Even the hostel, the economical alternative, suffers from the pressures of economic crunch
On an Island where finding a meal for under $30 can be difficult, lodging at the Hostelling International (HI) of Martha's Vineyard is one of the Island's best deals. Despite nightly rates as low as $32, the hostel has not been immune to the economic woes that have renters and hotels on the Island seeing fewer bookings this year.
"We do seem a little bit slower than we were last year, and overall bookings are down," said the hostel's manager, Jeff Munroe. "It seems like after talking with some other hostels in the area and talking to guests, a lot of it is attributed to the economy. Some people who came down a few times last year on a shoestring budget and had a great time, we haven't heard from them this year."
With numbers down, the hostel still strives to make the pleasures of the Island accessible to travelers from all walks of life. Although the rates are inexpensive, cohabitants can expect a lot for their money.
The hostel employs seven friendly staff members who maintain a clean and open facility that provides linens, a bed, along with bathroom and kitchen spaces for use of the visitors.
The accommodations include 69 bunk beds, separated into men's, women's, and coed dorms of varying sizes.
What the hostel may lack in lavish accommodations it makes up for in the open common areas. These areas are important part of the ethos behind the Hostel International system and are why hostels remain a popular choice for travel enthusiasts worldwide.
"Hostelling International is an organization based on the idea of international exchange," said Mr. Munroe, as he sat on a picnic table outside of the entrance to the hostel. "The idea being that if you stay in hostels where you share accommodation and common spaces, you are more likely to interact with people than if you stayed in a hotel. People are just more accessible in hostels than they would be in a hotel. Additionally, since hostels are less expensive than hotels, you're more likely to travel at all. So we have people staying here who otherwise wouldn't have come to the Island."
Photos by Alex Bell
Mr. Munroe and his staff encourage travelers to find a little time during their visits to give back to the community that is hosting them.
"We do different programs where we bring people out into the community," continued Mr. Monroe. "There are a couple of farms where we bring people to volunteer, and they get greens and produce in return. Just things like that where we can show our visitors the real Martha's Vineyard. Also, we try to let people know what's going on around the Island. But mostly people really want to just go to the beach."
A recent hostel visitor was a German tourist named Karren, who was enjoying her second visit to the Vineyard.
"I always go to hostels when I stay in the United States, because they are very nice. I have been all over on the East Coast and in the middle, like Chicago," Karren explained. "I have been even to Hawaii. I come mostly for the atmosphere, and you always get lots of information about what is going on around here. You bump into a lot of interesting people from all over the world."
Because of the affordability of the hostel, Karren has been able to return, something she doesn't take for granted.
"Everything is so green, and it is so different than in Europe. In Europe, the beautiful islands are occupied by tourists and by these ugly skyscrapers. Not like here where things are kept so natural. That's what I appreciate about the Island."
In 1955, Lilly Manter and her family started the Youth Hostel, after hearing about the program while traveling. They built the building that now houses the hostel because they wanted to provide young travelers an opportunity to visit the Island at a low cost.
In 1970s, the facility joined Hostelling International, when the local management realized that travelers who had grown up visiting the hostel had began to exceed the age limit for a youth hostel. The hostel in its current form welcomes men and women of any age and group size.
Hostelling International of Martha's Vineyard is at 25 Edgartown-West Tisbury Road and is accessible by the #6 VTA Bus.