HI Hostels Blog

Our Communities – Giving back and building bridges

When did another month pass? Our journey in the 2017 UN Year of Sustainable Tourism (…and beyond) campaign is passing by quickly but not without inspiring projects and activities going on in our HI Hostels.

In June we had a look at how HI Hostels care for their staff and volunteers, check out these great summaries below:

Iceland video

Farfuglar ses – Hostelling International (HI) Iceland is on a mission to be the perfect base for responsible travellers! Check out the video to see how exactly they are achieving this.

Slovenia volunteers

Meet some of HI Slovenia’s great volunteers who have decided to devote their time to Hostelling International. You might have read their travel adventures but you’ve never seen their faces… here they are!

Holland video

Meet Ana and Lidy, 2 out of the 35 enthusiastic Green Ambassadors of Stayokay, our Dutch HI Association. Besides their daily work at Stayokay Amsterdam Zeeburg Hostel, they are very active to make Stayokay’s hostels more sustainable, well done!

In July, we continue our campaign with:

06. Our_communities_label_colour_high

Tourism has a massive impact on the people that live in and around a destination. Since the very beginning of the hostelling movement and our foundation over 100 years ago, Hostelling International has been committed to supporting the communities around our hostels and contributing to the protection and preservation of local historical, archaeological, culturally and spiritually important properties and sites in all parts of the world.

Our mission is as genuine today as it was when everything started:

HI Mission

This month we are striving to answer questions such as: What impact do our hostels have on the people that live in our host destination? How do we create meaningful interactions with the local communities? What practices can we embrace that ensure our hostels are enriching all parties, and promoting mutual understanding and collaboration? How do we involve the community in the sustainable progress of our hostels?

By working on this topic in our global network of hostels we address the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

SDGSs community

How can HI Hostels around the world give back and build bridges in their communities?

Here are a few examples from our network:

Bolivia blog

Read more about the OneDollarGlasses project

OneDollarGlasses – Lentes al instante

OneDollarGlasses (Lentes al instante) is a social project, carried out by Hostelling International Bolivia and ISSEM, with the support of several institutions and young volunteers who give their contribution in favour of helping out poor people in Bolivia.

korea blog

Read more about the World Youth Rally

The 42nd World Youth Rally  

The World Youth Rally is an annual event hosted by Hostelling International Korea, which is led primarily by Korean college students. This event creates a platform for learning about the Korean culture and ways to protect our environment through teamwork and collaboration for participants from all over the world. The event involves approximately 200 hostellers and lasts for four nights and five days.


Read more about the Community projects 

Community projects at The Backpack 

The Backpack HI Hostel in Cape Town, South Africa, is running various life-changing projects in their community. From supporting a  community shop to the Rope skipping and Soccer projects, this hostel is a hostel that drives social change.


Read more about the Great Hostel Give Back 

Give Back to the local community with HI USA

Each year in January and February, this programme offers groups the opportunity to volunteer in the community surrounding the hostel in exchange of free overnights. It is a great way HI USA has chosen to invite visitors to get in touch with the local culture and to experience meaningful travels. In 2016, over 5.000 hours  have been dedicated to community service by over 400 participants!

This is what we are asking from our HI Hostels:
  • Provide locals equal opportunities for employment, including in management positions.
  • Involve the community in the decision-making processes of your social projects to identify needs, impacts and best approaches.
  • Invite the locals, schools, sport clubs etc. to take part in the hostels’ mission-based events and activities.
  • Advertise services, local products and crafts made by your community to guests.
  • Create local partnerships that benefit local suppliers, minorities, refugees etc., thus driving sustainable development in the community.
  • Actively support initiatives for local infrastructure and community development.
  • Donate items left behind by guests or not needed at the hostel, such as toiletries, clothes, etc.
  • Educate guests on local traditions and customs and advise them on appropriate ways to behave and dress.
  • Work with NGOs to showcase the local culture and history to your guests through exhibitions, open house events etc.
  • Encourage guests to stay longer than one night to fully explore what a specific area has to offer and get a genuine feeling of the local culture and habits.


How can you give back & build bridges in the communities you are visiting?
  • Inform yourself and respect the local customs and traditions of the destination. Just always have in mind that you are the guest – locals appreciate travellers who try to learn the language and show an interest in their culture.
  • Especially consider your dress code, what is appropriate and what should you maybe leave at home? Make sure to dress adequately in sacred places, on the beach, and as always behave your best.
  • Immerse yourself in the local culture by trying local dishes and products, try small local restaurants.
  • Travel with local guides to make the most of your experience, support the community and learn from an insider.
  • Be sure that you do not encourage begging in a community. There are great ways to help people, but giving them money or gifts directly is not a great idea. Enquire about community funds to support local projects that benefit the marginalised, see how you can help.
  • Be mindful of taking photographs of local people, ask for their permission first.
  • Find out about community events or festivals going on and enjoy them fully.
  • Volunteering in the community has great intentions, but not always ends up in great benefit for the locals. Just make sure you inform yourself well about the organisation you’re about to volunteer for, and ask yourself if what you’re going to do really helps the community? It can be especially useful to do research when you are intending to volunteer with children (ex: orphanages, primary schools, etc.).

If you have already experienced great sustainable practices in one of our HI Hostels around the world, please share with us in comments below! We would love to hear about your hostelling experiences ♥


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