Want to unwind at the 'best' hotel chain? Then leave the kids at home
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Wednesday 24 October 2012
Boasting Grade II-listed buildings, extensive grounds and themed activities, it appears to be a typical luxury hotel chain.
But there is something that sets Warner Leisure Hotels apart from the banks of international hotel groups operating in Britain: a no child policy.
For 18 years, the 14-hotel firm has banned any guests under 21 to ensure that adults on a trip away from home enjoy tranquillity at one of its retreats.
And it seems the policy could be paying off, as Warner is today named the best hotel chain in Britain.
Which? Travel gave it a score of 79 per cent, above 33 other chains including Hampton by Hilton, Malmaison, Best Western and Radisson. The most expensive chain surveyed, at £366 a night, it also received top marks for customer service, cleanliness, location and breakfasts.
However there was no direct relationship between price and performance, given that the £97-a-night Premier Inn came fourth while its £63-a-night budget rival, Travelodge, came third from bottom.
Warner Leisure Hotels' distinctive no-child policy – which can only be broken with written permission given in advance – appears to have been a factor in its triumph.
The only one of its guests quoted by Which? said: "We like them because they are child-free and luxurious. We have high expectations and so far they have met these every time."
While some adults clearly relish being away from noisy children, Britain's apparent dislike of under-18s has been much commented on in recent years. In an interview with The Independent two years ago, the outgoing children's commissioner Sir Al Aynsley Green described the UK as "one of the most child unfriendly countries in the world", saying people in other countries asked why we "hate children so much". In his book, Tickling the English, the Irish comedian Dara O Briain mused that the English have "ethnicised" teenagers, treating them like an alien group.
Which? awarded Warner Leisure Hotels the accolade after surveying 6,280 guests, 146 of whom had stayed at its premises.
A spokesman for the chain said that its "child free environment", in place since 1994, allowed adults to "socialise with like-minded people and do as much or as little as they wish.
"Warner Leisure Hotels offer a chance for older people who love life to come and love it all over again with the element of 'me-time' involved," she added. "We are a customer-focused organisation providing breaks that meet the needs of different groups."
Ironically, the group's owner, Bourne Holidays Ltd, also runs two other businesses which positively welcome children: Butlins and Haven holiday camps.
Check in, check out: Customer ratings
79% Warner Leisure Hotels
75% Hampton by Hilton
74% Premier Inn
73% Q Hotels
52% PH Hotels
41% Comfort Inn
Source: Which? Holiday, November 2012
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