Youth Hostels Association

Youth Hostels Association

:"This article is about the Youth Hostels Association, for other topics related with the abbreviation "YHA", see YHA (disambiguation)

The Youth Hostels Association (YHA) is a registered charity in the United Kingdom operating as an association of youth hostels in England and Wales. The YHA is a member of Hostelling International, an international federation of hostel associations.

The YHA, as part of the HI hostel network and with the support of UNESCO, enables young people of differing nationalities, cultures and social background to meet informally, share experiences, learn about themselves, each other and their surroundings.

Youth hostels provide accommodation where guests can rent a bed (sometimes a bunk bed) in a dormitory and share a common bathroom, kitchen, and lounge. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms are increasingly common in all types of hostel. All hostels are generally cheaper for both the supplier and the occupant and many hostels employ their long-term residents as desk clerks in exchange for free accommodation.

An effort should be made to distinguish between establishments that provide longer term accommodation (often to specific classes of clientèle such as nurses, students, drug addicts, arrested persons subsequently bailed to await trial and homeless people where the hostels are sometimes run by Housing Associations and charities) and those offering short term accommodation to travellers or backpackers, hillwalking and hiking enthusiasts.

Within the 'traveller' category another distinction can be drawn between those particularly encouraging outdoor activities and cultural exchange for the young, who are often members of Hostelling International (HI) a nonprofit organisation, and commercial backpackers' hostels (or Backpackers for short), particularly in Australia and New Zealand.

leeping dormitory

The dormitories in hostels typically consist of a number of beds, often bunk beds, and many offer storage facilities such as lockers. Such rooms are a means of being able to offer cheaper accommodation for large numbers of people. With the YHA's modernising efforts and its attempt to brand itself as a more family friendly organisation and widen its target market many hostels now offer private rooms in sizes suited individuals, couples and families with en suite bath/toilet facilities.

Environmental conservation

YHA is dedicated to playing an active role in environmental conservation and is leading the way in mainstream tourism with its commitment to best practice management. Eco-hostels have been developed where travellers can experience environmentally self-sustainable living.

The conservation movement

The conservation movement is a political and social movement that seeks to protect natural resources including plant and animal species as well as their habitat for the future.

The early conservation movement included fisheries and wildlife management, water, soil conservation and sustainable forestry. The contemporary conservation movement has broaden from the early movement's emphasis on use of sustainable yield of natual resources and preservation of wilderness areas to include preservation of biodiversity. The conservation movement is part of the broader and more far-reaching environmental movement.

Customer service

YHA aims to provide an atmosphere that encourages interest in the surrounding cultural and natural environment, and recognises that these are two elements that are essential to meaningful travel. The future wellbeing of all people depends on the actions of today, and because of this, YHA strives to be a responsible quality accommodation provider.


Facilities have become more varied and less spartan in terms of comfort and amenities. In England and Wales, as part of the "Eat the View" scheme and an initiative by the Food & Beverages Manager, many hostels now offer local dishes as part of their menu, with organic food supplied by local farms, farmers markets and local producers. Gone also are the Nestle coffee and chocolate bars, in favour of Fair trade products. The YHA is aiming to open up its membership to people from all walks of life — despite the organisation's name, membership has always been open to people of all ages. Youth Hostels in England and Wales also provide a base for field trips.

Hostels in England and Wales

In England and Wales, there are many very small hostels. You can usually drink alcohol on the premises, but some have their own bar and due to licensing laws bringing your own alcohol is not permitted. Many hostels are in local beauty spots. The catering, if available, differs very much too, though the organisation is striving to sell only good quality meals made with locally sourced ingredients. Most, but not all hostels have a self catering kitchen. Many of the large dormitories have been split into smaller, cosier bedrooms, including rooms reserved for couples or family groups.

Local support network

YHA has traditionally been supported by a network of local groups dedicated to supporting the network by patronising the hostels and providing voluntary labour. As the membership of these has aged and diminished, conflict between these "conservative" elements and the modernising centre has increased and is ongoing.

Some of these groups are thriving social and outdoor activity clubs which are continuing to attract new members.


YHA is governed via three Regional Councils in England and one in Wales, although this is subject to review at the time of writing. Each Regional Council elects a group of members to represent the needs and views of YHA members and users. These Regional Councils also elect the majority of the National AGM delegates. They also elect regional Trustees. A programme of meetings are held around the country throughout the year. Regional Councils are able to put Motions to the National AGM as required. They have a significant say in the election of National Trustees, National Officers and the National Chairman.

Foot and mouth crisis

The YHA's finances were affected quite badly by the 2001 foot and mouth crisis and the organisation continues to service seven-figure debts.

Major Disposals Programme

In 2005 the YHA embarked on a programme to sell a considerable number - over 40 - of its hostels, including those at:
Blaencaron, Cardiganshire
Tyncornel, Ceredigion
Sandown and

Unsurprisingly, this has not been universally popular with more traditional members.

Further reading

* Coburn, Oliver. "Youth Hostel Story". London: National Council of Social Service, 1950

ee also

* Hostel
* Scottish Youth Hostels Association

External links

* [ Hostelling International Official Site]
* [ YHA (England & Wales) Official Site]

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