Backpacker hostel in Exeter could be turned into apartments after pandemic hits trade

An iconic Exeter hostel for backpackers could be turned into apartments after its trade was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Owners of the Globe Backpackers, in Holloway Street, have submitted plans to convert the premises into homes in a bid to ‘virus-proof’ their business.

It is the only hostel in Exeter and has been run by Caroline and Paul Heaton for the last 22 years.

Their application to the city council says that the style of business has been adversely affected by government guidelines – and communal accommodation is likely to be the last to reopen.

The application states: “The new normal makes communal budget travel living an unviable business and we are only still remaining open because of government/taxpayers’ money in the form of furlough and grants distributed via the council.

“Once this stops and we have to rely on trade, it won’t be able to sustain itself.

“Converting this building into residential apartments will give it a good and much more sustainable future.”

The Globe Backpackers hostel in Exeter. Image: Stephen Richards/Geograph

The Globe Backpackers hostel in Exeter. Image: Stephen Richards/Geograph

The statement adds: “None of Globe Backpackers Exeter bedrooms have en-suite facilities and three out of eight of the bedrooms operate as dormitories.

“This means as a business we are in an extremely difficult and vulnerable position when it comes to reopening to the general public and attracting trade.

“It has become very apparent that the world as we know it has changed forever and the Government recently has announced that we are going to have to learn to live with this virus and any others which are likely to come along in the future.

“This means we need to aim to ‘virus-proof’ our business to be able to continue to bring in an income for three out of four of our family members and additional employees.

“We need to diversify to survive and we need to look at the best way to use our building.”

The application says of the proposals to convert the building back into apartments: “This option could offer the possibility for both short- and long-stay rentals and would add to the much-needed housing stock.

“It lends itself to great inner city living due to its perfect central location within easy walking distance to all of the many facilities the city has to offer and this also sits well with green and eco thinking.

“Instead of 50-plus people per night tramping around the building it will drop to 16 people maximum.

“The only reason we have any people paying and staying this year at all is because the law allowed them to remain as they had already been staying for more than 30 nights consecutive.

Exeter City Council planners will decide the fate of the application.

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