How Not to Name Your Hostel

A disaster. There’s no other way to put it. If the way we named our hostel and designed our logo is any indication of how we will run our business, we’re completely screwed. What follows is one person's inside account of what transpired.

Quick background: We bought a building in late June. It was built 12 years ago to be a hostel, but sadly devolved into being long-term accommodation for work crews. It was called “The Inn on the Water”. We didn’t like the name. It brings to mind a crappy M. Night Shyamalan movie and not a friendly place to stay and meet people. We needed a new name, a logo, and a design to put on the big sign we have that faces right out onto the highway between Vancouver and Whistler. 

We had a plan.

Instead of doing the thinking ourselves, we asked our friends and the public share ideas for the name. Our intent was to pick the best of those and award the winner some prizes. Easy.

Our plan worked! We got hundreds of good ideas: play-on-words like “The Outdoor Inn” and “The Happen Inn”; climbing-based names like “The Base Camp” and “The Crash Pad”; and funny ideas like “The Dave Williams Centre for Rest So You Can Climb Good and Have Energy To Do Other Stuff Good Too” and “Highway 99 Problems But a Hostel Ain’t One”. We each picked our three favourites, added up the scores and the winner was…

The Squastel.

The Squastel. Short. Sort of clever. Unique. Nobody loved it, but we all liked it. With the name firmly decided upon we started working on designing the logo and sign. No turning back.

We turned back.

There were many problems with Squastel. People not familiar with Squamish didn’t understand what it meant; They didn’t get that it was a hostel.

Not good.

Others perceived it to be a play on the word “squaw” that some Native Americans find offensive.

Very bad.

And we realized that just putting Squastel on our sign would not be clear enough as to what we are advertising. If we instead put “Hostel” on the sign instead, those looking for Squastel would get confused. And Squastel Hostel sounds stupid. We didn’t want the thousands of people who see that sign to not know what it was, nor did we wish to confuse people looking for the place.

So we scratched “Squastel”.

We agreed to keep Squastel as a nickname, but to have a more practical official name. The cool kids could call the place the Squastel, but officially we’d be…

The Squamish Adventure Hostel.

Squamish Adventure Hostel is the hostel’s legal name. It causes no confusion. It won’t offend anybody. It gets the point across. Good enough. We got to work designing a logo and a sign.

Then we had a problem.

We spoke with many other hostel owners and experts and they unanimously told us to stay away from the word “Hostel”.  It’s tainted. People traveling in North America see “Hostel” and tend to think it’s a party place with only dorms for young kids. We’re not that type of hostel; we’re not a party place, we have all types of rooms, and we hope to welcome all ages.

Hostelling International led an effort to rehabilitate the word “Hostel” a while back. They failed. They recommended we consider other words like “Inn”, “Guesthouse”, or “Backpackers”. One place in BC even said they changed their name from “Hostel” to “Inn” and saw revenue increase by $20,000. That sealed it. Goodbye “Hostel”.

We changed our name again and decided on…

The Squamish Adventure Inn.

This name has the added bonus of being a play-on-words with “Venture in”. We want people to venture in! Perfect. With our name finally tuned to perfection we once again got to work on a logo and sign design.

Then we had a problem.

One partner refused to go with just the word “Inn”. It’s too fancy. People who saw “Squamish Adventure Inn” advertised on the sign or elsewhere wouldn’t infer that Squamish now had an affordable place to stay. They wouldn’t get that the place is not just a place to sleep, but also somewhere to meet fellow travelers and be introduced to the community and adventures of Squamish. Hostel HAD to be there.

Many back-and-forths later we compromised on…

The Squamish Adventure Inn & Hostel.

The name was becoming a sentence. Why not go all the way and try, “The Squastel: Squamish’s Adventure Inn, Hostel, Guesthouse, Backpackers and More”? At least it was something we wouldn’t kill each other over. Is was also clear(-er) on what we intend to be. We agreed to stick with the name for the sign and to use just “Squamish Adventure Inn” wherever it’s already obvious that we are a low-cost accommodation provider that encourages community and facilitates affordable activities (ahem… a hostel).

The design itself is a whole other story for another day. Let’s just say it almost destroyed a relationship, went through over a hundred iterations, got to the point where one partner gave up and refused to hear the words “Logo” or “Sign”, and ended up taking wasting more of our time than any other project we've done so far.  

What’s most important though is that we’re all happy with the final result.  Who really cares anyways? It’s just a name after all. Right…?

Looking For Hostel Name Ideas?

If you hope to avoid the disaster that was naming our hostel, be sure to check out this post, The Easy Way to Craft Winning Hotel Name Ideas.