22 May | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Hostels still good option if you want to go out

‘I think a lot of hostels can set a higher price because they’re essentially charging you for entry into hostel’s social sphere. It’s like paying to enter a club’

The Youth Hostels Association (YHA), after more than 90 years in operation, announced to sell off 20 of its 150 hostels in the United Kingdom, after its affiliated organization in New Zealand collapsed in December 2021 with the loss of 11 hostels, the National Geographic reported.

James Blake, chief executive of the Youth Hostels Association, said that they were relying on people sharing space, as all hostel organizations around the world were badly affected by the pandemic. “We lost 80% of our income in the first year of the pandemic and 50% in the second year — that’s about 70 million pound sterling in all,” he said.

He pointed out that it wasn’t until April 2022 that hostels were finally able to operate normally again in the UK, when shared dorms reopened. For the association, the aftermath of the pandemic brought a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges: inflation, spiraling energy costs and the cost-of-living crisis. It said that depleted financial reserves forced this organization to sell off 13% of its UK hostels.

Youth Hostels Association announces to sell off 20 of its 150 hostels in UK

To offset spiraling costs, hostels leaned more heavily on increasing prices. As a result, the cost of dorm beds has rocketed, in line with the high demand and low capacity. The rising number of solo travelers has only increased demand for hostel beds further. In Europe, prices have become notably higher in key cities, where over tourism is an issue.

“If you’re willing to get off the beaten path, there’s still a lot of value. But if you want to go to places like London or Rome, there are too many people traveling and you’re always going to pay over the odds for a hostel,” said Kash Bhattacharya, who runs the Budget Traveler website. Oliver Jakes, a 23-year-old who’s just returned from three months biking between European cities, says he found hostel prices had doubled since he took his last trip in 2018.

“Hostels are still a good option if you want to go out, because they’re a good way to meet people,” he said. “I think a lot of hostels can set a higher price because they’re essentially charging you for entry into hostel’s social sphere. It’s like paying to enter a club.” He believed the key aspect that keeps young people booking was the social scene that’s at the core of the hostelling experience.

In recent years, some hostel owners have diversified to increase their appeal: spare lounges have been converted into co-working spaces to cater for digital nomads; aperitivo hours and karaoke nights are creating social opportunities for solo travelers; and dorms have been carved up into private rooms to appeal to those seeking more seclusion.

“If you want to do a city location nowadays, four-star hotels have become completely unaffordable. So you move together as a family and take a four-, six- or eight-bed dorm, and it will end up probably 50% cheaper than staying in a three- or four-star hotel,” said Alastair Thomann, CEO of Generator. The space-sharing economy that underpins the industry is also what makes hostels one of the most sustainable ways to travel.

Hostels may be evolving, but if the industry can hold onto its core values of connection, community and sustainability, they will always have a formative role to play in how travelers grow up and see the world. Also, the Pakistan Youth Hostel Association also struggling to promote youth tourism in this South Asian country ever since it set up its first hostel in 1952 in ancient Taxila in the Pothohar region of Punjab province.