Accommodation can hardly be more beautiful. The Wadden Sea awaits at the door, if you walk ten minutes in the opposite direction, you will first reach the dunes of Sylt and then the soft wide sandy beach of the open sea. The youth hostel “Puan Klent” (named after a nearby dune), located between Rantum and Hörnum in the south of the island, is a real gem and one of the favorite destinations of school classrooms. Hamburg schoolchildren like to go on class trips to a 100-year-old house, and Berlin schools also often book their class trips to the North Sea here.
“It promised a good year,” says Horst Bötcher. He runs the foundation of the same name, which runs a guest house with 400 beds. “Puan Klent” had more than 46,000 registrations this year, but then Corona came. The home had to be closed from March to the end of May, and even now there are no guests due to partial locking. Only 14,000 reservations remained, but the cost of cancellation rose sharply. Bötcher speaks of a “serious six-figure amount”.
5,500 non-profit organizations are affected
“Puan Klent” is not an isolated case. There are an estimated 5,500 non-profit organizations in Germany with approximately 150,000 employees. Whether it is a youth hostel, a school camp, a nature lovers’ house or a meeting place for churches, everyone is struggling with the same problem: the cancellation of group trips in connection with the corona.
For example, youth hostels generate about 40 of their turnovers through school trips. However, many Länder – unlike Berlin – banned multi-day class trips in the new school year. The fact that the houses could reopen in the summer did not solve the problem. Due to the summer holidays, almost no school classes came, but families or individual travelers. “Two tourists who stay in a youth hostel in the countryside do not help,” says Justin Blum, a spokesman for the German Youth Hostel Association.
Live like a burgrave: The Bacharach youth hostel at Stahleck Castle allows you to travel again. Photo: promo
Youth hostels: 80 percent less overnight stays
There are around 450 youth hostels in Germany, and the numbers are steady: “We currently expect 80 percent fewer overnight stays this year,” says Blum. Last year it was around ten million, which brought houses a turnover of around 385 million euros. The Association of Youth Hostels expects sales to fall by two thirds this year – despite complex hygiene concepts.
Some operators are trying to handle the crisis in an unusual way. For example, the ADS-Grenzfriedensbund, which has nothing to do with a lack of attention but is committed to minorities in the German-Danish border areas, has been renting its school camp in Rantum on Sylt to artisans since July. Where schoolchildren would otherwise struggle with pillows, construction workers can now stay in one room with half board for € 62 a night.
No children and young people: The ADS house in Rantum on Sylt is now rented to craftsmen. Photo: Heike Jahberg
“Puan Klent” is also resourceful when it comes to making money because you are burned. At the end of 2017, the foundation had to file for bankruptcy and the operations returned to plan from February 2018. But a lot is outdated. To take a shower, you have to go across the hall. And a shower that can hold five young people at the same time helps save water, but is no longer suitable.
[Alle wichtigen Updates des Tages zum Coronavirus finden Sie im kostenlosen Tagesspiegel-Newsletter “Fragen des Tages”. Dazu die wichtigsten Nachrichten, Leseempfehlungen und Debatten. Zur Anmeldung geht es hier.]
“Puan Klent”: Shares should be bought by private individuals
That should change now. Two thirds of the old buildings are to be demolished, instead a modern integrating dune village is to be created. The public sector provides 15 million euros. A member of the board of directors of the Bötcher Foundation must contribute EUR 1.2 million to its own funds: To this end, he has set up a non-profit joint-stock company that sells shares worth EUR 100. Sales will begin in late November; the target group is mainly private individuals from Hamburg. “The people of Hamburg are passionate about ‘Puan Klent,'” Bötcher believes.
Simple equipment: A dune village is to be built in “Puan Klent”. Photo: picture alliance / dpa
How it helps the state
What alleviates the needs of operators is that they, too, are now receiving state assistance. November’s support and Corona’s bridging support from the Federal Ministry of Economy now benefit from non-profit providers. The Federal Ministry for the Family has released an additional € 100 million to support non-profit child and youth care organizations. There are also state programs. In addition, carriers try to get money from insurance companies for their failures and collect outstanding cancellation bills.
Who bears the cancellation costs?
In Berlin, the Senate Ministry of Finance reimburses teachers or parents, on request, for the cost of canceling class trips that have been canceled due to the Corona. However, new destinations can only be booked with providers who do not charge cancellation fees in case of cancellation. Almost all other federal states do the same. As a result, many homes meanwhile give up the cost of cancellation if a class trip falls into the water because of an infection in the classroom, a quarantine has been ordered, or official travel bans have been imposed.
[Behalten Sie den Überblick: Jeden Morgen ab 6 Uhr berichten Chefredakteur Lorenz Maroldt und sein Team im Tagesspiegel-Newsletter Checkpoint über die aktuellsten Entwicklungen rund um das Coronavirus. Jetzt kostenlos anmelden: checkpoint.tagesspiegel.de.]
Guests are already canceling next year
However, what worries youth hostels and others is that next year there is also a risk of falling into the water. “Puan Klent” already has 46,000 reservations for 2021, but weekly reservations are declining. There is great skepticism that official travel bans will also come next year.
“Trips to July, August and September will be canceled,” says Horst Bötcher. “I’m very sorry.” says Justin Blum.