Upgrades in quality at Budapest youth hostels Sameer Hamdan, a former Jordanian student of economics in Budapest, has seen the potential in operating youth hostels already a few years ago. After his university years, between 1992 and 1995, he worked through his summers as a hostel receptionist. Then he decided to establish his own company (Mellow Mood Kft), and hit the ground running, as a full-time job.
He first rented the Dózsa György Street Youth Hostel with his associates from the Municipality of Budapest, which became the first youth hostel in Budapest in 1997. The 140-bed accommodation was professionally managed and quickly spread. A few years later the rooms were completely renovated, but in 2002 they had to give back the building to its owner, the Municipality of Budapest. The house is planned to function as a homeless shelter.
Over the years, Mellow Mood has expanded its offer of accommodation with two youth hostels, Marco Polo and Mellow Mood Central Youth Hostel. The two hotels, which are still operating today, have 330 beds. Marco Polo was internationally certified in June this year by the International Youth Hostel Association (IYHF). In Europe there is only one certified youth hostel in Iceland. The summer leased university and college dormitories offer an additional 1,500 seats, primarily to young tourists. The company also moved to the “traditional” hotel industry: in 1999 Hotel Fortuna in Oradea was taken into operation. In 2000, they opened their own 45-room, three-star hotel, Hotel Baross at Keleti Railway Station, and in 2004 they rented the VII. district Star Hotel.
Starting this year, Mellow Mood also operates the 136-room Atlas Hotel on Népszínház Street, which is currently the largest capacity house in the chain. The Mellow Mood travel agency sells the Youth Hostel membership card, valid for 5,000 hotels in 60 countries, as well as the Euro 26 card, which offers many services at a discounted price in Europe, as a travel agency of the Hungarian Youth Hostel Association. The company’s current 1,300-bed permanent bed capacity will increase further in the fall as two additional hotels are being taken over.
Sixty out of eighty houses are black
Although the business has thrived over the years, Sameer Hamdan is not happy. In the meantime, there has been a significant strengthening of semi-legal competition, which does not compete with them on the same terms. The number of previously well-established online bookings has declined since the number of semi-official lodgings has increased.
According to hostelworld.com, there are currently 83 youth hostels operating in Budapest throughout the year, but only twenty of these are considered youth hostels. The other private homes where their owners cram as many bunk beds as they can and operate them as unregistered youth hostels without any permission.
The trick is simple: a guest speaking Hungarian will never have a room, so no person can check in to check their permissions. Mellow Mood staff have already made trial purchases at such black-run youth hostels, and have not been billed anywhere. Beyond the deterioration of the image of the country and the capital, it is a serious problem that these semi-legal accommodations do not comply with the fire protection regulations for commercial accommodation operators; According to Sameer Hamdan, it is only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs which will draw attention to a problem so far ignored by the authorities.
Many, from many sides
The occupancy rate of Mellow Mood accommodations increased by an average of 15 percent in the first seven months of 2005 compared to last year. The main sending country is Britain, which took over the lead from the US in 2004. In addition to the US, Germany, Australia, France and Denmark are among the largest sending countries. Since the Australians and New Zealanders do not need a visa, they have been coming in much larger numbers.
The application would be investigated
Máté Siklósi, deputy spokesman for the Consumer Protection Inspectorate (FVF), told our newspaper that last year 419 establishments were inspected, including 333 commercial establishments, and 226 units were found to be irregular. In the youth hostel category, fewer inquiries have been made, but in any case they have not been discovered. Siklósi added that the FVF’s announcement is investigating the alleged irregularity, with foreign-language test buyers helping them, but they have not yet been notified of black youth hostels.