On my recent trip in Devon I stayed in some Youth Hostels, but learned that some are shutting down. Ive been staying in them hear and overseas for years and am a life member, they are a great way for the young, and not so young, to travel cheaply and safely. They always have a great atmosphere, lots of nice people to talk to, and are well run. Unfortunately their managers seem to have put them on a profitability shedule, where if they can make more money from selling than income from guests then they are in danger. This is a sad loss, long distance walkers and cyclists have been relying on them for years. Even map makers often include their location. When one YHA goes, the link in the chain can be broken, as many of them are used sequencially, and the rest of that chain are in danger.
They lost a lot of money during the foot and moth crisis and 9/11 in 2001, and recently said they had debts of £34m. Last year they had to raise funds to tebuild Boscastle after the floods, and have recently built new hostels in Oxford and Lee Valley, N E London. Last year the list of Hostels in danger were:
Acomb, Bellingham, Greenhead and Wooler in Northumberland;
Alston and Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria;
Earby in Lancashire;
Keld and Stainforth in North Yorkshire;
Langsett near Sheffield;
Bakewell and Matlock in Derbyshire;
Meerbrook in Staffordshire;
Castle Hedingham in Essex;
Blackboys, Brighton and Hastings in Sussex;
Sandown on the Isle of Wight;
Dover in Kent;
Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire;
Steps Bridge, Lynton, Dartington and Elmscott in Devon
and Quantock in Somerset.
In Wales: Capel-y-Ffin in Monmouthshire;
Dolgoch and Tyncornel in Ceredigion;
Llangollen in Denbighshire and Trefin in Pembrokeshire.
In recent years they have focussed on school groups, which is fine but individuals can often not get in at that time. They have also been locating in city centres, but this puts them in competition with many other esablishments. Where they are unique is in their remote locations, but for the very wealthy this makes the properties more desirable. Some of them really are amazing, imagine staing in a castle (eg www.yha.org.uk/find-accommodation/heart-of-england/hostels/St-Briavels-Castle/index.aspx) or manor house (eg Wilderhope Manor) for around £15 a night.
For a generation with increasing obesity its very sad that outdoor activities will diminish with their loss. I dont have an instant solution to this, but clearly they need money to survive. Perhaps they should sell shares to members, and become more resonsive to their needs.
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