Forty Years from Soufflés to Kippers

By Adam Raphael

The Guide marks its 40th anniversary on Monday with the launch of its 2018 edition. There is much to celebrate. The print edition sold out last year, the first time that this has happened in living memory. The new edition has 840 entries ranging from great-value B&Bs to luxurious country house hotels. Most are family-owned, all have something special. One serves a fiendishly flavourful tangerine soufflé. Another has irresistible kippers. If you haven’t already got your copy of the 2018 Guide, buy it by clicking HERE.

Why is the Guide seeing an increase in those looking to it for advice on where to stay? We like to think that we are getting better. This year we have more than 75 new entries, and 20 editor’s choice selections ranging from romantic and spas to family and dog-friendly. There are also our ten César award winners which are given to outstanding hotels. Social media is playing a part with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram helping to promote our selected hotels and B&Bs to a younger audience. But the Guide is also meeting a growing demand. More than 90% of travellers make their decision on where to stay based on customer reviews, according to TrustYou, the world’s largest guest feedback platform. The company, which analyses feedback from three million guests, says that consumers rely on independent reviews to lead them to the sort of hotel they want to visit.

One way we seek to meet this information gap is writing regular articles for big media outlets such as the Daily Mail, the Independent, the Evening Standard and USA Today. We are in the business of promoting outstanding places, and to date we have published 150 articles covering more than 600 hotels and B&Bs. The print edition remains at the heart of what we do, but our online presence is vital. The Guide’s new mobile responsive website, launched last year, has more than 1,000 entries, half of which are British and Irish, the rest in ten European countries, including favourite holiday destinations such as Paris, Rome, Venice, Madrid, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Barcelona, Istanbul and Lisbon.

Our website audience, 20,000 a month, is growing because the Guide is trusted. Unlike TripAdvisor, which makes little or no attempt to monitor what is posted, resulting in large numbers of bogus and collusive reviews, the Guide takes care to make sure that everything it puts up online is genuine, fair and accurate. How do we do this? A reader writing to the Guide for the first time about a hotel or B&B is listed as N1 in our database. If he or she continues to write, and appears to be roughly on the Guide’s wavelength, they will be upgraded to an R for ‘regular’. Finally, a few are promoted to T for ‘trusted’ because their opinions have proved to be reliable. It is from the ranks of the trusted that we recruit the Guide’s inspectors whose overnight stays, always anonymous, help to settle disagreements. The reports of inspectors and readers are continually cross-checked. This data process is time-consuming and expensive but it is impossible for hotels, readers, or anyone else to manipulate. That’s not to say that our judgments are always right. But when we do go wrong, our readers are quick to point this out.

What of the future? After the success of our first GHG hotel forum held at the Pear Tree at Purton in the summer, we are planning further forums in other parts of the country to which hoteliers will be invited. Our reciprocal links with Pride of Britain, Georgina Campbell’s Ireland and Hotel Guru will be further extended. And our sponsors, Sky, Bramley and Billecart-Salmon play an important part in the Guide’s development. We are also seeing an increase in publicity. The Guide’s César winners will be featured in the Daily Mail on Saturday. There will be other articles about the Guide in the Mail on Sunday this weekend and in the Observer colour magazine on Oct 15th.  I will be hosting a ‘power’ breakfast on September 18th with Simon Calder at the Independent Hotel Show. In short, the future is bright. Roll on the next 40 years.