After a solid 89-year career as one of the nation’s most trusted hostel brands, YHA New Zealand recently announced plans permanently close 11 of its properties as of December 15, 2021, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and border closures, blockages and lack of international tourism that the country has experienced since March 2020.
“These are sad times for our staff, our members and our industry,” said Simon Cartwright, Managing Director of YHA New Zealand, in a press release. “Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has lasted too long for us to be able to overcome it. Today is a sad day for tourism in New Zealand.
On the North Island, hostels managed by YHA New Zealand that will close include YHA Auckland International, YHA Rotorua and YHA Wellington, while those closing on the South Island include YHA Christchurch, YHA Queenstown Central, YHA Queenstown Lakefront , YHA Franz Josef, YHA Te Anau, YHA Wanaka, YHA Aoraki Mt. Cook and YHA Lake Tekapo, which had just opened in September 2019.
While 11 YHA New Zealand hostels will close, 23 more of its associated properties are expected to remain open, including those in the Bay of Islands, Paihia, Ahipara, Whangarei, Waitomo, Taupo, Kinloch, Gisborne, National Park, New Plymouth and Whanganui on the North Island and Picton, Nelson, Golden Bay, Westport, Punakaiki, Hokitika, Hanmer Springs, Arthurs Pass and Springfield on the South Island.
On a personal note, the news of the closures has been nothing short of devastating. As someone who has spent quite a bit of time in hostels during my Working Holiday Visa year in New Zealand — specifically, the YHA hostels in Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Lake Tekapo, Aoraki Mt. Cook, Wanaka, and Franz Josef — it’s heartbreaking to hear that my standard benchmark won’t be there to count anymore, especially in bigger cities or more remote locations where they were often the only affordable accommodation option among expensive hotels and resorts (and let’s face it, I didn’t always feel like camping).
Part of me also hopes this isn’t a sign of the end of the hostel life as we know it as many of the best parts involve social activities and the mixing of people from all walks of life sharing a common interest: an eternal love of travel. For me there is nothing quite like it, from fascinating places you can stay to group activities designed to help you interact with your fellow travelers, not to mention how much money you will end up saving by choosing this type of accommodation. ‘accommodation.
Only time will tell what impact Covid-19 really has had on this type of travel, and while some aspects of it have to come to an end, I can’t help but be optimistic that there will be a possible rebound as things improve and people start traveling again. It will also be interesting to see if hostel bookings pick up now that some travelers may be on the road longer as part of another pandemic trend, the rise of remote working.
I can only hope that these 11 YHA New Zealand properties, where so many of us have spent time on our digital nomadic and trekking adventures around the world, can somehow reopen in the future. Until then, I will cherish my memories of random conversations in the kitchen and common room with strangers who would become friends, bonding with stories from the house and recommendations on next steps, group tours and hikes, movie marathons and evenings spent chatting under the stars at Lake Tekapo.