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Downtown Nanaimo hostel closes after three decades

NANAIMO – Owners decide to retire after 30 years offering affordable accommodation to world travellers.
Hostel co-owners John and Monika Murray hold their dog Coco in front of the Nanaimo International Hostel on 65 Nicol St. The Murrays will be retiring from the hostel business after more than 30 years of operation.

A downtown hostel will close its doors after more than three decades of providing travellers with an affordable place to stay in Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo International Hostel, located on 65 Nicol St., will shut down on Dec. 31 and reservations for 2017 are no longer being accepted.

Monica Murray, hostel co-owner, said the decision to cease operations was difficult, but that it came down to retirement.

“I am 73,” Murray said. “My husband is 76 and we’ve done this for 31 years and we’ve enjoyed it.”

Murray and her husband first opened the Nicol Street hostel back in 1981, after being inspired by their daughter’s travels throughout the continent.

“She knew the hostel system in North America and when she came back after travelling she said we needed one in Nanaimo and we were looking for something to do to get prepared for retirement,” Murray said.

The hostel first operated on a seasonal basis, as business was slower in the early years, but eventually switched over to year-round operations, according to Murray, who said they’ve had all kinds of interesting people stay at their hostel over the past 31 years.

“We could tell some stories,” she said. “There are just too many to tell. We’ve had the good, bad and the ugly.”

The hostel’s closure means fewer choices for travellers looking to save money on overnight accommodations in the Harbour City. The Painted Turtle Guesthouse and the Cambie Hostel will be the only two hostels operating in Nanaimo once the Nanaimo International Hostel shuts down.

Although there are other alternatives like Airbnb and low-cost motels, Murray said she had plenty of regulars at her hostel that will now have to find somewhere else to stay.

“I just hope someone can fill the gap,” she said. “It’s really hard to put it down. It’s really hard to say, no we’re not open anymore.”

Murray said her and her husband will still own the building on Nicol Street and plan to convert it into a rented apartment.

“We will rent it out as residential,” she said. “We still own the building and eventually it will probably all get sold.”