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Which? magazine unveils the best – and worst – UK hotel chains

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Which? magazine has brought back one of its regular highlights – the best and worst UK hotel chains, as voted for by its readers.

You can see the full article on the Which? website here.

There is, of course, no surprise over the winner of the UK’s worst hotel chain. It may be 18 months since the last set of awards but nothing ever changes here ….

the best - and worst - UK hotel chains

Yes, yet again Britannia Hotels has won (or lost).

Based, admittedly, on a relatively small sample size, Britannia was rated one star out of five for bathrooms, bedrooms and wi-fi, and two stars for categories such as cleanliness, customer service and value for money. This is a poorer showing than February 2022 when it only scored one star in one category.

(What I don’t quite understand is how Which? finds anyone to vote for Britannia. Surely all of their readership must have been put off by now, given that Britannia has won this title multiple times?!)

Travelodge came second from bottom, which is not surprising. Whilst it is pushing ahead with selected refurbishments – and recent openings look quite smart – much of the estate is in a bad way.

More surprising is who came third from bottom – Accor’s Mercure brand. Mercure was actually 2nd from bottom in February 2022 so this counts as an improvement. This is probably because my view is coloured by the Sheffield property (below, website here) which is arguably the best large hotel in the city centre. Perhaps it should be rebranded before it is dragged down by its siblings?

Worst hotels in Britain

Who was voted the UK’s best hotel chain?

The UK’s best large hotel chain

The ‘large chain’ winner was Hotel Indigo, part of IHG One Rewards.

This is not hugely surprising. I have often said that a Hotel Indigo is usually the best branded hotel in a regional city, and new openings such as Bath which I reviewed here are impressive.

Second and third spots were taken by Premier Inn Hub (the city centre variant with smaller rooms) and Premier Inn respectively.

I am a big fan of Premier Inn – ‘consistent’ is the best way to describe them – and happy to use them if I’m in a town with no high end options. Premier Inn actually won the overall title in 2022.

Crowne Plaza, which came 4th in February 2022, dropped to 14th! I predicted this in 2022, as the best London hotels were leaving (Kensington, The City) and some dubious additions had been made (eg Sheffield).

From fourth onwards we have Wetherspoon Hotels, Ibis Styles, Sofitel, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton, Holiday Inn Express and Marriott.

(Sofitel should arguably not have been on the ‘large chain’ list given that it only has three UK hotels. One of these is a smart property in St James whilst the other two are at Heathrow and at Gatwick.)

The UK’s best small or medium hotel chain

In the ‘small and medium chains’ category, the winner was Brend. This is a name I didn’t know, but it is a group of resort hotels in Devon and Cornwall, including the Saunton Sands Hotel.

Second was Coaching Inn and third was Inn Collection Group. It’s worth noting that all three of these scored higher than the winner of the ‘best large chain’ title.

Hotel du Vin, website here, dropped to fourth after winning in February 2022.

Warner Leisure – not really aimed at the HfP demographic, but arguably closer to the typical Which? subscriber – came fifth. I was a little surprised to see Q Hotels and De Vere following on, ahead of Malmaison.

You can read the full article on the Which? website here.

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Comments (80)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Andrew says:

    I mostly travel with my wife and two kids. The Premier Inn is hard to beat in terms of price and convenience. I find it a massive benefit that you can book room with three beds. Having a room with two double beds is always a nightmare, as kids will always fight. I’d also obviously much rather get two interconnecting rooms, but it can be hard to justify the much higher costs.

    • Freddy says:

      What premier inn has over most chains is that solid consistency. The cheap breakfast where kids eat free also swings it alot of the time

      • MKB says:

        I have stayed at lots of Premier Inns and can’t say I’ve noticed consistency. Like many chains, some are modern, clean, air-conditioned with friendly, helpful staff, while others are old, scruffy, badly maintained without AC, and understaffed by people who clearly do not want to be there. (Premier Inn Margate fell into this last category this past summer.)

        Absolutely no-one is allowed to check into available rooms before 3pm without paying extra.

        Breakfast is also free for up to two adults if one is holder of a Whitbread card (obtainable if you own at least 60 Whitbread shares).

        • Peter K says:

          I’ve had more bad Premier Inn experiences than good. When I’ve booked them I’ve booked on location, not price, so it’s not because they are the cheapest option. Overall they have disappointed enough that I would tend to avoid them if any half decent alternative is available.

        • t0m says:

          I generally find Premier Inn fairly consistent. Not totally so, but you have a decent idea of what you’re going to get. It’s my first go-to for a cheap hotel in London (outskirts with fast links into the city) or with the family if we need a quick overnighter.

  • Tony says:

    I would urge everyone here to experience the joy that is the Norbreck Hotel in Blackpool, which is owned by Britannia.

    Just one night there (or even an hour people watching, sitting at the bar on a Saturday afternoon) during the summer, is enough to remind you that the Holiday Inn Express room that you were allocated by the lift, with the view of a flat roof with a loud air conditioning on it, wasn’t so bad after all.

    Although remarkably, The Norbreck is a cash cow. It is constantly heaving. Britannia knows its market, and it does a great job of barely servicing it with minimal investment.

    • Tariq says:

      I remember it from 1996, when awoken in the middle of the night due to some idiots setting off the fire alarm. It was a shit hole then so I dread to think what it’s like now.

  • Mikeact says:

    The Brend family group have been well known in North Devon for years. Their star hotel is the Saunton Sands, near Croyde. Also their famous fish and chips place in Braunton…Squires. Our second home, go to place, once a week when down there.

  • Tankmc says:

    Stayed in Britannia once as a last minute emergency. Thankfully we had been put in the “top suite” which was like a jumble sale of furniture in a three room suite. Thankfully it was clean but it was So odd! Never again.

  • JDB says:

    The Pig Hotels don’t feature on the list at all, but the sub-5000 sample size renders the whole thing a bit ridiculous.

    Why do Which? readers keep staying at Britannia hotels?

    • ken says:

      Nothing inherently wrong with a sample size of 5000

      Most voting opinion polls will have sample sizes of 1000 – 2000 but they have normally been properly designed.

      Its a survey that provides publicity for Which and free content for newspapers.

      It’s not trying to calculate GDP.

    • Lady London says:

      It may just be that the memory of a Britannia stay lasts for years. People don’t go back, but keep remembering the experience and feed back over time accordingly.

      • TimM says:

        A good reputation is earned through consistency over decades. A consistently bad reputation, however, is impossible to shake off.

  • Michael Jennings says:

    Mercure is gloriously inconsistent, both in and outside the UK. (It’s a conversion brand, and Accor seem to have no standards at all for it). I have stayed at very nice ones, and really bad ones. You never can tell what it will be.

    • MF176 says:

      Agree with this. Hawkwell House in Oxford is a lovely one. I then stayed at the Heathrow one – big mistake!

      • direttore says:

        Another vote for Hawkwell House.
        The new one in Paignton is shiny, with a sexy looking bar setup and lovely staff.

        The rest are all over the map in terms of quality.

    • Panda Mick says:

      Mercure Inverness? Needs demolishing

      Mercure Bridgwater? Love staying there whenever I visit my ickle sis!

  • ianM says:

    Surprised that people still subscribe to Which? That’s what I call a cash cow….have you seen their swanky offices LOL!

    With the new interweb you can get far more up to date (and historic) product reviews. Unerringly when you look on Which? they never have the model you are considering.

    • Andrew says:

      Even in the internet age I think Which? has a place. I’m not sure there’s any website where I’d trust that reviews weren’t biased either by the reviewer being flat out paid or more simply the reviewer not wanting to annoy the supplier so that they continue to be sent free stuff. Even reviews left by customers themselves are horribly skewed because you’re far more likely to bother to leave a review if you’ve had a bad experience and that’s before you get into hordes of bots leaving bad reviews for competitors.

    • Ken says:

      Which? (well the consumers association) is a not for profit charity, although some of the execs earn a fair chunk.

      • Bagoly says:

        But an appalling cancellation process – right down there with mobile ‘phone companies.

  • dougzz99 says:

    The problem with any survey like this is the same as relying on a brand to deliver a standard, there is no standard.
    I’m clearly a slow learner, as I really thought Hilton and Marriott were decent hotel chains. The more I stay, the more obvious that misconception becomes apparent. Previously I thought why would Hilton allow a hotel like this to remain Hilton, it undoes your brand. Whilst I still don’t really understand the brand logic, I assume the endless new brands launched by the large chains is a way to confuse, and lose any concept of brand expectation. I don’t understand branding, or who it benefits, although my instinct is it benefits the large chains more than the hotel owners.
    What is clear is that you read reviews and try to make judgments based on those rather than expecting anything in regard the hotels apparent brand.

    • Rob says:

      The chains do have phases where they throw hotels out – IHG did it with Holiday Inn a few years ago. However, these are all quoted companies and every 3 months the financial analysts pore over the ‘net system growth’ number. Kick out one hotel and you need to sign two new ones to get back on track. In terms of propping up the share price, it’s better to keep a lot of dross in the system. It WILL, over time, wreck the brand but the current management team and indeed current shareholders will be long gone by then.

      It’s not surprising Crowne Plaza dropped to 14th. Are there any exceptionally good Crowne Plaza hotels in the UK now? Let’s look at London:

      Kings Cross – don’t know it but odd location, never heard a great word about it
      ExCeL – location says it all, average conference hotel I assume
      Ealing – I mean, the address contains the words ‘Hanger Lane Gyratory System’ ….
      Heathrow – excellent hotel, possibly best CP in the UK
      Gatwick – never stayed, can’t comment, but never spoken of with excitement

      I think the 2nd Heathrow hotel (1960’s dump) and Kingston (was a Holiday Inn then rebranded) are now with the Home Office?

      All of these except Heathrow could happily be kicked out of the brand.

      • RussellH says:

        > Gatwick – never stayed, can’t comment, but never spoken of with excitement
        Stayed one night in 2017. Tiny room and we had large suitcases as going to the USA for a wedding + touring holiday. Difficult to move around the room. Decent dinner though.

        > ExCeL – location says it all, average conference hotel I assume
        Stayed here in the past too. 2 nights included in a package (which was a gift to my partner) including a concert at the O2. Breakfasts OK, but crowded. Best part was the huge wodge of IHG points that my partner got, even though she had not paid a penny.

        Manchester Airport CP. Stayed a few times. Again, tiny, tiny rooms, but only travelling for a few days, so no large cases, so did not feel quite so cramped. Again, quite decent food.

        Zürich CP. Stayed end of this last August on points. Another tiny room and we had to reposition the beds – difficult. Food again decent, but crazy pricing, even by Swiss standards.

        • Roger* says:

          Don’t laugh. The Zürich CP was previously offered as an Intercontinental! Rebadged from HI I think and before that a Swiss marque. It didn’t last long as an IC.

          The CP Heathrow near the M4 roundabout is a rebadged HI, largely unchanged except for higher rates. It was our regular when needing an early LHR start next day.

          Both reinforced my rebadging scepticism.

          • RussellH says:

            > The Zürich CP was previously offered as an Intercontinental?!!

            What were they thinking?? We stayed at a real IC, 4 nights later in Ljubljana. Room huge and very comfortable, paid with my partner’s final Creation free night voucher. Nice roof-top bar. Much better status recognition than in Zürich too. But their card machine refused to accept my German Visa debit card. That was odd.

      • Andrew. says:

        Crowne Plaza in Leeds was always my preferred option when I was working up there. Haven’t been there for a few years now though so not sure what it’s like these days though.

      • Vasco says:

        The Nottingham one was pretty good when I last stayed.

      • ianM says:

        CP Ealing at Hangar Lane is lovely, usually very very good value and bang on the Central line. Nice breakfast when I was last there, a club room (pretty bare) and a decent upgrade, what’s not to like for £110ish

      • Martin says:

        The Gatwick one is OK in the top suite with 3 travelling, usually about £130.
        It’s a long old walk to the club rooms.
        Lounge is poor, but you can get value if you drink enough wine..

    • TimM says:

      Unfortunately, reviews are not statistically significant. They are self-selecting for a start, not a randomised sample. People who write reviews have their own reasons for doing so – favour, friendship, loyalty, money, an axe to grind etc. The only information content in a review are credible details such as number of coat hangers, toiletries, what is included and what is extra, venue times, no. of lifts etc.. Even then, these may be incorrect.

      I must have read tens of thousands of hotel reviews. 90% of the content of which I have learned to ignore as id it had never been written or read.

      • dougzz99 says:

        But at least with reviews they’re specific to that hotel. You also need to apply some basic selection to them. If they’re largely good, but with a couple of poor ones, then they either have some very poor rooms, or those people had an issue and reflected that in the review, regardless they aid the selection process. I also largely ignore the score, if the hotel as been around for years, lots of 4/5 or 9/10 scores from several years ago propping up the overall rating don’t offer much, and following a refurb the reverse will be true. They may not be absolute, but outside of previous experience, or word of mouth from trusted sources, what else is there. I’d value reviews far more than so-called brand standards.

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