Here at YHA, we have pledged to our members that we will come back stronger through the pandemic. The pledge was made at our virtual AGM on 7th November.
At the AGM, we announced that we have launched a public survey with the aim of involving society in the future development of our youth hostel network. The survey outcome will assist us in shaping our youth hostel network in order to deliver our ambitious new strategy to connect more people, and especially young people, to affordable adventures – in nature, the outdoors, culture and heritage.
Speaking at the virtual AGM, Margaret Hart, our Chair, said: “The youth hostelling movement is a family, nationally and globally and, like all families, this year we have been under enormous pressure. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved despite huge challenges.
“We have been transparent about YHA’s situation throughout this difficult year. It has not been easy and we are entering the difficult winter months. However, through the commitment, courage and energy of our teams throughout the Covid-19 pandemic I am confident that the organisation will survive and ultimately thrive.”
Despite suffering a £30 million (75%) drop in income since March 2020, members were told that we will survive and take forward its services to even more people. However, we will need their help and support to take forward the strategy and rally to the youth hostelling cause.
We have put ourselves at the forefront of the national pandemic effort, repurposing a number of hostels to support the national fight against the disease, offering free accommodation in London to NHS and key workers and providing free breaks to families impacted by Covid-19.
Margaret Hart continued: “YHA has taken immediate action this year to safeguard the charity for the future. This includes pausing all capital investment, cutting costs including, sadly, having to make many loyal staff redundant, repurposing our hostels where we can and applying for all available grants.”
We have taken advantage of a £15m Government coronavirus loan to secure our cashflow through this period. And despite an uncertain trading outlook, we have announced our plans to introduce new services, including activity days for local schools.
Despite national and regional lockdowns, our core approach over the year has been to open whenever it can in order both to give people a break and to generate income. These connections to nature and outdoors are even more important post lockdown. Subject to government restrictions, over winter, we intend to open 18 of our most iconic hostels across England and Wales for families and individuals, and to make a number of our hostels available for exclusive hire by groups, where permitted, during this period.
James Blake, our Chief Executive said: “This year has been YHA’s hardest in our history. Over a quarter of a million young people have missed out on a trip this year with YHA alone. For some, this would have been their first chance to stay away from home, to go to a beach, visit a museum or roll down a hill.
“YHA has a responsibility to remain open and ensure that people have access to much-needed breaks during these challenging times. Our unique ability to facilitate meaningful connections in the real world cannot be understated today, given the current situation.”
Launched in March earlier this year as part of our 90th anniversary celebrations, our new strategy aims to positively impact on the lives of even more beneficiaries, particularly young people.
We want to reach five million people over the next five years, half of these being under 26 and from across all communities, particularly the people most in need.
To help shape how youth hostels are used to connect more people to affordable adventures – in nature, the outdoors, culture and heritage, complete the survey.