After University, Mr. Schwebel embarked on a 3-year journey around the world, visiting over 65 countries. During this trip he was exposed to hosteling, and discovered that his most memorable relationships and experiences occurred at hostels rather than at tourist sights or attractions. On return, Mr. Schwebel honed his skills as a manager at popular hostels in California and Hawaii. Having first staying at hundreds of hostels, and eventually managing them, he became an expert.
Drawing on his vast experience, he analyzed hostels from around the world and curated the best attributes to create Banana Bungalow, a branded, tropically themed concept. US hostels at that time where generally cold, institutional and bare bones, often featuring curfews and chores. Banana Bungalow, a Club-Med “light” like concept, was fanatical about its “fun” atmosphere. Mr. Schwebel introduced daily tours and activities, and nightly events and parties, all designed to create environments for guests to meet, form relationships, and have fun. He knew that by creating spaces, activities and an atmosphere where guests could connect, they would have a better time, stay longer, and share their experiences with travelers on their onward travels. This was ground breaking in the US market, and immediately successful, allowing Mr. Schwebel to grow the brand into the largest chain of youth hostels in the northern hemisphere, all out of cash flow. In total, he developed and operated 7 hostels with locations in Maui, Waikiki, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, New York and Miami with150 employees and sleeping over 1500 guests per night. Mr. Schwebel created all the branding, concepting, programing, operational manuals, SOP’s, as well as all sales and marketing programs. He led all new site selection initiatives, and once acquired, oversaw the renovation, staffing and opening of all new properties. Mr. Schwebel sold Banana Bungalow in 2002.