“Design is absolutely key…”

The Generator hostel model, where experience is everything – from the unique venues to the background music – is disrupting the hotel industry, as CEO Fredrik Korallus explains

For a man who spends so much of his life travelling that he claims not to have a daily routine, it’s good to know he stops short of “working every second of every day”. We caught up with Fredrik Korallus, CEO of Generator Hostels, to find out how the brand’s winning combination of hipster hospitality and innovation is set to disrupt the conventional hotel model.

Travel is an education “Although I’m Swedish-born, I’m really a globetrotting nomad. I’ve lived in nine countries spread over four continents, and have explored and experienced everywhere from Gran Canaria and the United States to Senegal, Brussels and beyond. It’s given me an education that you can’t get in books, and taught me so much about different cultures and norms, and the diversity of the planet. It has also stood me in good stead professionally.”

Be approachable “The brilliance of my team is everything. We don’t script our staff or overly train them and sometimes you can’t tell the difference between them and the customers in our hostels. I make sure I chat with the kitchen porters and the housekeepers, and I don’t walk around with a fancy job title on my badge – just my name. Anyone can come and ask me anything they like. I’m honest with my team and ask them to be honest with me.”

Know your brand “When I first joined Generator, I noticed that it was very much a localised brand and one of the things I wanted to do was standardise the messaging from country to country. I thought that we needed consistency in our signage and print material. So, I commissioned the designs. A few weeks later, I was sitting on a beach looking over all the samples and realised that it would be a fatal flaw – our brand would lose its identity and uniqueness. I cancelled the job. It cost us money, but it was so worth it.”

A sense of humour helps “In 2005, I was invited to deliver a speech to 500 travel bookers in Swedish, but when I got up there, I realised that I hadn’t spoken my mother tongue for so long that I didn’t know the correct way of using the language in a business scenario. I could get by informally, but not here. I got off the stage, went up to the organiser and said that I would have to do it in English. They all had a good laugh at my expense, but I took it in good spirit.”

The customer is king “When I first started out, I worked as a bellboy in Sweden and then a busboy in a restaurant in Bermuda. Those jobs gave me a real insight into running my business today. I learned how important it is to treat people properly and give them the best time you possibly can when they’re spending their money with you.”

Change perceptions “I’ve worked with big brands, such as Radisson and TGI Fridays, so many people were surprised when I took this new role on. They thought that hostels were noisy, grubby, places, but the opposite is true. Our model is disruptive to the hotel model and our systems are more adaptable. We sell beds, they sell rooms.”

Consider the aesthetics “For us, design is absolutely key. The furniture, the rooms, the bars, the cool music playing pretty much 24/7 – it’s all highly considered to appeal to our target market. It’s a crucial part of what makes us successful.”

Be aware of changing values “In Copenhagen, we have a great Generator that is extremely popular with all sorts of different travellers. The city is also home to Noma, one of the world’s best restaurants, and it’s interesting to note that we’ll have people spending €35 on a bed with us and then €1,000 on dinner at Noma. Why? People’s priorities have changed: they want to spend their money smarter.”

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: http://www.ink-live.com/emagazines/easyjet-inflight