With a slew of one-star ratings and concerns over hygiene and cleanliness, Britannia has once again been ranked the UK’s worst hotel chain, according to Which?’s annual survey.
Described by one guest as a “filthy hovel” and another as “by far the dirtiest hotel room I have ever stayed in”, Britannia props up the table in Which?’s rankings of large UK hotel chains for its eighth consecutive year.
Which? asked more than 4,000 people to rate their experiences at UK hotels, broken down into large chains and small and medium-sized chains. Guests were asked to rate the hotels on a range of criteria, including bedrooms, bathrooms, cleanliness, customer service, and value for money.
Britannia received a dismal customer score of 37 per cent and failed to score more than two stars in any of the criteria ranked by guests, with one-star ratings for its bedrooms, bathrooms, and communal areas and facilities. It was the only hotel in the survey to receive one star for cleanliness, and despite being one of the cheapest hotel chains in the survey at an average of £58 per night, guests still only gave Britannia one star for value for money. One of the most scathing reviews submitted to Which? by a Britannia guest was unprintable.
When Which? visited the Folkestone Britannia, also known as the Grand Burstin, as part of a separate investigation into hotel hygiene, researchers found stray hairs and stained towels upon an initial inspection. Following further tests using UV fluid and germ powder, researchers also found surfaces that had not been thoroughly cleaned between stays. At the chain’s Brighton hotel, the Royal Albion, Which? conducted swab tests that revealed traces of enterococci bacteria on the toilet seat and bathroom door handle.
When presented with Which?’s findings, Britannia said: “We are totally committed to providing a safe environment for visitors. We have so far spent around £2 million on COVID-19 precautions, but we accept there is more to do.”
Cleanliness aside, the chain still managed to disappoint. In the standard room in the basement of the Folkestone Britannia that Which? checked into, there was graffiti carved into the ageing wardrobe, pillows “flimsier than bookmarks”, and broken glass on the carpet at breakfast.
Also at the bottom of the table, but still scoring significantly higher than Britannia, were Mercure (60%) and Days Inn Hotels (62%). Both only managed to muster three stars across most criteria, but when it came to cleanliness, Which?’s swab tests came back without any cause for concern.
At the other end of the table – both in terms of performance and price – was Sofitel, the luxury chain with three London properties at Heathrow, Gatwick and St James.
At a steep £148 a night on average, guests did comment on the premium price paid for a night at a Sofitel hotel – but many told Which? it was worth it, commending its “outstanding service” and “impeccable cleanliness”. One guest told the consumer champion their Sofitel room was “probably the best hotel room I have ever occupied.”
However, when Which? visited the Sofitel St James to conduct swab tests as part of its hotel hygiene investigation, it also found low levels of faecal enterococci on the toilet seat of the room it was checked into. Sofitel said it believed this to be an isolated issue, but conducted a “thorough review of its cleaning protocols” in response to Which?’s findings.
With the exception of value for money, where it scored three stars, the luxury chain scored five stars in every category, and received an impressive customer score of 86 per cent. It is also the first chain to have knocked Premier Inn off the top spot in five years, suggesting that guests were happier to throw a bit of money at their hotel stays this year, given the surge in popularity of UK holidays following the pandemic.
Premier Inn came in just below Sofitel with a score of 82 per cent and was praised for its reliable quality at a reasonable price. Guests frequently described the rooms as clean and comfortable, with countless respondents telling Which?, “you know what you’re getting [with Premier Inn]”.
Both Sofitel and Premier Inn were named Which? Recommended Providers, along with Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Hampton, on account of their high scores and their approach to refunding customers over the pandemic.
When Which? asked people to rate their experiences at small and medium-sized hotels, it was Warner Leisure (81%) and Hotel Du Vin (77%) that came out on top, with both also being named Which? Recommended Providers.
Abode hotels received the lowest score of the eight small and medium-sized chains ranked in the survey, but still with a respectable score of 63 per cent, and four-star ratings for cleanliness, customer service and value for money.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“It appears that not even a global pandemic could force Britannia to clean up its act. At best, it’s drab and dated, and at worst it’s downright filthy – and after eight years at the bottom of our survey, our message is loud and clear: avoid these hotels.
“While Premier Inn remains a firm favourite, it’s clear that this year, UK hotels have become more than just a place to lay your head, but a destination in themselves. With fewer of us travelling abroad this year, our survey shows that when it comes to holidaying at home, we’re quite happy to pay more for a little luxury.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? surveyed 4,327 Which? members and members of the public between 8th and 27th July 2020. Fieldwork was carried out online on the Which? Connect panel and by Dynata.
- Full results: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/uk-hotel-chains/article/best-and-worst-uk-hotel-chains-aaVVF4u1jZpe
- Inside the UK’s worst hotel chain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXdioGwmIy4&feature=youtu.be
- Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
- The information in this press release is for editorial use by journalists and media outlets only. Any business seeking to reproduce information in this release should contact the Which? Endorsement Scheme team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right of replies:
In response to Which?’s investigation into hotel hygiene, a spokesperson for the hotel said: “We have developed some of the most stringent hygiene and prevention measures in the hospitality industry to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our guests.
“These protocols have been further intensified in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and include more frequent cleaning of hotel rooms and public spaces with hospital grade anti-viral cleaning products and disinfection of all high touch areas. While we are pleased that these measures are reflected by the survey’s other scores, we are surprised and disappointed by the swab test result.
“Whilst we believe this to be an isolated issue we have undertaken a thorough review of the hotel’s cleaning protocols. It should be noted that our guests have independently awarded this hotel a maximum rating on its standards of cleanliness and the hotel has also passed an independent audit by an EHO consultant.”
In response to Which?’s investigation into hotel hygiene, a spokesperson for Britannia said: “We are totally committed to providing a safe environment for visitors. We have so far spent around £2m on COVID-19 precautions, but we accept there is more to do.”