A Good Nights Sleep

When it comes to selecting accommodation for your group, the choice of venue can make or break a trip. Carrie Drage takes a look at some of the options available in the UK, from large hotel chains through to university residences.

Accommodation is an important consideration for any GTO when booking an overnight stay in the UK and the type of establishments available in Britain can differ considerably. The following pages detail some of the options for GTOs planning overnight trips in the UK.

Large chains

Large hotel chains are a good option for GTOs who want to know exactly what to expect from their stay as the quality and level of service is standardised.

Sprowston Manor Hotel & Country Club, owned by Marriott International.

Sprowston Manor Hotel & Country Club, owned by Marriott International.

One of the largest hotel chains in Britain is Hilton UK & Ireland, which currently operates and franchises 77 hotels across brands such as Hilton and The Waldorf Astoria Collection. In August, the company opened its first UK Hilton Garden Inn, in Luton, a mid-priced hotel that features Garden Sleep System beds that allow you to adjust the firmness of the mattress. Hilton also plans to introduce up to 30 Hampton by Hilton economy hotels to the UK within five years. Group rates apply for GTOs booking 10 or more bedrooms.

Operating 61 hotels in the UK is Marriott International, which has spent £120 million upgrading 38 of its properties over the past year. Group rates vary.

Shearings Hotels has 49 properties around Britain including three newly-acquired establishments; St George Hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire, the George Hotel in Chollerford, Northumberland, and the Eden Arms Hotel near Durham. GTOs booking accommodation only receive special group rates, whilst those wishing to arrange a package can tailor-make an itinerary through Shearings Holidays.

A refurbished bedroom belonging to Thistle Hotels

A refurbished bedroom belonging to Thistle Hotels

Thistle Hotels, meanwhile, operates 33 properties in the UK and an additional three Guoman Hotels. The company recently invested more than £100 million across its portfolio of UK hotels to improve bedrooms and public areas, and plans to enhance dining facilities by summer 2009. Group tariffs are available.

Another company offering a choice of 33 UK properties is Britannia Hotels. As well as discounted rates on bedrooms, GTOs can arrange Grand Entertainment Breaks – which come with live evening entertainment – at a selection of seaside hotels.

With 28 properties is von Essen Hotels, which recently acquired Callow Hall, in Derbyshire, a family-run country house hotel overlooking the Dove Valley. Next summer sees the opening of the chain’s new 70-bedroom property in Battersea, London. Group benefits vary.

Smaller chains

Smaller chains offer properties that vary dramatically in character and staff can sometimes provide a more personal service than larger chains.

Operating 21 properties is QHotels, which has plans to upgrade the restaurant at The Hampshire Court, in Basingstoke, by summer 2009 and refurbish the bedrooms of its Oxford Belfry property by December next year. Group rates are available for bookings of 10 or more bedrooms and one free place is offered for every 20 people.

Offering a collection of 18 three-star properties throughout the UK is Forestdale Hotels. Group rates are available for 20 or more people with one free place offered for every 20 guests.

Legacy Hotels also operates 18 UK hotels and added a new Lancashire property to its portfolio this month, the Legacy Preston International. Earlier in the year, the company completed a £3.5 million refurbishment of the Legacy Falcon in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Legacy Rose and Crown Hotel, in Salisbury. Group rates are available for 20 or more.

Offering accommodation exclusively for adults, Warner Leisure Hotels is a brand with 13 properties in the UK. For a small supplement, GTOs can book one of 600 Experience Breaks, which offer the opportunity to learn a new skill or activity. Groups benefit from discounts of up to 25%, free places and singles with no supplements. Additionally, GTOs receive a room upgrade and meal vouchers.

Grand Hotels UK forms part of the UK Holiday Group and owns nine hotels, including Hotel Richmond in Torquay and the Glen Usk Hotel in Llandrindod Wells, Wales, which both completed refurbishments earlier this year. Its sister company, just for groups! can tailor-make coach holidays based at these hotels, or other venues not owned by the company.

Strathmore Hotels, meanwhile, is a group of eight properties and GTOs can book themed breaks, which range from Murder Mystery and Tribute Weekends to Turkey & Tinsel. Group rates apply and one free place is offered for parties of 20 or more. Coach-inclusive packages that feature accommodation at the group’s eight properties can be booked through Strathmore Travel.

Offering two holiday villages and four hotels is Martyn Leisure Resorts & Hotels, which targets itself at the over 50s. Its sites are mostly located in the west country although its newest property, The Ship Hotel, is based in London. Martyn Leisure Resorts & Hotels is popular for its all-inclusive short breaks, which range from ‘Big Band Breaks’ to ‘Turkey & Tinsel’. One free place is offered for every 20 paying guests.

With five hotels in the UK, all conveniently located along the A1 route, Metro Inns is a good option for budget accommodation. Group rates are available and Continental breakfast bags can be pre-ordered by GTOs at an extra cost.

Daish’s Travel, meanwhile, has four hotels to its name, each offering nightly entertainment inclusive in the price. GTOs can arrange packages that include coach transport to the hotel and tailor-made itineraries, as well as themed breaks such as Around the World, where each day of your holiday is based on a different country and the hotel decorations and food is themed accordingly.

Elsewhere, Holdsworth Hotels and its sister company Robinsons Holidays own and operate three hotels in Torquay, Eastbourne and on the Isle of Wight, and also offer a wide selection of coach holidays to resorts throughout the UK. All Robinsons Holidays tours include local pick-up points and no single room supplements.

Again offering three properties is Sarova Hotels, which owns a 194-bedroom Edwardian property in London’s Knightsbridge, a 150-bedroom former coaching inn in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire and a 103-bedroom countryside hotel in Great Malvern, Worcestershire. Group rates are available on bookings of 10 or more bedrooms.

Franchise hotels

Although franchise hotels are independently run, they offer the same assurance of quality and service across their different establishments as hotel chains.

Premier Inn offers the choice of more than 500 hotels in the UK and is best-known for its value accommodation. A group reservation team handles bookings of five or more bedrooms.

A French Kings Suite at the Best Western Queen Hotel in Chester

A French Kings Suite at the Best Western Queen Hotel in Chester

The Best Western consortium, meanwhile, has more than 280 hotels across Britain and recently completed refurbishments on a handful of its properties. These include Best Western Mosborough Hall, in Yorkshire, which has newly decorated bedrooms and a brand new Brasserie restaurant, and Best Western Webbington Hotel, in Loxton, Somerset, which now features a swimming pool and spa. Group rates apply for 12 or more people and one free place is offered for every 20 paying guests. The company also offers a Meal Stops Programme that allows group travellers to stop off for a meal at a Best Western hotel en route to their destination. One person dines free for every group of 12.

Again offering more than 200 hotels in the UK across its three major brands – Express by Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Hotels and Crowne Plaza Resort Hotels – is the InterContinental Hotels Group. Other brands that form part of the group are Staybridge Suites Hotels, which opened its first UK property in Liverpool recently, Indigo, a US brand that opened its first UK hotel in London Paddington earlier this month, and InterContinental Hotels, the most exclusive brand. Groups of nine or more qualify for discounts at all hotels.

With 186 privately-owned properties in its consortium, the Classic Britain hotel group is well-geared up for coach parties. Group rates are available for bookings of 15 or more and GTOs can also get assistance in planning itineraries. Alternatively, if visiting out of season, groups can benefit from a range of packages such as Wine & Whisky, Turkey & Tinsel and Ceilidh Weekends.

The Accor Group also offers GTOs a wide choice of accommodation with more than 125 hotels operating in the UK under six different brands – Formule 1, Etap, Ibis, Mercure, Novotel and Sofitel.

Ramada Jarvis, meanwhile, has 42 hotels in the UK, including Ramada London Heathrow. This new-build 200-bedroom hotel opened earlier this month at a cost of £27 million. Group rates are available and free places are given to GTOs.

Operating five brands globally is The Rezidor Hotel Group; however, only two brands feature in the UK. Park Inn hotels currently stand at 18, although there are plans to open 16 more in locations such as Peterborough, Canterbury and Belfast over the next two years. Radisson SAS, meanwhile, has 11 existing hotels and three more will be introduced in Durham, Bristol and Cardiff before spring next year. Group discounts vary.

Finally, Abacus Hotels, which forms part of the Best Western consortium, offers three hotels. Its Best Western Orton Hall Hotel, in Peterborough, completed a £1.75 million project in July, which saw the addition of an on-site Courtyard Leisure Club. Group rates apply and one free place is offered for every 20 paying guests.

Independent hotels

Many independently-run hotels cater well for the groups market with special group rates, themed breaks and dedicated group booking teams that can assist GTOs with tour itineraries.

Beginning in Lancashire, the 53-bedroom Auckland Hotel, in Morecambe, offers group rates for parties of 20 and above as well as themed breaks, such as Back to the 40s and Turkey & Tinsel.

Not far from here, the Homecliffe Hotel, in Blackpool, re-opened under new ownership last summer following a complete refurbishment of its guest rooms and public areas. The Hotel features 22 bedrooms and cabaret is arranged for the evenings to entertain groups staying at the property. ‘Turkey & Tinsel’ breaks can also be arranged out of season. Group rates are negotiable.

Again in Blackpool, groups can book a stay at Tiffany’s Hotel or its sister property, The Parisienne Hotel. Tiffany’s is the larger of the two with 120 bedrooms and offers nightly entertainment and afternoon tea inclusive in the price. Group rates are available and free places are offered for GTOs. Similar benefits can be enjoyed at The Parisienne Hotel, nearby, which recently refurbished its reception and dining areas and is hoping to have all of its 65 bedrooms redecorated by the end of the summer.

In nearby Lytham St Annes, the Clifton Park Hotel has 50 ensuite bedrooms. The property has a classical foyer with crystal chandeliers, polished marble tables and fine French furnishings as well as a ballroom, restaurant and leisure centre. Groups benefit from discounted rates, no single supplements and free places for GTOs.

A dining area in the New Wilmington Hotel

A dining area in the New Wilmington Hotel

Moving to the west country, the Hartland Hotel overlooks the main beach at Bude and can offer groups accommodation only at a discounted price or a complete group package inclusive of coach transport. The 28-bedroom hotel offers entertainment three nights a week in its ballroom or, alternatively, groups can book a nostalgia break out of season.

A short way away, TLH Leisure Resort, in Torquay, has four hotels at its site. Groups are offered free places and, for something a little different, GTOs can arrange themed packages, which range from bowling and dancing to Turkey and Tinsel breaks.

Further east in Sussex, the 40-bedroom New Wilmington Hotel, in Eastbourne, provides a number of breaks for groups during the winter, including Turkey & Tinsel and Christmas and New Year packages. During the remaining part of the year, free entertainment is provided four times a week and can be tailored to suit your group. Coach parties also benefit from flexible menu choices and discounted tariffs.

Moving to Wales, the St Kilda Hotel, in Llandudno, comprises 60 bedrooms. Two themed packages are available; We’ll Meet Again is a wartime-themed break and Holly & Mistletoe is a twist on the Turkey & Tinsel breaks. Accommodation-only group rates are available and coach parties are welcomed with tea and scones on arrival.

University lodgings

University accommodation is a great option for GTOs wishing to keep costs down and is ideal for groups as many venues do not charge single supplement fees.

The Campus Village belonging to the University of Strathclyde

The Campus Village belonging to the University of Strathclyde

Beginning in Scotland, the University of Strathclyde offers accommodation across three sites. Its Campus Village is conveniently located in Glasgow city centre, whilst for a more rural location, Jordanhill Campus and Ross Priory, on the banks of Loch Lomond, provide suitable options.

The University of Durham, meanwhile, has 3,000 bedrooms available including 1,500 ensuite. The range incorporates standard rooms with shared facilities right up to state rooms at Durham Castle, a UNSECO World Heritage-listed site.

Moving to Yorkshire, Leeds Metropolitan University offers a selection of self-contained apartments that can sleep up to six people each. Kirkstall Brewery, in Headingley, features 1,100 bedrooms whilst the city centre Opal building contains 1,200 ensuite bedrooms.

Liverpool University’s Conference Parks at Carnatic and Greenbank are located in private parkland just a 10-minute drive from Liverpool’s new-look city centre. The parks can offer up to 1,500 bedrooms, including over 400 ensuites, outside of term time.

The University of Exeter, meanwhile, offers 1,000 ensuite bedrooms at Streatham Campus, which is set in 300 acres of woodland and landscaped gardens, and 105 ensuite and 85 standard bedrooms at St Luke’s Campus.

Groups wishing to stay in one of the historic colleges belonging to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge should contact University Rooms with their booking. Queries are dealt with by a group booking team who can advise on rates and packages.

Offering accommodation in London is King’s College, which has four residences in the city featuring 1,300 ensuite and 900 standard bedrooms. For a central location, groups can select apartments at Waterloo or London Bridge; however, for a more leafy suburban location, its Hampstead and Denmark Hill sites are ideal.

Also with accommodation in London, the London School of Economics has eight city centre sites, which are available for groups during the student holidays. All of these are well placed for exploring some of the capital’s majot landmarks. Accommodation ranges from single rooms in halls to six-bedroom self-contained apartments.

Further south in Canterbury, accommodation at the University of Kent comprises more than 2,500 bedrooms. This includes 250 purpose-built houses that can sleep up to six people each.

Lastly, the University of Brighton provides accommodation across five different sites in Brighton and nearby Eastbourne, totalling 1,600 bedrooms. This comprises mainly self-contained flats that can sleep up to eight people each.