16 AUGUST 1930, Page 30


[We shall be glad to answer questions arising out of the Travel articles published in our columns. Inquiries should be addressed to the Travel Manager, The SPECTATOR, 99 Gower Street, W.C. I.]

British Hotels

Two weeks ago in these columns a correspondent from the Dominions set out to tell this country why Americans do not visit her in such large numbers as they might. Some of his criticisms apply to matters which are outside our own control. We cannot alter the fact that many Americans have no racial affinity with this country, though it might be thought that the cultural and historical bond would compensate to some extent for this. Nor can we help the fact that the cost of luxury articles in this country is high compared with their cost in Europe, though we can urge that in many eases the quality is also higher. The greater part of his criticism, however, applies to the way we treat tourists coming to this country. We are, he says, snobbish in our attitude towards them, and careless and inefficient in the accommodation offered by our hotels. The American tourist cannot obtain in many of our hotels the service to which he is accustomed. There are " too many flunkeys . . . and not enough chambermaids."

Let it be said at once that many of his criticisms are just. The average inhabitant of these islands is apt to regard the tourist of any nationality as something between a trespasser and a wild beast show. If asked a question he is quite likely to reply only by a grin until it has been repeated several times. He is, to our shame, still largely unaccustomed to travel, and he therefore has no fellow-feeling for a traveller. This thoroughly uncivilized attitude is, of course, slowly disappearing under the influence of more foreign travel, and continued admonitions both from outside and inside the country, but it must disappear much faster if our present neglect is to be ended.

It is perfectly true, too, to say that many hotels have a very low standard of service, and that the management is satisfied with cooking which would and does disgust any other nationality. In these respects there is vast room for improvement.

Where, however, many readers will probably have dis- agreed with the article in question is in an assumption which lies rather beneath the surface of the article than in its actual words. This assumption is that the ideal type of hotel for the American tourist is one that is modelled on an American hotel, with " bell-hops," barber's shop and two-hour valet service all comprised within its organization. At first sight this seems to be obvious, but there are various objections to it. In the first place there are very few places in the British Isles where such hotels would pay, at least until the Americans come here in far greater numbers than at present. Except in London and some of the great cities the building of such hotels would therefore be a very doubtful proposition. It would be the more doubtful in that many of the home visitors, upon whom any hotel would have to rely to a large extent, do not like such hotels.

Which leads me to my main contention, that the glory of Great Britain is not the big hotel, on the American pattern, but the little hotel. If hotel-keepers could so organize their business as to distribute tourists between good small hotels, and plan itineraries making use of a chain of such small hotels all over the country, always provided that these hoteLs were as good as this country can produce in the way of small hotels, there would be little need for the American type to survive ; for, in the best of these hotels, a visitor can be made more comfortable and given more service for his money than in any big hotel, British or American.

The trouble is, there are so few that reach this standard, and those that exist are so little known to the tourist. It requires organization of such hotels, first to bring them up to standard, secondly to prevent undue competition for tourists, and thirdly and all the time, to advertise, before Great Britain can be made attractive to the tourist. And it is in this matter of organization, as much as in the cotton and coal industries, that the Government could be of assistance.

A. M. W.