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Future uncertain for hostel owners

The Youth Hostel Association of NZ's decision to close all their hostels nationwide does not affect the privately-owned Gisborne hostel but the owners say they face considerable challenges to “find a way forward”.

YHA will close its hostels in Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Aoraki Mt Cook, Wanaka, Queenstown Central, Queenstown Lakefront, Franz Josef and Te Anau as of December 15.

The move ends 89 years as a staple of the tourism landscape.

But its 23 partner hostels, including the one in Gisborne, will continue to operate independently.

The New Zealand chapter of Hostelling International has said that they had “no option but to permanently close the doors”.

Gisborne hostel proprietors Markus and Panmuk Szillat said yesterday “we live on for now.”

“We are faced with overdue building work on our Harris Street hostel and the costs of that work and the regulatory requirements involved are problematic for us.

“At this stage we don't see how we can justify the expenditure.

“We are facing a real challenge and we don't know at this stage if we will be able to come through it,” the couple said.

“However, we are still trying to find a way forward.”

The Gisborne Hostel building, formerly part of the YHA chain in New Zealand, was established on its current site in the 1970s.

It was sold and became a privately-owned associate hostel in the 1990s.

“We are sorry to see this happen to the national YHA NZ hostels,” the Szillats said.

“It feels like a funeral atmosphere for us at the moment.”

The Gisborne Hostel is closed for maintenance.

YHA NZ said yesterday with a significant shift towards budget domestic travellers and family groups, the company were able to double their domestic bed nights during the pandemic.

“However, the YHA national board said that this was not enough to offset the loss of international backpackers for almost two years,” said YHA NZ general manager Simon Cartwright. “After 19 months of severe restructuring and faced with the prospect of another summer without international tourists, all the association's hostels will not be reopening in 2022.”

Mr Cartwright said YHA staff had been incredible during extraordinary times.

“It is an ending none of us wanted but we want to make sure we exit in a way which ensures our people are not left out of pocket.”

Affected staff and customers have been informed that all remaining hostels will close.

The closure comes the day before Auckland's travel border is due to lift.

‘We live on for now': YHA Gisborne Hostel owners Panmuk and Markus Szillat say they are trying to find a way forward to keep the hostel running as they face building work costs and regulatory requirements. Picture by Paul Rickard