A brainchild of an eminent German school teacher, Mr. Richard Schirrmann and that in no time turned into a movement and hardly left any country in the world unaffected. The maiden movement came to India in early 1940s, much before the partition and was mainly introduced by Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of India, Punjab Circle.
Well, we are talking about the glorious journey of the Youth Hostel Movement with its first-ever Youth Hostel established at a school in 1912 in Antelia, Germany, furthermore with the formation of the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) as an outcome of a conference held in Amsterdam in 1932. The seeds of this influence germinated in India too with the first-ever Youth Hostel formally inaugurated at Tara Devi near Shimla on June 9, 1945, by Sir Bertrand Glancy, Chief Scout and Governor of the Punjab.
Soon it gained momentum from around 1949 by a group of enthusiastic people who formed a Committee in Mussoorie, forging an Indian Association and sooner became an Associate member of IYHF. Thus, shaping up the prominent body of the Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI). The second establishment in a row and the first one ever by YHAI was developed in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh with its own member resources in a donated plot of land.
In 1956 during a Conference in New Delhi, it grabbed the attention of then Prime Minister, Late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru who appreciated and encouraged the movement which had the backing of the cabinet as well. The next property of YHAI, came up in Ganjam, Orissa near the seas to provide a different experience other than hills.
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Today it has around 150 locations under YHAI in the country that not only provides accommodation but also nurtures learning through training, adventure camps, cultural tour and a lot more activities. Its effort in developing tourism is so eminent and visionary that it ingrained a travel culture among youths.
YHAI has both yearly and lifetime memberships that can be availed as per needs and benefits. Also, there are individual and institutional memberships apt for schools, colleges and organizations requiring mass participation. With its special category membership, International Youth Travel Card (IYTC), one can avail hostel and cheap accommodations around 4,000 locations across the globe encouraged and endorsed by UNESCO.
Apart from the accommodation, the attractive national programmes and state-level programmes that emphasize adventure, trekking, water sports, mountaineering etc are also organised at regular time intervals, where priority is exposure and not profit. Even YHAI is so India-centric that it tries to cover all age groups by including family tours and outings where destinations are more risk-free and less adventurous.
Modern-day hostelling culture or adventure packages by various groups are just a replica of the pioneering initiative of the YHAI, which is still ideal to provide the best at an affordable price and also a part of a historic movement. Or perhaps, they must have been the disciple of YHAI and learned the culture of hostelling, hospitality, management and adventure tourism very clearly. So, nothing comes closer to the YHAI today.