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Review: by the sea at the new(ish) Holiday Inn Bournemouth

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This is our review of the Holiday Inn Bournemouth hotel.

My week was clearly heading downhill. I started at the lovely University Arms in Cambridge (review here), diverted to the Hilton Garden Inn London Heathrow Airport at Hatton Cross (review here) and ended up at the Holiday Inn Bournemouth.

The hotel website is here.

Holiday Inn Bournemouth review

Long-term readers of HfP will know that I am a big fan of the new-build Hilton in Bournemouth. The location is great, just steps from the seafront, and top-tier Hilton Honors members can use an executive lounge and potentially get upgraded to impressive suites. It also has a pool and a funky rooftop bar. We reviewed Hilton Bournemouth here.

In the same complex is a Hampton by Hilton. We reviewed Hampton Bournemouth here. The location is just as good, of course, and all guests get free breakfast.

How does Holiday Inn Bournemouth compare?

Not so well, to be honest.

This is not a new hotel. It used to be a Ramada Encore, but reopened in 2019 following refurbishment.

It IS good value as an IHG Rewards Club redemption. Cash rates averaged £140 over the two nights I was there, so 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points was a bargain. I got almost double my target valuation of 0.4p per point.

Importantly, it was also a better points deal than the Hilton, Hampton or Marriott based on what each hotel was asking.

Holiday Inn Bournemouth review

Location

The location is not great, on busy Bath Road. The road is full of hotels and apartment blocks, but you wouldn’t know you were on the coast.

If you take the train, it is about a 15 minute walk along busy roads. You are around 10 minutes from the seafront at the hotel, which is 9 minutes longer than it takes from the Hilton or Hampton.

The hotel has underground and outdoor parking. The hotel lets anyone park in its facilities, guests or not (guests get a discounted rate) so it is far busier than it needs to be. Expect to see cars in every conceivable space, whether or not it is marked out for parking.

Rooms at Holiday Inn Bournemouth

I was upgraded to an executive room, which was on the top-floor and had a sea view, presumably due to my IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite status. The sea view is tiny:

Holiday Inn Bournemouth review

….. but it’s the thought that counts. To be fair, the photo makes the sea look smaller than it was. The street noise was very noticeable and could be pretty horrendous on lower floors.

I’d received an email earlier in the day saying that the hotel had already added 500 points as my ‘welcome amenity’. When asked at check-in if I wanted points or a drink, I therefore took the drinks voucher!

Rooms at Holiday Inn Bournemouth

The rooms are perfectly fine, but no more than that. There is simply too much blonde wood – see the headboard and the desk. See:

Holiday Inn Bournemouth review

and

Holiday Inn Bournemouth review

It is clear it wasn’t a full refurbishment. There is no way that the desk was only a year old, given how chipped it was, and the thermostat looked at least 20 years old.

At times it seemed the room wasn’t sure how posh it wanted to be. The wardrobe (clearly new) contained slippers and bathrobes, for example, but also the cheapo ‘can’t be stolen’ coathangers.

Meanwhile, whilst there was a minibar, it only contained two bottles of water and a (presumably free) Yorkie bar!

How do executive rooms differ from standard rooms?

Having also seen a standard room, the differences between those and an executive room are:

a room on the top (sixth) floor which has the least road noise – whilst I had a sea-view, you won’t get this from all of the executive rooms

the sofa / daybed

the fridge, albeit only stocked with a Yorkie and two bottle of water

two bathrobes and slippers

a small shelf with two framed posters sitting on it

better quality toiletries (standard rooms have Dove, both room types use wall mounted dispensers)

fully carpeted (standard rooms have wooden floor in the hallway)

You need to look at the price difference for the night you want to stay and decide if it is worth it.

Bathrooms at Holiday Inn Bournemouth

The bathroom seemed new-ish but not brand new. It was full of the turquoise glass that was fashionable around 1999, not 2019 when the redecoration was done. It wasn’t a patch on the lovely refurbished bathroom I had at the Hilton Garden Inn at Heathrow two days earlier.

Holiday Inn Bournemouth review

Food and drink

We didn’t stay for breakfast. I recommend Norwegian Wood, a slightly odd Beatles-themed cafe about five minutes walk away.

The hotel is offering two options – a takeaway bag for £8, or a buffet for £12.95. The way the buffet works is that you are given a piece of paper containing all of the options and you need to tick what you want. It is then delivered to your table for you.

The restaurant and bar area – which is all one space – does look smart, albeit not hugely classy, following the refurbishment. Here is an official PR photograph as it was always busy when I went in:

Holiday Inn Bournemouth review

Conclusion

Holiday Inn Bournemouth is a totally acceptable hotel, and very good value at peak times for IHG Rewards Club points.

Whilst ‘new’, however, it is light-years behind what you would expect from a new-build Holiday Inn in 2020. The rooms look and feel uninspiring, although the public areas are better.

For a redemption, it is likely to be a better deal than the Hampton, Hilton or Marriott at just 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night. I would stay here again on points.

For cash, I would go for the Hampton (see here) or Hilton (see here) first unless the price difference is substantial. Don’t forget to factor in the free breakfast at the Hampton. I’ve never stayed at the Marriott (see here) but the pictures don’t look inspiring, albeit the sea-front location is great. For a classy short break, the Hilton is a no-brainer.

The Holiday Inn Bournmouth website is here if you want to learn more.

Comments (27)

  • Michael C says:

    As Tariq above mentions, bit annoying the Hilton doesn’t have a single family/extra bed room!

  • EvilGazebo says:

    Any discussion of good hotels in Bournemouth should include The Green House which is a genuinely great independent hotel. I’m hoping that IHG redemptions open up for it via Mr & Mrs Smith at some point.

  • Sunguy says:

    To be honest, this is pretty much what I expected of that hotel.

    Im not sure if they are owned by the same group, but the Ramada Encore that became the Holiday Inn Express in Cannock (its the round tower you see from the M6 toll just after the northbound toll plaza) – Ive stayed there a number of times under both brands – and the “refurbishment” really didnt do very much at all…..infact, other than some hallway carpet (not even the rooms!), and some signage, thats all that seemed to change.

    However, I did find out that the group who owns this hotel and others enjoy spending *VERY* little on staff, guests and anything they can get away with – and this was pre-corona!

  • RH says:

    I love the Hilton Bournemouth – always had a great time there. Stayed in a suite and a standard room so far.

    Liked it so much I had my 40th birthday in an events room there in 2018 and also frequent the Sky Bar a few times a year.

    Agree with Rob that this is the best hotel in Bournemouth by a country mile. It is less hectic at weekends since they ended the ticketed (to non-residents) drinks events such as Priva in the Sky Bar (ended long before COVID). It’s a good location and the suites are top floor and quiet and have a view.

    If you want true luxury near Bournemouth (by near I mean within 30 mins drive or so) then the Chewton Glen is superb, but expensive.

  • CraigyC says:

    I feel that the claim of 1 minute walk from the Hilton to the seafront while 10 minutes from the Holiday Inn is a little disingenuous, the Hilton is hardly on the seafront. Also the claim of “rooftop bar” is a bit far fetched, a balcony overlooking the centre of Bournemouth (not even the sea) with poor service and the slowest lift on the planet serving it would be a better description.
    I live here and will probably never visit the bar ever again, that being said I didn’t even know where the HI was until reading this!

    • Rob says:

      But it IS 1 minute to the seafront!

      • Geoff says:

        The original article claimed that it was 3 minutes to the pier, now it appears to be down to 1 minute! Maybe it’s coastal erosion!

      • flyforfun says:

        I stayed there last month. 1 min if you run downhill maybe! Google says 7 mins to the beach. It’s longer going back as it’s up hill!

        Thanks for posting re HI. It was one of my options I looked at and decided against based on reviews, the distance to the beach, and anything else! The cost was worth it going to the Hilton, despite the bar upstairs not open.

      • RH says:

        Agreed – I have walked it many time. A minute or so tops!