Manchester hotel chain named worst in UK for seventh year running

Britannia Hotels

Britannia Hotels has been rated the worst hotel chain in the UK for the seventh year in a row – with guests ten times more likely to award it a poor rating for cleanliness than any other hotel, according to a survey by Which? Travel.

The research, which includes over 40 hotel chains, asked more than 8,000 hotel guests to rate everything from bed comfort to value for money as well as the quality of food and overall cleanliness.

EasyHotel and Ibis Budget were among the worst hotel chains but it was Britannia that continued to languish in its own grime at the bottom of the Which? annual satisfaction survey.

Guests gave Britannia, which has 61 hotels across the UK, a string of one-star ratings in almost every category including value for money and food and drink – with a woeful score of only 39%.

Britannia Hotels was founded in 1976 with the purchase of the Britannia Country House Hotel in Didsbury.

Its chief executive, founder, and largest shareholder remains Alex Langsam.

Langsam is a non-domiciled taxpayer, registered as living in Austria for tax-purposes since 1999.

His net personal worth was valued at £90 million in 2013 by The Sunday Times.

Its head office is based in the old town hall in Hale.

Most of the firm’s biggest hotels are located in and around Manchester. They include The Britannia in the city centre and Sachas Hotel and the Adelphi in Liverpool.

In January 2011, the company bought North West holiday camp business Pontins out of administration in a £18.5m deal which safeguarded about 1,000 jobs.

Cleanliness proved to be a particularly sore point with guests repeatedly using words such as “filthy”, “dreadful” and “scruffy”. On average guests were 10 times (31%) more likely to rate Britannia poorly in this category than across almost all the other hotel chains (3%).

In fact, when a Which? investigator checked in to the Britannia Lodge at Gatwick, they were greeted with “damp smells” emanating from a clogged ventilation fan and a “grubby” bathtub.

Even worse, an ultraviolet light showed up stains that could not be seen with the naked eye, on both the bed sheets and the walls surrounding the toilet.

One guest told Which? that the chain’s hotels “should all be closed down for the safety of the people who have the misfortune of staying in one”.

EasyHotel, which is on average cheaper than Britannia, had a 58% customer score and managed to avoid any one-star ratings, but was mediocre in most categories, earning two stars in areas including bathrooms, bed comfort and bedrooms.

When Which? visited one of the budget chain’s sites in London’s Old Street the researcher found it had “all the charm of a hospital ward”. One customer who had stayed in the hotel advised: “Don’t stay there unless you’re very drunk and there’s no way of getting home.”

Ibis Budget was only slightly better rated, with a customer score of 60%. While it scored three stars for customer service, value for money and cleanliness it was let down by the quality of its rooms and its food offering.

At the other end of the scale, Wetherspoon Hotels made it to the top of the rankings for the first time – sharing first place with Premier Inn, the reigning champion for the last four years.

Guests raved to Which? about Wetherspoon for its “huge stylish rooms,” which earned it a full five stars in the bedroom quality category – and a 79 per cent customer score overall.

Wetherspoon – with prices as low as £39 for a one-night stay and £5 extra for breakfast – was also the most likely of the chains to be rated excellent for value for money.

Premier Inn also received an impressive 79% customer score. Guests continued to praise the reliable, consistently clean, comfortable and affordable chain.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said: “There really is no excuse for the grubby bathtubs and filthy rooms that we have seen year after year with Britannia so it is best to avoid them completely and go almost anywhere else.

“If you are looking for a cheap and cheerful stay in the centre of town you would be better off choosing the ever-reliable Premier Inn or a Wetherspoon Hotel, where even with paying extra for breakfast you can expect extraordinarily good value for money.”