When we opened the Hostel in 2011 we decided to take reservations both here on our website and with Hostel World as this would help the hostel generate business and get the name on the ‘World Wide Web’ which it did. The problem with reservations is we had to have policies to protect both the hostel and to protect those guests that wanted to make reservations, otherwise we would have guests making bookings then canceling at the last minute. This meant the hostel losing business and a potential guest losing out on staying with us when they had their heart on staying here.
In the last 17 months we have kept the hostel running at 90% occupancy using a booking system and with Granada being so close to the airport and a better option than staying in Managua many guests want somewhere for when they arrive in the country, this does not happen with Hostels/Hotels in Leon/Ometepe or San Juan but possibly with Corn Islands. So there is a market here in Granada for reservations and with us using Hostel World also it makes sense for us to do that.
With this in mind we need to remind the guest that we are only a small- medium size hostel so our policies are important in that we do not lose reservations, there is a small hotel in town with only 1 room so they have a weeks cancellation policy, there is another very popular and very large hostel in town with many dorm and private rooms, they do not take reservations at all.
Every business works a little different and they have to incorporate what they have and how well it works for both the customer and the business but it is has to work for both, having reservations without polices can mean a business losing money and shutting down or having policies with the guest not receiving all the informations is not fair on the guest.
After 15 months of being open Granada and Nicaragua have been very kind to Hostal El Momento bringing over 9000 guests and giving us 10 excellent months and 2 very good months in 2012. Trip Advisor and Hostel World also have been very beneficial with our guests writing over 90 reviews and 35 reviews respectively with over 90% of them being very positive. As we have done in the past we would not be where we are today without those guests and without the staff as we have many positive reviews about them also.With this in mind we have found that not always do those positive reviews bring positive results and with the headline to this post says I would like to explain what the guest is expected to find at Hostal El Momento.When we opened our goal which is still the same is to offer the guest more whilst keeping the price down which for any business can be difficult but with our own experience of travel and working in the hospitality industry we had a small advantage.We knew that comfort and safety were important so having firm mattresses, locally made furniture, security safes, cameras and having large tv’s have made the hostal very homely.Our problem for some new guests is that they expected more and had a picture in their minds of what to expect especially when some some guests write or tell others that we are more like a Boutique Hotel…..Wow, jacuzzi,swimming pool, hot water pressure showers, AC, silver plated cutlery. Well maybe exaggerating a little but some of our guests have left disappointed as they were expecting some of these things but with hostel prices.We can offer offer all of these things but of course not at the prices we already have otherwise we will not be in business for very long plus if we do offer these amenities and do change the prices then the type of clientele will change and we are not targeting this market. Many guests do not realize that Nicaragua has the highest electric bills in the region whilst still suffering from power cuts once every 1-3 months and water can be cut off 2-3 times a week with water pressure being a problem in the city also.This is not the guests problem but the hostels and hotels problem but we can only do so much from our side, offering AC would solve more than just one problem for us but it is just not feasible and the hotels that do have it have prices double to what we have.We will continue to focus on comfort as well as listening to what the guests say, we will add more to the guests room every year giving them character and extra comfort, we will add more equipment in the guest kitchen as well as offering more in the restaurant and bar and most important having staff that are here to help you and make you feel at home.Our Twitter feed and Facebook page as well as blog here helps explain to the new guest what Hostal El Momento offers before coming here, we are very honest with the guest if they do ask for AC or hot water and explain what to expect with us and in Granada. A very high percentage of our guests leave happy but for us we want all guests to leave feeling content so our next goal is to try and manage those expectations.
After being open for just over 1 year we have decided to start working with the San Simian Resort in Laguna de Apoyo. We are offering trips 3 days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when there are 3 or more people, The cost will be $6 for the transportation and $5 entrance fee, the bus will leave Hostal El Momento at 10am and return at 4pm.
Laguna de Apoyo is the cleanest lake in the country and is surprisingly warm for a lake, at San Simians you can kayak, swim or hang out in the lake in a large inner-tube. They have a beautiful restaurant, their menu we have printed at our hostel or you can simply hang out in their hammocks and enjoy the view.
They also have a website which gives other information on the hotel if you wish to return- www.sansimian.com.
So how long are you planning to spend in Granada, it may just may be possible that it will not be long enough for some and you may also end up returning, it will all depend on your research and where you end up staying. One of the reasons we opened up a hostel in the city was because we could see that the area has alot to offer and it is one of the places where many feel comfortable especially after coming from El Salvador, Honduras etc were travel can be a little more stressful. So where to visist is a question we obviously get asked many times, ‘The City itself is joy to walk around,especially for those that like Colonial cities and for those that enjoy photography with the brightly painted buildings and the old churches. You can view the city from the bell tower at Guadalope Church or visit the Isletas from between 1-3 hours,the costs depending on how many people in the boat, there is also a new tour in town which involves a boat,bus and walking tour.Out of town you can visit Mombacho either with a tour or head out on your own and get transport to the top once you get over there, there are a few different treks can you can do also depending on your experiance.Lago de Apoyo is day or a whole day visit worth doing as it is the cleanest lake in the country and surprisingly warm, you can take a transfer from either Monkey or Oasis hostels which leave in the morning and come back about 4pm.When Volcan de Masaya is not blowing off some steam then the park can visited again either independently or with a tour, the tour would include Masaya market which is also another day out if you are spending more time in Granada. Masaya has 2 markets the old and the new, one more touristy but it has plenty of things to offer but you may need to visit the post office after.Another great area is Catarina which also has a market and will show you how Nicas live in a smaller town, there is also fantastic views over looking Lago de Apoyo with Mombacho to the left and then in the distance Granada and Lake Nicaragua,bring a camera.We have many guests that go to either Ometepe or to San Juan Del Sur then return to us before heading out to another country like Honduras or Costa Rica as they would rather spend their last days with us than in Managua waiting for Ticabus or Transnica.So there it is and with Granada also offering swimming pools,good food and bars to party until you drop there is no reason for you not to want to spend extra time here and with the extra incentive of staying at Hostal El Momento with comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price !One extra note,Granada is not for everyone as some backpackers are looking for a different experience and at lower coasts, as with most cities around the world it does have beggars and as I have posted another blog mentioning that Granada hopes to get World Heritage Site in a few years which has led to the government being stricter here on taxes than other parts of the country. Hope the majority of you get to enjoy ‘Beautiful Granada’.
Having a hostel in Granada Nicaragua gives you the opportunity to meet plenty of interesting people and some of those that do really good work for the community and we all know that from Leon to San Juan Del Sur to Managua there is plenty of hard work and dedication that is needed from those at a grass roots level and from charities or volunteer groups.
One such group Educacion Plus de Nicaragua, a non profit organization is helping those most needed, the children and the future of the country. They currently help a school in Panatel,Granada not just with learning skills but also to help them fight malnutrition and learn life skills so they do not end up on the streets like so many others.
They are currently looking for donors and contributions and Monica who has been staying at Hostal El Momento has been working hard to find other donors locally and internationally and keeps me up to date on their progress.
Already they have received donations for clothes,school supplies and food as well as reconstructing the roof and walls of the school which has resulted in school attendance doubling.
You can visit their website at www.eduplusnicaragua.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and contributions can be made to either via paypal at email@example.com or via wepay.comasEducaciónPlusdeNicaragua. Even the smallest contributions will help and at Hostal El Momento you can contact Monica for contributions or she may even have volunteer work also.
IVA or the 15% Sales Tax of Nicaragua which many of you will see on your bills depending on where you are or which business you visit is something many travelers are not aware of until they come to the country.As one of the highest in the region it does add extra cost to the bills of some travelers who are passing through the country and had already set a daily budget !I have recently heard reports from other destinations within the country that IVA, permits and restaurant/ hotel bills are not enforced as much as they are in other location across the country.Here in Granada all permits and the bills with 15% IVA are not just needed but checked on by government officials from all departments and business owners need to be on top of their game. This got me thinking of article I had read and also a review we had received about how expensive everything is in Granada compared to everywhere else and this is probably due to the strict usage of the tax paid. How much more expensive Granada is compared to everywhere else probably depends on your budget, if you are traveling for many months then your budget is alot less than for those away from home for only 2 weeks.This lead me to believe that as Granada is a huge tourist destination, the government are continually looking to make more of the city and with there talk of it being a World Heritage Site the infrastructure needs to change for them to qualify. As when they changed Calzalda St and the recent paving of the roads it all costs money and this is were IVA plays its part.Granada is the jewel in the crown for government at this present moment in time and so when you do visit the city and find it is a little more expensive this could be the reason behind it. As Nicaragua becomes more popular then the likes of Leon and San Juan Del Sur may also see a change in how businesses are affected by IVA and permits etc as government will start to put more money into these areas. Hopefully this will benefit both local people and the tourist who sees better infrastructure as the next few years roll on.These are my views only and not from another source.
Reservations, should we make them or not ?
Being an avid traveler myself and usually with a backpack,I was used to turning up at cities and towns around the world with a guide book in hand and no reservation. Less than 1% of the time have I struggled to find somewhere to sleep for the night and if I did it was because of a festival or holiday…. until I came to Granada !
The city does have plenty of accommodation but then it also receives more tourists than it can handle at times so the questions you will be asking…..what is your budget ? What type of accommodation are you looking for and How long will you be staying ?
One thing I did notice was how may backpackers/travelers now have some type of device or laptop that can connect to the internet and how many are now using internet sites and reviews to make their choice of bed for the night. Lonely Planet for all its positives does have 1 big negative, their reviews are out of date no matter how new the guide book. Internet reviews with the likes of Hostel World and Trip Advisor are current and easly accessible, they give you more information and written by someone who actually stayed at the hotel/hostel unlike travel writers. I am not knocking travel writers its just that they cannot get around every bar,restaurant,art gallery,hotel and ice cream parlour and give an accurate assessment plus prices are usually incorrect by the time it goes to print.
What I have found is that most of the hostels in Granada do not take reservations,as can be the same in Ometepe, Leon etc which can be frustrating for the organised traveler. That has swung in our advantage and one of the reasons we are so full but of course we have to have some set of rules in place and also offer some advice and warnings for those that want to make a reservation with us and these you can read under our reservation section.
To clarify on this we do ask that you make your confirmation by email as its better for you the guest and for the hostel to have it writing, you can phone and make a reservation but we will ask you to confirm by email. The reason for this is we would like to know where you are coming from ? What time you think you will arrive ? How many in your party and How many nights ? We will hold the bed for upto 3 hours after the time you think you will arrive and this is due to the possibility of you being late or delayed, after this time the beds could be sold due to us thinking that you are a no-show.
For any cancellations we will ask also that you make them 24 hours before your check-in date or there will be a 20% cancellation fee if it is under that time, this gives us time to try and resell the beds or rooms again. If there are guests arriving without a reservation and we a turning them away but you do not turn up then its unfortunate for both that guest and the hostel.
For those that are already staying it creates another problem, they may have arrived on a reservation but there are many behind them who have done the same. We have many many guests who want to stay extra nights and so we ask them to book extra nights as soon as they know or we could be full especially around fiestas or holidays.
We do take Visa and MasterCard for any reservations or deposits for longer stays or you can always come in whilst in Granada and make a reservation with cash.
Email with any questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Its been a very successful two and quarter months since we opened on the 20th of December 2011 and we have to thank all those that have left comments on Trip Advisor and Hostel World plus those that have handed out our flyers in other countries like El Salvador,Honduras and Guatemala and throughout Nicaragua to places like Ometepe,Leon and San Juan Del Sur. A special thanks also to those that have been recommending us as they have traveled on their journeys,met friends along the way and passed on their experience at Hostal El Momento.Some of the stats we have already are remarkable and we are overjoyed that so many have come here and so we wanted to share with you some of the information we have accumulated so far. 1145 guests from 32 countries.Europe- Denmark,Belgium,Holland,England,Ireland,Spain,Portugal,Italy,Hungry,Norway,France,Germany,Switzerland.Asia- Japan,Mongolia,MalaysiaLatin America- Nicaragua,Costa Rica,Colombia,Argentina,Guatamala,Mexico,Chile,San Salvador,Guyana Americas- USA,CanadaCaribbean- Jamaica,Pacific-Australia,New ZealandMiddle East- IsraelThe first 2 full months we have been open for 2012 have brought us in 97.67% and 98.62% room occupancy respectively and guest occupancy at 65.11% and 85.45% respectively.With this information above and as we try to inform future guests with our twitter feed, that it is so important to try and book ahead as we do fill up quickly. If you know your dates then let us know and if you change your mind for the dates or want extra days then let us know ahead of time as soon as possible.Granada is somewhere people always spend more time than they expect and after some long or stressful journeys it is somewhere you can relax,take in the lakes nearby or just enjoy the bars and restaurants on Calzalda St.So a BIG THANK YOU AGAIN and for those who have not visited yet contact us as soon as possible so that we can accommodate you. Chris,Maria and the team.