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    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
    The original two storey house at Foley Towers
    The original two storey house at Foley Towers
    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.

    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 book.

    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 whole country.

    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.

    Facilities offered
    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.

    Socialising
    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.

    Socialising
    Aidy and Eric (on the right) relax out of doors with four of the travellers.

    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 since.

    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 year.
    The garden - Aidy's pride and joy
    The garden - Aidy's pride and joy.
    The rooms have under-floor heating and the windows are double glazed.

    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