Review by Fiona Duncan, published 15th February 2009.
Yuck. I suppose I’m going to have to strip off the bedclothes and peer at the mattress in this place. And poke about in the loo, study the walls and crawl under the bed. Not what I usually do when I review a hotel, preferring to behave like a normal guest.
But there’s no dodging the task this time. Not when a report has been published recently by Which? Holiday magazine, where 16 budget hotel bedrooms in London and Manchester were minutely inspected by a researcher and a microbiologist posing as guests. Three branches of Ibis revealed mould growing on a mattress, bloodstains on a duvet and a truly filthy loo. As for Travelodge, there were unclean bathrooms, high levels of dust under a bed, hand prints and ground-in dirt on the walls. Nice.
Although only a snapshot, and focused only on two city centres, the Which? report raises serious concerns about cleanliness in the budget chain sector. As it continues its massive expansion across the country, are its standards dropping in unison?
It’s not just cleanliness that I’m keen to investigate. Is it worth the saving to choose a budget hotel rather than a more expensive, but atmospheric one, or is the experience so depressing that you are better off spending the extra?
First check out the alternatives. Does Devizes have a particularly charming, well-run inn with roaring fires and pretty bedrooms? Unfortunately not, which is probably why its Travelodge (mercifully brand new, and therefore less prone to mouldy mattresses) is doing so well.
There are just over 50 bedrooms in this edge-of-town branch, on a roundabout, right next to a builders’ merchant. Double and family rooms (with extra sofa bed) cost the same, which can be as little as £19 per room. Travelodge has recently launched a price-checker on their website, so customers can compare their rates with those of competitors such as Premier Inn and Comfort Inn.
It’s cut-throat, the budget bed business, and the customer is the winner.
So what of my Travelodge experience? Well, for a start I can report that my room is spotless, including the mattress. In fact, it’s a lot cleaner than the room in the private hospital where I have just deposited my mother for a small op and overnight stay.
The two places have much in common. At Travelodge, the blank lobby, oversized, rubber-floored lift, prominent health and safety regulations and emergency wheelchairs in anodyne corridors, and the sterile decoration in bedroom and bathroom, all make me wonder if I have left the hospital at all. As I lie in the hard bed, I keep expecting someone to come in and give me an injection.
In the morning, I leave feeling grateful (for the tiny bill) but a bit numb (with boredom). I collect my mother from the hospital, and she leaves feeling the same, although for different reasons.
London Road, Devizes (0871 984 6410; www.travelodge.com ). Doubles from £19 to £50 per night, excluding breakfast (£4.50). Excellent facilities for guests with disabilities.