1) What is the journey behind Bunkyard hostels and how did the name come about? Any challenges faced at first?
It was 5 friends who got together wanting to do something related to hospitality and that is how it all came together. We use up cycled and recycled furniture where the theme is junkyard with bunk beds and therefore the name Bunkyard hostels. The biggest challenge that we faced was finding a location for the hostel.
2) How has the hostel market changed over the years? Globally and in Sri Lanka?
Well in Sri Lanka I would say with no doubt that there has been an upward trend. The hostel trend has grown exponentially in the last 24 months. It’s mushroomed up all over the island and with people starting to simply add the word hostel to their business it throws the traveler off a little bit. The standards of hostels globally are very different to that available in Sri Lanka. However the tourist board has been very supportive and has started recognizing hostels which is very essential. Because we are catering to international travelers who come here with certain requirements and expectations we need to fulfill their needs if we are to move forward as an industry.
Yes the hostel sector is growing overseas, in Colombo and even out of Colombo. I think it’s a very good time to be in the industry.
3) In what ways have you’ll created a new style of hostel culture in Sri Lanka making it different from the rest?
It is our values which make us stand out the most. We invest a lot of time and energy in providing a very good experience for the guests as oppose to simply just a bed where most hostels are where someone comes with their bags sleep and then leave. This is mainly the reason why our tag line is more than just a bed and I am sure we successfully deliver it. As Colombo is a starting point for most traveler’s journeys we like to help them set up their entire trip of Sri Lanka.
I think it’s easy for anyone to replicate something which is tangible but what they can’t replicate is the intangible service that we provide. Everybody who works at this organization is given the exposure of every single area of business. In the course of work their individuality is maintained making them feel that they’ve done everything by themselves. Each and everyone of them has a specific role to play which gradually adds on to the unique service we provide. If you check the reviews in our website more or less every review has a mention of one of our staff members name adding that personal touch to it.
4) Tell us about the eco-friendly and sustainable policies that is incorporated at Bunkyard hostels.
The basic policy that we’ve been following is that plastic is completely banned in the hostel so we do not use any plastic bottles, containers or straws. We do water refills and people refill their water bottles for a nominal fee. But for instance if it is Rs.100 for a normal water bottle we charge Rs.300 for a plastic bottle thereby discouraging the non-usage of plastic. So in return we are also trying to minimize our contribution towards one of the biggest threats globally which is plastic pollution.
We reuse materials as much as possible, even our interior designs are all made from sustainable material. Recently we asked our guests if it is a necessity to provide them with a towel. Because we tend to see that most travelers have their own towel and why give them a towel when they already have one for them. What we found out was that even if they didn’t use our towel we were still sending it to wash which obviously adds on to more expenses coming from water and electricity consumption. We started practicing this and the response has been great additionally which means one less towel being unnecessarily washed.
5) From match screenings to acoustic sessions and action stations on the other hand, how do these things happen? How is the response?
Everything that has happened at Bunkyard is very organic. It brings a very personal feeling when we too enjoy match screenings, acoustic sessions that we also take pride in doing so. Now these events have become part and parcel of the experience you get here. These are held weekly or even perhaps every other day. We have action food stations in the night and had match screenings during FIFA world cup time.
So we try to keep things relatively active in the hostel because at the end of the day the reason why people come here is to meet and mingle with people, have a good time and take back some memories home.
6) Providing only accommodation facilities at first and now broadening your services by offering convenient transport facilities for the guests, how is the response to this?
We have been providing transport services from the start of our operations but that was given on a holistic round tour. Just recently we started shuttle services that takes people to Arugambay, bank of Arugambay and Kandy. The response has been great, everyone appreciates because they say it’s a good price for a comfortable safe journey. This is an in house service that we provide, it is a shuttle that goes from Bunkyard to the destination. Any outsiders can also book it using our website with no hassle.
7) How does Bunkyard hostels allow the guests to experience Sri Lanka in a unique manner?
It mostly has to do with the people who work here. A lot of travelers do little bit of a research before they do come but they tend to ask us a lot more questions at a personal level such as our recommendations, likes and dislikes for tours so we make sure that we can educate them on these facts. Because of that friendly approach and informality we also tell them what not to do as oppose to what to do. There are certain things that unfortunately don’t have ethical values that shouldn’t be patronized so we discourage people from going. We are very honest with our guests in terms of even the pricing strategy there isn’t anything hidden, we keep everything very open to them.
By doing that I think has helped make us unique. If one of our guests tell us that they would like to visit a certain place and if we do get information that it isn’t favorable for local tourism as a whole then we discourage people to go.
8) Any plans for expansion in providing an authentic Sri Lankan experience to your guests?
Now that our transport services are beginning to grow we are essentially looking at providing more Bunkyard trips around Sri Lanka.We are planning to go along with our guests and explore Sri Lanka as oppose to sending them on their own. We are trying to come up with planned tours where we can take them to completely fascinating and hidden places that aren’t found in guide books and websites but only the locals are aware of. I am sure we are doing our very best in providing them a personalized and unique experience which is one of a kind.