SYHA issued a press release yesterday announcing the closure of five of its hostels. The news was picked up by the BBC, but does not seem to have made much impression elsewhere yet – including the SYHA’s own website.
Here is the news release in full:
SYHA Hostelling Scotland announces changes to its network
SYHA Hostelling Scotland, Scotland’s largest network of Youth Hostels, has announced its intention to enhance the future performance and long-term sustainability of its network of 46 Youth Hostels.
It will achieve this by closing five of its existing Youth Hostels to make improvements necessary to meet rising customer expectations and to compete with recent increases in the quality and quantity of other low budget accommodation.
The decision was reached as part of SYHA’s ongoing annual review process and the Youth Hostels earmarked for closure are located in Arden, Broadmeadows, Canisbay, Kirk Yetholm and Melrose. It is anticipated that the recommendations and other structural changes will be implemented in stages from February 2012 onwards.
These particular locations have been selected as they are failing to attract a viable number of guests. In addition, where they are in a poor state of repair insufficient funds exist to refurbish them in a sustainable way.
Keith Legge, Chief Executive of SYHA Hostelling Scotland said: “While it is always sad to close some iconic and long standing Youth Hostels, the reality is that SYHA has to make responsible decisions which support our charitable aims. As a not-for-profit, self-funding charitable organisation, we have a duty to make best use of scarce resources to ensure a sustainable future.”
SYHA believes in the importance of enabling young people in particular to learn about Scotland’s culture and natural heritage whilst improving their health and wellbeing by encouraging them to be active and spend time outdoors.
In line with this ethos, the organisation aims to ensure that sufficient investment is available to provide accommodation and other services that facilitate the ongoing commitment to its youth development programmes. This investment is also important in meeting the needs and expectations of today’s budget travellers in an ever increasingly competitive market.
Keith said: “As a result of listening to our guests’ feedback about their experiences, requirements and expectations, we are striving to have a more sustainable, modern and fit for purpose hostelling network for the future of like-minded budget travellers from within and to Scotland.”
In the meantime SYHA is continuing with its upgrade programme to meet market trends in guest expectations for high quality, affordable accommodation, as seen recently in Lochranza, Oban and Glenbrittle.
Keith added: “SYHA aims to offer guests the best possible facilities at an affordable budget cost. Our ongoing review has resulted in many of our properties being refurbished and upgraded to provide smaller rooms, some with en-suite facilities to suit couples, families and smaller groups along with the traditional overnight and larger group accommodation and services provision.”
It sounds like the Scots are adopting a very similar policy to that being followed south of the border – closing and selling hostels to invest in the remainder of the network. I’m sure it will be just as controversial up there.
Of course, with a much smaller network to begin with, the effects of each closure will be more keenly felt. This won’t be helped by the fact that three of the five hostels are in the same area – by closing Broadmeadows, Melrose and Kirk Yetholm, SYHA have wiped out their entire offering in the borders region.
I stayed at two of them during a recent walk along the St Cuthbert’s Way. Melrose is a “big Victorian house” hostel – a type that can be difficult (and expensive) to adapt to 21st century tastes, so I’m not wholly surprised to see it on the list. Kirk Yetholm is a smaller, cosier spot – and of course it’s at the end (or the beginning) of the Pennine Way. I’m surprised they can’t keep it going.
Readers will remember that, not so long ago, a batch of YHA closures looked sure to clear almost all the hostels from the southern side of that border. What actually happened is that a mix of enterprise scheme takeovers, partnerships with locals, and even a couple of new hostels have left the North Pennines as (deservedly) one of YHA’s most thriving areas.
So, given the resourcefulness of border folk, maybe there’s more to hear from this story. I certainly hope so!