These are some of the more memorable people Dave Loos, owner of Missoula’s Hutchins Hostel, has met over the past three years: A Barnum & Bailey Circus trombonist motorcycling across the country who practiced his trombone in the hostel. An Italian man who hopped a container ship across the Atlantic to continue his around-the-world motorcycle tour. A guy hitchhiking from the southern tip of South America to Alaska.
The Hutchins Hostel, on East Broadway, Missoula’s only hostel, has put up hundreds of travelers since it opened in November 2009, but not enough for Loos to make it a viable business. On Monday, Oct. 8, Loos regrettably closed the hostel’s doors.
Summers were great, says Loos, who also writes film reviews for the Independent. He says the overall occupancy rate for the hostel's two rooms of bunk beds was usually around 70 percent in July and August. But “the winter season just never materialized, unfortunately,” he says. “It’s not really a destination town in the winter, so that was disappointing.”
More than that, Loos found himself competing with websites like CouchSurfing.org and WarmShowers.org, both of which are basically free hospitality exchanges. “It speaks well of Missoula—that people offer up their places to people coming through,” Loos says. But the hostel, which charged $29 a night from May through October and $25 from November through April (with discounts for cyclists), couldn’t compete.
Loos says about 20 percent of his clients were international, from the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany and elsewhere. “They’re a lot of fun, and used to staying in hostels, and so I feel really terrible that they’re not going to have an option here.” Nor do they have many hostel options elsewhere in Montana. Loos believes only two remain, and both are near Glacier National Park.
When Hutchins opened, it had been 10 years since Missoula had a hostel. Loos hopes it won’t be another 10 before someone comes along and tries it again. “I think it can work if it’s a little larger, if they do it a little differently,” he says. “I think it’s a great resource for the city. It’d be nice to have one again.”