From April next year New Zealand will be ready for international tourists to return. Where will they stay?
News that the Youth Hostels Association will be permanently closing its YHA hotels next month was met with disbelief. Also, more than a little sadness from tourists around the world.
The popular Mount Cook Village YHA will be one of eleven hostels out of operation this summer. The Tekapo hostel which was less than two years old, was practically unused by international visitors.
With 30 associated hostels, the Kiwi chapter of Youth Hostelling international was one of the most popular in the world. This all but stopped when the border closed at the beginning of 2020.
This time last year the YHA published an open letter warning the Tourism Minister Stuart Nash not to underestimate the importance of the youth tourism market.
Without young blood and budget travellers New Zealand was at risk of becoming "Florida of the South Pacific".
The then executive Brian Westwood warned against the shortsightedness of letting hostels go out of business.
Over the past 20 years the government had pocketed about $42 billion in GST, for very little investment. As a Kiwi abroad it is always a surprise, quite how many people know the inside of the Mt Cook YHA or have fond memories of their time coasting from hostel to hostel.
For almost ninety years, backpackers and woofers looking for bunks have been able to find a modest stay and perhaps the odd job.
It is a model that clashes with the proposed vision for "Tourism Futures" as proposed in this year's re-set plan.
It is a busy but niche end of the tourism industry. You'll not find many "high value" visitors or many "high paying" jobs in the local youth hostel, but the sector feels it has been sold short.
Is the youth hostel a casualty of Minister Nash's Industry Transformation Plan?
Last week Nash's office announced the next step for the ITP, with a leadership group of 13 industry members to help shape the tourism reset.
The minister said the team would be tasked with creating an action plan for 2022 with a "focus on 'better work' and developing the tourism workforce".
With the great and the good represented from airlines, unions and hotel groups, these are the group tasked with planning the international tourism restart.
However, hostelling groups or campervan companies were decidedly absent from the board.
The backpacker lodges have at times felt left out of a recovery plan which favours fewer, higher spending and - undeniably - older tourists.
With 20 months of closed borders, the era of the YHA is over. But as we've seen from the restart in other parts of the world it is the younger, less risk-averse traveller who is first over the parapet.
They have the choice to break their budget on hotel nights, end up freedom camping in more questionable accommodation, or paying into some nameless offshore BnB app -siphoning hospitality dollars off to San Francisco.
The backpackers will be back, but where will they stay?