Well, the consumerwatchfoundation.com went on the road again in the hunt for the good the bad and the ugly in the UK and European tourism industry.
And this time around it is taxi drivers who are the winners in the rip-roaring let’s-stitch-you-up stakes in the Great British Rake Off!
It all began pleasantly enough, according to Leigh G Banks, editor at CWF, with a 5 km (2.9 miles) taxi ride from Aquacity-Poprad, Slovakia, to Poprad Tatry Airport.
The fare was 5 euros (approx £4.30).
Leigh said: “Petrol in Poprad is about 1.27 euros a litre which works out in English terms to about £4.91 a gallon. Not a bad flight … but then we landed at Luton Airport and we knew, yep we knew we were back in good old Blighty!
“It was a late flight so we had booked into the Ibis Hotel which is less than half a mile away from the airport …”
Taxi fare £15 (17.50 euros)!
“Can you believe that!” Leigh said.
The actual distance from Luton Airport to Ibis Hotel, Luton, is 0.2 miles (0.3 km). Interestingly, it isn’t that petrol is that much cheaper in Slovakia than it is in the UK either … Petrol in Luton is £1.28 ltr, just over a fiver a gallon.
“The driver seemed a bit taken aback when we didn’t give him a tip,” Andrea said.
That works out at about £75 a mile!
And so to the third CWF sweep of Britain’s hotels – with one return to glory, well very nearly, a couple of successes and one resounding failure yet again in that quaint little tourist magnet and market town in the pleasant East Riding of Yorkshire.
First stop the Ibis Hotel, just up the road from the airport on top of a fug and aircraft fuel-stained hill.
It is the kind of place – and no fault of its own – that travellers can contract emphysema while waiting breathlessly for a flight into the sun. The pollution surrounding Luton airport is woeful.
But if you stay in-doors as much as you can and you’ll survive … it’ll cost you on average between £40-60, a meal with wine will cost you about £50 and few drinks afterwards about £20.
Compares very well to the taxi fare getting there.
Ibis is an eccentric place, a bit steam-punk, a bit boutique and quite high tech, for instance no phones to contact reception, you have to do it by what’s-app!
We’d recommend it for an over-night multi-cultural slight mad stay.
Next we were off to Nottingham where we rocked up at Eastwood Hall, a hotel and spa of 1980s preserved perfectly in an aspic of polish, cleanliness and shine. What a wonderful place, we stayed in a large comfortable room with a Trim Phone to reception for less than £60 a night.
It stands in 26 acres of grounds, Eastwood Hall combines a period property with modern convenience.
It is on the edge of the historic home-town of DH Lawrence and it’s worth a stay although it can be noisy at times because of the number of functions and weddings it hosts.
For family reasons we had to call in at that quaint little tourist magnet and market town in the pleasant East Riding of Yorkshire, Beverley.
Beverley is a lovely little town with the ghosts of history beckoning you from down dark ginnels and the welcoming doors of Britain’s new age of gin palaces. They are a bit different now though and one in the heart of the town, called imaginatively The Gin Bar, wasn’t inclined to ruin your mother, just your bank balance when it had the cheek and audacity to charge more than £22 for two double gins with a few berries in it.
Andrea, who quite an expert on gin, pointed out that we could have bought a bottle and a bit for that price at Morrisons, just around the corner.
But the Premier in Flemingate served its purpose as it always does, clean, functional, a bit over-priced for what you get – up to £90 a night and you can stay at the Hilton for that – but pleasant and almost at the heart of things.
But of course Beverley is let down yet again by what surely must rank as one of Britain’s worst hotels… John Dixon Hart of the Garth Minster B&B has gone and done it again.
Britain is famous for its eccentrics and Mr Hart is one of them, he’s been taken to court for his claims about his dowdy and down-market hotel and has bad reviews as long as a gorilla’s arm.
And yet again he has lived up to his reputation – guests arriving at his potentially beautiful establishment which stands almost in the grounds of the famous Minister, find their name’s pinned to the door with their room numbers.
Mr Hart boldly informs them “I am spending time with my wife and my family” and is nowhere to be found. We weren’t staying there of course after our past experience but we did wonder how guests got their room keys and how secure was the B&B in his absence. I’m sure he can explain though.
And so to Manchester and the fabled Jurys Inns!
But before we actually go there, let’s just remind ourselves that the UK’s hotels industry is worth more than £17bn a year. So holidaymakers on a budget in the UK are generally getting a fair deal.
Budget hotels are ‘sold’ to business travellers, holidaymakers and the like as a clean and comfortable with top-class mattresses, normally next to a pub or fast-food outlet where you can eat relatively cheaply.
Among the main players in the value-for-money end of the market are Holiday Inn Express, Marston’s, Ibis and plenty of privately owned B&B establishments.
But these small to medium-sized hotels offer very limited on-site amenities, no services… “no frills” accommodation is actually a good description.
However, are they always cheap as well sometimes a bit tacky?
Jurys Inns sees itself a cut above this. And on the face of it, its hotels are.
The company describes itself as the very best in comfort, style and first-rate facilities.
They have hotels in towns and cities across the UK, Ireland and the Czech Republic.
The group prides itself on its services.
Well, Leigh and Andrea and members of their family spent in excess of £3,000 in three days and nights with Jurys over Christmas 2019.
One couple had flown in from Slovakia for the festive meet-up, another family had made a 300 mile round trip to be there. And another had flown all the way from Perth in Australia to join in.
This is what happened.
Leigh says: “There were eight of us there most of the time and we will all confirm we were treated aggressively by staff, insulted by a manager, told to clean their own table of glasses, given very poor service by bar staff, ignored by a duty manager – given a bag of crisps as compensation! – ignored by another manager the next morning after making complaints. Jurys were happy however to keep the £3000 these people spent there.”
Ultimately, after complaining to management, Leigh and Andrea were invited back for a two night stay ‘on the house’. A chance for Jurys to redeem themselves – and they did admirably, except for one small detail, they forgot it was Bank Holiday and cancelled everybody’s late breakfast.
It said it clearly stated in the information pack that because it was Bank Holiday breakfast was 11.30am.
Sadly, the girl at entrance to the restaurant announced; “Sorry, Monday isn’t included.”
Well, it was and a lot of people missed a meal they had paid for in advance. I was shocked to hear a manager saying to one couple “we’ll give a free breakfast on your next visit…”
The offer was declined with the couple saying ‘we probably wont be back’.
This is all a real pity because Jurys is a good hotel, good front of house, good rooms, good facilities, good room servicing, good location, good pricing.
But the Manchester hotel simply seems to have a problem with its bar area and restaurant. They need to make it work properly, that’s all!
And so it was off to the Three Fish Premier Inn on the Newport bypass in Shropshire. Well, what can you say about it? It’s tailor-made for travelling salesmen, itinerant contractors and elderly couples perambulating their way at a leisurely pace around Britain once-leafy and, now, lesser trodden country pathways.
The thing with Premier Inns is that – although prices can vary from the Hilton to John Dixon Hart – they are pretty much homogenised. The only real variant is that some have averaged sized tellies on the wall and others have really tiny ones.
The Three Fish had the smallest TV I’ve seen since the 80s. You needed a telescope to watch it from the bed!
But, if you enjoy polite staff, perfunctory cleanliness, little tellies, fish and chips, exotic beefburgers with bacon washed down with fizzy Danish lager, it’s just for you.
There’s not much to slate about Slater’s country inn … except that it describes itself as luxury, which it isn’t. It’s a bit rundown and in need of a lick of paint for a place that charges just a little under £90 a night for a room and breakfast.
However, it may not be luxury but it is very nice indeed with good food, good beer and good staff.
Slater’s has been converted from an 18th Century farm, and is one of Staffordshire’s better wedding destinations with a small shopping village and a tex-mex food bar.
And if you’re getting married – then it’s a place definitely worth looking at!
So, that’s it for now – in a few weeks time we’ll be off around Europe again, comparing prices and service. Meantime, if you have any stories to share about the world’s worst – and best – hotels, please send them in!