British hotelier Alex Polizzi is back to weed out some of Britain’s most awful hotels and knock them back into shape. On The Hotel Inspector (returning to Channel 5 this February) she does with guest houses what Gordon Ramsay does with restaurants, “except with slightly less swearing”.
In the new series, she encounters a hotel at the top of the revolting charts. “This is only the second time that I’ve refused to stay somewhere,” explains Polizzi, now in her eighth series of the show.
“I felt very unsafe,” she says, of The Green Man in Wembley. “And I have rarely seen more depressing rooms in my life. The wallpaper was literally peeling off. There were hand marks all over the walls. Plus cracks everywhere, and torn netting at the windows. It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen.”
Polizzi usually has to stay in a hotel to experience everything a guest would. “Usually, come hell or high water, I stay,” she says. “The last resort is for me to refuse to stay.”
The Green Man owner argues that people get what they pay for. “I think that’s such a crap attitude,” says Polizzi, “and I told [the owner] so. I mean, why would you offer a s**t experience for 30 quid? Okay fine, they don’t expect The Ritz or even a Travelodge, but they can expect somewhere that is clean and decent. It was like a dog’s bed. It was really foul.”
Besides cleanliness, Polizzi explains there are some other serious mistakes that can be disastrous for a hotel, including renting out rooms by the hour. “A lot of the run-down places took in some very dodgy customers,” she reveals. “When you aren’t getting the income in, it leads to desperation. And once you start to do that, your residence starts to get unsafe.”
Unsavoury clientele and bizarre décor are key errors, says Polizzi. “Another mistake I see is imagining your taste is better than everyone else’s.” At the Paramount in Nottingham, she found loud Zebra print on the walls. “Even that can be nice if it’s done really well.” says Polizzi, who assures us she’s not trying to turn every hotel into a chain.
“You simply want to appeal to the most guests possible every time,” she says. “I did a theme hotel in Liverpool called the Epstein. The owner was all about The Beatles. I had no idea that The Beatles were still such a draw. There’s a whole business community that only survives doing Beatles stuff. There can be a lot of nutcases in any kind of committed tribute circuit, admittedly. But I did a theme hotel, I’ve never done anything like that, and it was quite fun.”
As with all industries in a digital world, hotels need to keep ahead of the game, urges Polizzi. “Fifty years ago, no one had to manage a website or gather bookings from the Internet. Now, it’s kind of like a race to the top. And realistically, the places I see that are in the most trouble are the places that are s**t. They really haven’t picked up their game. They haven’t opened their eyes to how much competition there is. They have such little curiosity.”
Sloppy or “weird” hotels are not just a problem common to our quaint British shores either, explains Polizzi. In her 20s she travelled around Sicily and stayed in B&Bs. “There was just that same weirdness,” she says. “People’s homes are their personal space. The minute that you open that house to outside scrutiny, it becomes a bit harder to choose how to decorate it.”
“I’m not Mary Poppins,” says Polizzi, but “I really hope I’ve made a huge difference to a few hotels this time around.”
Watch The Hotel Inspector in early February on Channel 5
Stay in an excellent hotel with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details