Youth charity YHA has called for support from MPs after suffering a £30m loss since the start of the pandemic in March.
YHA's annual income has been around £50m in each of the last five years, according to its filings with the Charity Commission. It operates 153 youth hostels in England and Wales.
The charity has asked politicians to sign a parliamentary petition asking the government for “packages of support” to protect hostels during the crisis.
Hostels may shut permanently
YHA said that hundreds of hostels and bunkhouses have been forced to close during the pandemic, and warned that many will shut permanently if there is no additional support to see the sector through the winter.
Anita Kerwin-Nye, the director of strategy and engagement at YHA (England & Wales), said: “Hostelling is a movement based on sharing: sharing spaces, sharing ideas and sharing joy of nature, outdoors and heritage.
“Affordable travel is needed now more than ever.”
Adapted use during the crisis
The charity says on its website that the coronavirus has dealt “a severe blow to our income, bringing sorrow and hardship to many in our community”.
Its current fundraising campaign aims to provide breaks for young carers and respite for NHS staff, for whom “the stress has been unimaginable”.
Some YHA hostels have been adapted and licensed to local authorities during the pandemic to help councils house vulnerable people.
The parliamentary petition, which is called an early day motion (EDM), was started last week. Any member of parliament can sign an EDM to show their support for a cause, although they have no power to change government policy.
It has been signed by MPs from all the main political parties so far except the Conservatives.
The campaign is backed by Independent Hostels UK, a network of independently-owned bunkhouses and hostels which has more than 400 members.
More than one million people stayed in YHA hostels in 2018-19, according to the charity’s own statistics, and over 1,000 young people volunteered with the organisation.