• Heat up the branding iron

The commoditisation of hotels is this conference season’s hot topic, as the online travel agents have forced the market to realise what the customer has suspected for some time – sometimes a room is just a room. As can be seen elsewhere this issue, this has lead to a rash of brand launches as the march to differentiate gathers pace.

For some, of course, a niche has already been found. Britannia Hotels last month distinguished itself by being rated the worst hotel chain in the UK for the second year in a row by Which? magazine. The group managed to score even lower than it did in the previous year, with an overall score of 33%, down three percentage points.

A quick scout round TripAdvisor reveals that the wisdom of the crowd backs up Which?, with comments ranging from “there were blood stains on the carpets” to “old rickety toilet seat” and the slightly more positive “booked in with no quarrels”.

This doesn’t seem to have stopped the cash flowing in, with turnover up 5% for the year to 31 March, reaching GBP73.3m. The Daily Mail has an explanation for this, with the news that the Home Office had been using some Britannia Hotels sites to house asylum seekers. The company has not as yet responded to the claims, although reviews on TripAdvisor suggest that guests at the Gatwick property have noticed that not everyone is there for a quick nap ahead of the early flight out.

If true, this may only be a short-term fix for Britannia as it faces the ongoing TripAdvisor onslaught. The Home Office told the Bournemouth Echo that the use of hotels was “only ever acceptable as a short-term measure”. Maybe time to rebrand after all.

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