HI USA becomes Elite member of WYSE Travel Confederation
We are excited to announce HI USA has recently opted to become an Elite member of WYSE Travel Confederation. As HI USA sets its path to becoming recognised as an advocate for youth travel, they are now better positioned with the tools, resources and networking opportunities available to them as part of their Elite level of membership. Encouraging young people to experience the transformative power of travel as a means to creating a more tolerant world is at the heart of what HI USA sets out to achieve.
We talked to HI USA’s team about what prompted their decision to become an Elite member of WYSE Travel Confederation.
What prompted your company’s decision to become an Elite Member of WYSE Travel Confederation?
This year, HI USA will participate in WYSTC, STAY WYSE and ITB, so Elite membership certainly makes economic sense. But beyond that, since WYSE Travel Confederation restructured several years ago, we are feeling much more energy and activity. We feel like this is an organisation worth investing in. As a cultural exchange organisation, we love the vibe and networking that is so much a part of WYSTC. As a hostel provider, of course, we put a high priority on STAY WYSE – which seems to grow every year in both numbers and activity.
Can you tell us one way WYSE Travel Confederation membership has impacted the way HI USA does business?
Wanting to have a larger involvement in the 2018 New Horizons Survey release was certainly part of the timing behind our Elite membership. The 2018 survey edition features valuable market data, as it has in the past, but this time includes some particularly savvy analysis of topics that matter to us and to the sector. As an organisation, HI USA always wants to be part of a terrific product! And our hunch is that there is more to come.
Which youth travel trends does HI USA see as potential ‘disruptors’ or game-changers for businesses operations?
Millennials’ desire to capture everything on camera for that perfect social media post is always top of mind when planning events, experiences, and promotions. How can we create social media-worthy moments that also convey the message we want to share? Every planning sessions bares this question and our efforts to curate these moments will continue to get more sophisticated as we develop new projects from the ground up.
What is an industry challenge HI USA is facing at this time?
As an industry, there are both real and perceived barriers to travel, in general. The US, in particular, is struggling with being perceived as an unwelcoming country, which hurts us all.
How do you think HI USA has been able stay relevant and impactful throughout an 80-year history of youth travel advocacy?
While the amenities may have expanded and the spaces may be more modern, at its core, our hostel experience has always been the same: turning strangers from all over the world into lifelong friends. No matter the advances in technology, nothing can replace human to human interaction, and that’s what our hostels have always – and always will – provide.
HI USA is also a big advocate for sustainable tourism. What is a favourite success story from these efforts?
Our most exciting story is the 200,000 Euro grant we received from the Booking.com Cares fund earlier this year to reinvent the showering experience at our hostels. We’re installing Hydrao SmartShowers in all our HI USA-operated hostels, which are showerheads that change colour based on the length of time in use. With a goal to shave 30 seconds off the average guest shower, the showerhead provides colour cues to indicate how long you’ve been showering and signal when it’s time to wrap up and get out. We’re starting a journey to save one million gallons of water, beginning in September, with two hostels to start the pilot. This effort has been coined our “Million Gallon Challenge”.
What has been a major challenge for HI USA in trying to make travel more sustainable?
We take pride in each of our more than 50 hostels nationwide being unique. But that also presents a major challenge when trying to implement brand-wide sustainability initiatives. There is no one size fits all, so every hostel has to be evaluated individually. That’s why our showerhead project is so desirable and impactful – it’s literally one size fits all!
The New Horizons Survey IV has revealed that, since 2012, more travellers are feeling the negative impact of barriers to travel, such as visa restrictions and safety concerns. How is HI USA continuing to encourage youth travel and mobility, even as some governments are moving in the opposite direction?
HI USA provides a range of educational programs to help more Americans understand the how and why of travel, and push past those barriers referenced above. Some of the programs we offer include Women Travelling Solo, Study Abroad 101, and World Travel 101. We also offer travel scholarships to assist the financially disadvantaged to pursue their travel dreams, providing one hundred and four $2,000 scholarships in 2018 alone.
What else would you like fellow WYSE Travel Confederation members to know about HI USA?
Volunteerism is highly valued within our organisation. Our own volunteers contribute to nearly 30,000 hours of time each year to our mission of intercultural understanding. And we encourage other organisations to undertake volunteer projects in needy neighbourhoods through our Great Hostel Give Back Program, which provides free overnights to volunteer participants engaging in community service.