Curfews, alcohol bans and mucking in with the chores may all be images of hostels past, but the modernisation in earnest of Scotland’s youth hostel network continues apace with the fanfare unveiling of a flagship property after a £2.1m revamp.
The Glen Nevis hostel at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain is still an oasis for hikers, cyclists and low-budget sightseers, but it has now been kitted out for the modern visitor with en-suite rooms and connectivity, plush five-star reception-style couches in communal areas and picture windows looking onto the Nevis rang.
Although it is now less yomping youths and more budget family hotel, half of the 72 beds are still dedicated to shared dormitories for those who like the simple charm of communal living for which the hostels are famed.
As it nears its 9th decade, the organisation that runs the 34 Scottish hostels undertaken a name-change – from the Scottish Youth Hostels Association to Hostelling Scotland – which was executed this year.
Research showed that while older people used and still use or are rediscovering hostelling, younger people understood the concept less.
Glen Nevis is part of the resulting overhaul that includes developing gems like its hostel on the edge of Loch Ossian, renovation of Lochranza on Arran and could also include expansion with new properties including in St Andrews.
Wardens are also consigned to history, with managers there in their place and new apprenticeships are being developed to help bring in young staff.
Margo Paterson, Hostelling Scotland chief executive, said the evolution will continue as the organisation settles into its new identity.
She said: “This major redevelopment project truly reflects our commitment to the modernisation of our accommodation network.
“It also highlights our mission to make more of Scotland more accessible to more people than anyone else, and especially young people, providing great value, affordable, flexible and welcoming accommodation in the best locations across Scotland.”
She said: “We pride ourselves in excellent customer service, listening to our members and guests, understanding their needs and developing our network to offer the best possible hostelling experience.
“The new Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, one of our flagship hostels, highlights this perfectly. We want guests to discover the real Scotland with us.”
She said removing the word youth from their title did not reflect a move away from core customers and schemes to help groups of young people embark on rural adventures are also under way.
The £6 membership and guest overnight income supports its charitable youth programmes and the maintenance of the hostelling network.
Following the strategic review of the organisation early in 2018, the 88-year-old hostelling association said: “The new identity follows on from extensive Marketing research and reflects the organisation’s commitment to understanding the needs of its members, guests and employees as the modern face of Scottish Hostelling.
“The name also more clearly indicates its representation of Hostelling International within Scotland.”
The 34 Hostelling Scotland hostels is about half of the number hostels from a decade ago, but it attracts 380,000 guests every year, with a turnover of £9m and an estimated contribution to the Scottish visitor economy of £25m.
As well as the network of hostels across Scotland, members get dual membership with Hostelling International, providing access to more than 4,000 youth hostels in over 90 countries worldwide.
Source : HeraldScotland