We’d like to introduce our new CEO, Brianda Lopez!
Q. You are the first woman CEO of Hostelling International, since you’ve taken on the role in September 2020 what have been your priorities and what do you intend to bring to the organisation?
It is such a great honour to be the first woman CEO of HI. I love working for this organisation as I believe travel can contribute greatly towards society, local economies and the planet. My priorities, as you can imagine, have been, as for many others worldwide, to navigate the pandemic and get ready for the future. There is an opportunity, we should not miss, not to go back to “business-as-usual”. We can learn from our past, try to understand why we got into this situation and rethink what the future should be.
As a new leader of the organisation, but also a sustainability leader, I intend to continue transforming HI following what we call in sustainability the ‘Outside-in vs Inside-out strategy’ or working towards being a ‘True Sustainability Organisation’.
HI does a lot environmentally and socially; globally and locally in 77 destinations since it was born over 80 years ago, and it is in our DNA and charity object to do so.
Now the question is, how can we do better? What does the future generation, expect from our organisation? How can we have a greater contribution? These are not questions that should be answered individually, but in collaboration.
Q. What is your most memorable hostel experience as a traveller?
This is a very difficult question; hostels have played a very relevant part in my travel history.
First, as a young person travelling with my school and group of friends, then as an au pair in Australia and later on with my best friend and her daughter and today I work in this great organisation. I love the diversity of our network and how connected they are to the local communities and experiences as well as the safe and quality environment they provide and the strong values. Staying in a hostel changed my life, I was there during my Barcelona 92 volunteering experience and, in a common room, I heard a group of international people talking and having a lot of fun. I realized that I was not able to talk to them because my English was not very good (I’m from Spain) and I was not brave enough to join them, I lacked self-confidence.
Two years later, I left my job and was travelling to Australia to spend nine months as an au pair to learn English and discover an amazing country. I stayed in hostels there and I came back as a different person. I left as a Spaniard and came back as a world citizen. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone may be challenging, but it’s a very powerful experience.
Q. What message do you want to share with our global community of travellers for 2021?
We have such a great community out there that share our values, and love for responsible travel. I’m confident that international travel will resume during 2021, and we will be able to facilitate youth travel again and provide great experiences to our travellers. We are ready for them to come back! We will continue to provide quality and sustainability-oriented hostels to empower travellers through intercultural interaction, experiences, new friendship and exploration. I would say, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, and explore this beautiful world and yourself. If you dream of a different world, stand up for it! We cannot change the past, but everything we do today will change the future, it is in our hands.
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