World Hostel Conference 2012 in Boston and Jerusalem
World Hostel Conference 2010 - New York City

Confirmed speakers

Gary Poliquin

Gary has been involved in the hostelling world for over 10 years and opened up GO Backpackers in 2006, closed in late 2007 due to a dying building, litigation, and insurance issues. He found a new building in April 2009 and is now happy once again.

Currently he is a committee member of city tourism organization and is continually educating locals about the virtues of the hostelling market.

Andreas Stolz

Andreas Stolz is the owner of ASSD, a software company founded 1994 developing and providing application software and web booking software for the hospitality industry. ASSD runs offices in Munich, Oldenburg, Sofia and San Francisco (opening late 2010).

Over recent months ASSD has been developing the innovative ASSD Business Intelligence solution as well as the ASSD Channel Manager to complete the ASSD Hostel Management Software Suite that includes all pieces of software that are needed to run a hostel.

In the 90s Andreas worked 5 years for a Vienna-based international software company as project manager and software developer. Previously he worked from 1987 until 1990 for the Bavarian Youth Hostel Association in Munich as a software programmer.

Born in Munich Andreas studied at the University of Economics and Business Administration in Vienna and also at the University of Mannheim before gaining a master degree in Business Administration. Andreas spends and enjoys his scarce leisure time with his wife and two children.


Jim Zielinski is the General Manager of the very successful hostel, The Bulldog Hotel, in the Red Light District in the centre of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. With the slogan "nothing is normal - everything is comfortable" he was one of the first who believed in a five star hostel concept.

Born in Rotterdam he studied in the 80s and 90s not only international hotel management at the Hotel School The Hague but also Film directing at the Film & Television Academy in Amsterdam. While working on a documentary he has been approached in 1996 to develop a budget hotel from scratch and although his great love was to make films, having the opportunity to be at the frontline of a strong developing youth market created a new challenge.

Well known for being serious but provocative funny he has been asked to give his opinion throughout the years in numerous events talking about subjects like; the art of hospitality, trends in marketing, tango or why he prefers a fetish above a ulcerous dyspepsia.

He never skipped a hostel conference since 2000 and never left a party before daylight or before someone called the police. His biggest issue is that he is getting older but his guests always stay 21.

Being blessed with 2 daughters he still finds time to be passionate about traveling, photography and collecting art.

Vikki Matsis

Vikki Matsis is the manager of the Notso Hostel in Charleston, SC. In her four years as manager, the Notso Hostel has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Post and Courier, City Paper and many other publications around the country. A producer came to the Notso Hostel this summer to film a sizzle reel and potential pilot episode for a new television show called, "Hostel Hunters." The Discovery Channel has expressed interest and if the pilot goes through, the Notso Hostel will be featured on the first episode.

Vikki has traveled all through Europe and the United States in hostels and has recently acquired her dual citizenship. She believes hostels are important spaces to foster community and the appreciation of different cultures.

João Teixeira

João Teixeira is the shareholder and co-manager of Alfama Patio Hostel in Lisbon, a three year old hostel that is proud of its average guest review of higher than 96% and its numerous awards. João is also the president of the Portuguese Hostel Association (AHP), which has the best hostels of Portugal as members. In 2009, five Lisbon hostels were awarded in the World Top 10, including the first, second and third positions.

Since the beginning, in 2007, AHP has been working closely with both local authorities and the Tourism Board. Together they have set some important actions and are now progressing on building specific regulations in order to split the Hostel from other hosteling business. AHP has developed ways of sharing clients between the associates, by establishing easy communication channels, and dealing as a group in order to get better contracts with suppliers. AHP has set the 12 commandments of a good hostel, with the purpose of raising the general standards of this business.

Jay Segal

With 25 years of experience, Jay Segal is a leading land use lawyer in New York with wide-ranging knowledge of all aspects of land use law.

As a partner at Greenberg Traurig, Jay counsels many of New York City's leading developers, institutions and non-profit organizations, and frequently appears before New York City's City Council, City Planning Commission, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Board of Standards & Appeals and Buildings Department.

Jay will explain the recent relevant legislation that was passed in New York and its impact on the hostel industry.

Chris Syvertsen

Chris grew up in upstate New York and moved to North Carolina after graduating college and getting married. He always loved to travel but never thought he'd be part of the tourism industry. However, after over 10 years of working in the cubicles of Corporate America, Chris left the US in 2005 to operate the pub at Sir Toby's Hostel in Prague, Czech Republic. In 2006, he became co-owner and general manager of Czech Inn, also in Prague. In June 2010, he and his partners opened Mosaic House, an eco-friendly luxury hotel and hostel - the first of its kind in the Czech Republic. Mosaic House also incorporates a Belushi's Bar and Restaurant, a brand which is part of the Beds and Bars group in London. Both the Czech Inn and Mosaic House are consistently rated in the top five hostels for Prague and have received favorable international press. Chris is now the general manager of Mosaic House. He also serves on the board of directors for Europe's Famous Hostels (EFH).

Chris loves what he does and is always looking for the next project or idea. He and his supportive, and incredibly patient, wife have two small children and try to spend any free time together as a family. He loves NYC and is glad to be able to come back for a visit.

Louis Sorkin

Louis Sorkin grew up in Westchester County, NY and also in eastern Connecticut where he always had a keen interest in animals, especially arthropods and reptiles and amphibians. He often brought his animals to teach the younger children's school classes. Lou was graduated with an M.S. in Entomology from the University of Connecticut in 1978 and began his arachnological career in the Department of Entomology (now the Division of Invertebrate Zoology) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City where he has pursued his interests in spiders and other arachnids, especially parasitic species such as mites, and for the last 10 years, the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius. He is a Board Certified Entomologist in Urban and Industrial Entomology, specializing in forensic studies. His interests include systematics, taxonomy and behavior of arachnids as well as natural history of arthropods in general, and for the past few years, bed bugs have become more important as a study animal. He interacts with the public by fielding phone inquiries and emails with pictures about insects and arachnids. Forensic entomology soon caught his interest and over the years has been involved with many stored-product, urban and medico-criminal cases.

He has been consulted by the medical communities, law enforcement, and pest management industries when cases involve bites, stings, infestations, and forensic studies of insects and other arthropods. He also consults with art conservators of museums and art galleries when multi-legged pests are a concern. The hospitality industry plus real estate organizations have recently contacted him due to questions about bed bugs.

He has co-authored various papers and abstracts dealing with spiders, flies, mites and ticks, and has a special interest in the use of insects as food, a discipline called entomophagy.

Lou will discuss what bed bugs are, and how to identify and deal with them.

Chris Bilson

For over 20 years Chris had his own architectural practice in the south west of England, specializing in tourism related projects. In what he now calls a mid-life crisis he relocated to the south coast of the island of Crete in Greece.

For the past 14 years he has managed the Plakias Hostel in Plakias, Crete; the southern most hostel in Europe. It was once voted the top rated hostel in the world.

Brook Silva-Braga

Brook Silva-Braga is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. He left HBO to travel the world and make "A Map for Saturday," a film exploring the subculture of long-term travel.

He is currently finishing his third documentary feature.

Roland Solenthaler

Swiss born Roland Solenthaler started his career at prestigious food and beverage establishments in Switzerland. He became an executive chef by the age of twenty. He then worked principal positions at The Four Seasons Hotels in Toronto and San Francisco, and The Swiss Pavilion Restaurant at the 1986 World Expo in Vancouver. This led to his appointment as Director of Food & Beverage for the opening of The Peninsula Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, California.

A year later an article on the front page of The New York Magazine entitled “How to start your own business” fueled Roland Solenthaler’s ambition to establish himself as an entrepreneur in New York City. Based on the historic swiss tale of William Tell and his famous shot thru the big apple, and the birth of the Swiss confederacy in 1291, he started the now successful 1291 Corporation, modeled after the story’s charm and his nation’s success.
The article still adorns his midtown Manhattan office wall, and now with a firmly established hotel business, and a growing corporation in the hospitality industry to call his own, he gives the next generation of Swiss apprentices a chance to make it in New York City.

As founder and owner of 1291, Roland Solenthaler sees his role as a mentor for young people, and as a driving force for his ever expanding business ventures.

Roland’s business investments have also included restaurants, youth hostiles, film productions, a TV show, and rare coins he has collected since the age of twelve.

Andrew Guzowski

Andrew Guzowski is the founder and CEO of OnLine Systems, which has now over many years been developing the Charts Backpacker reservations system. With a Master's degree in Engineering ( telecommunications & IT), after a stint in R&D with Ericsson he caught the travel bug and was for many years involved in the family Travel and Accommodation businesses. Armed with such diverse set of experiences and emergence of cost effective PC's, he started OnLine Systems with its main purpose being the development of a front office system for the accommodation industry. The Charts system has been developed over many years and the close association with the Australian YHA has made Charts Backpacker one of the most sophisticated and flexible systems in the world.

Andrew has always strived to provide live reservation capability with Charts and this has lead to Charts being one of very few systems in the world which has fully integrated connectivity with not only a property's own web sites but also with over 30 booking engines such as,,, and many others and hopefully very soon, the best interface of all with

Ludwig Ottenbreit

Ludwig Ottenbreit is the Director of Marketing and Sales of the A&O Hotels and Hostels which run 15 properties with almost 8000 beds in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Working for more than 20 years in the youth travel sector, the studied social worker and certified tourism manager joined A&O in 2006. Starting as an "International Sales Manager" he is now responsible for the whole Marketing and Sales Department with more than 10 employees. But his main focus is still on the international markets.

Besides his job at A&O, Ludwig is the branch manager of the youth travel association "Reisenetz" and co founder of the Gesellschaft für Jugend und Tourismus (Society for Youth and Tourism,

Nancy Carle

As Regional Sales Manager at TTI Technologies, Nancy contributes to the expansion of TTI's solutions throughout the US and abroad. She brings more than 19 years of sales, hospitality and food/beverage experience and is accomplished in all aspects of sales. Nancy excels at analyzing market dynamics and identifying new opportunities to produce significant levels of incremental revenue. Nancy began her career on the operations side working in several positions including Controller and General Manager for various restaurants. She was also Owner and Operator of an accounting firm based in Whistler, BC focusing on the hospitality Industry. In 1996, Nancy moved to Seattle and accepted a position with MICROS Systems, Inc. where she held several positions including Installer, Sales Engineer, Account Manager and Sales Executive. During her 11 year career with MICROS, she worked in the Seattle office, Dallas office, and in 2003 moved to Maryland to work at the corporate headquarters.

In 2007, Nancy accepted a position with SoftBrands, based in Lake Forest, CA as Director of Business Development in charge of the Medallion product and also as the Account Manager for the Best Western International account.

Nancy is an active member of several hospitality associations and served on the Board of Directors for the Orange County, CA Chapter of the HSMAI in the position of VP of Technology.

Brian Gehrisch

Brian Gehrisch is a freelance Hostel Consultant, focusing on the business development of small hostels. An avid backpacker and travel fanatic from an early age, he has embraced the budget travel lifestyle and developed an intuitive, empathetic, and personal approach to providing customer service to world travelers.

Brian has worked in the management of hotels, resorts, and hostels since 2003. Under his management the Gold Coast Hostel in Lagos, Portugal was voted among the monthly Top 10 Hostels Worldwide seven times.

Soraya García
Soraya García Merino

Soraya García Merino is the Sales Director of Internet Advantage and Professor at ESIC Business Marketing School in Madrid. Soraya holds a diploma in Documentation & Information Science from the University of Salamanca in Spain. She was previously employed by the British Library and the European Bank in London as Electronic Records Manager.

During her successful trajectory as an Internet Marketing professional of Internet Marketing, Soraya has spoken at a number of conferences, both nationally and internationally, and has thus gained a well known and respected position in the SEO and Internet Marketing community. She has several clients involved in the hostel industry.

Valyn Perini

Valyn Perini is the Executive Director of the OpenTravel Alliance, and oversees the operations of the organization, including developing and executing strategies to reach the goal of standardized electronic distribution of travel and traveler information.

Her travel career includes stints with InterContinental, Westin and Swissôtel, with PricewaterhouseCoopers as a travel technology consultant, and as the director of product strategy for Newmarket International. Responsibilities included hospitality and travel operations, sales and marketing, systems design and management, consulting, and software development.

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Valyn now lives in Boston.

Jeffrey Chernick

Jeffrey Chernick is the CEO and Co-Founder of, which was created in 2007 in response to a frustrating one hour subway commute from home to work in Manhattan, NY. Within a week of the company's launch, Jeffrey was sharing a $10, 10 minute taxi to work with a neighbor (and co-worker) he did not know prior. RideAmigos is now a national leader of ride-share and eco-friendly transportation services, as well as a provider of trip matching services for the youth travel market.

Before RideAmigos, Jeffrey spent four years in the Corporate Cash Management Group of Lehman Brothers Investment Bank, which managed over $10 Billion in short term, fixed income securities, and graduated from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University.

Josh Cohen

Josh Cohen is the founder and webmaster of, a comprehensive, free information resource and online community for people who work in the hostel industry.

You can learn more about Josh at

Jim Williams

Jim Williams was born and raised in the southern U.S. He was educated in Tennessee and South Carolina. He started hostelling while doing post graduate work in Tasmania over 30 years ago.

Catching the travel bug, he spent many years backpacking on round-the-world trips. Jim has owned and run hostels in NYC and for the last 18 years has edited The Hostel Handbook for the USA and Canada. He now divides his time between New York City and Rio de Janeiro.

Teresa Gotay

While trying to find a way to unite her love for writing and the desire to travel, things kind of just fell into place. After freelancing in New York City for travel sites and being laid off from them, 2010 became the year of travel and self discovery. She spent 5 months traveling through South America getting a taste of the backpacking experience. Call it the Mid 20something life sabbatical. It left her with a craving for more and the appreciation of people, culture and travel.

As one of the founders of Art of Backpacking; it is not only traveling on a budget, but doing it in style. As the female half of the dynamic friendship that united Art of Backpacking; it's about going to exotic destinations without the credit card bill. She has traveled in countries like Argentina, Peru, Hawaii, Spain and many more. Teresa has been a proud member of the Art of Backpacking team for almost 2 years and has been a life long traveler, writer and lover of life. If she am not on the road or planning her next adventure, she'll be in her hometown of New York City.

Michaela Potter

Michaela, co-founder of Briefcase to Backpack and Meet, Plan, Go!, has managed to interweave travel throughout her life. Having picked up a backpack for the first time in college, she was inspired to then take a "gap half-year" after graduation, a concept common in other cultures. That experience inspired her to incorporate traveling career-breaks throughout her career, including three months in Nepal & SE Asia in 2001, a summer volunteering in Peru in 2006, and another three months in Oceania & SE Asia in 2007.

Through Briefcase to Backpack and Meet, Plan, Go!, she uses her experience in non-profit management, video production, and design, along with her passion for travel, to bring the concept of traveling career breaks & sabbaticals to the American culture.

Sandra Nielsen

Sandra is from Flensburg, northern Germany. She has a degree in business management (human ressources and management) and worked for hostels in Berlin (Globetrotterhostel, Odyssee) and Frankfurt (Five Elements Hostel).

Since Nov. 2009 she has been the General Manager of the Backpacker Network Germany e.V.

Yaron Burgin

Yaron is the managing director and co-founder of ILH - Israel Hostels, Israel's first independent hostel network. Since 2007 ILH is serving independent travelers around Israel through 33 quality hostels, all looking to provide great travel experience at affordable prices.

Yaron has a bachelor degree in law & business, and gained experience in sales & marketing working for an international technology company in Israel. Still. his biggest passion was always for travelling and meeting people from around the globe. With several long journeys in Asia, Central America and Europe, his passion led him to the hosteling industry, where he seeks to turn Israel into one of the best travelling detonations for independent travelers.

Along his work for ILH, Yaron was the manager of Shkedi's Camplodge, a desert hostel by the Dead Sea. Currently he is one of the managers opening the biggest private hostel in Israel - Abraham Hostel Jerusalem.