Friday, June 04, 2010

Where's Esther Rantzen when you need her?

Stayed with Mrs W and the minis in the Hallmark Hotel, Bournemouth for a few days earlier this week. The website says four-star but, believe me, the actual establishment is struggling to manage a three. The changing facilities by the swimming pool were on a par with the local council baths, service in the restaurant and bar was agonisingly slow and the shower unit in my room needed chucking on the skip that sat outside in the car park.

My complaint is not necessarily that I have some God-given right to live in the lap of luxury. More that they were charging four-star prices on the basis of a cosmetic makeover in the reception and bar. When I challenged staff about the status, I was told they were 'self-certifying'. I was like 'do wot?' Self-certifying? What are they talking about? Does this mean that anyone has the right to describe themselves as a four-star or five-star hotel, regardless of the standard of facilities or service they provide? Last year, I took Premier Inn to the Advertising Standards Authority for their similar claims and won. Unfortunately, the case took a few months, by which time they'd stopped running the ads concerned.

Without wishing to get all nanny state about it, shouldn't there be some proper legal framework that stops people making claims about their hotels that simply aren't true? And shouldn't there be some objective criteria - publicly available to everyone - that allows us to distinguish between one grade another? It would certainly be good for UK plc and its tourist industry.

WARTE has jumped on the consumer rights bandwagon. And will probably jump right off again very soon.

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