Britannia has earned the unenviable crown of the UK’s worst hotel chain for a ninth consecutive year in Which?’s annual survey.
The consumer champion’s ratings – based on more than 2,600 hotel stays – found there are affordable, quality rooms available in the UK – but also chains to avoid – with rates falling by more than an eighth as the cost of self-catering accommodation rocketed during the pandemic.
Which? members rated 24 large hotel chains and six small ones in 10 categories, including cleanliness, customer service, bed comfort, communal areas, value for money and whether the chain’s description matches reality.
The bottom scoring large chain was Britannia, where more than half of its guests in our survey – 51 per cent – said they ran into a problem during their stay. The most common issue was cleanliness. One guest complained: ‘It was terrible. The room was dirty. The bathroom was dirty. The carpet was terrible, stains everywhere.’
The chain has 61 hotels across 36 parts of the UK, many in historic buildings, such as the Adelphi in Liverpool which counts Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra as former guests. But the upkeep of them was another common cause for complaint. A guest said their hotel was ‘run into the ground’ and another guest found their Britannia hotel to be ‘old, worn out and in need of a drastic makeover’. Another complained of ‘small and basic rooms’, ‘no soap or shampoo’ and ‘bags of rubbish outside the main entrance’.
Britannia scored an overall 49 per cent in our survey. Although a dismal score, this was the best result the chain has had in years, after it earned slightly improved ratings for bed comfort (three stars) and value for money (two stars).
Britannia’s consistent failings have insulated other chains from criticism over the years, but Mercure ran it close in 2021, with a score of just 52 per cent. While some guests praised Mercure hotels’ central locations, many observed that standards had fallen. One guest said: ‘Mercure are not as smart as they used to be – there are some poor quality properties in their portfolio. However, they can offer good value.’
The survey also found that room price was not necessarily a good indicator of quality. The average price those surveyed paid for a room in Britannia was £99 – 50 per cent more expensive than the highest scoring large hotel chain and Which? Recommended Provider, Premier Inn.
At just £66 per night on average, Premier Inn was given five-star ratings for cleanliness, Covid-19 safety measures and bed comfort, with customers enjoying their king-sized beds and choice of firm or soft pillows.
Premier Inn’s impressive customer score of 79 per cent was topped by the best small chain, Hotel du Vin, which scored 80 per cent from guests. For anyone looking for a little more luxury, its spotlessly clean rooms and powerful monsoon showers could prove tempting at £150 a night.
Pub operators also performed well, with large hotel chain Wetherspoon receiving 74 per cent and small chain Young’s scoring 73 per cent.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“Year after year, guests are let down by Britannia’s run-down hotels and often dirty rooms. This year saw some slight improvements to the chain’s score – but not enough to drag it off the bottom of our rankings.
“Until the company ups its game further we would urge guests to look elsewhere. The impressive, budget-friendly Premier Inn is our pick of the large chains and Hotel du Vin offers high quality stays in interesting locations.”
Notes to editors
Which? conducted an online survey of 2,371 members of the public and Which? Connect members who have stayed in a UK hotel in the last 15 months in October 2021. Customer scores are based on satisfaction and likelihood to recommend. Four large hotel chains received Which? Recommended Provider status: Premier Inn, Crowne Plaza, Sofitel and Radisson Blu. WRP status was also awarded to two small hotel chains: Hotel du Vin and Warner Leisure.
Link to the full results here, or see below:
Right of replies
Britannia did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Mercure said: “We are surprised to see our position in this survey, it does not reflect the high standard of guest experience which we strive for and we will take action to address these comments. The experience and wellbeing of our guests at each and every property is our highest priority.
“The BDRC Hotel Guest Survey in 2021 ranks Mercure amongst the top midscale brands for excellent cleanliness and safety standards, superior quality of bedding and a brand that values its customers. We pride ourselves for delivering consistent quality and standards and providing a great night’s sleep, whilst offering great value for money, as your reader notes.”
Further background on UK accommodation
While British hotels can be expensive, during the pandemic they have become much better value in comparison with self-catering. We revealed in the summer that private holiday accommodation was costing 41% more than for the same period in 2019 – an average of £300 a week more. UK hotel prices were also among the highest in Europe but they dropped by 13% in the same period.
Costs for private holiday accommodation in the UK have increased by 41 per cent on average since 2019, Which? research has found, while hotel prices in the UK dropped by an average of 13 per cent – and prices in many other European countries dropped as much or more: https://press.which.co.uk/
Which? goes inside the UK’s worst hotel chain in 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
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.
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