And we are off, I love black cabs. They still feel exotic to me with their reverse opening doors and seats in a ‘U’ shape. However, the words ‘drinks reception’ still fill me with a certain amount of dread. Rooms filled with people I don’t know clutching lukewarm wine or beer all trying to look comfortable are hard work! I also quake at the words ‘networking opportunity’ Yikes. Maybe I need to take a class. Or maybe being organized enough to remember to bring some business cards would be a start. Oh well, someday we will get some business cards printed I guess!
Goodness this looks fancy. Some effort has clearly been extended here. We check the table seating board and we are at a front left table with some big big london hostels. I am superstitious about this exact location. We were sat at the same location at the NITB awards last spring and got 3rd. I had thought then that the seating arrangement was intentional. Turns out not, the people who got first in our marketing category were in the very back of the room. So I now read nothing into seating arrangements except that catering staff like their guests with dietary requirements like me seated somewhere easy to remember.
A bit of a welcome chat from the head of Hostel World. It set the pace for the night: brisk and to the point, lets get cracking with this thing. Quite refreshing for an awards ceremony actually. The photo I forgot to take is of Colin Doyle from RTE who presented the evening. He was lovely and casual and not at all cagey about the fact that it was killing him to be missing the first match of the 6 Nations rugby tournament, as we got a regular score update on the match between Wales and England. It was 26 England, 19 Wales by the way. We think this is why the lovely hostel from Cardiff was not here tonight, we wanted to meet you Riverside!
And we won for Northern Ireland! Yeah! Now let’s keep this in context, Northern Ireland is very small. But the reason this is a lovely award to win is that it is based on guest reviews of visitors who booked online and stayed in the last 12 months. It is the most authentic benchmark out there at the moment because unlike some other rating systems guests have to book and then be checked in at the property to get sent a link to review by email. It is less open to abuse than some systems where businesses can directly solicit reviews from happy guests. Anything can probably be abused, but the volume of business going through Web Reservations International software helps keep things pretty accurate. We find the system motivating because you also need a certain volume of reviews to qualify for the awards, so if a business has to be reviewed quite a lot of times to be in the running. When we first opened in 1997 every hostel had a visitor book where people would write comments about their stay. I have kept all our visitor books over the years and they are treasures for us. Now the visitors book is basically online and potential guests can read it before making a decision of where to stay. This is good too. We are grateful to all the people who helped us run the hostel in this last year, each of them have an impact on this as well! So a big thank you to Jean, Phyllis, Matt, Sorcha, and Jasper for representing and presenting Downhill Hostel so well!
We were stunned that HostelWorld put on a 4 course meal and an open bar for 400+ hostel owners. Very brave I must say and generous, thanks guys for a fun night. Here’s to another year in an industry that is always changing. And thank you thank you to all our guest this last year who have encouraged us and helped us improve Downhill all the time. Its always a work in progress, we are grateful for the feedback that helps us see what we can miss and lets us know what we are doing well. Cheers!