World Hostel Conference 2012 in Boston and Jerusalem

Confirmed speakers


Maria Argyropoulos-Minos is Chief Operating Officer for USA Hostels, Inc., an award-winning, California-based chain of unique hostels ranging from Victorian hippie to flashpacker modern.

Maria has been with USA Hostels for 8 years but draws on 43 countries worth of personal hostelling experience in her role. Maria originally comes from the corporate world where she spent 12 years working for a nationwide shopping center developer. But her passion for travel, a year wandering around the world and 6 months of Thailand beach living resulted in the switch to the hostelling industry where she's been ever since and plans to stay.


Aaron Chaffee is the National Director of Hostels for Hostelling International USA (HI-USA). He is a member of the HI-USA Senior Executive Team and is responsible for oversight and licensing of approximately 60 hostels in the HI-USA network. HI-USA annually delivers over 1 million hostel overnight stay experiences in hostels ranging from 8 to 672 beds. Aaron has been with HI-USA for 8 years and brings to his role a combined 20 years of hospitality management experience and an MBA from the University of Washington. Aaron had his first hostel-stay experience at HI-Whistler (previous location) in high school and then followed with a summer of hostelling through Europe during college.


Crystal Henrickson joined in March 2009 as Yelp Vancouver's first Community Manager, leading the charge on all community and marketing events throughout the city. Since then, this one-woman show has helped spread the word about Yelp by educating business owners on maximizing their online presence, bringing Yelp's online community together offline by hosting remarkable local events, and penning the Weekly Yelp newsletter which highlights the most interesting happenings around town. In her current role as Marketing Director for Canada and US West, Crystal oversees all marketing efforts for Canada and the West Coast US, which includes a team of foodie-indy-crafty-sporty- trendy-funny-punny Yelp Community Managers from as far east as Halifax to as far west as Honolulu.

Crystal has led countless workshops and given oodles of talks, all with the goal of helping local business owners understand and utilize online resources such as Yelp.

This girl spends more time in planes than in her own bed and has subsequently picked up a few accommodation preferences: friendly staff, a clean shower and a soft-spot for rooftop terraces.


Tim Charter grew up in St. Albert Alberta and now resides in Vancouver, BC. He began managing the SameSun Vancouver in 2004 and has since become the Regional Manager for all SameSun properties. A graduate of S.A.I.T.’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program, Tim has been in the industry for 20 years. For the past 11 years Tim has worked with SameSun properties and is now a proud shareholder in the company.

At the age of 18 Tim spent 6 months backpacking in Australia and he then knew that travel was something he wanted to incorporate in his career life.

Tim sought out SameSun after he graduated and started running a pub and small hostel in Kimberley BC. The mountain air and wonderful people from around the world got Tim traveling again. The next stop was Banff where a new SameSun was opening. After training the management team, it was off to Big White in Kelowna BC. While in Big White he again trained a new team and helped renovate the hostel. Vancouver was the last stop and after re-building the hostel and pub, Tim settled down. He continues to run the largest SameSun property, 279 beds with a restaurant and bar called The Beaver.

As far as travel around the globe in the last 2 years Tim has been to Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Nicaragua, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. The question is... where to next?

Get schooled in life, travel! We all live under the SameSun.


Jeff Thomas is a 27-year travel industry veteran and subject matter expert in the areas of travel and hospitality distribution, social media marketing, Internet development and marketing, and visual content production & management. Jeff leads business development activities for Appnostic to companies in the travel industry vertical.

Prior to Appnostic, Jeff served as the VP, Global Distribution for VFM Leonardo where he led the company’s efforts with managing existing and developing new visual content distribution relationships with travel intermediaries, OTAs, search engines, travel search research web sites. Prior to joining VFM Leonardo, Jeff was the Vice President – Commercial Operations for Leonardo Media where he led the company’s business development initiatives on a global basis. Prior to Leonardo, Jeff served as Vice President, Business Development – The Americas for Open World Limited, a U.K.-based Web site design and marketing company. In this position, he was responsible for the company’s growth with hotel brands, travel distribution partners and search engine marketing strategy. While at Open World he led the development of several very successful hotel & travel affiliate web sites, including, and

Jeff was also on the start-up team at where led the development of the hotel product, followed by taking on the role of Manager, Hotel Partnerships and Advertising Sales where he developed and managed distribution partnerships with all major hotel companies. Jeff was also the Corporate Director, Internet Marketing for Hyatt hotels & Resorts where he successfully directed the design and implementation of the first version of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts global Web site,


Robb Cryder is the Chief Operating Officer of Hostelling International-Canada - Pacific Mountain Region. Responsibilities include oversight of HI hostels in British Columbia, Alberta and Yukon and the development or licensing of new properties. Nationally, Robb chairs HI-Canada's Quality Assurance Strategy Work Group. Key initiatives that this group oversees include standards and inspections, customer feedback and implementation of the HI-Quality program.

Armed with much travel experience and a BA in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, Robb took at a job at the front desk of HI-Vancouver Jericho Beach in 1991. Having since managed two HI properties and spent many years working in regional operations, he continues to enjoy the challenges and satisfaction that come from hosting visitors to Western Canada.


Mike Haney founded Newcastle Limited, a Chicago-based real estate advisory and investment firm, in 1997. Since then, he has assembled a highly qualified team of real estate professionals dedicated to client service and focused on achieving the best real estate outcomes for the firm’s clients. Together they have completed numerous advisory, investment and development assignments that have redefined client expectations.

In early 2008, Mike got involved in hostels when Newcastle acquired a large portfolio of properties. One of the properties was a 330-bed hostel located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Outside of staying in hostels during his travels across Europe, Mike had no experience operating a hostel. The hostel was deteriorating physically and in reputation so Mike and his team had to quickly learn the business and turn the place around. After a complete renovation, hiring a enthusiastic staff, and revamping the operations, Chicago Getaway Hostel has quickly transformed in to one of the best in the world.


Jim has been operating hostels for 32 years. He developed four hostels in Oregon and currently owns and operates Northwest Portland International Hostel & Guesthouse. His facilities feature a designated group lodging center, a guesthouse with 22 B&B quality private rooms, and 80 hostel dorm beds, serving over 30,000 overnights per year. His hostels have been consistently rated among the best.

Jim currently serves on the national board of directors of HI-USA as the representative to the private hostels licensed by the organization. He has received the HI National Open Door Award for hostel development and the Interpret America Award for hostel programming. He is a graduate of The Evergreen State College and a journeyman carpenter.

Carles Gras and Oriol

Carles Gras and Oriol Badia grew up in Girona, Spain, and studied Business Administration in Barcelona. In 1997, Oriol founded the Equity Point Group. After several years working in Girona, Carles joined the Equity Point team in 2003 to start the expansion process.

Equity Point now consists of 8 properties in 6 cities in 4 countries with a total of 2,000 beds. It is currently the only hostel chain operating in two continents, and hopes to expand to another in the near future. Equity Point is recognized in the industry as one of the leading companies providing high quality, affordable accommodations to young travelers.

Oriol and Carles have been involved in many of the major events that have happened in the youth travel industry in the last decade, including being co-founders of Stay Wyse and the European Hostel Cooperation, and being members of the Wyse Travel Conferederation. They have also participated in most youth travel conferences and workshops and contributed to several studies and research work.


George Finn is the General Manager of Hostelling International – New York City for Hostelling International USA. As such, he oversees Hostel Operations at the largest hostel in the America’s, and one of the busiest in the world. HI-NYC is a 672-bed hostel located on the upper west side of Manhattan that serves approximately 250,000 overnights per year.

Having worked for brands such as Hilton Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, Accor Hotels and Resorts and Hyatt Hotels, George is a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA). Starting in the hospitality field right out of school in 1980, General Mills Restaurant Group was the starting point as George navigated 15+ years in Food and Beverage before moving on to hotel operations. George is best known for applying and living HI’s mission at the property level by: “Helping all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people through hostelling."

Jason Baker

Jason Baker is an imperfect traveller and digital marketing consultant and from Vancouver, BC. He’s an avid road tripper through out BC and Arizona. He's twice backpacked across much of Canada, and most recently through Chicago, New York, and Boston.

Jason’s digital expertise as a strategist and consultant has been in providing actionable strategy plans to clients in the hospitality, sustainable energy, group buying, and medical industries. He’s was also responsible for hosting the largest "2010 Olympic Tweetup" with special guest, Guy Kawasaki. Earlier this year Jason also brought the New York Times BestSeller; Jay Baer's "The Now Revolution" book launch party to Vancouver.


Magdalene Wan is the founder of Matchbox The Concept Hostel in Singapore, the only flashpacker hostel in Southeast Asia to feature pod-style dormitories.

Mag is an avid sports fan and was previously a professional tennis coach for three years before her passion for travel and lifestyle fuelled the career switch to the hospitality industry.


Aaron is a digital native, who in his 11 years of experience, has worked on just about every kind of web project imaginable. Aaron was formerly the Director of e-Strategies for Travel Alberta where he managed an annual budget of 3.8 Million. He has served 3 years on advisory committees for Canada e-Connect and Online Revealed Canada.

As part of Travel Alberta’s Management Committee, Aaron shared responsibility for setting the organizational strategy. He was responsible for building digital strategies that considered both internal and external stakeholders. Aaron has extensive experience working with large DMO’s, Governments, and consortia partnerships.


Ludo studied architecture and photography in Ghent, Belgium and in 1984 started Bauhaus Hostel in Bruges, Belgium, joining just a handful of independent hostels in Europe.

He was founder in 1999 of Hostels of Europe, an independent hostel marketing scheme with 350 members and an own booking system; sold in 2005 to Webres Int. (Hostelworld). Also founder in 1999 of Europe's Famous Hostels, then called Europe's Famous Five Hostels, now an exclusive hostel marketing scheme with selected members in 30 of Europe's top cities.

Presently director of St. Christopher's - Bauhaus Hostel in Bruges, Belgium and studying in depth a location in Brussels, Belgium for a new state-of-the-art hostel, in co-operation with the Belgian Tourism board. Ludo organized in Bruges, Belgium, the first 2 independent hostel conferences in 2001 en 2002 after which Gomio took over.


A graduate of Shannon College of Hotel Management, Fergal cut his teeth in hotel operations in Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK before making a career and life changing decision to join an IT start-up in 2000. Since then Fergal has worked for the best part of 10 years as an independent software consultant (SAP) with a diverse client base across Europe and APAC before joining a Hotel Benchmarking start-up in Dublin, Ireland towards the end of 2009.

Following a call from hostels in Dublin, Fergal setup hostelbench in 2011 to bring the same level of market intelligence to hostels as has been available to hotels for decades. An advocate of life-long fitness, Fergal has completed several marathons, an ultra- marathon and holds Bachelors degrees in Science (University College Cork) & Commerce (National University Ireland Galway).


When a seven month backpacking trip turned into a ten year European stay, it was evident Danielle Brumfitt was officially hooked on hostelling! As Executive Director of Hostelling International USA’s Northern California region (Golden Gate Council), her oversight includes hostels whose styles range from large urban San Francisco hostels to coastal lighthouses. As a senior leader within HIUSA, she is excited to work in the US to further advance the hostel movement into the culture of North America.

A youth travel industry professional for over ten years, Danielle’s experience ranges from hands-on hostel management to executive leadership with specialties in both strategic planning and marketing/PR. She has significant experience in platform and network building through her work with Hostels of Europe, The European Hostel Cooperation,, Europe’s Famous Hostels and now back in North America with Hostelling International USA. She is thrilled to be taking part in the 2011 World Hostel Conference, having been at every Independent Hostel Conference over the past decade. She still has fond memories of her time working with Hostels of Europe to host the first meeting of this kind in Brugge, Belgium ten years ago.


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.


With a background in e-commerce and Internet marketing, Olivia joined BootsnAll Travel Network in December 2009, and is now BootsnAll's Product Manager. After completing an MBA in 2007, she took a career break, to do a year-long round the world trip, traveling to 20 countries and countless hostels.

BootsnAll, started in 1998 by cofounders Sean Keener & Chris Heidrich, has grown into a community of over 30 online travel guides and resources that connect and inspire independent travelers -- with over 3.6 million unique visitors per month and 100,000 community members. Olivia now manages the product planning and lifecycle of BootsnAll's products, which include Round the World travel resources and WhyGo travel guides; specializing in analysis and revenue growth. Olivia lives in Portland, Oregon and is passionate about indie travel, biking, and the Pacific Northwest's food and beer scene. She is @whygo on Twitter.


Tracy Walters is the Managing Director of ASSD North America, based in San Francisco, California. Her first experience in Hostelling was during an ornithological research trip to Costa Rica. She has since enjoyed staying in hostels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada, and throughout the US.

With a broad interest in both biological and computer sciences Tracy has a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology, as well as extensive training in information technology. She comes to ASSD with experience as an entrepreneur, project manager, and business consultant. Tracy is certified in project management via the Project Management Institute, and maintains status as Consultant Adjunct Faculty with the SPSCC Institute for Leadership development. Her areas of specialization are small business development and business process improvement.

Tracy began working with ASSD software in 2006 installing and administering ASSD PMS systems as the IT Project Coordinator for HI-USA. She is excited to have this new opportunity to provide North American hostels with ASSD products and services.

Tracy lives in beautiful Olympia Washington with her husband and youngest son, and enjoys spending free time with family exploring the South Puget Sound area, samba dancing, beekeeping, and organic gardening.


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.


Brian Manning is the owner of CMS Hospitality, the Company that has developed the GuestCentrix suite of Hospitality Software Systems. Brian founded CMS Hospitality over 25 years ago, and the Company now has offices in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, with systems installed in many Hotels, Resorts, and Hostels around the world.

Brian has managed the technology shift from DOS through Unix and IBM Midrange, and now to Windows and the Web - change is the constant. As technology moves to web based systems, so does GuestCentrix, so Browser solutions, iPhones and iPads are now part of the GuestCentrix solution.

GuestCentrix is a comprehensive software suite, covering Property Management, Central Reservations, Point of Sale, Conferencing, Tour Desk, Repairs and Maintenance, Yield, and Reporting. Its heritage is in Hotels, but Hostels and Hostel Groups are now taking advantage of the power of GuestCentrix – rich, mature functionality, centralised, SQL database, guest recognition, enterprise wide reporting, and sophisticated web interfaces.


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


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.

Dan Rose and Max

Dan and Max are both originally from outside of Boston, MA and moved to Chattanooga, TN six years ago for the amazing rock climbing.

After being here a couple years they started to see that there was no base camp for all the climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts coming to town. It was also clear that Chattanooga was lacking in affordable lodging in the downtown area.

They'd both stayed in a few hostels in Europe and through the grime and sound issues, they saw many redeeming qualities that they thought Chattanooga would embrace. In late 2009 they took a local business planning course to help them solidify their business plan. They then found their land in the beginning on 2010 and started working with their architect to design the place.

After breaking ground in December of 2010, they opened for business to the public June 10, 2011.


Gal Mor has always been a world traveler. Born in Jerusalem, he spent several of his early years with his family in Liverpool, England and Edmonton, Canada. At 18, after backpacking Europe for three months, he returned to Israel to complete his mandatory military service. After another year of around-the-world travel, he returned again to attend Hebrew University in Jerusalem studying International Relations and Media. He then headed to Berlin where he lived for three years working in the Israeli embassy and seeing more of Europe, South American and North America.

It was in Berlin that he was connected with New Europe Tours, a company offering free tours of the Europe's most beloved cities, and it was then that he realized his desire to blend his entrepreneurial spirit with his love for travel. Soon it became clear that Israel, his home, was where it should all come together.

He returned to open the first New Europe branch outside of Europe and went on to manage it for two years. During this time he also founded the Indie Travelers' Center in the Old City providing free information on travel and hosting tours in the Middle East region. It was clear how much Israel and this region had to offer to travelers, and specifically to independent backpackers like himself, but also how inaccessible it all was. This motivated the expansion of Sandeman's to Jerusalem, the opening of the Travelers' Center and was the driving force behind his involvement in Abraham Hostel Jerusalem.

The Indie Travelers' Center became Abraham Tours and moved into the lobby of the hostel and Gal became manager of both the tour company and the hostel. Today, Gal is investing his time and energy into the development of Abraham Tours, adding to and improving the many tours and services it provides in Jerusalem, Israel and the Region.

Manuel Vallé

Manuel studied Law and Business but he started his professional career working in the Direct Marketing and Advertising fields, where he developed campaigns awarded at Cannes Lions, New York Festivals and Echo Awards. He holds an Internet Business Master degree, the Google Analytics individual qualification and he currently works as an Online Marketing Consultant at Internet Advantage; a multilingual SEO, SEM and Social Media agency widely experienced in the youth travel sector.