The nightmare of children

Why do so many hotels (and hoteliers) have a problem with children? A surprising proportion of the hotels listed in the Good Hotel Guide impose some level of restriction on children staying. This ranges from ‘no children under eight’ to the draconian ‘no children under 16’.

Long-standing Guide hotelier Eric Marsh, of The Cavendish, Baslow (‘all ages welcomed’) and the George, Hathersage (ditto), wrote that you could sometimes approach a hotel with your child and your dog to find the former rejected and the latter accepted. One irate father wrote: ‘Imagine the outcry if black people or women were excluded from our hotels. Why are children excluded in this way?’

We come across this when compiling our Editor’s Choice lists for the Guide’s website (and the printed edition). The section on hotels that welcome dogs is easy to compile: a multitude of hotels boast that they welcome dogs (offering doggie treats and pet pampering).

It can be a struggle to identify ten hotels that unreservedly welcome children. Honourable mentions must go to John and Sue Jenkinson, who run the Evesham Hotel with humour and give a genuinely warm welcome to all ages, and the Fletcher-Brewer family at the Porth Tocyn Hotel, Abersoch, who adopt an equally flexible attitude.

Some readers think we should exclude all hotels that refuse to accept children; others seek out child-free hotels in their desire for peace and quiet. Personally we enjoy seeing a mix of generations in a hotel, but there is no doubt that parents who allow their children to run riot can cause havoc. To hoteliers who say that children cannot be trusted to behave at dinner, we say: ‘How could they learn until they are given the chance?”

The last word should go to our late founder, Hilary Rubinstein, who introduced a campaign ‘Let’s give the child a chance’, in 1989.

‘We are eager that more hotels should welcome small children, but we are not prepared to omit hotels that decline to accept them,’ he said. ‘We consider that hotels are entitled to exercise any reasonable restrictions they wish, as it is the customer’s right to patronise these places or give them a wide berth.’

We continue to share his view that more hotels should give child-friendly policies a go. Hilary Rubinstein wrote: ‘We believe that once visitors have become accustomed to children about the place, hotel guests will accept the change.’ In those days about a third of the British hotels in the Guide refused to accept children, whereas hardly one of the Guide’s Continental entries imposed a ban.

Things have advanced in the 21st century. The revived Luxury Hotels group does its best to achieve the delicate balance of catering equally for children and adults; so does The Bedruthan, a Cesar-winner in Cornwall (but its sister hotel down the hill, The Scarlet, normally will not admit anyone under 16). 

And Chewton Glen, the luxury hotel in the New Forest, has overturned a child-free policy and makes a particular point of welcoming children. It recognises that children are the next generation of guest.