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Which is London’s best budget hotel brand?

by Rajul on August 22, 2012

A while back we looked at which budget hotel chain was best, Travelodge or Premier Inn, with the latter just getting the edge across a raft of criteria.

But time has moved on since then and with Premier Inn now angling more towards the mid-price market, there’s room for another budget contender in the capital.  Enter Tune Hotels, and its ‘limited service’ concept.

Though it currently has only four London hotels in Paddington, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street and Westminster, the Tune brand is growing steadily and the group aims to have 15 hotels in the city by 2017.

So how do the newer Tune hotels stack up against the well-established Travelodge brand?  We decided to survey guest reviews to find the answer.

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Travelodge versus Tune

Our comparison used TripAdvisor’s review rating system and also looked at common themes running through the guest comments.  Rather than attempt a comparison of each and every hotel, we used a sample that should accurately reflect on the overall brand.  This sample looks at the most highly-rated hotel for each brand according to TripAdvisor’s London hotel rankings, as well as the median hotel for each brand in the rankings.

It should be noted that when the research was carried out (16/08/12), Travelodge had twenty-seven open properties listed on TripAdvisor, while Tune had only four – making a direct comparison difficult.

(Note that price samples are for one double room for two adults for one night on 12th September.  Taxes and service fees are included, but not additional guest charges for amenities, etc.  Travelodge prices are sourced on 16/08/12 from Travelodge.co.uk and Tune from the Tune website).

Travelodge’s most highly ranked hotel – Travelodge London Waterloo
#315 of 1,080 hotels – 4/5 rating from 485 reviews
Price sample – £89.50 flexi rate or £59.50 ‘saver rate’ (non-refundable)

With 116 ‘Excellent’ and 219 ‘Very Good’ ratings, it would appear that many guests have had a positive experience of Travelodge Waterloo – which also happens to be one of the newest Travelodges.  Helpful staff, a convenient location for Waterloo Station and good-value food are among the pluses.

However the hotel also had 102 ‘Average’, 33 ‘Poor’ and 15 ‘Terrible’ ratings.   Criticisms include inconsistent cleanliness and rooms that are too warm in summer and let in too little natural light.   Lack of basic in-room accessories were also noted, but most reviewers felt that they were getting what they’d paid for and in a good location.  Given the room rates and location, it’s certainly a decent-value hotel.

Travelodge’s median ranked hotel – Travelodge London Kew Bridge
#645 of 1,080 hotels – 3/5 rating from 154 reviews
Price Sample – £59.95 flexi rate

Travelodge’s mid-ranked hotel also had a mixed bag of reviews, with 15 Excellent and 49 Very Good ratings, but also 50 Average, 19 Poor and 21 Terrible.  Oppressive heat in rooms and corridors were again mentioned, as were complaints about cleanliness and excess noise.  Friendly staff and good value breakfasts once again featured in Kew Bridge’s plus points.

Given that TripAdvisor’s rankings include all categories, this is still creditable for a budget hotel.  The fact that Travelodge runs such a large number of properties (and is continuously opening new ones) makes it hard to achieve consistency across all of them, but on the whole it seems to do a pretty good job – and I speak from personal experience having stayed in several.

Tune Hotels’ highest ranked hotel – Tune Hotel Paddington
#135 of 1,080 hotels – 4.5/5 rating from 21 reviews
Price Sample- £60.00 (windowless double), £75.00 (double with window)

Book direct with Tune Hotels at the best guaranteed rate

As you can see, Tune’s highest ranked property is already considerably ahead of Travelodge in terms of ranking and average rating, but it should be noted that there were only 21 reviews so far when we conducted the research.  All of Tune’s hotels have their relative newness standing in their favour, so it will be interesting to see how they fare in the long term.

But at the moment the going’s good at Tune Paddington with 12 of those 21 rating it as Excellent and the other 9 as Very Good.  The hotel was praised for its cleanliness and efficiency, helpful staff and Tune’s premium Hypnos beds would appear to be a hit with guests, placing the hotel above similar cheap Paddington hotels.  A convenient location for two tube stations and Hyde Park puts it in good favour, while many were impressed by the ensuite power showers.  Our very own London Hotels Insight reviewer Marie-Helene liked it too as you can see from her review.

Tune Hotels’ median ranked Hotel – Tune Kings Cross
#279 of 1,080 hotels 4/5 rating from 23 reviews
Price Sample- £60.00 (windowless double), £75.00 (double with window)

Book direct with Tune Hotels at the best guaranteed rate

Significantly, Tune’s mid-ranked hotel is ranked higher than Travelodge’s best one, though it does again have a lot fewer reviews.  5 people rated their stay as Excellent, 16 Very Good, 1 Average and 1 Poor.  These slightly lower scores may still be considered creditable given that the hotel only opened very recently.  The vast majority of guests seem to have had a positive experience – with friendly, approachable staff, a good location among hotels in Kings Cross and high standards of accessibility for disabled guests being cited as highlights.  When London Hotels Insight did a tour recently we were particularly taken by the history of the building.

Travelodge versus Tune – the wider picture

On the strength of these samples, it would appear that Tune is ahead overall in terms of the ratings given by TripAdvisor reviewers.

Travelodge does though currently offer a wider choice of locations throughout London to its potential guests so it’s natural that it would find it harder to be consistent.  Though Tune has a lot more hotels planned, Travelodge is well known for its aggressive expansion strategy although there has recently been news that this is now slowing down.  Tune seems to target central locations next to a busy terminus – a “cherry picking” approach in contrast to the blanket strategy adopted by Travelodge.

Travelodge also offers free WiFi to guests in communal areas (though Tune’s WiFi is fairly cheap), and generally has several of the on-site amenities that Tune has sought to strip away, like low-cost bars and restaurants – though Tune seems also to have added a little lobby cafe to its new hotels.  From the price research shown here (based on a limited sample) there is little difference in average room rates, with both brands running flash room sales that allow for even bigger bargains to be had.

In general though, it seems that Tune may be slightly ahead in terms of guest satisfaction and overall stay quality – a factor we’ve also noted in our various “behind the scenes” visits.  Whether they can maintain this as they grow is a significant question and a challenge for them to manage.

Many guests have been quite receptive to the well-publicised “pay per use” concept, boding well for the brand’s future in London and the UK.

Book direct with Tune Hotels at the best guaranteed rate

Perhaps most significantly, while Travelodge reviewers often remarked that they were ‘getting what they paid for’, Tune guests frequently seemed pleasantly surprised at what they got for the price.  This is partly down to the skill of Tune’s marketing team in setting guest expectations fairly low and then doing their utmost to overdeliver – a rather clever strategy.

Tune will face many challenges ahead as it grows and Travelodge will no doubt also continue to innovate, so it will be interesting to see how their competitive duel evolves.  It is certainly good news for the London and wider UK hotel market to see such competition in the budget hotel sector.

If you found this post a good read, you may also be interested in visiting our top 5 London budget hotels shortlist on Hubpages.

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Photo credits: Travelodge, Tune Hotels, London Hotels Insight, Tsahi Levent-Levi.

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