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HIQ&S: A big step towards sustainability

August 01, 2014

Since the Youth Hostelling movement originated over 100 years ago, our primary focus has been on sustainable tourism. However, back then, the term was not understood to the same extent as it is today, nor did it have a definition. Looking back to 1932 when Hostelling International’s (HI) mission was created based on the founding principles of caring for the countryside, people and economies, by providing quality accommodation for all, it’s clear that sustainable tourism has always been a priority in the development of Youth Hostels.

In 2010, HI developed a document called the “HI Sustainability Charter” that included all the minimum standards that our Member Associations, and therefore our hostels, should hold to become a recognised sustainable tourism organization. It may sound simple but it is a complicated real challenge, especially with over 3,500 hostels worldwide.

How can we reach that goal, when we are so diverse? Surely there are different ways and strategies but the one I’d like to introduce today is the HI Quality & Sustainability (HI Q&S) certification. A tool to educate, implement, monitor and audit the standards in a hostel. A quality management system to be merged with our standards in sustainability. Our criteria 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
Fair profit

I am very proud to say that not only have we created this new tool from scratch but we have already tested it successfully with one of our most sustainable Member Associations; HI Iceland.

Last June in Loft Hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland became the first ever HI Quality & Sustainability certified hostel after we conducted a pilot audit. The whole experience was very exciting and marked a historical milestone.

ReykJavik Loft Hostel rooftop

The Loft Hostel became the first ever HI Quality & Sustainability certified hostel

One of the key success factors is that all the staff are passionate about sustainability and live up to our standards; whether you ask the Hostel Manager, the front desk staff or the maintenance staff, they all share the same commitment and motivation, and contribute to the improvement of the hostels.

This energy and dedication is coordinated and channelled by an enthusiastic Green Messenger Team and no less enthusiastic is HI Iceland’s Sustainability & Quality Coordinator, Emilia Prodea.
Before we officially launch the HI Q&S at the end of the year we will conduct other audits worldwide; in Canada, Scotland, Belgium, New Zealand and Norway, in order to ensure the criteria work for all our hostels and that the minimum requirements are properly met.

This is a very exciting time for HIQ Project Manager, Jurgen Gross and I, and we firmly believe that this programme will strengthen our sustainability network by sharing best practices and ensuring consistency worldwide. Sustainability is an ongoing process and it is vital to its success that people involved commit to the concept.

“There is not tourism but sustainable tourism”
Brianda Lopez
HI Sustainability Manager

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