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The 6th annual Hostelworld.com hostel conference took place in Dublin at the end of January welcoming more than 400 hostel owners from around the world from Australia to Argentina. The conference this year focused on the rise of social and mobile marketing, and the roles they will play in the future of travel and other changes that are driving the travel industry. Delegates heard from travel experts and hostel owners on a wide range of subjects as well as from the most important people - the customers themselves.

The conference was opened by Feargal Mooney, CEO of Hostelworld.com, who revealed that the hostel market is again in rude health with more hostels showing an increase in the number of bookings in 2009 and Hostelworld.com themselves showing a 14% increase in hostel bookings. Particularly strong growth, reported Mooney, was shown in the UK, Netherlands, Sweden and further afield in Brazil, Argentina, China and Japan.

Futurist Patrick Dixon opened the expert presentations with a fascinating insight into the direction that the travel industry is going. The pressure on people’s time resulting in an increase in short breaks and last minute booking. The rest of the day focused on the highly topical subject of social media. Gail Power from facebook explained that the site now has over 350 million active users, with, interestingly, over 40s being the fastest growing demographic of users – a trend that Hostelworld.com is also noticing in their booking patterns. Finally Krishna De from BizGrowthNews stressed the importance of interacting with customers through social media.

Day 2 focused on mobile where delegates heard from experts from Eye for Travel, Beep Marketing and Netbiscuits.com on the opportunities and challenges that exist for the use of mobile in travel and how to utilise mobile marketing to deepen customer relationships.

The backpacker panel, on the afternoon of day 2, served to confirm the views of the experts. The backpackers stressed the importance of social media as a marketing tool with all five of the members being avid users of facebook which proved to be far and away the most used social networking site. Over half the panel owned a smartphone, highlighting the increased presence of them and their importance in influencing buyer behaviour on the small screen. In response to this increasing demand of booking accommodation ‘on the go’ Hostelworld.com launched their iPhone app in January of this year which has already proved extremely popular, peaking at number 2 in the free travel apps charts.

Hostelworld.com also took the opportunity to release some new research from budget travellers, in particular in relation to social and mobile. Highlights included:
- Older generation using hostels more, 13% of respondents over 45
- 47% of respondents use facebook
- 87% bring a mobile phone with them travelling
- 5% use a smartphone to book online
- Europe is top destination for 2010.