(A complete article published originally in the WFP, July '80)
Canada has been slow to recognize the enormous potential of youth tourism, Grace Ivey, executive director of the Manitoba Hostelling Association, said yesterday.
She told a Rotary Club luncheon audience that there are only 60 permanent youth hostels in Canada. But in the summer months the number swells to 130.
In comparison, West Germany has more than 500 permanent hostels and Poland more than 1,000, she said.
Backpacking across the Canada has become big business. In 1977, according to a report from the department of the Secretary of State, hostellers spent well over $3 million.
Until recently youth hostelling has had a bad name in Canada, she said. When the 1969 boom started, the federal government provided funds to youth employment projects to provide quarters for travellers. Quite often, the accommodations were dirty, inconvenient and unpleasant.
Since the 10 regional hostelling associations have taken over providing services for travellers the quality has improved, she said.
This year some hostel associations will face financial problems. In an attempt to curb spending, the federal government cancelled aid to the various groups. As a result, they will have to try and get by on their own.
In Manitoba, this will pose problems for only one facility, Ivey said.
The Manitoba hostelling association recently purchased and renovated a property at 210 Maryland for use as a modern hostel. But renovation costs "were double what we thought they'd be," she said.
The group hopes to get donations to help pay off the bill and defray future costs.
No trouble is expected with the province's three other hostels. For instance, Brandon's hostel is situated on the grounds of a hospital, in the old medical directors house. Facilities there have been expanded by the addition of two trailers.
Another lies 25 miles east of Winnipeg on the TransCanada highway at the Lilac Motel. Owners of the motel have turned an old wing of the building over to the association to run as a hostel.
The third facility is a farm in Glenborough near Spruce Woods. It operates summer and winter-and provides travellers with homecooked meals while they stay.