How do they inspect a hotel

As a hotel guest you might be interested in how a hotel is inspected.  Personally I find the whole thing very depressing, as the average inspector is not concerned with whether a hotel is a nice place to stay, but are usually solely concerned with the minutiae of form filling - a growth industry in modern Britain

Being British, we do not attempt to grade hotels as good, mediocre or bad. Instead we have a star system that has nothing to do with niceness, and is based entirely on the services that the hotel offers.They go round and tick off things like mirrors, dressing tables, bedside lights, but are not concerned about the overall effect of is it a nice place to stay - bear that in mind next time you read a hotel guide book.

So the only difference between a 4 star and an identical 3 star hotel may be whether there is a night porter or not. Even with the "quality" awards  such as "commended" the difference between a hotel with an award and one without may be whether bottles of mineral water are put in the hotel rooms or not (an inspector told me that).

In other words, the system has been designed to be entirely objective - everything checked off against a list. Nothing subjective is allowed, so they end up not really caring whether the hotel is a haven or hell.

To inspect a hotel, the inspector reserves a room anonymously. Arrives, stays as a "normal" customer, pays the bill and at that stage with a theatrical flourish produces their card - a bit like Clark Kent turning into Superman - announcing them a "John Jones, Quality Assurance Assessor, West Country Tourist Board". I jest not, Quality Assurance Assessor is what the Tourist Board call their inspectors. It is difficult to take such bureaucratic semantics seriously!

The inspector then spends the entire morning inspecting, filling up forms and telling us the shortcomings of our hotel according to their check list. The joys of running ones own business - and I might have around six such inspections in the year - three whole days out of my life.

Some inspections are pedantic to a degree that would make a sergeant major proud. Again nothing to do with quality, everything to do with detail. A couple of examples from a recent inspection shows this

  • Bathrobes - we do not "have" to supply bathrobes in the bedrooms, but we do. The inspector did not like us putting them in the wardrobe, as they took space in the wardrobe. I pointed out that if we did not supply guests with bathrobes then the problem  would not have arisen - they would indeed have been happier if we had not given guests bathrobes, as they were not part of their form filling scheme. So remove the bathrobes at once to make us a better hotel
  • Wardrobes- we have given a lot of thought to how best to allocate space in the bedrooms, in order to make the rooms as pleasant as possible. An inspector thought that we should had larger wardrobes. On my pointing out that it would make the rooms smaller, that did not enter their calculations - perish the thought that the guest should have a nice room - better that they should have a wardrobe and a bed and no space, which was the situation that we inherited in the hotel. Order absurdly large, cheap wardrobes at once to make us a better hotel
  • I have to physically produce a copy of the fire certificate (even though it would be a criminal offence for me to run the hotel without one, and they saw it last year) and a copy of my public liability insurance (ditto, I have to have it). For reasons best known to themselves they have me ferreting through filing systems to find these blessed pieces of papers - more time gone.
  • An AA inspector once could find nothing else to criticise, but actually warned me that our light bulbs were dusty. One has a vision of guests checking light bulbs for dust and firing off letters of complaint to the AA if they find any. Remember, next time you are in a hotel to check the light bulbs for dust.
  • Probably the best example of the futility of it is when I had to point out to an inspector that she had found more to criticise in our superior rooms than in our standard rooms. I know which I would choose to stay in, and I suspect she would have chosen the superior rooms too. But their system was unable to take into account decor and furnishing, instead focusing on a series of points which, if I had followed, would have ended up with grottier rooms, but ones which matched their specifications. Unfortunately  they seem hell bent on driving standards downwards.
  • Another great one is the "multi-lingual fire notice" in the bedrooms. For reasons best known to themselves the inspecting bodies have decided that all hotels that apply for stars in Britain must have multi-lingual fire notices. However there is no requirement regarding number of languages - "I think one extra language will do" said an inspector. Nor is there any guidance on which language(s), why have French and not German, Dutch and not Italian, how about Swedish, Portugese, Serbo-Croat, Hindi, Xhosa, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Swaheli or Greek. The European Union has upwards of fifteen official languages, why not insist on all of them on the bedroom fire notice. What is the point at chosing one at random? Bureaucracy is determined to drive out good hotel keeping. Lets put up more notices and make our hotels really grotty.
  • The result is that new hotels are built to the MINIMUM standard required to achieved the required grading. The large hotel groups that dominate the hotel industry in Britain must love the hotel inspectors, as the groups can maximise their profits and minimise what they supply to the guests by doing what the inspectors want. Only a country like Britain could have ended up with this absurd anomaly

And the daftest thing of all with hotel inspectors? They are not "normal". Our average guests come in pairs, hotel inspectors come in ones. Our average guests come for several nights, the hotel inspector comes for one night. Our average guests comes to enjoy themselves, hotel inspectors come to criticise. Still they are so abnormal that most hotels can spot them a mile off. The AA even book theirs through the ""AA Booking Service" and organisation that we only had one booking from in the past year - for the anonymous AA inspector!


And if you want to stay in a really nice hotel by the sea in Cornwall, Corisande Manor Hotel, Cornwall

Corisande Manor Hotel, Newquay, Cornwall

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