Good night, sleep tight

Whether you’re looking to book with a big chain, university halls or an independent hotel, Emma Boyes provides a round-up of the accommodation choices available to groups.

The Grand Hotel in Bristol, part of the Thistle Hotels chain.

The Grand Hotel in Bristol, part of the Thistle Hotels chain.

Finding somewhere suitable for you and your members to rest their weary heads is an important part of planning a group trip, and there are certainly plenty of different options for places to stay, with something to suit all budgets.
It is always worth calling hotels and asking what deals or extra discounts are available, as group bookings (especially out of season) represent a nice chunk of business for them.

Big chains

Large hotel chains are used to dealing with groups and will often offer discounted rates and other incentives. Some have a special groups team or hotline to discuss discounts and help organisers make their bookings.

A typical bedroom at budget hotel chain Premier Inn.

A typical bedroom at budget hotel chain Premier Inn.

Budget chain Premier Inn is the biggest hotel chain in the UK – currently it has over 590 hotels with an average of three new ones opening every month. There are Premier Inns in all the major cities including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. An extra 22 new hotels have so far been confirmed to open in 2011 including locations in Exeter, Greenwich and Stratford-upon-Avon. There are not any specific discounts for groups, but there are sometimes general offers.

The second biggest budget option is Travelodge, with a total of 452 hotels and new locations constantly opening – 50 or so are scheduled for the next 12 months alone, and the latest flagship property was opened in July at London Waterloo by mayor Boris Johnson. Group discounts and deals are available but vary depending on the venue so GTOs are advised to contact individual sites to find out what is on offer. How good a deal you get depends on factors like how far ahead you book, how big your group is and how long you are planning on staying.

The Travelodge in Eastbourne.

The Travelodge in Eastbourne.

The group of independent hotels Best Western, meanwhile, has a variety of different packages for groups; for example, meal stops where groups can stop off en route at a hotel for a three-course meal for £10 per person. When there are 20 people in a group, one person also stays free. There are 272 Best Western hotels across the country, and all are rated at least three or four stars – almost all of these locations also offer free coach parking, with the exception of mainly those in London. Ten hotels joined the group in the last 12 months, including the Chilworth Manor Hotel in Southampton, the Himley Hotel in Dudley and the White Hart Hotel in Dartmoor. Hotel locations include castles, mansions, beachside and some with cathedral views.

At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotelier Hilton Worldwide has 92 hotels in the UK and Ireland, including Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and Brighton.

Group discounts are offered but are dependent on the hotel – GTOs are advised to get in touch with the hotel they are interested in to see what deals can be made.

Medium chains

Medium sized hotel chains generally offer the same level of quality and service, and are also likely to have discounts and deals for group bookings.

A Jurys Inn guest room.

A Jurys Inn guest room.

Thistle Hotels has 33 hotels in total, including 11 in London and a presence in many of the UK’s major cities including Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff. All Thistle Hotels have three or four-star ratings and restaurants. Group deals and discounts are available, and these are tailored to each group, with the minimum booking being 10 rooms.

Jurys Inn also specialises in prime city locations and has 31 hotels in various destinations including Birmingham, Leeds, Belfast, London Chelsea and Exeter. The majority of hotels in the group have between 200 and 270 rooms, with reception staffed 24 hours a day. Discounts and special packages are offered to groups of 10 or more (minimum stays may apply). Jurys Inn also has a dedicated group desk for enquiries.

The Legacy Plymouth International Hotel.

The Legacy Plymouth International Hotel.

Boasting 24 three and four-star properties is Legacy Hotels, which offers venues in locations such as Cardiff, on the fringes of Snowdonia National Park in Llanberis and Chesterfield – a popular base for exploring the Peak District. The Legacy Plymouth International Hotel in Marsh Hills, Plymouth has been newly added in the last 12 months. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with no minimum stay required; there is also a dedicated group manager to help out with enquiries.

For those who would like to try something different, Haven Holidays offers accommodation at a choice of 35 holiday parks including locations in Weymouth Bay and Thorpe Park in Lincolnshire. The accommodation takes the form of large, static caravans to suit a range of budgets, including an exclusive option offering double glazing, an early check in, flat screen TVs and DVD players. Group discounts of up to 20% are offered for any group that books five or more caravans (wherever possible you will be placed close together), and groups are also able to pre-book activities.

Small chains

Small chains tend to offer hotels with more character than the larger chains and, although they won’t be able to offer you a choice of hundreds of locations in the UK, you are still likely to get great service and perhaps extra touches that the larger chains are not able to offer.
With the emphasis on luxury, but also offering rock bottom rates, De Vere Hotels has 13 hotels across the country including The Grand on the seafront at Brighton, the University Arms in Cambridge and the Royal Bath in Bournemouth. Special rates are given to groups that book 10 or more rooms, and these are tailor-made for each group; for example, they may include all meals or free local activities. Many of the hotels in the group offer spa and golf facilities, and all have restaurants – Cameron House in Loch Lomond boasts a Michelin-starred chef.
Warner Leisure Hotels, meanwhile, has 13 hotels and coastal villages, and groups can save up to 25% on standard prices. Locations include Somerset, the Cotswolds and Suffolk. Warner specialises in bowling breaks, and offers 90 different packages at various indoor bowling complexes. It also offers a variety of ‘experience’ breaks where groups can learn a new skill – for example, digital photography, painting or dancing – during their stay.
With eight properties in total, six in Scotland and two in the north of England is

A bedroom at the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William, a property belonging to Strathmore Hotels.

A bedroom at the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William, a property belonging to Strathmore Hotels.

Strathmore Hotels. Locations include Glasgow, Perth and the Lake District. Yearround special rates are available for groups of 20 or more and, depending on the time of year, groups get extra bonuses; for example, a free welcome drink, porter service and entertainment. For every 20 people booking, one person stays free. Special themed breaks can also be arranged, including murder mysteries, tribute weekends, and dancing and walking holidays. Most of the hotels also offer free coach parking.
For groups visiting Dorset and Somerset, Martyn Leisure operates three hotels and a holiday resort in these regions; these are the Sherborne Hotel, Hotel Prince Regent, The Russell Hotel and Sand Bay Leisure Resort as well as a fourth – Harrisons Hotel – in Surrey. To qualify for group discounts, there must be a minimum of 20 people in your party and you must stay at least two nights.

 The new Space Bowl Complex at Haven’s Marton Mere site in Blackpool.

The new Space Bowl Complex at Haven’s Marton Mere site in Blackpool.

There is a dedicated local rate booking line and organisers receive a special gift and one free place for every 20 paying adults. Sand Bay Leisure Resort in Weston-super-Mare, offers 300 bedrooms in an adultsonly setting, with plenty of nightly entertainment including live bands and cabaret shows, along with an indoor pool complex, sauna, spa and gym whilst as an example of the hotel accommodation, the boutique Harrisons Hotel in Shepperton has 31 ensuite guest rooms and is near local attractions like Windsor Castle and Ascot Racecourse, as well as only a 45 minute drive from London. There is ample coach parking in the hotel car park.
With three properties to its name in the east of England – Peterborough, King’s Lynn and Hunstanton – is Abacus Hotels. Groups of 10 or more get special rates for bed and breakfast or dinner, bed and breakfast deals, as well as one free place for every 20 booked. At the Orton Hall Hotel in Peterborough, groups of up to 20 people can also arrange private dining in the Huntly Restaurant, winner of an AA Rosette. All the hotels have on-site pubs, and the Peterborough and King’s Lynn properties have spas attached too. If you are heading to Blackpool, All Seasons Hotels operates three group-friendly properties, all on the town’s North Promenade – the 120-bedroom Tiffany’s, 66-bedroom Parisienne and 36-bedroom Ambassador. All three offer free coach parking and porterage, and group discounts and deals are available all year round to groups of 20 plus. There is also nightly entertainment, with full floor shows at Tiffany’s.

Martyn Leisure’s Sand Bay Leisure Resort in Weston-super-Mare.

Martyn Leisure’s Sand Bay Leisure Resort in Weston-super-Mare.

Independent hotels

Why not consider a stay in an independent hotel – they are also keen for your business and can often offer the kind of personalised levels of service that the big chains are unable to.

Bancourt Hotel in Torquay offers discounted rates for groups of 20 or more people, with ‘special treats’ for the group organiser, and no minimum stay required. If you are not planning on staying overnight in Torquay but are just passing through, the staff are also happy to arrange an afternoon tea dance or a hearty Sunday lunch for you. The Bancroft is a two-star hotel with 52 bedrooms and a large car park with space for coaches, along with an indoor swimming pool, restaurant, function room, gardens and a cabaret bar with evening entertainment.
Also in Torquay, the TLH Leisure Resort (comprising the Derwent, Victoria, Carlton and Toorak hotels) combines two and three star accommodation with leisure facilities including pools, a sauna, gym and spa. There are also four restaurants and a bistro serving lunches and snacks, alongside a programme of pub games and nightly entertainment. A variety of special themed breaks are available, including the Great British House Party, drinks inclusive deals, and bowling and dancing holidays. Groups of 20 plus staying two or more nights are offered a 20% discount. Free coach parking is available but not guaranteed.
The 53-bedroom Auckland Hotel in Morecambe, Lancashire, is another two-star hotel that has been run by the same family for over 30 years. Located on the seafront, with views of the bay and Lakeland Hills, it is within easy access of all the main local amenities. Group discounts are offered for 20 people and over with no minimum stay required. For every 30 people there is a free place, and there are two free places for groups of over 45. Coach parking is not offered on-site, but is available at a nearby coach firm for a small charge.
Moving to Wales, the St Kilda Hotel in Llandudno offers a warm welcome from its family-run management. They offer special group rates, with 20 as the minimum number, and generally with a minimum of three nights stay, although GTOs are advised to call for specific discounts and to work out a deal if they are planning on staying for a shorter period. The hotel offers 60 bedrooms with two private restaurants and is situated on the Central Promenade.

University halls

An aerial view of the campus at Ushaw College.

An aerial view of the campus at Ushaw College.

During the summer and sometimes also the Easter and Christmas holiday periods, many university halls of residence are available as an alternative form of accommodation. The summer breaks generally last from the middle of July to the end of October.
Venuemasters are the first point of call for GTOs arranging group stays in halls, and currently represent 43 UK venues. This year, two new locations have been added to their portfolio – the first is the University of East London, with 1,000 en-suite rooms in the iconic Docklands Student Village offering views across Canary Wharf. There is a maximum capacity of 1,170, and group rates start at bookings of 10 or more for bed and breakfast and self-catering packages. The second is Ushaw College in County Durham, which boasts three-star accreditation and is located less than four miles from the historic city centre. There are 51 ensuite and 77 standard bedrooms, along with free coach parking. Group rates are available on bed and breakfast.

The landscaped campus at the University of Kent.

The landscaped campus at the University of Kent.

The University of Kent has a massive 3,750 bedrooms in total nestled in 450 acres of landscaped campus overlooking the city of Canterbury and its cathedral. Groups of over 20 are offered special rates in both self-catering flats and houses (summer only) and single rooms in halls, with a minimum of three nights’ stay for the flats and houses. Between the 10th and 17th July 2011, there are even cheaper rates for groups visiting during the British Open Golf Championship held in nearby Sandwich, including a seven night package with breakfast and three nights’ dinners in the price. There is free coach parking and meals are also discounted for groups.

There are a variety of other university halls across both central and greater London, a boon for those looking for quality budget accommodation in the capital. City University London has 370 rooms located in the sought after zone one area, with discounts for groups of 10 or more during the summer break.

Halls of residence at Imperial College London.

Halls of residence at Imperial College London.

King’s College London is also partly in zone one, with the remainder of residences within zone two – the main sites are located at the Strand, Waterloo and London Bridge. There are 2,200 rooms in total, including en-suite accommodation and standard rooms, and group bed and breakfast rates are available.
The University of Westminster has 1,391 rooms spread out over the city, in areas including the South Bank, Victoria, the West End, Highgate and Harrow-onthe-Hill. Some of the halls are period residences, whilst others are modern and contemporary. A variety of packages are offered for groups, including half and full board meal plans, and sports activities at some of the sites.

Imperial College London is based in South Kensington, close to many of the capital’s museums and with views overlooking the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Gardens. Group rates apply to bookings of 10 or more and include a full English breakfast in the morning. For an extra charge, guests can also make use of the sports centre, Ethos, which is equipped with a 25-metre swimming pool, sauna, gym and squash court.