Deidre Mathis has traveled to over 44 countries on all seven continents. Through her extensive travels, she fell in love with the way that boutique overnight accommodations can provide instant community and promote cross-cultural awareness. So this determined Houstonian took her expertise in traveling on a budget and founded the Wanderstay Hospitality Group in 2018.
“I got the travel bug as an undergrad when I studied abroad. I lived in Australia after I graduated, and had an ‘ah-ha’ moment about traveling and opening up boutique accommodations for travelers,” Mathis explains. “I realized [that owning and operating one] was something I could do.”
Wanderstay caters to the budget-conscious traveler looking for the opportunity to meet other people, Mathis says, noting that her website describes her modern private and shared accommodations as being “for the young, broke professional.”
“Our prices are relatively low, so we are the place for people on a budget who want to meet other people. Our guests go on to see shows, explore the city, or grab a drink together. You don’t get this kind of experience staying anywhere else.”
Fostering community seems to guide everything that Mathis does. After living the nomadic lifestyle for years, Mathis took her research on what typical hostels offer travelers and turned it on its head. “At Wanderstay Houston, we improved on what is typically offered [at a hostel]. Maybe we went a little bit overboard when it comes to ensuring guest comfort and convenience, but we kinda felt that it was time.”
With her second Wanderstay location slated to open soon in EaDo, Mathis is aiming to diversify her clientele as she continues to offer a unique communal experience for travelers on a budget. While it is still expected to have the charm and affordability of her first hostel near Hermann Park, Mathis explains that this one will cater to those looking for a little more privacy. “The EaDo location will [only have private rooms] and cater to the older Millennial who may be willing and able to pay a little more.”
Mathis’ EaDo guests will feel right at home, with free access to WiFi, breakfast light bites (in addition to the use of a full kitchen), games, parking, and luggage storage.
It is not lost on Mathis that being the first Black hostel owner in the U.S. is a sign of progress and opportunity, especially since she was named to the Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list last year. “It means so much, and it adds diversity in the industry. I was surprised. There are many people of color abroad who have opened hostels and boutique hotels,” she says. “Hostels aren’t as popular here, so I’ve encouraged others to step outside of their comfort zones, and I explain to them that they can do it, too. It’s all really exciting for me.”
When asked what her future ambitions are for her business, Mathis explains, “I don’t plan on selling it. I know some people create a business and then sell it, but this is something I want to do for quite some time. I want to keep growing this, slow and steady.”
The unique spaces that Mathis dreams up are packed with personality, and she is proud of the inclusive vibe that her hostels offer. “We have guests and employees of all backgrounds, gender identities, and races. Our house rules include “No racism, no homophobia, no hate, and all love. We literally welcome everyone.”
For more information, visit wanderstayhotels.com.
This article appears in the May 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.