German youth hostels gained more members last year, but the number of overnight stays dropped significantly. They face strong competition from privately owned hostels - especially in Germany's big cities.
The German Youth Hostel Association (DJH) registered over 10 million overnight stays in 2014, said Bernd Dohn, DJH chief executive, during a press conference in Bielefeld on Monday.
Despite this impressive number, there were around 84,000 fewer overnight bookings than the previous year. The drop was particularly noticeable among young travelers.
Privately owned hostels, particularly in big cities, have responded to increasing demand. For example, Berlin has only three DJH hostels, only one of which is near the center - a number that has remained unchanged since the time the city was divided by the Berlin Wall.
However, the DJH reached a new record in its membership figures for 2014, increasing by 2.2 percent, with 2.4 million members. The growth is largely due to family memberships.
The association welcomed the European Commission's decision to renew its non-profit status. Commercial youth hostels had initially filed an appeal against the non-profit status of the DJH, claiming the tax exemptions created unfair competition.
Dohn explained that the DJH remains committed to establishing hostels with a social, ecological and sustainable character.
The world's first youth hostel opened in 1914in Altena's medieval hill castle in what is now the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Today, the German Youth Hostel Association boasts approximately 500 hostels, making it the largest national association amongst the world's 65 youth hostel organizations.
ej,ak,eg/sc (dpa, epd)