Thursday, December 20, 2012
The Monterey Hostel counts some 10,000 overnight stays each of the last two years and is on track to break 11,000 this year, says Peter Kambas, president of the Central California Council of Hosteling International. Yet it still turns people away during summer and on weekends that coincide with popular events like races at Laguna Seca or the AT&T.
Things will be different this summer, when, if all goes according to plan, the new Monterey Bay Eco-Hostel in Fort Ord will open its doors to guests when all the Hawthorne Street beds are full.
Between June and September 2013, the Fort Ord hostel will accommodate overflow; by 2014 Kambas says it will hopefully be open full time.
“There’s probably 3,000 overnights for the Fort Ord hostel, just summer and weekend groups that we will get without any marketing,” says Kambas. “Then we hope to market to mountain bikers, kite boarders, and people who want to visit the national monument. We think we’ll get 5,000 to 6,000 overnights for the 42 beds in the first year alone.”
The new hostel, moving through the city of Seaside’s planning process, will incorporate green features including solar panels, wind turbines, a green roof, ultra-low flow water fixtures, drought-tolerant native plants, fog catchers and an organic garden.
Hosteling International, which owns the Monterey facility and will own the Fort Ord buildings, also hopes to achieve LEED Platinum certification.
The hostel is a long time in the making – the process started back in 1996, long before the nonprofit bought the Hawthorne spot and opened Christmas Day 2000. The final phase – the entire project consists of four buildings, more than 100 beds, parking, a travel store, coffee shop, kitchen and mini-conference center – won’t be complete until 2021. The current phase 2, the 42-bed facility, will cost about $925,000, of which $25,000 remains to be raised.
“We see the new hostel as an adventure destination,” Monterey Hostel Manager David Martinez says. “Right now people can only reserve a day or two. They often want to stay longer, but no way they can afford the $100-plus room rates [at hotels].”
The Monterey Hostel plans to offer a bicycle tour this summer; Martinez is trying to partner with a local rental shop and recruit naturalists. In addition to the hostel’s potluck dinners and barbecues, “we’re also trying to get a kayaking tour, and do more art receptions,” he says.
The Monterey Hostel Society, a nonprofit that supports the hostel, organizes the potluck travel programs. Volunteers like Judy Karas work in its garden and help raise funds for the facility.
“Travel is a wonderful thing and it should be affordable,” Karas says. “If you’re on your own, the experience is often not as rich as if you’re able to share your experiences,” she says.
In this aspect, she says, the communal nature of hosteling is key. “They get to know people from other cultures. When people interact, often hostilities disappear and it’s a great opportunity for more understanding.”