How a Delhi Hostel helped Stranded Foreigners during the Lockdown

Dhruvin Shah, CEO Datstop Hostels, tied up with 30 embassies and accommodated foreign nationals at his New Delhi-based hostel during the lockdown
Guests at Datstop Hostel during the lockdown
Guests at Datstop Hostel during the lockdown

It's been six months, since the country and the world went into lockdown mode, bringing all travel services to a halt. Hotels were also asked to close operations, leaving many international guests stranded, with nowhere to go.

On March 18, New Delhi's Datstop Hostel started receiving calls from foreigners, inquiring if they were open. We spoke with Datstop&rsquos CEO Dhruvin Shah to find out how he and his team responded to those calls.

How did Datstop manage to accommodate&nbspstranded students during the coronavirus-induced lockdown Please share the experience.

During the lockdown, most of the hostels and hotels were getting closed or they were not accepting foreigners. We decided to help them, but we didn't know the impact would be so huge. On March 18, we started getting calls from foreigners who wanted to check if were open. They were really relieved and happy to hear that we were.

Soon the news went viral, and everyone was sharing it online. Soon, we had a large inflow of guests who were being rejected accommodation elsewhere. Gradually, embassies tied up with us, and sent their citizens here. Overall, the experience was very good. Our staff worked round the clock for a month to make sure all our guests had a safe experience staying with us.

How are you ensuring a safe stay for guests, given the fact that hostels are primarily shared spaces
We do continuous sanitisation and cleaning of the premises. Every morning, there were temperature checks. Our guests were given ayurvedic medicines and kadha (a desi concoction useful for boosting immunity) during breakfast.

We placed sanitisers in every corner of the hostel. We also hired a doctor, in case anyone wanted a consult. 

We heard about your Pink Lane initiative. Please tell us more.
Pink Lane is a unique concept floor created for women backpackers&nbspand solo women travellers, who would prefer to stay with fellow female travelers. It has an attached terrace  too. In a place like Delhi, ensuring that women feel secure is important to us. Our guests love it. They have an amazing experience bonding with other fellow travellers without feeling any kind of discomfort.

What facilities can one expect during their stay at Datstop 
We have an in-house restaurant that serves an array of cuisines. Most of our guests are fitness conscious and we have basic gym equipment for them. We also have a large home theatre room where guests can bond over movies, web series and live matches. Then there are indoor games like table tennis and snooker. We regularly sanitise the vehicles we use for drops and pick-ups to and from airport and railway station.

How are brands reimagining hospitality in the post-COVID world
Hostels are going through a tough time, especially those in Delhi, since people are not travelling to the capital. And those who do travel are usually not aware about standalone hostels like ours. Many hostels are struggling to meet their expenses, some have shut down. In Vasant Kunj, where our hostel is located, two hostels have shut shop.

In the pre-COVID world, hostel owners would mostly target and focus on foreign travellers, but now everyone is focusing on the domestic audience. The future looks promising as I think right now, more people will search for cheaper options for accommodation needs. The rest of 2020 would still be a matter of survival for some hostels. At present, they will have to reduce their cost of operations by hiring less people and keeping a regular and stringent check on their expenses. 

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