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 remain closed for recreational and non-essential travel until at least 17th July 2020. Customers will need to transfer or cancel all bookings during this period.
If you’ve already requested a booking transfer or refund, please allow us a little extra time to process this as we are experiencing unprecedented volumes during this period.
As a responsible charity and national accommodation provider we want to be certain we can operate safely and legally when we reopen our hostels. You can read more about our plans below.
The steps we’ve taken
Since the end of March, with our hostels closed to regular guests, we have been working hard to support the national effort wherever we can. We are very pleased that nearly 20 of our hostels have been repurposed to accommodate key workers and the most vulnerable members of society during this time. We continue to look for other opportunities to help. If you are aware of an organisation needing assistance please email our community support team at [email protected]
The majority of our staff are on furlough, and the remainder are homeworking. This means our call centres are unable to accept phone calls at this time and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
We are processing refunds and transfer requests to move bookings as quickly as we can, although it is taking longer than normal due to the high volumes of requests. We thank people for their understanding in these exceptional and unprecedented circumstances. If you have any questions about your cancellation, please see our FAQs.
Planning for a safe reopening
The Government has indicated that the reopening of the hospitality sector is expected to begin from 4th July. Of course, we are keen to welcome guests back as soon as we can. Yet the nature of our organisation — particularly the duty of care we have to our supporters, guests, beneficiaries, staff and partners — compels us to progress with caution and careful consideration in the best interests of the charity and those it serves.
Our current plan therefore is to begin a phased reopening of selected properties from the 17th July — so long as the Government maintains that we can, and we meet the criteria and standards we have set for ourselves. These criteria include that we are confident we can open safely; that the public and our partners in the communities we are located in are supportive; and that we can do so viably in a way that safeguards our charity for the future. We’ll be updating our websites for bookings in the coming weeks, so please keep checking online for more updates.
We are busy developing health and safety measures and appropriate adjustments, in line with Government guidance as it emerges.
We’ve already tested new ways of doing things – with some of our hostels still operating through our repurposing work, we have constantly updated our cleaning processes, and worked with our cleaning material suppliers to ensure our materials are Covid-19 compliant. We will be building on our existing stringent cleaning regimes to ensure all public areas are cleaned more frequently. And unlike many accommodation providers, we have some amazing outdoor spaces that will provide both a safe and beautiful environment for food, drink and recreation. We’re planning for using contact-free systems to order food and drink, there’ll be hand sanitiser at key points, one-way systems where feasible, and we’ll be removing the amount of items in hostels that can harbour the virus
Hostelling will look somewhat different for a number of months. For example, to meet the requirement for social distancing, we may only be able to offer certain room types in properties that can accommodate physical separation. We are looking at re-opening others as Exclusive Hire properties. And we will continue to progress and communicate our thinking as the situation changes.
We will continue to review our position as the Government’s advice on responsible travel and its requirements of the public and organisations becomes clear.
There is no doubt that we are facing a very severe impact on YHA’s mission and finances this year and beyond. But one thing that is certain in this ever-changing world is our direction of travel. Every decision we will make in the short term and over the next 10 years will be guided by our new strategy: Adventure. For the first time and a lifetime.
In our 90-year history, the coronavirus pandemic is the most severe crisis we have experienced. Yet it is not the first. In 1930, the organisation formed in the wake of economic disaster. Ten years later and a third of our hostels were requisitioned for the war effort. Half a century later, most hostels closed as the countryside battled Foot and Mouth disease. Our new strategy draws on 90 years’ experience in managing challenge and change.
In adversity, we see most clearly the value and vitality of our reason for being. As we emerge from the ravages of Covid-19, and with this strategy guiding our decision-making, YHA will play an important role in the rebuilding of society. Inspired by our history, we will connect people to each other, to nature, to culture and the world around them.
We look forward to working with you to achieve our vision — that “everyone has access to the benefits of adventure, for the first time and a lifetime.”
How you can help
In particular at this time we would welcome donations to our appeals, including our Project90 fund to help disadvantaged young people, families and key workers who will need our support this year more than ever.
Keeping in touch
As the situation develops and re-opening becomes a reality we will update our plans on our website, through 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