Premier Inn and Travelodge continue to expand aggressively into the UK accommodation market. Premier Inn now has over 600 hotels in the UK and Ireland, while Travelodge is not far behind with 499 at the last count. Both brands also spend a huge amount of money on advertising. It’s hard not to miss their deals on the web. “Rooms from Just £19 Per Night!” “£12 Hotel Room Sale!” they scream. It’s easy to imagine owners of bed and breakfasts and independent hotels feeling somewhat overwhelmed as these corporate monsters devour everything in their path.
But just how representative are Travelodge and Premier Inn’s much trumpeted deals? Try to book a Saturday night at the Travelodge Belfast up to a week in advance and you’ll find that the room rate hovers around the £105 mark. Try to book the same night at the Belfast Premier Inn and it’ll set you back around £90. Not exactly budget from most people’s point of view, especially in these recessionary times.
What’s more, even if you can find rates in the £20 – £30 range (usually mid-week), the extras soon add up. If you have a cooked breakfast at a Travelodge, it’ll set you back £7.65. At a Premier Inn it’ll cost £7.99. And although Travelodge now offers free WIFI in its café-bars (though not in its guestrooms, unlike many B&Bs), Premier Inn still charges £10 per 24 hours.
The travelling public seems to be waking up to the fact that these budget chains aren’t as cheap as they appear at first glance. For instance, here’s a TripAdvisor review (dated 31 October 2011), of the Travelodge Newcastle Gosforth:
“…i really dont think the £80 plus they charge for saturdays is a fair price at all it was almost twice what we paid for friday in total we paid £149.50 so no the travelodges are not cheap.”
And here’s another one (dated 4 April 2011) of the Premier Inn Llantrisant in Glamorgan:
“…the most annoying thing was the price, nowhere near the “FROM £29″ that they offer. And looking on their website and having tried several dates, I have found the £29 price to be very hard to come by. Overall a nice hotel, but a little pricey.”
And what about this one (dated 1 October 2011) of the Travelodge Covent Garden? Okay, it’s in central London, but even so:
“This is not a budget hotel. £170 per night is not cheap. Wake up Travelodge! In this day and age you have to provide value for money, either cheap and no frills or expensive and lots of frills. This was expensive for the lack of frills available.”
An even more recent TripAdvisor customer (8 February 2012) at the Premier Inn Twickenham Stadium commented, “The only down was the price of £104 and the hotel was far from full”, while another, at the Premier Inn Tower Bridge, says, “It cost over £270 for three nights, the room was tiny, had stains on the walls and the sink was slow to drain.” (8 February 2012).
All this frustration is good news in the long run for owners of B&Bs and guest houses. As customers become more and more aware that the budget chains’ prices are rarely what they seem, they’ll start to look around for alternatives. And they’ll realise that the combination of warm welcome, family atmosphere and, yes, more transparent pricing offered by independent properties makes them unbeatable value.