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Our Story

For good, not for profit!

Did you know we are one of the world’s largest international membership organisations with more than 3.5 million members?

For us it’s not just about having a place to stay, it’s about you experiencing all that hostelling has to offer and creating amazing memories - whether that’s learning about new cultures, meeting new people or discovering yourself along the way.

We work with Youth Hostel Associations in 75 countries/areas to ensure that hostelling is open to everyone, is affordable and offers you a great night’s sleep in a safe environment.

HI hostels can be found in some of the most inspiring and unusual places in the world. Fancy a stay in a jail? Or in a castle? Or maybe in a train? Check out some of our most unique hostels.  

How it all began... 

Since the beginning of Youth Hostelling nearly 100 year ago one thing was clear: Regardless of origin or wealth young people should be able to explore the world, experience community and through the stay in Hostels broaden their horizons and enrichen their life’s.  

Education and tolerance are just as important to us today as they were then. With the aim to open eyes as well as minds, to grow their appreciation for the world around them. We hope to strengthen backbones and support intercultural meetings and understanding and like that create a greater future for everyone. 


1909 German school teacher Richard Schirrmann sees the need for overnight accommodation for school children so that they have a place to stay during class trips. Schools are then used during the holidays, with classrooms being temporarily converted to accommodate beds.

Schirrmann sets up the first youth hostel in his own school in Altena, Westphalia. Soon after this is replaced by a permanent hostel in Altena Castle (a real medieval fortified castle!). Still a castle today, we dare you to visit it!

"It is impossible to squeeze the limitless world into a crowded classroom. So the school must go out into the world."

Richard Schirrmann

1919 The idea of hostelling spreads across Germany and Schirrmann founds the German Youth Hostel Association.

The youth hostel movement quickly spreads worldwide so the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) is founded. Richard Schirrmann is appointed President.

It was agreed by through conference that participants accept as their ultimate objective the reciprocal recognition of national membership cards in all countries, and they will work to achieve this objective as quickly as possible. This was the start of national membership cards being recognised worldwide.

1936 Schirrmann is forced to resign by the German government.
1947 Awarded consultative status with UNESCO

Awarded observer status with United Nations

The youth hostel movement began to expand rapidly into new continents; Asia, Africa and Latin America.

1952 Implementation of standards
1997 The network reached over 500 million overnights

Known as the decade of development – the international network agreed to work together to open up new markets.

Implementation of a standardised committment to our environment

1988 Conference adopted a paper on environmental guidelines including the use of non-pollutant materials in Youth Hostels and education of hostellers
1992 IYHF becomes Environment Charter approved

The network reached over 1 billion overnights


Introduction of the current booking system: prior to this bookings were made using vouchers which you could post off to the hostel, this moved onto BABA (book a bed ahead) by fax and then in the1980's IBN (International Booking Network) this morphed into the booking system with have now in 2000’s

From 2000 onwards the concept of Youth Hostelling for Peace and International Understanding was embraced.

2006 The International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) operates as Hostelling International (HI).

The network reached over 1.5 billion overnights

2009 The 100th anniversary was celebrated all over the HI network.

HI and all its member associations sign the HI Sustainability Charter - Our policy in sustainable tourism, demonstrating the commitment of the movement to “intensifying their efforts to achieve a worldwide network of sustainable organisations and hostels”.

HI becomes a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) International Standards Working Group (ISWG).


HI receives the Golden Backpack Awards UK by TNT Magazine - Winner in the Besy Hostels category.
2012 HI receives the myclimate award for “Newcomer of the Year” in the hotel industry.

HI receives the Ambassador for Peace Award from the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) for its work encouraging young people to travel to break down cultural barriers and promote peace.

HI receives several distinctions for the Big Blog Exchange programme:

  • WYSE Travel Confederation's Global Youth Travel Award for Marketing Innovation;
  • British Youth Travel Awards for Best Marketing; 
  • Recognition from the UNWTO, runner up for the Award for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism in the category “Non-Governmental Organizations”.

HI is selected as finalists at the Hertfordshire Business Awards:

  • HI Groups in International Business of the Year category;
  • Big Blog Exchange in Innovation category.
2014 HI becomes a member of the UNWTO Affiliate Members Programme.

HI is elected Vice-Chairman of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Affiliate Members Programme and part of the UNWTO Committee on Tourism and Sustainability.

The first global Sleep For Peace campaign is launched.

The HI-Quality & Sustainability standards are recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.


HI adopts the 10 areas of Sustainable Hostelling as our Strategy to deliver the HI Sustainability Charter and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs).


HI celebrates the United Nations (UN) International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

HI is elected to lead the UNWTO SDGs Support Working Group for Affiliate Members.


The HI International Office is Quality & Sustainability certified.

HI approves by Conference to minimize, if possible ban, single-use plastics at all HI Hostels

HI approves by Conference that all HI Hostels that offer food products take steps to reduce their foodprint


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