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'Flawty Towser' - Not usually!
Holiday Inn Express (Exeter)
Member Name: merv
Holiday Inn Express (Exeter)
Date: 09/02/03, updated on 09/02/03 (250 review reads)
Advantages: Good Value, Plenty of offers, Clean and well appointed, Priority Club
Disadvantages: Full of Businessmen, Lounge lacks atmosphere
To book a room at a Holiday Inn Express hotel you can dial their central reservations number on 0800 731 8710, which is actually a call centre based on the continent. You use the same number if you want to cancel a booking, something you can do at very short notice without any financial penalty.
The last time we used the hotel chain was when we visited my son at Exeter University. The hotel is ideally suited for this as it is just off the M5, close to the city and handy for the university campus.
The day before we were due to start our two-night stay, circumstances dictated that we had to curtail our weekend away to just the first night. I rang the appropriate number and was answered by a polite and efficient sounding operator. I explained my predicament, which she understood, but said it was not possible to amend a booking, I would have to cancel and rebook the first night.
I told her the reference number, which they give you when make the booking in case you have to cancel and she successfully completed the first part of the transaction. That’s when all the fun and games started which would have made a wonderful scenario for Fawlty Towers.
Attempting to rebook the first night, she regretfully informed me that there were no vacancies. I said there must be, as she had that very minute created a vacancy by cancelling my original booking. But she was unyielding, if the computer said there were no vacancies, there were no vacancies – would I like to stay a different night?
Try as I would to convince her, she wouldn’t have it, even though the system would allow her to cancel my cancellation! Eventually I gave up, contacted the hotel direct and after a similar sort of experience initially I managed to get through to them eventually and booked the original room on the night we wanted.
Apart from that bemusing incident I can’t speak too highly of the Holiday Inn Express Chain, particularly the on
e at Exeter which we must have stayed at, at least ten times now. So what is so good about it:
Well, for a start there are over sixty five Express by Holiday Inn hotels in the UK on major motorways, in town and city centres and at major airports. They all have family rooms sleeping up to 2 adults and 2 children (up to 19 years old) in a double bed and sofa bed at the standard room rate - including breakfast. The 5 airport hotels they have offer ideal stopover accommodation - and many provide discounted parking too.
It is incredibly easy to book, using the central reservation system. The staff are efficient and helpful and providing that you have your dates and credit card ready the whole process can be completed in a couple of minutes. Every time I’ve rung them I’ve got through straight away and they answer the phone very quickly. You can also book over the internet – I’ve done this once and had no problem though my preferred option is the telephone as I always ask them if there are any offers on, a facility that doesn’t seem to be readily available via the net.
It is also (normally!) very easy to cancel a reservation. Just tell them either before 4.00pm or in some instances 6.00pm on the day of the stay and you incur no charges. This is a really good facility and by no means universal amongst hotel chains.
The rooms are incredibly good value. The standard rate is about £63 for a family room for four including breakfast. However, I’ve found that there’s nearly always an offer on. I’ve often had the same accommodation for £43 and on occasions £39 with their Weekender Plus deals. I’ve also joined their Priority Club, which gives you loyalty points redeemable against future stays. Once a member they e-mail you with offers, e.g. the latest is £10 off their lowest rate for Valentines Day weekend.
Continental breakfast is included in the price, for all the family, and a ver
y nice breakfast it is too. As much as you want on a self serve basis including tea, coffee, hot chocolate, all sorts of fruit juices, a range of cereals, croissants, pastries and other bakery items, a selection of preserves, yoghurts and a range of reduced-fat breakfast products. My own favourite is the make your own toast machine. It is fascinating to watch the people who haven’t stayed before trying to work out how to use it. A piece of advice to the manager here – turn up the heat, everyone who likes their toast to look at least a little bit brown has to put it through twice!
As you would expect, the rooms are exceptionally well appointed with very comfortable beds, en-suite bathroom with power shower, direct-dial phones, modem points, workspace with task lighting, remote control Sky TV/pay movies, comfortable duvets and tea/coffee making facilities
I’ve always found the staff very polite and helpful and each hotel has a reception area / lounge, where you can relax. These feature a spacious lounge area, with a fully licensed bar, comfortable seats, Sky TV and tea, coffee and refreshment facilities. This area is probably my only gripe about the hotel. It is completely lacking in atmosphere, tends to be full of some of the most boring businessmen in the world, is dominated by the TV and tends to be cold. Best to go for a drink to the pub usually sited very close to the hotel. In Exeter’s case it is the Barn Owl, a 100 yard walk to a cosy pub with a nice atmosphere and pleasant food at reasonable prices.
Anything else? A free newspaper, bowls of complementary fruit and a very quick check out.
All in all, it is an excellent place for a short stay. Not the sort of place I’d like to spend a week, but ideal if you are on business, en route somewhere or like us just visiting a city for a couple of days.
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