On the hunt for hotels
Is there such a thing as the perfect qual-friendly hotel? We present a few suggestions, and some novel alternatives after all, what¹s wrong with a brothel?
There may come a time at some point in the distant future when AQR members will get a whole package of benefits, one of which will be discounted rates at selected hotels. Trouble is, just how many hotels or chains would feature on quallie wish lists?
In the interests of research, In Brief asked just what makes for a qual-friendly hotel. The answers ranged from the aspirational to the pragmatic. And just when did researchers join the rest of the population in being such celebrity spotters one of the reasons for the Malmaison's high score?
So what makes for a decent hotel? Well, while some asked for a good desk, a socket at a reasonable height for recorders rather than at floor level, and good telephone links to the Net, others went more for creature comforts.. What we want, they said, is a hotel in a central location (near a viewing facility and with good transport links); a swimming pool and gym; decent late night if not 24-hour room service, not just sandwiches; a well-stocked mini bar and, if possible, a bit of peace and quiet rather than a disco going on underneath or a stag party next door that runs until the earlyhours.
Some pet hates, even experienced in £100-plus a night UK hotels are: chilly/overheated rooms, crap showers, lingering smell of smoke in 'non-smoking rooms', tightly made-up beds, and hotels with extensions where a tortuous trip up never-ending corridors ends with a key that can't be made to work.
What a picky lot researchers can be. Still, they do seem to have more than their fair share of horror stories. One ended up in a brothel, booked (unwittingly?) by his client, in Edinburgh. He slept fully clothed that night on the brushed nylon sheets and left at daybreak.
Another talked of being welcomed to the 'Female Executive Suite', where the only point of difference was a set of Carmen rollers and a bowl of barley sugars, while the video rental channels provided the type of blue movies targeted at male guests.
As for working outside the UK, Western Europe, North America and other places conventionally described as 'civilised', the hotel often needs to be the facility, too.
This doesn't make life easy, says one international specialist. There aren't that many gyms or pools in Addis Ababa, and you can't really intimidate ordinary folk by asking them to turn up at a Sheraton or Hilton, he points out.
A hunt for proper facilities in Pristina and Skopje is likely to prove fruitless, he adds. There's also no point in expecting room service at the former's Grand Hotel (contradiction in terms?), although the latter's Aleksander Palace might come up trumps.
Hotel chains mentioned in passing as being reliable and functional in this country, meanwhile, are the Travelodge, Travel Inn, and Holiday Inn Express variety, with Novotel proving one step up and employing friendly French staff. The very best are often privately owned, country house hotels, but these are by their nature out of town and over budget.
So let's finish off with a whistle stop tour of some of the UK's offerings, with 0 ranking abysmal and 5 excellent (and all of them the views of members rather than AQR).
Malmaison chain is good, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow best (the latter just over the road from a viewing facility), Manchester worst (service not as good, no parking) . Ranking 4
Le Meridien Victoria & Albert Hotel (Manchester) is acclaimed not just for its individual film style, but also for its modern approach to cooking. It can however be a challenge to find if you are driving! Ranking 3
George Hotel (Glasgow) doesn't just benefit from decent accommodation, but it has an attic room that guests can use to sit and work in, with 24-hour free flowing tea and coffee makes for a more pleasant working day when you have fieldwork that night. Ranking 3
Lowry Hotel (Manchester) is Uber-cool, with lots of famous people to practice celeb spotting if you're so inclined. Ranking 5
Posthouse Hotel (Tanworth) is pretty bad, and doesn't even have a phone in the room - just a payphone. Ranking 2
Hotel du Vin Group (Birmingham and Bristol) has excellent food, hot stone therapy, even leg waxing for those boys and girls with time on their hands during the day. Also provides cornflakes at 10.30pm for those who don't fancy a late night meal after groups! Ranking 4
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, September 2002
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2002