Hostelling International

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Hostelling International
Abbreviation HI
Formation 1932
Legal status Charity
Purpose Accommodation for backpackers across the world
Region served
Youth Hostel members
Affiliations YHA (England & Wales), SYHA, YHA Australia, American Youth Hostels, HINI, HI - Canada, An Óige
Website Hostelling International
Hostelling Int'l, Washington D.C.

Hostelling International (HI), formerly known as International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF), is the federation of more than 70 National Youth Hostel Associations in more than 80 countries which have over 4,000 affiliated hostels around the world. Hostelling International is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation working closely with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO and the World Tourism Organisation UNWTO. HI has also been identified as the sixth largest provider of travel accommodations in the world.

Origins of youth hostelling and IYHF[edit]

The youth hostel movement began in 1909 when Richard Schirrmann, a German schoolteacher, and Wilhelm Münker, a conservationist, saw the need for overnight accommodation for school groups wanting to experience the countryside.[1] This started with schools being used during the holidays. The first Jugendherberge (youth hostel) opened in Schirrmann's own school, in Altena, Westphalia. In 1912 a permanent hostel in Altena Castle superseded the school-building, and as of 2013 a hostel still stands in the castle grounds. Schirrmann founded the nationwide German Youth Hostel Association in 1919.

The movement spread rapidly worldwide, leading to the founding of the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) on 20 October 1932 [2] in Amsterdam by representatives from associations in Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, France and Belgium. In 1933 Richard Schirrmann became the president, but the German Government forced him to resign by in 1936.[3]

Youth hostels originally differed in setup from other modern hostels, although the growing popularity of the backpacker culture forced them to adapt so as not to lose customers, most notably abandoning the idea of chores in all but a few of their locations. The youth hostels in the United States, started by Monroe Smith, (where backpackers have not made as much of an impact as elsewhere) are still closest to the original setup.[citation needed]

Modern organisation[edit]

The main building of an HI hostel in Marina di Massa, Tuscany

Seventy-one National Youth Hostel Associations are members of Hostelling International,[4] with over 4000 hostels available worldwide. Based in Welwyn Garden City in England opposite the train station and the Howard Centre, the organisation provides services for travellers and coordinates the national organisations. It also facilitates youth work and international and cross cultural understanding in conjunction with UNESCO. Hostelling International celebrated its 80th Anniversary in 2012, with the first International Conference being held in the YMCA hotel in Amsterdam on 20 October 1932. 11 National Associations were present at this Conference and agreement was reached on a standard international pattern for membership cards and on minimum standards for the equipment and supervision of Youth Hostels. Founders had a strong desire that by working together Associations could assist international youth travel and pave the way for new and peaceful migration of people. Since 1946 the HI network of Youth Hostels has recorded over 1.6 billion overnights.

Though the parent Hostelling International organization has charity status in the UK, not all member organizations have charity/nonprofit status. Hostelling International Canada lost a legal battle for charity status in 2008,[5][6] and the YHA in England/Wales considered becoming a commercial company during a 2005 consultation [7] partially in response to increased competition from independent for-profit hostels.

With nearly four million members, it is one of the world’s largest youth membership organisation and is the only global network of Youth Hostel associations.

First sustainability survey[edit]

In 2012, HI carried out a survey in order to monitor specifically how the network was changing and adapting to become more environmentally friendly. The research, which included data from hostels in 18 different countries that receive more than 3.3 million overnights annually, was very insightful and will continue to help us develop the sustainable network. Local interaction with hostels was shown to be high with 52% of hostels providing quality budget accommodation to travellers as well as having interactive initiatives with the local community. These projects often enable travellers to interact and grasp a better understanding of the area they are visiting. The tourism industry represents 76% of total global emissions. Hostels are working to counteract this and 74% of our hostels provide comprehensive information and actively promote the use of public transport to guests, or give discounts to those arriving to the hostel by bicycle or foot. Another scheme to reduce emissions is growing vegetables on site, which 16% of all hostels surveyed are now doing.

See also[edit]




  • Coburn, Oliver. Youth Hostel Story. London: National Council of Social Service, 1950
  • Grassl, Anton and Heath, Graham. The Magic Triangle: a short history of the world youth hostel movement. [S.l.]: International Youth Hostel Federation, 1982
  • Heath, Graham. Richard Schirrmann, the first youth hosteller. Copenhagen : International Youth Hostel Federation, 1962

External links[edit]