GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Tom Damitio and Matt Knaack believe Grand Rapids needs a hostel to become a destination point for world travellers on a budget.
Hostels — hotel-like establishments that usually host young travellers who eschew room service, swimming pools and 24-hour desk service — are popular in large cities but hard to support in smaller cities.
That's why Damitio and Knaack say they are pursuing a non-profit business model that will seek donations and volunteers to get their "Stay Hostel" off the ground.
For now, the 2011 Grand Valley State University graduates are waiting for their registration as a non-profit organization to be completed. Then, they plan to start their fundraising activities and make pitches to foundations and other potential donors.
"I really have faith in this community to get this done," said Damitio. "We haven't had an issue with people who say having a hostel is a terrible idea."
High on their to-do list is finding a large enough house or building in a commercially zoned neighbourhood, preferably in the city's Mid-Town Neighborhood, or "someplace between Eastown and downtown."
Ideally, the 2,000-plus square-foot home would have room for 20 to 30 beds, they said. Some of the rooms would have congregate sleeping areas while other rooms would offer private or semi-private accommodations.
"The hostel will be a communal area where travellers can reserve a bed while being offered many amenities including washing machines, clean linens, bike rental, a kitchen, and a commons as well as information about Grand Rapids and West Michigan, to name a few things," the pair said in their website.
By charging $20 to $30 a night, Damitio and Knaack said they are unlikely to compete with the city's hotels or motels.
"The people who are going to stay in hotels aren't going to stay at a hostel," Damitio said. "People who stay at a hostel are looking for the city experience."
Instead, Damitio and Knaack say their biggest competition is likely to come from couchsurfing.org, the Internet-based travel service in which participants offer free accommodations to like-minded travellers.
Knaack said they are hoping to emulate Hostel Detroit, a two-year-old non-profit hostel based in Detroit's North Corktown Neighborhood.