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Which? magazine looks at the UK’s best and worst hotel chains

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I was sent a copy of Which? Travel magazine this month because I’m quoted in it.  I very rarely see it otherwise since it is a subscription-only title.

The November issue includes the annual Which? Travel reader survey into the best and worst UK hotel chains.  The results are not hugely surprising but they still make interesting reading.

The methodology, based on reader votes, is complex so I’ll just focus on the overall ranking.

The winner was Premier Inn with 79%.  This is fine by me – I have written before on HFP about how impressive I find Premier Inn on the odd occasions when I need to use them.

Hilton Garden Inn comes second but with only eight UK properties doesn’t really mean much.  Third was Fuller’s Hotels with 75% – a chain I have never used.

Non-UK based readers may be surprised to see Crowne Plaza in 5th place, but the quality of their UK hotels is far higher than you would find in the USA.

Other brands I like – Renaissance, DoubleTree, Hampton and Radisson Blu Edwardian – also do well.

Premier Inn Which? Travel

But what about the bottom of the list?

Of the 32 large chains covered, there is no prize for guessing who comes bottom.  Not only does this chain come last, but it comes last by a whopping margin of 22% from its nearest competitor.

Yes, step forward Britannia Hotels.  Despite having 60 hotels they can’t manage an overall score of more than 35%.  The 2nd worst chain (Old English Inns) manages 57%.

The biggest surprise in the bottom 12 is Hilton, although there are some exceptionally ropey regional properties out there.  Mercure was also a surprise near the bottom although I am biased because the one I see most often is the exceptional Sheffield hotel.  It is less of a surprise to see easyHotel, Park Inn, Thistle and Travelodge down there.

PS.  If you can get hold of a copy, there is also an interesting story about shrinking hotel rooms.  The Which? Travel team visits a London hotel with a 5 sq m room (of which the bedroom is 3 sq m – the single bed touches the wall on both sides) and apparently some easyHotel UK rooms are 6 sq m.  Z Hotel in Soho has 8 sq m rooms which are, impressively, 50% more expensive per square metre than booking a suite at The Ritz ….

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Comments (91)

  • Mike says:

    Stayed in a Britannia hotel in Bournemouth – the room ceiling fell in overnight, so I was moved to another where the heating was stuck on… during a heatwave. Made Fawlty Towers look aspirational

  • Tom C says:

    5 sqm? Ohhhh we used to DREAM of livin’ in a corridor! Woulda’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!

    How the other half live.

  • Tony says:

    Used the Premier Inn when in Plymouth in July. The place was a building site, and the aircon was switched off (a fact that the website and booking process failed to state). It was unbearably hot in the room, and I couldn’t sleep. I complained to the receptionist, who ignored my complaint. I also used their web-based complaints portal AND responded to their feedback email. After three weeks of no response, I posted a negative Tripadvisor report. This was the only time they responded (on Tripadvisor). A response which was mostly nonsense and lies.

    • Andrew says:

      Did you try doorstepping their head-office?

      I admit to being terrible when it comes to complaints. A telecoms company failed to sort out a fault on my elderly parent’s line for 2 weeks despited repeated daily calls. All it took was for me to “shadow” someone through the pass doors at their head office and find my way to the executive floor and knock on doors. Within one hour an engineer was on site at their house.

      Likewise with another complaint, didn’t take much effort to work out where the CEO lived and how they travelled to work. Cornered them on the train one morning, and had a very one-sided conversation about the quality of their customer service. Funnily enough, their customer service team was suddenly very interested in resolving the problem.

  • Vasco says:

    There are some really nice Crowne Plazas in the US as well: had a great stay (on points) at the Denver City Centre one where we got upgraded to a junior suite!

    Closer to home, the one at Birmingham Airport/NEC is excellent, and could teach other IHG properties a thing or two about how to treat elites (got free breakfast, car parking, and upgrade to a junior suite).

  • Christian says:

    It’s all subjective really… I stayed in the easyHotel in Birmingham for £19 and based on that I certainly wouldn’t rate it one of the worst chains. For the value, it was one of the best.. friendly staff, modern rooms and excellent cleanliness.

  • Ben says:

    Smallest room I’ve been in recently was the Doubletree West End – single bed room barely had enough space to take the ironing board out. And there was a dead pigeon caught in the netting outside my window. And my friends think that travel for work is all luxury…

    • Mark says:

      To my surprise, the largest UK room I have stayed in was Holiday Inn Mayfair – and friends there had a good sized room too.
      It seems to be hit & miss wherever you go. A H10 in Barcelona gave us a tiny room with steps in it! We complained and got a very good replacement twice the size.

  • mutley says:

    Slightly O/T I have stayed in four out of five different Hyatt brands this year, including the Park Hyatt Mallorca (thanks Rob) when I hit the fifth , I get a free night, does anyone know whether the counter resets again?

  • Nigel the pensioner says:

    The methodology for such a comparative study is indeed complex and the results should not be interpreted as the best or worst hotels. Premier inn (just like Marriott used to be) is an identical property wherever you go and suits Mr and Mrs Meat & Two Veg very nicely thank you for a weekend stay to vist great Aunt Doris in Cleethorpes. Mercure imho has long been an embarrassing group of hostels for the Sofitel brand and are usually found where there is no competition for quality. A prime and surely very surprising example being the beautiful city of Winchester – which hosts what must be one of Europe’s best Xmas markets!
    Hilton as Rob correctly identifies have some disgraceful examples that need gutting and reinventing with Paddington being my prime example.
    Im surprised Rob that you slate Park Inns as you seem very keen in their rewards programme? To me they are Holiday Inns, Premier Inns and such with a different colour scheme and like the former, ofter overpriced – Belfast.
    For hospitality, loyalty and regular guest recognition, I must say that I find Sofitel, Shangri La and Jumeirah as the top dogs in this respect.

    • flyforfun says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when it come to Which? Survey reviews, where they ask people to respond to a surveys. You’re looking at a subset of the UK population that subscribed to Which? In the first place, so they have to be motivated, concerned consumers to do that.

      As you’ve rightly pointed out they, their results may not translate into “best business hotel” or best resort hotel” but as probably “best place to go stay a night or two when the relatives won’t put you up”. However, having had the misfortune of staying in a Brittannia once, I can understand it’s rating!

      The same goes with it’s Airline survey. Some obscure little airline tops the chart with 49 responses. It’s always better to quantify the reason. These general “best” lists always annoy me because of that. Best Airline. No. Best Airline London to NYC for example, yes.

    • Brian says:

      But Mercure CAN be very good. The two in central Bristol, for instance, or the ones in Salisbury and Oxford, are very good, especially if you have status, since you’ll generally get upgraded to a Privilege Room. If you get a new/newly renovated Mercure, it’s generally a better option than other chains because the location is usually very central – older ones can be awful, though.

    • Jon says:

      Seems a very reasonable result to me on the whole. It’s really asking which chain has a consistent product throughout the country and which doesn’t, as failing to live up to expectations is what will breed dissatisfaction.

      Premier Inn may be nowhere near the nicest or most luxorious hotel, but has a VERY consistent and well priced product understood by almost everyone in the UK, and so will meet expectations 99% of the time. Hilton is wildly inconsistent – if you interpreted the brand through staying at the Caledonian in Edinburgh and then go and stay at their ropey regional dumps you are going to be VERY disappointed. So I guess it doesn’t tell you much about individual properties, but does tell you about effective chain branding.