Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Hostel opening after biker craze

Mountain biking in the Afan Valley
The Afan Valley was mooted as a mountain biking base at the Olympics

A new youth hostel is to open in the Afan Valley in part due to a boom in mountain bikers attracted there.

The former Pelenna mountain centre is being developed into accommodation with 38 beds and on site restaurant.

Almost 34,000 bikers rode some of the 100km of trails in the Afan Forest Park in the first half of last year.

Businessman Gerri Griffiths said he also hoped to attract families, walkers and others holidaying in the UK rather than abroad due to poor exchange rates.

Bryn Bettws Lodge will be affiliated with the Youth Hostel Association and will be the first time the YHA has had a base in the Neath Port Talbot area.

Mr Griffiths said he hoped the centre would be up and running in time for the summer.

"I opened four log cabins here a few years ago - we get families who use them as a base for Gower and Brecon but I would say 75% of the business is mountain biking," he said.

"Many are in there 20s, in fairly well paid jobs. Hopefully we will see even more."

Log cabins at Bryn Bettws Lodge
Mr Griffiths started with four log cabins in the forest park

Readers of What Mountain Bike magazine once voted a trail in the valley among the 10 rides to do before you die and the area was put forward as a possible venue for the sport at the 2012 Olympics.

Despite the poor weather 33,922 cyclists visited the park in the first six months of 2008 compared to 27,479 the previous year.

Mr Griffiths said with the credit crunch and weakness of the pound he believed this year the area would attract even more.

"We also hopes the centre attracts educational and corporate visits and will offer activities such as adventures, problem solving and initiative tasks as well as leisure activities, map and orienteering tasks and environmental experiences."

Youth hostels across the UK are undergoing a revamp.

Around 30 smaller loss-making centres operated directly by the YHA have shut in the last three years.

But spokesman Paul Fearn said many millions had been reinvested in refurbishing other properties and three large new hostels had opened and another two were on the way.

Mr Fearn said the YHA was optimistic that 2009 would be a good year.

Internet bookings by overseas visitors are up around 30% and he is expecting more people in the UK not to travel abroad for their holidays.

"We are optimistic. Certainly from my point of view I have had a lot of media inquiries about budget holidays and holidays in the UK.

"With the strength of the euro holidays in Europe have become very expensive. America has also become expensive."

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