The art of the deal

By Adam Raphael

Fancy a deal? The two blonde hucksters on either side of the Atlantic who claim to be masters of the art are not alone. Twice a month, the Guide emails its readers with great-value special offers to stay at its selected hotels, inns and B&Bs. These are proving popular, with the leading hotels in our Special Offers programme attracting nearly 5,000 views annually. Come the summer the urge to get away for a few days is irresistible. If you are tempted, please have a look at our latest SPECIAL OFFERS. At this point, full disclosure is required.

The Guide charges hotels which advertise a special offer in addition to the fee they pay for their basic web entry. Without these web revenues, the Guide could not exist. Hotels, inns and B&Bs are chosen solely on merit for the print edition. Selection is based on reader recommendations backed where necessary by an anonymous inspector. And only those places that are selected for a free entry in the print edition are entitled to appear on the Guide’s website. It is not a VERY commercial approach—the Guardian once called the Guide ‘squeaky clean’– but it is why it is trusted. And in an era of declining print sales and growing internet use, selection, divorced from payment, distinguishes the Guide from its competitors.

What is the evidence that special offers work? Of our top performing hotels on the GHG website, four out of five display offers with their entry. The offers reach a big audience because they are promoted not just on the Guide’s website but also on social media as well as being sent to the Guide’s 5,000 readers. Currently the most popular hotel on the Guide’s website is Lords of the Manor, a 17th century honey-coloured former rectory in a beautiful garden. But it is being hotly pursued by Chewton Glen, Gravetye Manor, Soar Mill Cove Hotel, the Cary Arms, Trefeddian Hotel, Park House, Glenfinnan House, Hambleton Hall, the Nare and the Peacock at Rowsley.

The Guide now allows readers to link directly to a hotel’s reservation page, an initiative that is liked, particularly by millennials, because it provides an immediate result. Of those viewing a hotel’s entry, 20% click through to the hotel’s own website, and a further 5% click through to the reservations page. Though we prefer direct booking by telephone, not everyone has the inclination or time to do this. Another initiative which is proving popular is the Guide’s gift voucher scheme which enables the recipient to stay at any of the Guide’s 850 selected hotels at the time of their choosing. The Guide takes no commission so both the guest and the hotel get the full monetary value (£100 to £1,000) of the voucher. And a complimentary copy of the Guide is included. Again, not very commercial. But the truth is that we are less interested in quick profits than in building a brand that is trusted.