By Adam Raphael
The Guide has much to celebrate in this, its 40th anniversary year. An attractive new WEBSITE, improved communication with readers and hotels, and the biggest direct sales of the print edition for seven years. But we are still reaching only a tiny fraction of travellers who would benefit from our advice on where to stay. That is something we must change because the more people who use the Guide, the better job we can do in finding promising new hotels and making sure our current selection maintain their high standards.
The Guide spends more than £30,000 each year inspecting hotels. We could and should be spending multiples of that if we had more resources. The Guide depends on the generosity of its thousands of readers who submit reports on their hotel stays each year, but we need to complement these reports with professional inspections. And that is expensive. The average cost of a hotel stay by one of our team of inspectors (we pay for dinner, a bottle of wine, and overnight accommodation) is roughly £200.
Millions of people trawl through TripAdvisor and other online websites in the hope of finding a hotel which they will enjoy. That is better than a blind stab, but it is risky and time-consuming. It is also expensive as most of the online sites charge a commission of up to 20%, paid by the hotel, but ultimately by the consumer. The best way of finding a good hotel is being told by a friend whose values you share. The Guide prides itself on being just that— the trusted word of mouth. And we are delighted that those who have found us like what they see. ‘Can I say that what an absolutely wonderful book the GHG is? Indeed, I can’t think of a book which over the years has given me more pleasure’ wrote one long-time reader. Please have a look at many more such ACCOLADES. We are also highly trusted by the MEDIA and HOTELIERS alike.
Yet for all the praise, the print edition of the Guide sells only 7,000 copies a year. Many travellers, who would find us useful, have yet to find us. The GHG WEBSITE,which is totally free, is seen by an average of 20,000 unique visitors a month. That is a fair number, but many more would benefit from our independent advice on the best hotels in Britain, Ireland, and Continental European countries. How do we bridge this gap?
Thanks to my colleague, Richard Fraiman, the Guide is doing many of the right things. We are investing in search engine optimisation (SEO), that ugly acronym for getting your website on the first page of Google and other search engines. We are developing our email database, and our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. We are promoting our selected hotels and displaying the Guide’s outstanding content in prestigious online publications including USA Today, Visit Britain, the Independent, and Huffington Post. Publicity such as this cannot be bought; it is a result of the Guide’s reputation for independence. We are holding our first hotel forum later this month at which thirty of our selected hotels will discuss key issues for their business from Brexit to online travel agents. We continue to improve the website to make it easier to use and to find a great hotel. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of our sponsors, Sky TV and Bramley.
But we are open to suggestions from anyone on how the Guide can be improved and how its merits can be better publicised. If anyone who has taken the time to read so far would email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, your ideas will be carefully considered. Another helpful step would be to recommend the Guide and its website (www.goodhotelguide.com) to friends who might not have heard of it. There are also a few copies still left of the 2017 edition but we are fast running out, the first time that has happened in more than a decade. So, we must be doing something right. But there is clearly more to do; roll on the next 40 years.