Hostels

Scottish hostels launch bid to boost tourism sector recovery

The body that represents Scotland’s hostel industry is offering to put two years behind it with a renewed drive to put the hostel at the forefront of the tourism industry as it recovers from the pandemic.

The newly renamed Scottish hostels, which has around 70 members, is looking to boost bookings after receiving a grant from VisitScotland to launch a new website and revamp its corporate identity. It seeks to convince more tourists, including families, to consider a hostel when planning their vacations and to reconnect with older travelers who visited hostels in their younger years.

Part of the new strategy will see independent hostels working more closely with other service providers, including activity companies, to help the tourism sector maximize its recovery from the huge disruption of the past two years.

The relaunch of Scotland’s former independent hostels comes as people begin to plan their spring, summer and autumn holidays for the year ahead, and follows a stop-start period for the sector since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. Long periods of confinement were interspersed with busy summer periods, as domestic tourists favored the holiday route while trips abroad were less accessible.

Dominique Drewe-Martin, Chairman of the Board of Scottish Hostels, said: “This is an exciting time for Scottish hostels after a difficult few years for the industry. The evolution of our brand identity highlights our commitment to creating a trustworthy, authentic and sustainable hostel community and independent hostel resource across Scotland, with a strong focus on service.

“We are unique because ‘we are our guests’, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the real Scotland, staying in safe and accessible hostels run by locals with a passion for the outdoors, nature, history and local culture Hostels can be ideal for those looking for a budget break, but few realize how good they are for families, and many offer family-friendly activities for young children. local activities and off-the-beaten-path activities that meet their aspirations, with responsible tourism at their heart.

With Covid restrictions having recently started to be lifted again in Scotland, Ms Drewe-Martin said there was renewed optimism in the sector. But she said it has been a difficult time for hostels.

Ms Drewe-Martin, who owns and runs the five-star Ballater Hostel in Deeside with her husband Daniel, told the Herald that coronavirus restrictions robbed hostels of their communal essence when they were in place. “We had a lot more trouble than your bed and breakfasts and hotels,” she said.

“What makes hostels what we are is that we are sociable [and] we have common areas. When you then introduce social distancing, then you have to consider closing the common areas, which takes away half of the hostel experience, what is the environment, what is the atmosphere. It really shook up hostels, so when we had all these restrictions last year… we basically turned into a B&B without the second B, so we were just a bed. We provided private rooms with no meeting in the common areas, where people planned their day and met other people. It just changed the whole atmosphere. For those who may be staying in the UK for the first time and coming to hostels, they didn’t have the same hostel experience.

She added: “It was much more difficult [and] we had a lot more restrictions. We couldn’t do mixed dorms – it was private rooms only, while [at] B&B and hotels it’s always [a] private room. In hostels, you mix, you share the kitchen, you share the living room, you share a bedroom.

Ms Drewe-Martin said the most recent season ended strongly, with her own hostel having “one of the best Octobers in years”. She noted: “It will be interesting to see what this year brings when we have a full season to play. Will we have the staycationers again? Are we going to bring back the statycationers from last year because they think: you know what, it’s as good in the UK as it is overseas.

Ms Drewe-Martin also hopes the new marketing strategy will cause people to reassess what hostels are all about. Video clips are filmed to show the kind of experiences tourists can have. “Our standard age range here is probably 40 to 50,” she said. “It’s not your 18 to 25. It’s that perception that we’re trying to break through. There are so many families who come and stay because it’s cheaper. You don’t have to go out every nights to get food and you don’t pay for your breakfast.”

“You can cook these meals.”