ONE REBEL’S CAUSE: JOSH WYATT, GENERATOR HOSTELS

“You have to trick yourself sometimes into staying positive and believing in your vision, when the contrary view is held by everyone else. In a way, it’s almost like going against your own internal sense of doubt too — break your own rules, be decisive, and do not waver in your vision.” So far, the iconoclast has proven his doubters wrong. Generator are at the forefront of blurring the lines between hostel and hotel — mutating accommodation conventions beyond recognition. Josh Wyatt is the rebel with a cause.

Generator Barcelona
Generator Barcelona

Ask ten people to sketch out the backstory for a rebel. How many will place their protagonist at Harvard Business School?  Or a ‘senior advisor and partner’ at a private equity real estate fund? Not many. Wyatt is an atypical rebel, yes. But don’t be fooled into thinking the fire that stokes Generator is a purely cynical smash-and-grab on the millennial market, though; experience-led travel is at the heart of this project.

“I’ve constantly travelled since I graduated college … all seven continents and 73 countries. Throughout my time travelling, I’ve stayed in about 50 hostels, and I hold a memory for each one — a memory often far greater than any I have of the fancy hotels I’ve stayed in.”

“When I first saw the original family-run Generator in London (which Wyatt’s Patron Capital acquired), I knew I had an opportunity to create accommodation for travellers that would mean something to them, the way my experiences in hostels meant something to me. I believe small can be beautiful, in terms of hotel footprints and room size, especially when done right — and when you’re visiting another city in search of local culture. Generator’s design and programming reflects that concept.”

Generator London
Generator London

Which, aside from the typical differentials (design-led bars and cafés; rooftops; inviting communal spaces; private rooms and penthouses), is Generator’s thing. Programming. Experience. Creativity. Community. Wyatt is passionate about his hostels pushing boundaries in this space: “At each location we invite local creatives to contribute to the décor; perform; takeover public spaces” he begins.

Generator Berlin
Generator Berlin Mitte

“We feel these partnerships enhance the overall stay for each guest, because we’re adding to their perspective of a destination, and we’re also integrating them into local culture by exposing them to unique artists they may never otherwise hear of. Additionally, when you have a great bar to hang out in — with live music and other guests that are great company — you’ve suddenly graduated from the standard hotel stay that leaves you feeling disconnected from where you were visiting”

And graduate from the standard hotel stay you will — BEAT magazine hosting talks and after-parties with the likes of Little Boots or Horse Meat Disco; a DJ competition in collaboration with super-cool label Kitsuné (Hot Chip; Phoenix; Simian Mobile Disco); a program connecting the properties to local art communities; Boiler Room sessions … who needs a telly in your bedroom with this lot? “You’re exposed to the city’s pulse without even leaving”, which Josh tells me is a key factor of the Generator experience, along with reusing buildings in defining neighbourhoods; “when you’re travelling you can’t always find hotels near residential neighbourhoods, or places where you can experience the city like a local (the 10th Arrondissement of Paris compared to the Left Bank, for example), so by staying at Generator you’re easily immersing yourself into culture that many tourists miss out on”.

Generator Barcelona
Generator Barcelona

Need help immersing yourself in those cultures? Wyatt is keen to drive his patrons towards social media as a way to connect with locals and fellow travellers (he says guests are encouraged to use Apps like Bookalokal or Tripr). “At Generator, the first thing our guests do is take out their phone and start taking pictures. I absolutely think that social media is the life blood of our company’s persona”. All well for the creative class flooding through Generator’s doors, but for Josh himself? “I tend to use LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram more than the others” – you can take the man out of Harvard…

Generator Paris
Generator Paris

Of course, you probably can’t build a global brand — no matter what its cool credentials — off the back of late nights and daily hangovers. So, who is our rebel? “I’m doing a challenge to run a marathon in every city that Generator is in (14 in total over the year), so I typically wake up around 5am to fit in some type of exercise”. #NoPainNoGain. “From the run my activities vary day to day: I’m often in and out of meetings, and travel so regularly — sometimes I’ll fly to Berlin for a business dinner meeting, return back to London to meet with partners, before I head to the US to scour neighbourhoods that might be a fit for the next Generator. On average, in the past five years, I’ve visited 20 countries per year, so it is always busy. When I’m home, I spend time with my recently born daughter Stella, my wife, and my french bulldog Tiger.”

I ask a man who travels as frequently as most of us eat meals what he can’t step on a plane without:

  • My scarf, Yigal Azrouel typically — a versatile layering piece in any weather, and can be used as a pillow or a cover.
  • A universal charger (Toshiba).
  • Hard-backed book (I’m currently re-reading Ernst Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls) because I think it’s important to unplug and slow down.
  • My NudeAudio wireless Bluetooth speaker (the team from Standard Hotels were so kind to give me one the last time I stayed with them).
  • Wired magazine.
  • Peak Performance running hat, which also keeps me warm on planes.

Dizzying professional schedules and personal single-mindedness, I think, are what separates the ‘could dos’ from the ‘will dos’. Plugged permanently into the beast that drives you. Josh Wyatt clearly has goals on the horizon. You couldn’t drag yourself up at 5am to face days, weeks, months like that without them. “I was always inspired by iconic hoteliers, like Ian Schrager or André Balazs: those two changed the hospitality industry astronomically, and it’s a goal of mine to do so through Generator. I’ve always believed Generator to be a global, game-changing business — and that’s begun to be validated by it growing so quickly. I’m eager to see Generator open in the USA, Asia, Latin America and beyond. I hope to have my children one day stay in a Generator and know that I had some part in the Generator story”.

Generator Berlin Mitte
Generator Berlin Mitte

There’s a common sensibility amongst the European cities Generator currently occupies, I’m keen to learn whether or not the Generator experience will be compromised by expansion; “the experience and soul in the US will inherently be the same, offering that same special design and vibrant social programming, but we will of course tailor the properties to meet US trends and needs. We’ll need to continue courting our European following, while attracting Americans — who are still slightly hesitant to accept hostels, since they value and desire personal space.”

Generator Venice
Generator Venice

Miami; Los Angeles; New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Toronto are all on the cards. But why stop there? “We also see resorts as a potential next huge step, there is no one offering a curated ski or surf experience with serious design chops at the budget level yet”, which comes back to breaking rules. “To create a new market — which we have done with Generator, the first ever design hostel business on a global scale — you have to break people’s perception of the norm, without being defeated by naysayers and doubters.” Sure, Wyatt is well aware that a rebellious nature makes it hard to hide if the shit hits the fan; “if you fail, you can’t hide. This accountability and transparency of results can be scary, but it can ultimately end up fuelling decades of creation”.

It’s the nature of a beast of this scale that a steely business backbone is paramount to its success, but I think a lot of what Josh Wyatt does is deeply rooted in those hostels of his formative years; “I’ve always been inspired simply by travelling, and how the spirit of travel, exploration, and meditative thought expands everyone’s mind and horizon.” You see, it’s important not to get lost in the peripherals of enhancing the travel experience. “I want to create memories for people”, Josh concludes. Keep it simple. The experience will look after itself.

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James Davidson

James Davidson is a contributing writer for THE SHIFT and editor-in-chief of We Heart, an online design and lifestyle magazine that he founded in 2009 as a personal blog and now receives over half a million monthly views.