Parliamentary Reception, 23rd April 2024

crowd of hostel owners and mps at independent hostels parliamentary reception

On 23rd April 2024 Sarah Dines hosted a parliamentary reception on behalf of Independent Hostels UK. Here are copies of the speeches made at the event, the accompanying report containing up-to-the-minute data from the industry, and photos and videos of the event posted on social media.

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Social Media

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Hostels are good for society.

The very nature of hostelling gives it a place at the centre of affordable and sustainable tourism.

Hostels sit at the core of the sharing economy. They play an important part in connecting people to each other and connecting communities to nature.

Hostels are used by people enjoying healthy outdoor exercise, youth groups, families and many others. Booked by the room, by the bed or for the sole use to a group. They provide inexpensive stays where social mingling is part of the adventure.

Hostels are naturally sustainable.

Bunkbeds for sleeping and shared lounges, gardens and kitchens, allow more people to enjoy the same space. The shared resource at the heart of a hostel creates a lower carbon footprint per person. The lowest carbon footprint of any accommodation.

It also makes it affordable to stay at the heart of a honeypot destination, the centre of a city or within a protected landscape.

In the Independent Hostels network there are 143 hostels in National Parks and a further 56 in National Landscapes In total 58% of the hostels in the network are in a protected landscape, and over 90% are in rural locations.

An overnight stay at a hostel reduces the daily travel into and out of a landscape. It turns a day out into an escape, an affordable break that is good for the heart and the soul, for ones physical and mental health.

In addition to the natural sustainability of the hostel model, there are other factors which mark out individual hostels for the good they do.

Many independent hostel owners have chosen to run hostels as a lifestyle choice, not in pursuit of wealth but for a sustainable living and their own well-being. These individuals go above and beyond in caring for the environment, both their local communities and the planet.

Historically travel between hostels was by bike and foot, this still happens along the long distance routes and National Trails. There are many hostels providing affordable accommodation along these routes, making them available to all. This is good for society. The act of making a journey under your own steam is simple good for the sole. You could call it a pilgrimage perhaps.

group of hostel owners listerning to sarah dines at IHUK Parlimentaory Reception
Hostel operators listerning to Sarah Dines MP at Independent Hostels UK Parlimentary Reception.

Business Models

Once you realize the good hostels do, it’s not surprising that there is a large charity involvement in this sector. Aside from the well-known youth hostel associations, there is a huge hidden resource of charity-owned hostel-style accommodation scattered across the UK’s countryside. Think of all the climbers’ huts, field centres, mountain bothies, and outward-bound centres, just imagine the good these could do if the public knew about them.

The charity sector is reflected in our network too, 20% of the hostels are run by small charities and CIC companies.

However, by far the largest resource of accommodation in the independent hostels network are owner-run small businesses. These businesses do all the good that the charities do, while also paying taxes and contributing to the national economy.

Small independent operators are able to run viable hostels in locations that the youth hostels cannot make economic. And they do these amazing things because they provide a personal welcome to their guests, they share their love of their area, and they work their socks off to make their hostels successful.

It is these hostels, the independent small businesses and charities in the independent hostels network, that we are here to celebrate today.

Independent Hostels UK is a small business too. We operate below the VAT threshold with a full-time equivalent of just over 2 employees.

But the Independent Hostels network is not our little company, the network is the 340 hostels and bunkhouses that we bring together.

The 340 hostel operators whose hard work and customer service provides a huge resource for the health and wellbeing of the people of the UK.

Bigger than the YHA and Hostelling Scotland put together, our network contains more than twice the number of independent hostels as there are youth hostels in the UK today! And it is growing, for the last four months we have added a new hostel every week, 16 new members so far this year.

And the size of the industry does not stop with our members. There are hostels out there who are way too independent to be part of any network, even a network for independent operators. This is particularly true in the cities, places where most of the GenZ generation will have their first hostel experience.

This resource of independently run hostel-style accommodation is huge and does a huge amount of good for the UK’s population. And with your support, it could do more.

Speeches by Emma Harrison of The Star Bunkhouse and Christine Thomas from Elterwater Hostel.

So what would we like to gain from today?

Visibility, Recognition that these hostels exist.

When gathering data from the hospitality industry, please can there be a “Hostels” option on the survey? So that our unique form of accommodation can be seen within the data, instead of being lost between campsite, B&B and whichever random tick box the hostel operator is forced to select in the absence of one that’s appropriate.

And should the topic of hostels come up in the government, think beyond the youth hostel charities, that dominate the press coverage. Consider also the many independent providers of hostel-style accommodation? Because they provide much more of it.

What do hostels need to thrive? The best people to tell you are the hostel operators themselves. There are 40 here today, each one representing an individual hostel in locations as far away as the North Coast of Scotland and the far West of Wales.

We are in this room today because Sarah Dines listened when no-one else would. When the media was full of talk about the YHA closures, lamenting the death of hostelling. Ignoring our press releases, as we tried to tell the world about the vibrant independent sector. When no one else would listen, Sarah took the time to meet us, to listen and to understand our concerns. Her response was to host this gathering today.

So over to you, receptive MPs. Beat that if you can. I challenge you to find a hostel owner and listen. Listen to what they need and think about what the government could do to help their hostels thrive.

Because hostels are good for society.

Team of Independent Hostels UK at parlimentary reception in Jubille room Palace of Westminster
The team at IHUK. Left to Right, Penny McGregor (Editor and Customer Service), Sam Dalley (MD and Founder) and Lily Lockett (Social Media Manager).

About Sam Dalley

MD and Founder

Sam started the Independent Hostel Guide started as a hobby in 1993. She is delighted to see how the network has grown and proud to provide a vital marketing and networking platform for small hostel style businesses.