Business Of The Month For
January - Budget Backpackers
And Foley Towers
- Dorothy - 16/1/98
"An interview with Eric Foley, Director
of Budget Backpackers Hostels NZ Ltd."
A New Zealand-wide network
In 1986 Eric Foley in Christchurch and Mark Dumble in Taupo formed a
company, Budget Backpackers Hostels NZ Ltd (BBHNZ), which would develop a network of backpacker hostels
throughout New Zealand and offer travellers information about them. They
began with just 39 members.
The original two storey house at Foley Towers
Rapid growth in the industry
The backpacking hostel industry was at the beginning of a phenomenal growth
period as the popularity of this form of travel has snowballed in the last
decade in New Zealand.
Budget Backpackers Hostels NZ Ltd now has almost all the independent
owner-operated hostels in New Zealand as members, and such has been the
growth of backpacking in this country that there are now 220 members.
Members of the network offer accommodation in a wide range of places from
Henderson Bay in the far north to Stewart Island in the far south and also
in the Cook Islands.
An information service
In addition to networking the purpose of the Company is to give travellers
reliable information about backpacker accommodation and have some quality
control over members.
On one day in the height of the tourist season evaluation forms are
distributed in every hostel in the country for clients to rate aspects of
the hostels and the facilities provided. These ratings are collated and
the percentages are published in the quick reference listing at the
beginning of a handbook, giving travellers a quick overview of the places
available, the costs and the facilities.
Hostels are listed from North to South and in addition to the quick
reference list at the beginning of the book there is a list with a more
detailed description of each hostel and a map of the hostels in the major
cities. There is also a rapid reference phone list at the back of the
This year the company printed 200,000 copies of their 1998 handbook
compared to 175,000 last year.
Using a Web Site
Eric and Mark were among the first business people to recognise the value
of a Web site in servicing a global customer base. The site is now
averaging more than 20,000 visits a year, generating many requests for the
guide which is available free.
Foley Towers Downtown Backers
After ten enjoyable years in charge of the Cora Wilding Youth Hostel in
Christchurch, Eric and Aidy Foley decided in 1984 that they would open
their own hostel. This was an early backpacker development for
Christchurch. There were then only about twenty backpacker hostels in the
They bought a boarding house near the Avon River close to the centre of
Christchurch, and called it Foley Towers. Eric describes it as "a typical
boarding house of the time - a large old house with a row of rooms built
out the back and semi-itinerant residents".
Development on the site
They began with twenty eight beds and gradually expanded the number of beds
and improved the facilities. They purchased an adjacent property, a very
old and dilapidated house with some attractive trees, especially camellias.
The house was due for demolition and in its place the Foleys built
further blocks of rooms, but they kept the trees and are developing a
parking area among them.
With the fall in car prices in New Zealand many backpackers feel that to
purchase a car for two to three months and sell it before leaving the
country is an economical way to travel.
Eric showed me around the hostel and I was impressed by the quality and
cleanliness of the accommodation, the two well equipped kitchens and the
laundry. Rooms range from double to triple and there are two four-bed bunk
rooms. The two dining rooms and lounges offer good areas for socialising,
as do the outdoor tables and seats in the attractive garden.
Making friends, Eric and Aidy believe, is one of the great attractions of
backpacking. The majority of the travellers staying at Foley Towers are
from overseas, with currently the greatest number coming from Great Britain
and many from Germany and Japan.
Aidy and Eric (on the right) relax out of doors with four of the
The backpacker grapevine operates as people cook, eat meals and wash
dishes. Often travellers will follow up the same recommendations and on
reaching Foley Towers will greet each other as old friends as they have met
earlier in their travels.
New friends will often organise a spontaneous dinner party, go sight seeing
together, or travel together to the next destination.
Sometimes people meet old friends. A traveller from the United Kingdom
recently booked in just after someone he had known at school but not seen
One Japanese couple who met at Foley Towers were later married in Japan
with a traditional Japanese ceremony. This summer they plan to have a New
Zealand style ceremony in the garden of the hostel where they met.
Foley Towers popular all year round
Of course from Christmas to Easter is the peak period for tourism in New
Zealand, but Foley Towers is a pleasant place to stay at any time of the
The rooms have under-floor heating and the windows are double
The garden - Aidy's pride and joy.
The colourful cottage-style garden which is Aidy's job - and joy -
is well sheltered from the wind.
At peak periods city hostels are often full by midday so it's wise to ring
ahead if you want to stay at the height of the season at this welcoming
place. The friendly Foley family of Aidy, Eric and now their
widely-travelled daughter, Janet, together with managers Antony and Karen,
will be pleased to see you.
Check out the Budget Backpackers
Hostels NZ Web site...
Published with permission from NZine