Content Tabs

100 Years of Swiss Youth Hostels

  • 1900 to 1924: History

    Shortly after the turn of the 19th century, many young people have very little free time or money. Communal hiking, singing and dancing in the great outdoors offer an inexpensive entertainment option, regardless of the presence of adults.

  • 1924 to 1932: Founding years

    After the First World War, young people became increasingly enthusiastic about hiking with their peers. Parents and teachers start to become concerned. They wonder if family ties are being torn apart, authority lost and if a willingness to work is diminishing.

  • 1930 to 1938: Economic crisis, spiritual national defence, fascism

    The 1930s are characterised by unemployment, fear of war and spiritual national defence. Nevertheless, the youth hostels expand their network and defy the economic realities, sometimes thanks to a huge amount of luck, sometimes thanks to great courage.

  • 1939 to 1947: Wartime and reconstruction

    With the outbreak of war in the summer of 1939, the influx of visitors to the youth hostels dramatically declines. Instead of young guests from abroad, soldiers on active duty are now sleeping in large dormitories.

  • 1947 to 1959: Recovery and professionalisation

    After the war, the world is slowly recovering and international ties are rekindled. After significant growth up to 1938, the number of youth hostels is steadily decreasing.

  • 1960 to 1970: The dawn of the youth

    The 1960s are marked by an economic boom and young people seeking more freedom. The youth hostels are facing competitive pressure for the first time.

  • 1970 to 1980: Backpackers discover Switzerland

    Now even young people can afford long-distance trips; everything is cheaper and almost everyone has enough work. The world seems to be open to everyone, especially the American boys and Canadian girls travelling on a budget.

  • 1980 to 1990: Research into youth tourism

    When looking for sponsorship, questions of image come to the fore. Are the youth hostels keeping up with the times and what do potential guests think of them?

  • 1990 to 1999: Restructuring and realignment

    The Swiss Youth Hostels have to find their way in the globalised world and are exposed to competition and newly sensitised guests from all over the world. Financially, things are getting tight.

  • 2000 to 2010: Repositioning and image adjustment

    Who is not familiar with the Swiss Youth Hostels? Hardly anyone. One in three Swiss citizens knows what is being talked about when they are asked about the hostels that are affectionately known as “jugis”. They are a national symbol.

  • 2010 to 2019: Strategic Sustainability

    From 2010, the youth hostels start harvesting sunshine from their roofs. As part of the Swiss Youth Hostels’ sustainability strategy, numerous renewable energy projects are implemented from the second decade of the 2000s onwards.

  • From 2020: Years of the pandemic and a new start

    In 2020/2021, the COVID-19 pandemic brings international travel to an almost complete standstill. Stay-at-home orders and travel bans for school parties and groups within Switzerland push the Swiss Youth Hostels to the limits of their economic viability.

Our network over the years

1926 – Founding years

Number of youth hostels:       80
Number of beds: -
Number of visitors: 5'076
Domestic guests: -
Foreign guests: -

1938 – Crisis and fascism

Number of youth hostels:       208
Number of beds: 7,450
Number of visitors: 104,949
Domestic guests: 90,087 (85.8%)
Foreign guests: 14,862 (14.2%)

1945 – Wartime and reconstruction

Number of youth hostels:       168
Number of beds: 8,292
Number of visitors: 75,431
Domestic guests: 75,418 (100%)
Foreign guests: 13
Military personnel: 9'093
Refugee children: 6'055

1950 – Recovery and professionalisation

Number of youth hostels:       165
Number of beds: 8'920
Number of visitors: 131’519
Domestic guests: 89'479 (68%)
Foreign guests: 42'040 (32%)

1960 – The dawn of youth

Number of youth hostels:       141
Number of beds: 9,437
Number of visitors: 256,149
Domestic guests: 116,696 (45.6%)
Foreign guests: 139,453 (54.4%)

1970 – The backpackers arrive

Number of youth hostels:       116
Number of beds: 8,489
Number of visitors: 318,552
Domestic guests: 116,605 (36.6%)
Foreign guests: 201,947 (63.4%)

1980 – Youth tourism

Number of youth hostels:       99
Number of beds: 8,750
Number of visitors: 396,884 
Domestic guests: 152,054 (38.3%)
Foreign guests: 244,830 (61.7%)

1991 – Restructuring

Number of youth hostels:       84
Number of beds: 7,893
Number of visitors: 508,704 
Domestic guests: 185,008 (36.4%) 
Foreign guests: 323,696 (63.6%)

2000 – Repositioning

Number of youth hostels:       63
Number of beds: 6,295
Number of visitors: 434,956
Domestic guests: 228,432 (52.5%)
Foreign guests: 206,524 (47.5%)

2010 – Image correction

Number of youth hostels:       57
Number of beds: 6,411
Number of visitors: 475,890
Domestic guests: 277,922 (58.4%)
Foreign guests: 197,968 (41.6%)

2020 – Strategic sustainability

Number of youth hostels:       52
Number of beds: 6,198
Number of visitors: 231,088
Domestic guests: 200,281 (86.7%)
Foreign guests: 30,807 (13.3%)

2023 – Pandemic and restart

Number of youth hostels:       49
Number of beds: 6,034
Number of visitors: 437,581
Domestic guests: 315,544 (72.1%)
Foreign guests: 122,037 (27.9%)

50 years of the Swiss Foundation for Social Tourism

History of the Swiss Foundation for Social Tourism

The Swiss Foundation for Social Tourism achieves its goal by building and furnishing youth hostels for young people, schools and families. You can find out more about the history of SSST here.

Generations of youth hostels

The architecture of Swiss Youth Hostels changes over time and is constantly adapting to new needs. Find out exactly how and which trends have played an important role here.