LOOKING BETWEEN THE COVERS

The Hostelling International Annual Report for 2012 was released recently, and its content offers some interesting insights about the global hostelling movement, and HI-USA’s part in it.

Annual reports are typically packed with numbers, and HI’s is no exception.   HI (also known as IYHF) remains far and away the largest hostelling network in the world, with 3,500 hostels and 37 million overnights in 96 countries.  HI-USA is one of 71 member National Associations.   Like HI-USA, HI is a not-for-profit.

What are HI’s current priorities?  If numbers of pages are a measure of a topic’s importance, then HI was most focused in 2012 on Sustainable Tourism, Mission and Public Benefit,  and Outstanding Hostel Performance (2 pages each).    Other priorities included Social Media Outreach and Governance Activities.

What’s HI’s fiscal health?   HI relies on hihostels.com for most of its funding, and reservations through the booking engine dropped by about 10% last year.   Both the weak world economy and competition depressed overnights.   HI offset the revenue drop with cost reductions, but in the longer term is looking to build use through a broader marketing reach.

How about National Associations’ health?   The HI President’s letter shares that some National Associations are in difficult financial straits (much like HI-USA after September 11th).    More widely, most have come to realize that “uncertainty” is the new operating norm, fueled by unexpected natural disasters, terrorism, and economic turmoil.   Around the globe, National Associations are necessarily getting creative in responding to the times (which HI-USA is achieving through unification).

What’s ahead?   It’s a digital future.    With HI hostels already highly rated in many markets, the HI CEO’s letter describes a substantial investment being made by HI in social media and mobile communications to engage with and market to hostel users.  It’s called HI-360, and is due to roll out later in 2013.  Look for the current booking engine to be replaced with a full-featured online platform, including photo and video sharing, and travel blogs and reviews.

How does HI-USA rate?   This Annual Report features “Top Lists”, and HI-USA rates in the top five in every category.   Most notably, HI-USA has three of five top guest-rated hostels worldwide (HI-Hyannis, HI-Martha’s Vineyard and HI-Houston), and two of the five top most booked hostels (HI-New York and HI-San Francisco Downtown).    In addition, the new HI-Boston hostel was rated as the top Green Hostel in the world.   Congratulations to HI-USA staff and volunteers everywhere for your part in delivering world-class mission results!

If you are one of the millions of travelers who depend on the HI hostel network worldwide, the 2012 Annual Report is a promising read.   To view and download online, it’s available here: http://www.mouse-trap.co.uk/HIAnnualReport2012/

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