Coronavirus statement

YHA (England & Wales) official statement regarding COVID-19

Last updated: 23rd March 2020 at 15:06pm GMT

To all YHA members, customers and supporters

As we enter our 90th year we find ourselves in challenging times. We wanted to keep you up to date on what we are doing to respond to the unprecedented situation created by the coronavirus pandemic.

As of 23rd March, all YHA (England & Wales) hostels will remain closed and off sale for recreational and non-essential travel until 31st July 2020. Customers will need to transfer or cancel all bookings during this period.

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As a charity whose mission relies on travel and social interaction, COVID-19 will significantly affect YHA in 2020 - as it will many areas of our national life. Please support YHA's charitable work during this difficult time.

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Our hostels are at the centre of their communities. To support the national effort, we are working with the NHS, homelessness and other organisations offer our buildings and facilities to support key workers and the most vulnerable members of society during this period.

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Planning for a pandemic was an identified risk in our charity plans and we have been putting these plans into operation. Supporting health has always been part of our charitable object and is a core priority in our new strategy.

Closing our hostels for recreational travel

We know that people are worried about COVID-19. Our immediate focus has been the health and well-being of our employees, volunteers, guests and beneficiaries.

We are now closing hostels to recreational and non-essential travel. We will be working with those who are currently staying with us to ensure they can get home safely.

Many people have already heard the message on essential travel only and have cancelled or asked to move their immediate bookings. Thank you.

We are asking all who have recreational travel bookings with us until the end of July 2020 to use our online process to cancel or transfer their booking. https://www.yha.org.uk/cancel-booking.

In response to Government guidance we are moving staff to homeworking. This means our call centres are unable to accept phone calls at this time and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. Please be assured that all cancellation and transfer requests will be processed and refunded as soon as possible. We will be calling people back where we need additional information etc.

We will process refunds and/or requests to move bookings as soon as we can, and we thank people for their understanding in these exceptional and unprecedented circumstances.

Future bookings

At this point we will not be taking any recreational bookings for arrival between now and the end of July 2020.

We know that people remain keen to book into the future. We have introduced maximum flexibility in our terms for any travel for arrival after 1 August and before 31 December 2020.

We will keep these positions under review and will continue to follow Government advice on responsible travel. We will update changes via social media, emails and through this statement.

Our role as a charity at the centre of our communities

As we start our 90th year we have agreed a new strategy with an ambitious five- year vision. We stand by this. YHA was born of the restorative power of nature and adventure. To ensure access for all to the countryside and to the cities; to the outdoors and to heritage. These things are no less important now than they have been during the other challenges in our history.

Our hostels are at the centre of their communities. To support the national effort we are working with the NHS, homelessness and other organisations to see how our accommodation, meeting rooms and catering facilities can support both key workers and the most vulnerable members of society. We are now setting up a Community Response Team to provide support during these months ahead. If you are aware of an organisation needing assistance we can be contacted at [email protected].

As we move forward we will be looking at how we can mobilise our amazing members and volunteers.

We recognise that people want to get outside both for exercise and connections to nature. We are asking people to follow Government advice. As we write the advice is to:

As a charity and an affordable accommodation provider YHA is a popular choice for individuals, families, groups and schools. We know that many will be struggling to get any break this year; many households will have reduced income, some have lost their holiday monies in the cancellation of overseas travel and others will have no holiday left after using up leave to look after friends and relatives. We are looking to see what we can do to help – including how we might extend our Project90 fund.

We are intending to offer a number of free breaks to be taken later in year for NHS and other public sector staff and their families.

How you can help

As a charity whose mission relies on travel and social interaction, it is clear that COVID-19 will significantly affect YHA in 2020 – as it will many areas of our national life. YHA is a resilient charity and our 90-year history has taught us much on managing change and challenge. We are pleased to say that we finished the year 2019/20 in a strong position, with year on year growth in income and impact, with a 5% rise in the number of young people who stayed with us. That will help us mitigate the challenges ahead but nevertheless we face difficult choices.

We will be reducing our expenditure, working with charity, hostelling and tourism partners here and abroad, and talking to Government on how they can continue to help both us and the wider charity and hospitality sector.

But even with this there is no doubt that we are facing a very severe impact on YHA’s mission and finances this year and beyond.

Thank you to all who have got in touch to ask how to help. The best thing to do is to continue to stay, join, give or volunteer. In particular continuing to book trips to help us recover when the virus has passed; or donating to our appeals, including our Project90 fund to help disadvantaged young people and families who will need our support this year more than ever. And where we can help you with your challenges during this difficult time please let us know.

Keeping in touch

As the situation develops we will update our plans on our websitethrough emails, at hostels and through social media (Twitter and Facebook). You can also email us with comments and questions at [email protected]

With thanks and best wishes to all in the hostelling family.

Margaret Hart, Chair

James Blake, CEO