July 12, 2017
Cover art Erka Capili Inciong
Most millennials blow their money on an impulsive budget flight, all in the name of experience. Few would rather stay home and cash in on this trend.
One of the few is Steven Aguilar, who at 23 years old already owns two hostels in Cebu, thanks to his lack of wanderlust.
After flying in from Manila to take over the family business, Mr. Aguilar, a film graduate who admits to be “too lazy to travel,” saw the opportunity to “bring the world closer to [him].”
Art Erka Capili Inciong
His eponymous first venture, Steven’s Place Hostel, has 28 beds and three private bedrooms.
For his R&D (research and development in biz speak), he sampled the different hostels in Cebu City, comparing prices and then strategizing his own. “I also considered it as a ‘staycation’ to help me formulate my ideas,” he said.
After choosing the most “strategic” place (near a local eatery, fast food chain, laundromat), he pooled his savings for down payment for rent and renovations. For furniture, he lent his own and borrowed some pieces owned by his family. He tapped booking partners and brought social media channels to life.
And then he opened.
Locals and backpackers all the way from Europe, mostly Germany and France, began checking in the hostel. “Steven’s Place is small and everyone goes out to the common area,” he mused. “There, they meet locals, make friends and socialize. I really wanted to make it an intimate experience for them. I want to make them feel like they’re home,” he said.
After only a few months came the demand to build one more, which he named Naps x Adventures.
Though Steven’s Place and Naps x Adventures offer different themes, Mr. Aguilar highlighted the trademark of his hostels: intimate, cozy and homey.
When asked what he thought his competitive advantage was, he smirked and said, “We’re the cheapest in Cebu. Some people don’t want to go to expensive hotels anymore because they’re just going to be out the entire day.”
And while his lack of enthusiasm to travel may have rewarded him with a lucrative business, what he ultimately took away from this is something deeper and more profound.
“I had a social anxiety before and was kind of an introvert but I overcame that through talking to different people. Now, I also get inspired to travel the world, backpacker style because I’ve never done it.”
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