Choosing the right accommodation for groups

Date Posted: 14/02/2013

Brockencote Hall Hotel, part of the Eden Hotel Collection.

Pictured: You could opt for an individual hotel for your group accommodation booking.

Gary Swarbrooke, director of policy and quality at Quality in Tourism  explains what you should look for when choosing group accommodation

We’re all likely to have been there, either as part of a group or as the person responsible for booking accommodation for a group. Whether you’re booking for friends, work colleagues, students or coach trip, understanding what you can expect in terms of quality is paramount for a successful trip.

When it comes to understanding and defining the quality of accommodation, Quality in Tourism are the official experts and provide the nationwide team of assessors who so many accommodation providers rely on to provide their star rating.

There are a number of group accommodation options within the UK, from budget chains and individual hotels to university accommodation. With so much on offer, and so much variety sometimes it’s hard to make a decision, and more importantly make sure you choose somewhere that delivers good quality.

Obviously it depends on your clients’ expectations and needs, but on the most part guaranteed ‘quality’ and ‘value for money’ come high on the wish list. However, with new chains springing up, and competitive group deals, sometimes choosing the right booking can become a real headache.

Let’s take a closer look at three types of accommodation - budget hotel chains hotels, independent hotels, and university accommodation - and discusses what you should be looking for…

Budget hotel chains offer group tour operator’s peace of mind and reassurance as you know exactly what you are getting when you book. Prices are likely to be very competitive, and rooms will be clean and equipped with all the essentials.

The success of these chains is apparent; Premier Inn are investing in new hotels, including the new £14 million Premier Inn in Glasgow which opened in October, which is already proving a success and proving a great option for group bookings.

The three-star graded Westfield Village, part of Queen Mary, University of London.

Pictured: Academic venues - such as Westfield Village, part of Queen Mary, University of London - offer value for money.

It’s not just the big players that can offer exceptional group offers and a great accommodation option for groups – individual hotels should also be researched too as they often offer a more personal, local and friendly service with great rates.

A third possibility for group tour operators is university accommodation. Academic venues offer excellent value for money for group stays.

Many campuses are investing in the development of new facilities, so group travel organisers really can take advantage of a touch of quality at only a fraction of the cost of a mainstream hotel. Plus, many universities are conveniently located close to popular tourist attractions and transport links and offer a great social scene.

So, whether it’s a budget chain hotel, independent hotel, or university accommodation, all have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to group bookings.

To help make your decision easier and pick out that better quality establishment, here are my top four factors to look out for:

Star gradings

Does the venue you’re looking into have a good star grading? Hotels and university accommodation are awarded quality marks to help you determine the quality of accommodation and the amenities provided. So make sure you know what you’re booking and it’s the right quality level for your group.

Breakfast Awards

It’s the last meal your group will have before checking out and it’s one of the last things they will remember about the place they stayed. If they’ve had a good quality breakfast, then everybody is happy. If not, then this could turn the day for your group into a miserable one, before it’s even started.

When booking, ask the venue about their breakfast. What’s the arrangement? Is everything on offer or is it just continental? Is it a buffet style or table service? Check if there is a Breakfast Award – VisitEngland’s breakfast award highlights providers who have gone the extra mile to ensure the breakfast will exceed expectations.

Colton House, Staffordshire

Pictured: Find out about group breakfast arrangements before booking.

Walkers and cyclists accolades

Walking and cycling are two of the most popular activities undertaken by holidaymakers in the UK, particularly by groups. So, has the venue you’re looking at got a separate space for drying outdoor clothing and footwear? Are there boot scrapes at the main doors? Lockable undercover areas for safe overnight storage of bicycles? Is there access to water points for washing bicycles?

Small factors like these can make a massive difference to a group. If they are important to you look out for VisitEngland’s Walkers and Cyclist Welcome logo on accommodation – it will ensure your groups’ needs are fully accommodated.

Access awards

With one in four (27.2 per cent) of the UK population having a long-standing health problem or disability, there will be a high chance that members within your group will need a good level of accessibility. Are the venues you’re looking at catered for those with mobility problems? Remember, it’s not all about wheelchairs. Does the venue cater for those with hearing difficulties and the visually impaired?

You can easily identify if a property will take your groups’ unique needs into account if they hold accreditation to the National Accessibility Standards (NAS).

At Quality in Tourism (QiT) we are the official assessment body for VisitEngland and provide ratings and accreditations to thousands of accommodation outlets throughout England.

The grades we provide are based on solid industry research meaning that you can book in confidence that a property will meet your groups’ needs. The assessments we undertake include NAS (the only scheme that rates the accessibility of visitor accommodation throughout England) a number of Welcome schemes (including Cyclists, Walkers and Families Welcome) and a number of awards, including the Breakfast Award which is given in recognition of exceptional quality.

Generator Hostel, London

Pictured: Identify accommodation that will best suit your groups needs, whether its a luxury hotel or budget accommodation, such as Generator Hostel, London.

So when you next book a group trip, ask the venue about their VisitEngland assessments. It will make all the difference.

Quality in Tourism (QiT) is the official assessment service provided for VisitEngland. With a field force of more than 60 experienced assessors and a highly dedicated in-house team, the organisation carries out assessments and handles the administration of the national quality assessment schemes on behalf of VisitEngland.

For more information either e-mail, telephone 01684-864089 or visit

Gary Swarbrooke is the director of policy and quality at Quality in Tourism, the assessment service for VisitEngland.

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