YHA's £31 million investment in its network has reaped dividends for the 85-year-old brand, resulting in month-on-month growth during the last 12 months, helping it buck the decline in domestic tourism, recently reported by Visit England.
Occupancy across YHA's 140-strong network is up 3.5% yielding an 8.1% growth in accommodation income and smashing the charity's budgeted revenue increase by 200% and earning it a number of industry awards.
The revenue figures are the best the Youth Hostelling charity has ever had and are being attributed to the network's £31 million capital investment programme and award winning marketing campaigns, which have combined to establish YHA with a new generation of travellers, adventure-seekers and holiday makers.
At the recent Travel Marketing Awards Run YHA was named as the Best Experiential Marketing Campaign for RunYHA 2014, competing alongside Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Virgin Holidays, TUI and large national tourist boards. This is the second year running YHA has clinched the accolade, last year securing it for the youth-focused LiveMore campaign.
Both campaigns have centred around YHA using the unique outdoor space at many of its portfolio of 140-properties in England and Wales for music events, festivals and camping. This concept has enabled YHA to introduce new audiences to Youth Hostels following the extensive capital investment programme and highlight that YHAs are more than a bed for the night, rather a location to have new experiences, discover and meet people.
Since 2010 YHA (England and Wales) has completely refurbished 34 Youth Hostels at a cost of £21 million. The extensive refurbishment programme earned YHA the title of Best UK Hotel in the 2014 Guardian Travel Awards, beating established hotel chains Marriott and Radisson to the top spot.
Alongside the refurbishment programme YHA has invested £10 million in six brand new Youth Hostels at the Eden Project, Brighton, Castleton in Derbyshire, Cardiff, South Downs and Berwick.
The £31 million investment in YHA's network has created comfortable, contemporary-styled accommodation. Today's Youth Hostels boast licensed bars and restaurants, and more private en suite rooms which are appealing to a new generation of traveller and holiday maker.
Rachel Ramsay, Head of Marketing at YHA (England and Wales), said: "We're delighted with the trading results but more so with our successful re-engagement with young people as well as introducing new people to the YHA brand.
"The capital investment programme at YHA has left the network virtually unrecognisable and key to dispelling myths about Youth Hostels is getting people through the door to see how fantastic they are. The campaigns have all centred on driving footfall to YHAs and this has resulted in new members and repeat visits which are reflected in the ongoing figures we are experiencing. We have a long way to go to truly reconnect with customers, however the awards and sales figures should that we are definitely heading in the right direction. It's a tremendous boost for the organisation and something we are all very proud of."