Partner Portrait of Swiss Youth Hostels – After Ten Years of Pioneering Work, a Trendsetter for Sustainable Swiss Tourism

For ten years, guests of Swiss Youth Hostels have been able to enjoy carbon-neutral overnight stays without complication. With the climate protection charge, guests will encounter both local and international climate measures. The special partnership model was one of the inspirations for myclimate’s "Cause We Care" programme. René Dobler, Deputy Director of Swiss Youth Hostels, talks about how it came to be and how it should continue.

René Dobler, Deputy Managing Director of Swiss Youth Hostels, with myclimate CEO René Estermann at the presentation of the new "myclimate Cause We Care" tourism programme.

René Dobler, guests of the Swiss Youth Hostels have for ten years now been able enjoy carbon-neutral overnight stays. Rumour has it that the idea was born over a beer. How did it come about?

That’s true, in a manner of speaking – the idea arose after work in a relaxed discussion about whether it would be possible, without much effort, to compensate for overnight stays in youth hostels. And in reality, it was just as simple as it had seemed to us. The fact that our concept is now being used by youth hostels worldwide and is now to be used in tourism throughout Switzerland shows how good this over-a-beer idea was. And it increases the originally expected impact many times over.

The partnership is a successful model and is a trailblazer in myclimate’s new Switzerland-wide Cause We Care programme. What is the Swiss Youth Hostels model and what is the secret of its success?

Swiss Youth Hostels does everything to minimise its ecological footprint – since the year 2000 we have, for example, more than halved CO₂ emissions from hot water production and heating. The unavoidable residual CO₂ emissions can be compensated by the guests voluntarily for only 30 centimes per night. This already includes a doubling of the compensation costs. We are investing this contribution in further reduction measures at the youth hostels.

The secret of this success is simplicity in the booking process and high credibility due to our own efforts and those of our partner myclimate. The environment is clearly of concern to our guests, too. Half of the compensation funds go to a climate protection project in Peru and the other half to internal measures.

What have you achieved so far thanks to these funds?

We invest the funds in non-economic CO₂ measures for reduction. We have built several solar plants, and the return from these is being put back into the climate fund and financing new projects. We put water saving measures in place across all Swiss Youth Hostels locations and replaced the outdated oil heating system in Davos with a pellet plant.

Two thirds of overnight stays today are carbon-neutral. What will this figure be in ten years?

We will be very happy if we can stick to those figures. Currently, the third-party booking platforms make it somewhat difficult for us, because most of them have no compensation options at the moment.

What do you say when someone asks what is special about an overnight stay with Swiss Youth Hostels?

The Swiss Youth Hostels are incomparable – our guests experience simplicity at the highest quality, privacy with straightforward communal experiences, authentic and regional things on offer everywhere, and last but not least they enjoy the most environmentally friendly form of accommodation without a guilty conscience.

What is your favored hostel and why?

It's not easy to limit myself to one. But if I had to, I’d choose the Basel Youth Hostel – with its combination of historic factory buildings and modern architecture, and of urban and green spaces, it embodies our values and our relationship to history and modernity in the best way. Every night in Basel is an unforgettable experience.

In 2007, the partnership between Swiss Youth Hostels and myclimate was officially launched. The combination of global commitment (carbon-neutral overnight stays through the support of a myclimate climate protection project) and local measures was and still is a trailblazer in Swiss tourism. It is a key model for myclimate’s "Cause We Care" programme, which was unveiled in November 2017.

The climate commitment of the youth hostels has high acceptance amongst the visitors: 58% of overnight stays were carbon-neutral in 2016. Since the beginning of the partnership, more than 25,000 tonnes of CO₂ have been compensated.

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