FOXTROTS

Fox – sly

Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 2006 January 10

Backpack to the future, again

I have been desperately searching for proof that I said it would be a winner. So far all I can find is some anaemic reference to it being a “good move”. 

‘It’ is Accor’s awkwardly-named X Base Backpackers (awkward because they did not buy any of my suggestions – Walk Inn, Budgis, or a mere Bagotel) is going better than Accor expected. XBBs are smart youth hostels…but cooler…don’t use ‘hostel’ in earshot of XBB people… 

Less than one year ago Accor was planning to add three in Australia to the three in New Zealand that were going through their initial refurbishment. 

Today the list (according to Travel Business Analyst, which is my night-time job) shows an extraordinary 25 locations – including four in Asia (Singapore and Thailand). That is faster growth than Accor’s other budget brand – Formule 1 – which has 15 in Australia, built up over a much-longer period. 

Such is my enthusiasm (and I haven’t cashed Accor’s cheque yet) that I think this is going to be even bigger. Even Paris head office will realise that there is a market for these type of properties, not just more in Asia Pacific but in Europe and North America as well. 

Accor is looking at two sites to open backpacker hostels in Paris. After Paris, it would probably search in London and then maybe Amsterdam, then Frankfurt. These would likely take the name used by a division of the Australian subsidiary. 

I think Accor’s priorities are wrong. It should open London first, because that is Europe’s backpacker capital, not its own headquarters, Paris. Even if the share of domestic business at XBB in Australia is only 15%, a lot of those guests when they venture overseas might stop not in the ‘backpacker migratory flow’ points of India and Thailand in Asia, and Los Angeles and some other US points, but in the European nesting point, London. 

I am of course privy to one of the reasons for the apparent success of XBB. It is Sanctuary.  

Graeme Warring, head of XBB, wanted some marketing trick to encourage custom. He decided that if XBB could become the favoured stopover place for young females then that would attract young males. (And, to avoid being accused of ageism etc, old males…oh, and old females, etc…) 

So he devised Sanctuary – which is a protected part of the main XBB hostel along with some additional amenities and services for females, such as full-length mirrors. I don’t know whether the concept has worked, but given that big expansion plan, I guess so.

I am sure I said this was going to be big…