Tourism chief looks to private sector in fight to save hostels

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BORDERS Tourist Board chairman Colin McGrath will be among local leaders of the industry to meet early in the New Year with Scottish Youth Hostels chief Keith Legge to discuss the fate of the three remaining hostels in the region.

TheSouthern revealed earlier this month that Mr Legge had agreed to come to the Borders and meet local tourism representatives to hear their concerns over plans to close the hostels at Melrose, Yetholm and Broadmeadows, near Selkirk. The invitation was extended by Borders MP Michael Moore, who was briefed by Mr Legge this month on the issues surrounding the planned closures of the hostels.

The association has cited financial difficulties and low visitor numbers as the reason for the closures, but the move has sparked anger in the Borders, where it is seen as another blow to efforts to attract more visitors.

Mr McGrath, from Kelso, who is also a member of the board of management of the Institute of Hospitality Scotland, spoke with Mr Legge recently to voice his concerns over the hostel closure plans.

“The backpacking fraternity is very important to the Borders. They come when they are young, looking for inexpensive accommodation, and then they come back when they are more grown up,” Mr McGrath said this week. “If these hostels closed we would be looking at losing a big chunk of our tourist market and that’s what I will be saying when I attend this meeting with Mr Legge.”

Asked if it would be possible for private business to supply hostel-type accommodation to plug any gap in the market should closure happen, he said: “We have got a lot of ideas coming forward at the moment and that is certainly one of them. A private hostel operator would be possible, but such an operation would have to be run in conjunction with the Scottish Youth Hostels Association as it would need access to the lists of contacts and other information that the association holds.”