Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville examine the cleanliness of British hotel rooms. Does booking a more expensive hotel guarantee a cleaner room?
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We asked you who has left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your holidays
and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
When we got to the hotel it wasn't to standard.
We felt totally ripped off.
And we paid to move somewhere else.
It happens all the time that somebody else has paid less
for the holiday that I paid more for.
So whether it's a deliberate rip-off,
a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money.
This is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello and huge thanks for joining us once again on Rip-Off Britain.
We're totally delighted to have your company where as ever,
we're investigating more of the stories that you've asked us to look into on your behalf.
Now, the only difference is - and you may have noticed it,
is that in this series,
we're doing it in glorious sunshine as we're focusing on everything
to do with holidays and travel.
And as I'm sure most of you will agree,
a key part of any holiday is where you're staying, so today,
it's hotels that we're putting under the spotlight,
as you'll see in more ways than one.
Now, I have to admit that for me,
as long as a place has been properly cleaned and the sheets are lovely and fresh, then, on the whole,
I'm pretty happy but
we've been doing some tests to see
just how clean your average hotel room really is.
And I think we're going to be in for a few surprises, aren't we, Julia?
Possibly even shocks.
Just wait till you see what we found.
And perhaps most surprisingly,
it seems whether you've paid £35 or £140 for your room,
cleanliness isn't guaranteed and in case you're wondering,
all our tests were in hotels in the UK.
Coming up - as our test results are checked in a lab,
how clean is your hotel room?
Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye
and so some things may look clean when they're not.
And what determines how many stars a hotel deserves?
Why you could be heading for disappointment if the ratings don't mean what you expect.
Five-star, for me, meant luxury.
Beautiful food, excellent service, be treated like an absolute queen.
Now, whether the hotel you choose to stay in is simply a place to lay
your head at the end of the day, or is a key part of your trip,
one thing you're going to expect as a given, is that at least it's clean.
I know I certainly do and that's the same whether it's a budget option
or indeed a five-star hotel.
But I'm afraid just because a room looks spotless,
it doesn't mean that it's been thoroughly cleaned.
There may be all sorts of things that the naked eye can't see and in fact,
the signs of previous occupants may unfortunately still be there.
So if you've ever wondered what secrets your hotel room might be hiding,
we've done some tests to see what not just former guests have left,
but more importantly, what the cleaners might have left behind.
Now we all have our own ideas of what makes a decent hotel room.
If there's enough room for all of us, and if it's comfy,
and if it's got good reviews.
If they've got tea and coffee facilities.
We're not looking for the Ritz, you know.
But there's one thing that all of us would say is pretty much
Cleanliness is very important.
It's OK to be basic but as long as it's clean.
Cleanliness is important. The most important thing.
I always look for cleanliness straightaway.
So do I! And no matter what we're paying or what standard the hotel is,
we all want to stay in a room that's scrupulously clean.
But there are over 700,000 individual hotel rooms in the UK.
And there could be more than you realise
lurking in even the ones that looks spotless.
Delia Cannings is something of a cleaning guru.
What we have been doing this morning
is looking at the impact of acid descalers on toilets.
She trains people how to clean hotel rooms
to the highest possible standard.
And as someone who really knows,
she says the industry as a whole doesn't always get it right.
Sometimes, there is a priority of cleaning for presentation
as opposed to cleaning for hygiene.
We want you to walk in and we want you to be wowed and it looks lovely,
it looks wonderful, it smells wonderful.
Is it clean? The expectation of the guest is that they're staying in a
clean environment and will leave that environment as healthy
as they walked in.
But as we'll see, there's more to cleanliness than meets the eye
and Delia has concerns that
sometimes the working conditions of hotel cleaners
can make it difficult for them to
always do the job as thoroughly as they would like.
It has been known, in some organisations,
for the people doing the cleaning to be paid by the room,
as opposed to by the hour.
Now, that is a real issue and it is being addressed.
It's the exception, rather than the rule, but it happens.
And, of course, if you've got people who are having to do more rooms
to make a reasonable living,
then the attention to detail is going to be lacking and, sadly,
the standard will suffer.
Recent reports into the treatment of cleaning staff in the hotel industry
found that some hotels do still
enforce strict targets for how many rooms
must be cleaned during a set timeframe.
And one study found that a branch of a well-known chain even withheld
some pay if cleaners didn't clean enough rooms
during their five-hour shift.
I don't think you can blame the person that is cleaning for
the standard in the room.
There will be exceptions, of course, but on the whole,
people go to work to do a good job.
People care about what they are doing.
If they are rushed, and if they are not given the correct tools,
the time, and the training,
it's going to impact on the overall finish.
That's not the fault of the person that's doing the job.
I think we need to look a little bit higher up the chain.
Of course, many hotels have standards that staff must work to -
for example, both the AA and Visit England have guidance laying out
what they expect from their members.
But guidance like this can sometimes understandably
place emphasis on the visual appearance of a room. For example,
part of the AA's guidance says that rooms of all star ratings should be
cleaned daily and be looking clean and smelling fresh.
However, microbiologist Dr Margarita Gomez Escalada
from Leeds Beckett University
says that when it comes to cleanliness,
looks can sometimes be deceiving.
I think visual checks, in the most part,
are a good way to check levels of cleanliness,
particularly looking for dust.
That indicates things have not been cleaned well enough.
However, I think, in some places, particularly high-traffic places,
visual checks may not go far enough.
One thing we need to remember is that bacteria are invisible to
the naked eye and so, some things may look clean when they're not.
And that can especially be the case with the parts of a room that guests
touch the most - high-traffic areas that, as Delia knows,
won't always show up dirt or bacteria.
So, the toilet flush is an important area to clean.
The light switches, the door handles are a very important place to clean.
And Delia has very particular views
on how exactly such areas should be cleaned.
Work from the outside.
Clean the edges there.
Turn the cloth over, work around coming back to the buttons.
We just take a dry cloth now and wipe it - leaving it perfect.
Buttons and switches, in general, are contact points.
But the remote control and the telephones - they're real hotchpotches of activity.
Huge amount of skin gets trapped around the digits.
Remote controls should be cleaned thoroughly
every time a guest departs a room.
Little bit more attention around the keys.
And not just cleaned - it needs to be sanitised.
When you're cleaning in a bathroom area of a room,
the dirtiest area of all is usually the handle.
This is the bit that's heavily contaminated,
so give that a real good wipe,
ensuring whoever touches that next is touching a clean surface.
The question is, are all hotels living up to these exacting standards or could some of them
be harbouring those dirty secrets?
Well, with the help of Dr Escalada,
we conducted an investigation of our own,
testing a range of hotels on the cleanliness and hygiene standards.
First, she trained members of the Rip-Off Britain team.
So, for the swabbing, over the flat surface, you need the template,
you need some swabs.
They're being taught the intricacies of collecting swab samples
for analysis at her university lab.
Our aim is to look more closely at apparently spotless hotel rooms
and find out just how clean they really are.
The areas of the hotel that we're going to swab are the light switch,
the bathroom door handle, a glass, the desk,
the remote control and the bedspread.
The reason we've chosen these to swab is because
these are high-traffic items,
meaning that we're most likely to be in contact with them when we
go into a hotel room and, also, some of these could be overlooked.
Press down on the template, choose the area you're going to swab.
Just cover as much surface as you can.
If an area has been properly cleaned,
hardly anything should show up at all.
So, we'll be looking to see if bacteria levels indicate that it's
been missed out of a cleaning regime.
Simply put, the more bacteria on the swabs, the dirtier it is.
-There you go.
-Thank you very much.
So, the team sets off on its mission to test five hotel rooms,
ranging from a basic budget option
through to the top-of-the-tree five-star.
But how many will pass our undercover cleaning test?
Well, later in the programme,
we'll be back at the lab to see exactly what we found.
We'll be showing super-cleaner Delia our results as well.
Well, I guess that's the biggest shock of the lot.
And we guarantee that YOU will have the same reaction.
A touch of luxury, outstanding customer service,
the best of the best -
booking into a five-star hotel really does, I suppose,
conjure up a different messages for all of us.
But on the whole, I think we agree
that we'll usually be willing to shell out
just that little bit of extra money
to stay somewhere that is extra special.
Unfortunately, however, you very often tell us that
the five-star establishment that you had thought you had checked into
turned out to be far from the stellar experience
that you were expecting.
Now, that's partly because with no set standard
either in the UK or abroad for that matter,
determining what exactly deserves to be called a five-star
or, indeed, any number of stars is not as simple as you might think.
Because that five-star experience generally costs more,
I think we all assume we'll be getting nothing but the best
and a superlative experience
is exactly what Alison Jones and her fiance Michael
were looking for when they booked in to
the Hilton Hurghada resort in Egypt.
After seeing it advertised on Teletext Holidays
as a five-star all inclusive resort,
they paid £1,578 for a two-week trip.
We were looking for a special holiday
and we saw the Hilton, five-star,
and we thought, "Wow, it's going to be amazing. Absolutely amazing."
We were so looking forward to it.
We were so excited.
To have that sort of holiday is a once-in-a-lifetime for me.
And those five stars meant a lot to Alison.
Five-star was...for me, meant luxury.
Beautiful food, beautiful surroundings, excellent service,
top-of-the-range, all inclusive, be treated like an absolute queen.
But Alison feels there was quite a gap between what she expected
and what she got and, from the photos she took, it does seem that,
at least, some parts of the hotel had seen better days.
It was pokey, dirty,
old-fashioned, needed painting.
I was really, really disappointed.
The "wealth of premium amenities" described on the Hilton website
didn't live up to Alison and Michael's expectations
and even their room -
billed as "having stunning views of the Red Sea"
and "the perfect place to unwind" - they felt was a let-down.
It was not what I expected at all.
It was dark, small - so we complained.
And then they moved us to another room a few blocks up.
When we arrived there, it was bigger,
it was a better view, better balcony, um...
..but, again, it was dirty, it was dingy.
The couple complained and moved rooms a second time
but they weren't happy with that one either
and asked to change rooms yet again.
In my eyes, they didn't do enough to change things.
They left us moving rooms three times in three days.
I don't expect that at the Hilton on my holiday,
to unpack and pack three times.
But when they also had serious concerns over the cleanliness
of the pool area, the restaurant toilets, and there was a leak in one of their rooms,
it felt to the couple that this was more like a three or even two-star
experience than the five-star one they'd so looked forward to.
So they had a meeting with the hotel's manager
to voice their complaints.
We said to them, "Five-star means luxury.
"It means the best quality, the best service."
He said that's what he provides.
Keen to prove that,
the manager waived their bar bill
and offered them a free meal to make up for their disappointment.
But though this gesture did go some way to appeasing the couple,
they couldn't help feeling this was the sort of service
that they'd expected all along.
The last meal that we had, the one which they cooked specially for us,
they brought out this beautiful fish - stunning.
I expected that every single day.
So, were they simply expecting too much
and does five-star always mean everything you might think?
Well, we put that to the company with which the couple had booked -
Teletext Holidays -
which said that though sorry the experience
"didn't meet with expectations",
as the couple hadn't raised concerns with the company at the time,
it had been "unable to assist".
It went on to explain that the star ratings it displays are based
on suppliers' own ratings.
We also contacted Hilton Worldwide
which told us it was "extremely sorry"
the couple hadn't enjoyed their holiday
but "the hotel responded promptly and appropriately"
to the issues raised.
Taking "immediate steps" such as upgrading their room
and providing additional dining options.
It said it's "stepped up inspections"
following Alison's comments about cleanliness and hygiene.
Which - though it takes extremely seriously -
doesn't reflect the typical experience of either this resort
or of those across the Hilton portfolio.
But it added that it, too, relies on local tourism authorities to give
their own star ratings and in this case, the Hilton Hurghada resort
was "rated five-star by the Egyptian Ministry of tourism".
But it's clear from both those responses
that what constitutes five-star in one country
may not necessarily make that grade somewhere else.
In fact, Teletext Holidays does allude to that
in the small print of its website where it says...
And with each country, hotel chain,
and holiday company likely to have its own individual criteria
for deciding if a hotel merits one or five stars,
it's not easy to get a consistent idea of what ANY of those ratings
Which is why there's now a campaign by the umbrella association
for the European hospitality industry
calling for a single and comparable hotel classification system.
But so far, some of the most popular holiday destinations -
France, Italy, and Spain, for example, have yet to sign up.
Here in the UK, while there's no one single authority that sets
and awards star ratings,
there are various well-known bodies that, again,
use their own measures to rate and rank hotels.
Kirsty Lloyd-Dukes is from the AA which sets out clearly
what a hotel has to do to earn five of its stars.
There are six different areas that we look at -
service, hospitality, bedrooms, bathrooms, cleanliness, and food.
And we look at a blend of the facilities - so, for example,
how many beds does it have, what is the quality of the bedding,
what's the quality of the pillows like,
what are fittings like in the bathroom
but we also look at the experience you have in the hotel.
If you go up to a five-star, wow!
I mean, you're going to be looking
for excellence in every single level of service there.
So, if you're a first-time guest,
we'd expect you to be taken to your room,
we'd expect to see a turndown service and really courteous welcome
throughout, with all your needs looked after.
But there can be huge differences in how hotel ratings are worked out
across the globe.
The AA rating is UK only.
And unfortunately there is no one international standard for star ratings,
so I think it'd be really difficult
to have one global standardisation of hotels.
I think that's because the way of living is very different in
different countries, so your culture, your way of life,
how you do things and, also, your standard of living
can really vary between one country and another country.
But fundamentally, the same principles should be the same wherever you travel.
You should expect to have that really excellent level
of service and facilities in a five-star hotel anywhere.
Well, Alison would agree with that and she believes travel agents
should be clearer about the inconsistencies
in star rating systems
so that holiday-makers don't expect something they may not get.
I think travel providers should make people aware
about the differences in five stars...accommodations.
I think that not everybody realises that the starring system out there
is different from ours.
But I did expect a five-star system in place for the Hilton hotel.
Our travel expert Simon Calder has all the secrets to save you money on your travels.
He's full of tips on everything from how to avoid the crowds
to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.
This time, the USA.
First, you've got to get there.
And from Newcastle and Luton, that's now trickier
with links to New York being axed.
Transatlantic flights from Manchester and Gatwick
are increasing, as are many airfares.
So, if a nonstop hop looks too pricey,
then break your journey along the way.
Simon recommends flights via Dublin or Reykjavik in Iceland.
It won't take much longer and could well be a lot cheaper.
We checked a London-Orlando trip over half term,
and the nonstop option was twice as expensive as flying via Ireland.
And if you build in a city break, you can save even more.
Stop over outbound in either Dublin or Reykjavik for 24 hours or more,
and your air passenger duty liability
drops from £73 to just £13.
Don't squander your savings on an expensive taxi ride from the airport.
Let's take a New York JFK -
the leading gateway for flights from Britain.
The good news is that a taxi to Manhattan has a flat fare of 52.
But if you arrive into New York in rush hour, that cost can shoot up,
as prices on the tunnel tolls, which you'll pay on top of the taxi fare,
are much higher.
So, instead, take the air-train shuttle from JFK airport to Jamaica,
not the Caribbean island, the New York subway station.
That shuttle will cost as little as 8,
and in rush hour, it'll also be quicker.
But once you've reached your destination, wherever in America you're headed,
you'll find that things are not cheap.
Luckily, Simon has plenty of ideas for seeing the sights without spending a cent.
And while you won't get into the theme parks of Orlando for nothing,
America has plenty of world-class attractions
that won't cost you a dime.
These include the Getty Museum in Los Angeles,
the Smithsonian Mall in Washington, DC...
And walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.
And even if there is an admission fee,
it could simply be a suggested donation.
The Met Museum in New York, for example, says
the amount you pay is up to you.
So while the suggested amount is 25,
you'd be perfectly entitled to hand over just 1 or 2 if you want -
especially as American visitors to Britain
get into all of our national museums for free!
But there's one last warning from Simon about hidden costs
when you're staying in the US...
When you're choosing accommodation,
be aware that unexpected extras can push up the costs alarmingly.
For instance, in New York,
six separate taxes can increase the quoted room rate by about one sixth.
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain, UK hotel rooms under the microscope.
What did we find when we took the results of our cleanliness tests
back to the lab?
This is of concern, because coming into contact with this level
of bacteria could be potentially dangerous.
We're getting into the realms of unacceptable.
One weekend last spring, we set up our annual pop-up shop,
with our experts on hand to share advice
to stop you ending up feeling ripped off.
-Hi, how are you?
Nice to see you. Out doing some shopping?
And this year, we were struck by how many people came to see Simon Calder
to ask about the risk of terror attacks in popular destinations.
Among them, Catherine from Salford.
Last year, we booked to go to Turkey so that we got a good price,
but obviously, now all the terrorist stuff's going on,
we was looking to change.
Let's start with the concerns that you have about going to Turkey.
They have seen a succession of attacks,
and there are warnings on the Foreign Office website that you need
to be very careful that...when you're going to Turkey
and that there will probably be more attacks on Westerners,
That is really worrying - of course it is -
but I would say it is a tolerable risk.
What does that really mean?
Well, life is all a matter of risk management. Of course it is.
You drove here today?
OK, you were taking a risk.
I cycled. That was taking a big risk.
Flying is no risk at all these days, thank goodness.
Erm, so people like you will quite often say,
"I'm going to Turkey. Is it safe?"
And all I can say is,
"No, it's not completely safe. Nothing is completely safe."
But it's not surprising that after a spate of terror attacks in France,
Tunisia and Turkey, travellers like Catherine may be worried.
In fact, bookings in Turkish resorts
are reported to be down by as much as 50%.
But Catherine's found that if she DOES switch to somewhere else,
the price of her holiday could rocket.
We booked it that far in advance to get the good price,
and now to go to a same kind of holiday
would cost double the amount.
The price of everything in, particularly Spain and Portugal,
has gone through the roof because so many people are saying,
"Oh, that's a safe haven, we'll go there instead."
And it doesn't surprise me that you're being asked for more money.
You've booked in advance. You got a great price, which is good.
I'm afraid, until things change to the extent that
the Foreign Office says it's no longer unsafe to go to Turkey -
very, very unlikely that that will happen -
you do have to take this choice.
Do we either go ahead with our plans or accept that we are going to pay
double for similar standards in Spain or Portugal,
or go for something much cheaper which is not going to be such a
If you're concerned about the threat of terrorism on your holiday,
the Foreign Office website
clearly sets out the risk for individual countries.
I do look at risks an awful lot,
and I believe there are high risks in Turkey,
but they're not where you might think.
It's not from terrorism. Statistically,
you're much more at risk from road accidents,
because the driving's terrible and I would never rent a car there,
or from, sadly, accidents in water.
And you need to do everything you can, particularly if you've got a young family,
to make sure that you're absolutely watching them vigilantly.
Sadly, we have seen people who have
tragically lost their lives to terrorism.
We will, I fear, see more in future, but for the individual person,
the risk is almost immeasurably small.
I know it doesn't feel like that, but it's honestly true.
So, Simon's confident that
unless the Foreign Office advises against it,
Turkey remains a great holiday choice,
with the bonus of lower prices, as demand has fallen.
Looking at the numbers over the years,
as I've been doing for decades,
the risk for British travellers abroad
is lower than it has ever been.
We are safer than we have ever been
and I would most certainly take my family to Turkey,
and I would say that I think the risks
are acceptable for anybody else.
I share your concerns, but honestly, you get there, you get to the beach,
you get to this beautiful, relaxed place, and you'll think,
"What was I worrying about?"
So, what do you think you're going to do?
If you're willing to go, well, then, I'm willing to go.
Well, there may be almost no corner of the world
that Simon Calder hasn't explored,
so no matter what trip you're planning,
Simon may well have been there first.
-Where are you going?
-Well, the plan would be to go to Canada and Alaska,
but I have fixed holidays,
so that means that it's the last week of July and the first two weeks
in August, which is peak time,
so when's the best time to book to get the cheapest flights?
Well, you're not going to like the answer very much initially,
but I will try and help.
The best time to book for absolute peak season, which is late July,
early August, is the second that flights go on sale,
which is typically 11 and a half months before departure.
Thank you very much, that's great. Good advice, thank you.
Meanwhile, our pop-up shop gripe corner offers the perfect
opportunity to get any of your holiday complaints off your chest.
What I think is a rip-off is food in airports.
I travel a lot and they seem to
charge double the price of everywhere else.
While travelling on a flight to Lahore,
there was no harness available for my child,
and I do want to pursue this, so all flights leaving the UK
have got harnesses for a child over the year of two.
What really annoys me is the renewal fees for passports.
I know you have to renew them.
You've got to update your pictures, I understand that.
But it's a law to renew them, but you have to pay for the privilege of
complying with it - I just find that a bit irritating.
Earlier in the programme, we heard about the battle all hotels face to
keep themselves scrupulously clean,
and that means clean not just in a way that you can see,
but that stands up to even closer scrutiny.
But that's a tall order with hundreds, sometimes even thousands
of people passing through every day and not much of a break in between.
There's no doubt that cleaning staff can be rushed off their feet
trying to get rooms ready for the next guest.
So, what does that rapid turnaround mean for how thoroughly
each room scrubs up?
Well, in typical Rip-Off Britain style,
we've done some tests of our own to find out.
You'll recall we set out to take a snapshot of what might be lurking
in even the most spotless-looking rooms,
sending swab samples to a lab to answer one simple question.
How clean is your hotel room?
The key is to be consistent.
Medical microbiologist Margarita Gomez Escalada received 60 swabs
from our crack team of testers,
who sampled six high-traffic spots for bacteria.
The light switch, bathroom door handle, a glass, the desk,
the remote control and the bedspread.
Our mission, to find out if splashing out more cash for a place
to get your head down means you'll get a cleaner room.
Margarita's experiment is designed to be a straightforward process from
hotel room to petri dish, giving an accurate picture
of every site tested.
The swabbing process is a very simple, very effective process.
It involves using a sterile swab,
picking up the bacteria on the surface.
Then, the swabs are taken back to the lab.
Determining the numbers of bacteria that you find on surfaces
is very important, because it gives you a really good indication
of the level of cleanliness of a surface.
We took swabs at a random sample of five hotels in the same town,
each of which had a different star rating, from the equivalent of
a one-star up to a five-star establishment.
First up, our budget hotel.
Many of the most familiar booking sites and rating schemes don't refer
to one-star hotels any more, simply calling them budget options instead.
The one we chose was a small independent on the edge of town,
with rooms advertised from £38 a night.
So, what did Margarita make of
the cleanliness at our bargain-basement establishment?
So, for this hotel, things like the light switch,
the door handle in the bathroom, the glass in the bathroom,
since they have such low level of bacteria,
show that they have been cleaned.
She did, however, find a few bugs elsewhere.
But, on the other hand, we found some more on the desk
and the bed cover.
And the one that was the highest was the remote control,
which was this plate.
But on the whole, for Margarita, this hotel comes out rather well.
Overall, this hotel is pretty clean.
Such low numbers indicates good levels of cleanliness.
We showed the results from each hotel to cleaning expert
Delia Cannings, too.
Looking at the one-star, we've got some very good results.
So, let's move onto the next rung up, a two-star rated hotel
advertising rooms from £93.
The door handle or on the light switch, there was nothing.
And then there was just low levels in the rest, really.
And, whilst bacteria were found it slightly more significant levels
on the bedspread, overall, again, it was a positive result,
according to our experts.
So, there's evidence in the two-star of an effective cleansing regime
and therefore minimum risks.
All very reassuring so far.
Next, a hotel rated by all the big-name, online booking sites
as a three-star.
Part of a chain, it advertised room from a very reasonable £41 a night.
This hotel fared much less favourably in the lab.
Margarita found high levels of bacteria on the bedspread -
and worse was to come.
And that's the remote control, here,
which is really difficult to estimate even how many there was.
Those in the know have often suspected that remote controls are
one of the dirtiest things in a hotel room.
It's fair to say that the remote control doesn't feature as an item
that needs to have a specialised clean - and, actually, it does.
A number of soils will be congregating quite happily,
invisible, playing mayhem, ready for the next person to touch.
And, so far, our results seem to back that up.
Margarita's measuring how many colonies of bacteria
there are on each sample.
Maybe 1,000 or even above.
The higher the number, the dirtier the tested surface was,
and Margarita would say anything over 150 is unacceptable.
We were measuring for the presence of bacteria,
not identifying what they were, so these could be any kind,
from germs that are harmless to ones that might make you really ill.
Either way, they're evidence that somewhere
hasn't been cleaned properly.
This is - which is even worse - is the light switch,
and there are so many bacterial colonies on this plate
that they have formed a film over the agar,
and it's so very high that it's impossible to estimate.
The high levels of bacteria indicate, for sure,
that these areas have not been cleaned.
And Delia isn't impressed either.
We're getting into the realms of unacceptable.
Next, we pushed the boat out and booked a four-star,
town-centre hotel with rooms advertised from about £107 a night.
But what did that buy us in terms of hygiene?
Well, apart from the door handle,
all the other areas we tested in this hotel
had high levels of bacteria that Margarita found worrying.
And there was one particular sample that looked quite innocent...
This is the swab...
..but actually yielded results that worried her
more than anything so far.
The level of bacteria we found in the glass - too high.
In fact, the number of bacteria that Margarita grew from the four-star
hotel's glass tumbler in the bathroom was off the scale.
And for Margarita, that's significant.
The fact that there's so high levels of bacteria in the glass
is concerning, actually.
Because you use the glass to consume water and thus you're potentially
ingesting the bacteria on the glass.
And that could potentially make you sick,
because it's really high numbers.
And that could be very serious for some of us, in particular.
This is of concern because, particularly for risk groups -
the very old, the very young, those with low immunity -
coming into contact with this level of bacteria
could be potentially dangerous.
You often hear people question the cleanliness of hotel room glasses,
and, while we didn't find that a problem across the board,
it certainly seems this hotel's four-star rating
hadn't bought us the highest standards.
a five-star hotel where rooms costing from £188 a night
would take the top spot in our secret cleaning competition?
It was the last set of samples Margarita received from us
and they definitely stood out - but not in a good way.
The last hotel, from all the hotels that we sampled,
is the dirtiest across the board.
Almost all the samples here had either high
or very high levels of bacteria.
Two of them in particular,
with the first a spot no guest is likely to be able to avoid.
The bathroom door handle, the levels are pretty high and it stands out.
Door handles are a very important place to clean.
As you leave the toilet,
the handle is the area everybody has touched and not everybody's
hand-washing technique is robust, and therefore the chances
of contamination on the handle are high.
And what about the bedspread on our five-star, luxurious, king-size bed?
The bed was by far the worst.
There is no way to count that.
The covering blanket on the five-star bed was the only bedspread
in our overall test where the count was off Margarita's scale,
suggesting that the overall cleanliness of that
apparently-spotless, freshly-made bed rather depends on how often
the cover on top is washed.
The bed cover showing such high counts is quite alarming,
because one expects these things to go to the laundry
regularly and be laundered at high temperatures.
Margarita says there could be all sorts of explanations for such high
levels of bacteria.
There are bacteria that live in the environment
that could be brought in, so muddy boots could be some of that.
But also, our skin is covered in bacteria.
We shed skin cells all the time, so it could be some of that, too.
With the results of our last hotel in,
we did some final number-crunching to rank our hotels not in order of
their star-rating, but by the levels of bacteria instead.
First, the cleanest room was the two-star hotel.
Followed by the one-star,
which you might have imagined wouldn't have fared so well.
They certainly didn't come out with a totally clean bill of health,
but overall, these two were the most hygienic of the ones we visited.
In third place was the four-star.
That was the one with the dirty glass that Margarita was worried
could even make you ill.
Next to last was the three-star, with high levels of bacteria
on almost every service we tested in the room.
But the worst results and the highest level of bacteria in
our snapshot sample came from that five-star hotel which, of course,
was also, by some distance, the most expensive hotel room of the lot.
Well, I guess that's the biggest shock of the lot.
It's counts that are unacceptable.
The cleansing regime clearly is not as it should be.
Our experiments definitely showed that star ratings have no relation
with levels of cleanliness, for sure.
I mean, this is very important to say, this is a snapshot.
This is one sample of one hotel on a particular day,
but it's really quite interesting.
Of course, we're exposed to bacteria every day and it doesn't necessarily
mean it's dangerous.
In fact, Margarita also checked for faecal coliforms -
that's the bugs associated with poo to you and me -
and she didn't find anything significant.
And as it's those bacteria which are more likely to make you poorly,
that's definitely good news.
But what we did find does indicate that some areas of these hotel rooms
have been missed during cleaning.
And while, of course, we only took samples at a small number of
randomly chosen hotels, it's more than likely that similar levels of
bacteria, invisible to the naked eye, could be found in other hotels,
too, at home and abroad.
And it's clear that staying somewhere with a higher star-rating
is no guarantee that you'll end up with a cleaner room.
So, what's to be done if you're a hygiene-conscious type
who doesn't like the idea of being exposed to what the guest before
has left behind?
After all, no-one wants to take their own cleaning spray and sponges
away with them, especially if you've paid for five-star accommodation.
I think it's a case of being mindful and being aware that it's
maybe not as clean as you would have in your own house.
So, maybe not lie on the throw, on the bed cover,
because it may not be very clean, and do simple things,
like rinse the glass and rinse the mug before you use them.
And, like always, wash your hands.
And for cleaning expert Delia,
our results have confirmed her worst suspicions that training for
housekeeping staff must be improved - and fast.
I think that training and development is crucial
for the people that are cleaning these bedrooms.
But most of all, we need to make sure that they have the time -
sufficient time to do the job correctly.
The four Ts are so important -
tools, time, technique and training.
And when we can get that right,
that is the first step on the ladder to achieving the success,
ultimately, we all desire.
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Well, I must say, I am still genuinely gobsmacked with what we
found in those hotels that we tested and while you could say,
"Well, it's just a case of what you can't see won't do you any harm",
but, to me, it seems very, very sloppy and it rather suggests that
it might be time for the whole industry to try and clean up its act
as far as the cleanliness of hotels is concerned.
And you know, one way of doing that just might be to tie it into a
universal standard for star ratings,
something that it really does seem is sorely needed to be absolutely
certain that when you book and then pay for a hotel,
you can be confident that it will be up to the standard that you expect.
Well, let us know your thoughts on the stories we've looked at today
and, indeed, on anything else you'd like us to investigate,
not just holidays.
We've lots of programmes coming up and even if it's not your case
we feature, we do read every e-mail and letter that you send
and each one of them, in fact,
helps us decide which subjects we're going to cover.
For now though, thank you very much for joining us.
We'll see you again very soon, but from us, it's goodbye.
Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville examine the cleanliness of British hotel rooms. As lab tests prove there's a lot more to hotel hygiene than meets the eye, will booking into a more expensive hotel guarantee a cleaner room?
Plus, with complaints that some five-star hotels don't quite meet expected high standards, the team unravels what determines how many stars a hotel deserves.
Travel expert Simon Calder has money-saving tips for visiting the USA.