Residents and councillors in Scotland have expressed concern after the closure of seven youth hostels was announced.
They fear the loss of the hostels, among 53 in the country, will have a severe effect on the economies of the communities in which they operate.
In September, the executive committee of the Scottish Youth Hostels Association (SYHA) announced it would follow the lead set by its English and Welsh counterparts and close an eighth of its centres. Last year, the Youth Hostel Association came in for widespread criticism for its closure programme which saw 32 hostels closed, some of which have been subsequently been reopened under independent ownership.
Scottish hostels facing the axe are: Killin, Perthshire; Armadale and Kyleakin on Skye; Loch Lochy, Lochaber; Inverey, Deeside; Glendevon in the Ochils, and Coldingham in the Borders. The association said it may consider opening more central accommodation in towns such as Fort William, where the hostel is currently well outside the town in Glen Nevis, yet just a few paces away from the main track up Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
The closures are seen by many as a move away from the traditional ethos of providing basic accommodation for walkers and cyclists to setting up, in effect, budget hotels in tourist honeypots.
A statement from the SYHA said: “[The association] regrets the need to close a small number of our hostels.
“Unfortunately there is no benefit in keeping the affected properties open if associated costs of maintaining and improving the buildings to meet the requirements of current legislation and visitor demands mean that the hostels are not viable or if they are in unpopular locations.”
The SYHA said any money raised from the sale of the hostels would be used: ‘To support the remaining hostel network and help fund future development, including exploring the potential to add new properties and locations to add to our network’.
Its statement also said: “The [hostel network and management review] report recommends a management restructure that will introduce a more flexible and efficient use of staff and resources to ensure the viability of individual hostels. As a result, staffing and management of a number of hostels will alter to reflect seasonal and local needs. It is anticipated that changes will enable us to maximise the potential of each property to improve the visitor experience.” For those not fluent in managementese, this means job losses and increased prices.
The association said job losses would be kept to a minimum and that it was committed to keeping open small, remote hostels such as Glen Affric and Loch Ossian, which, it said, are not viable for commercial operators.