PARTNER PORTRAIT Hostelling International – Sustainability as part of the DNA

Sustainability is deeply linked to Hostelling International’s DNA. Since 1932 Hostelling International (HI) is dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism practices within its members and National Associations. In terms of ecological sustainability, myclimate partner HI makes exceptional efforts to significantly reduce the HI hostels carbon footprint worldwide and takes steps towards achieving carbon neutrality. Brianda Lopez, Head of Programmes, Standards & Sustainability (PSS) at Hostelling International provides us with insights on HI’s strategy, concrete programmes and measures.

Brianda Lopez, Head of Programmes, Standards & Sustainability (PSS) at Hostelling International, in interview with myclimate

Hostelling International has focussed on sustainability issues since its beginning in 1932, can you please give us some background on your organization, its history and mission!

Born in 1932, <link - external-link "Opens external link in current window">Hostelling International (HI)</link> is a nongovernmental, non-for-profit organisation and worldwide network of 67 National Associations (NAs) with approximately 3,700 hostels and 3.7 million members. We are the 6th largest accommodation provider in the world and one of the world’s largest youth membership organisations. We are recognised by <link - external-link "Opens external link in current window">UNESCO</link> (United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and Affiliate Member of <link - external-link "Opens external link in current window">UNWTO</link> (United Nations World Tourism Organization).

Youth Hostels provide very good value accommodation that enable young people of different nationalities, cultures and social backgrounds to meet informally, share experiences and to learn about themselves, each other and their surroundings.

Our values today: sustainability, learning and understanding, inclusivity and authenticity, remain as important and relevant in an ever-changing world.

How do you value climate protection in your “sustainability mix” globally?

Because of our mission and our focus on social responsibility, environmental sustainability and economic viability we are uniquely placed within the market and we are one of the earliest examples of the movement which is now known as Sustainable Tourism. Our network is committed to intensifying its efforts to achieve a worldwide network of sustainable organizations and hostels since our origins.

Our Sustainability Policy called<link - external-link "Opens external link in current window"> “HI Sustainability Charter”</link> includes our environmental objective in making exceptional efforts to minimize climate change by clearly reducing the carbon footprint of HI hostels worldwide and work towards achieving carbon neutrality.

How do you tackle the challenge to create sustainability guidelines, measure related data and set targets for operations in over 85 countries?

Diversity is beautiful and challenging. Our members are normally at different stage of development, face unique market situations and have access to different resources. One of our tasks as an International Office is to ensure that everything that is created addresses those differences and supports each of our members to advance in implementing our common policies. We are fortunate that since 2010 all our members (decision-makers) voted and committed to global sustainability targets and objectives by approving our “HI Sustainability Charter”.

Our second step was to create a Sustainability Coordinators Network where each of our member associations is represented. The Sustainability team works together in sharing knowledge and best practices as well as facing challenges.

Finally, we need to have tools and programmes in place to implement the policies, so in 2014, we developed a Sustainability Management System called <link - external-link "Opens external link in current window">HI-Q&S</link> (Quality & Sustainability) that helps HI hostels and Head Offices to work on social, environmental and financial sustainability. The system is recognized by the <link - external-link "Opens external link in current window">Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)</link>. The HI-Q&S programme and certification is, a tool to educate, implement, monitor and audit the standards in a hostel and includes 10 areas to work on: sustainable management system in place; protection of natural & cultural capital; the building; water; waste; mobility; staff; communities; food & beverages; and fair profit.

myclimate did a benchmark report for hostels in more than 20 countries, which were the most surprising results for you?

Benchmarking is a great tool to motivate and inspire our network. We did an initial benchmark report back in 2011 and this year we extended it to new countries. Now, we have estimated overall data on CO₂ emissions per overnight in more than 40 countries, which is fantastic.

I was quite surprised about the consistency of the data regardless the destination if we of course exclude those regions that face heat or extreme conditions such as Middle East or South-East Asia.

What are climate protection short-term and long-term targets and how could myclimate support you in reaching those targets?

In the short term, we would like to increase the understanding of the economic value of working on climate protection. We want to achieve this through increasing the number of hostels and Head Offices involved in our HI-Q&S programe, raise more funds within our booking platform to offset higher amount of CO₂ emissions in myclimate projects, and finally build our first “HI Global Interaction Report” to highlight our sustainable tourism through hostelling campaigned base on the <link - external-link "Opens external link in current window">UN Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development</link>.

Our long-term target is achieving carbon neutrality. We already have some Carbon Neutral hostels and associations, but in order to extend that achievement to the rest of our network we aim to create an external module in partnership with myclimate as part of our HI-Q&S programm for Carbon Neutral Hostels / Associations.

Since 2011, myclimate has been a key partner for us in advancing climate protection and we are looking forward to continuing doing so and find new ways of collaboration.

Hostelling International has been awarded with the myclimate award as “pioneer in climate protection international” at ITB 2013.

Mission Hostelling International

“To promote the education of all young people of all nations, but especially young people of limited means, by encouraging in them a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside and an appreciation of the cultural values of towns and cities in all parts of the world, and as ancillary thereto to provide hostels or other accommodation in which there shall be no distinction of race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, class, or political opinions and thereby to develop a better understanding of their fellow men, both at home and abroad.”
Article 4 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Hostelling International

Key data and historical facts

88 countries • 67 National Associations • Licensed hostels in 23 countries • 3,700 hostels • 290,000 beds • 33.7 million overnights per year • 3.7 million members 

1909 – The concept of hostelling was founded in Germany by Richard Schirrmann, aschool teacher.
1912 – The first official youth hostel opened in Burg Altena, after which the youth hostel movement grew rapidly.
1931 – There were 12 Youth Hostel Associations in Europe, operating a total of 2,600 hostels.
1932 – The International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) was founded at the first International Conference in Amsterdam, where Richard Schirrmann was elected first President.
1952 – Minimum standards for all hostels were adopted by the International Conference.
1965 to 1970 – Saw large city hostels became more and more common all over the world.
2007 – The International Youth Hostel Federation started operating as Hostelling International.
2009 – The 100th anniversary was celebrated all over the network of nearly 4,000 hostels.
2010 – The 48th International Conference adopted a Sustainability Charter demonstrating the commitment of the movement to “intensifying their efforts to achieve a worldwide network of sustainable organisations and hostels”

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