH: What makes a hostel a hostel – different from a hotel or any other type of traditional accommodation? Is it the spirit/concept, or just because it’s cheaper?
G: Friendly atmosphere, open minded people ready to meet new people, services and tailored made content/services/games which bring people together along with exploring our city culture. I don’t think that cheap prices really have an influence on guests that come to a hostel. Most of them can afford a hotel, but they want to spend little money on accommodation in which they will be for a few hours. They want to spend their money on exploring and experiencing some other personal interest like food, museums, national parks, clothes, booze…Even Some of the hotel guests are coming to chillout so they can meet somebody new, relax and don’t have to bother about their appearance or opinion of others.
TH: What’s it like in Zagreb? Do people generally go to hostels or hotels?
G: In Zagreb & Croatia in general most of the people go to hotels because the hostel market is really young and not that developed – speaking in the form of marketing. The design of most hostels is on top level (higher than average if we look at most European capital cities). The number of hostels increases every year along with their share in total number of guests that visit Zagreb. Hopefully in the near future they will present a significant part of our tourism and will support some other values in life than material ones (money & luxury). I think people want attention, they want to share their stories, hear some other experiences and enjoy life on different level.
TH: Whenever you go to a new city, you always find out some things only after you get there – no matter how much you try to prepare yourself in advance. Could you tell us your best insider tips for anyone who comes and visits the city?
G: Be sure to take minimum of three days stay in Zagreb! I would definitely suggest visiting Altar of the Homeland on Medvednica hill/mountain, Jarun & Bundek lake (can take a swim or play outdoor sports), Maksimir Park & Zoo, Mirogoj Cemetery, museums (especially the museum of broken relationships), Hrelić market on Sunday and similar city attractions.
People In Zagreb and Croatia are not very punctual so don’t expect that the train, plane, bus or tram will arrive on time 😀 We have all 4 weather seasons and most of the land part is during winter and spring (festivals, open cultural & sport events). During spring and fall you can really enjoy the coast line with more than 1000 islands.
TH: Tell us about your extreme experiences – the people you meet, the best and worst experience. What is it that you learned, do you happen to have any advice for travelers or for other hostel managers based on your experiences?
G: We have met the most friendly people and the most vicious ones. Best experience are with the people you can help on the personal level (ingury solutions, trip planning with our partners and discounts on services that they can use in Croatia, people bringing presents to our staff because they make their day or the whole stay…). The angry ones do put a lot of pressure on the whole team and we try to make it right, but sometimes you lose a lot of energy doing that. Sometimes they ask for something that don’t really have a right for (sometinems even use blackmail – bad review – if we don’t please their demands) like free parking space, sometimes they just run and don’t pay, rarely they horrass other guests, not respect house rules and similar. But in general 99,9% of our guests are the ones we would be more than happy to welcome again.
TH: Wow, using bad reviews as blackmail… that’s new. Personal reviews seem to be so powerful nowadays; some of our other hostel friends told us that fake reviews are also a thing, have you had any experience with that?
G: In general we don’t have bad expeirances from reviews, but in I think that they are not a genuine fact of somebody’s stay. On our example you can see that in the same day you can find reviews from 70% to 100% and sometimes people that stayed in the same room (we have 37 of them) leave them in this spread. So this is only a individual point of view that can be influenced by numerous reasons not only depending on the hostel.
Our opinion is that people can leave a review but the percentage & rating calculation is totally unnecessary and misleading. Also the total number of reviews vary form hostel to hostel so I cannot understand the whole idea that wanted to be achieved through this method of communicating with the people that haven’t yet been in the target hostel or destination. On the other hand, pictures are the most important part of decision, and yet everybody has the most beautiful pictures of the hostel on the opening day. If sites that offer booking would not be so money oriented (pushing the hostels who pay the most in front places instead of quality), for me the best way would be visiting their clients and making recommendations or hostel descriptions based on published rules or conditions without the possibility of misleading photos or reviews or higher listed places. They would keep their power on the market but they would get more quality for their guests and influence the market standards of hostels that are listed on their sites.
TH: That’s a very interesting point of view, I agree with it myself. I dislike the general trend we see with today’s major hostel bookers. This is kind of the reason why we have started Travel Hostel – to give a different perspective, that’s not based on the financial aspect. But enough about that – what do you like to do on vacation and why?
Relax and try out new sports depending on the destination. Surfing, diving, free climbing, paragliding…Also I like to visit local national pars or other historic cultural sights. Best is when you have a local friend to give you some genuine suggestions or advices. In general I like to meet the people in a new destination and explore they way of living. I love to travel because numerous things happen on the trip that you wouldn’t have a chance to experience at home.
OK Goran, it’s been a great experience! Thank you so much for sharing these insights with us, we hope you have a terrific Summer and… see you soon! 🙂