Episode 6 Rip Off Britain


Episode 6

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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Transcript


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We asked you who has left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your holidays

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and you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.

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When we got to the hotel it wasn't to standard.

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We felt totally ripped off.

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And we paid to move somewhere else.

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It happens all the time that somebody else has paid less

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for the holiday that I paid more for.

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So whether it's a deliberate rip-off,

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a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Your stories, your money.

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This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello and huge thanks for joining us once again on Rip-Off Britain.

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We're totally delighted to have your company where as ever,

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we're investigating more of the stories that you've asked us to look into on your behalf.

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Now, the only difference is - and you may have noticed it,

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is that in this series,

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we're doing it in glorious sunshine as we're focusing on everything

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to do with holidays and travel.

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And as I'm sure most of you will agree,

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a key part of any holiday is where you're staying, so today,

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it's hotels that we're putting under the spotlight,

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as you'll see in more ways than one.

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Now, I have to admit that for me,

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as long as a place has been properly cleaned and the sheets are lovely and fresh, then, on the whole,

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I'm pretty happy but

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we've been doing some tests to see

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just how clean your average hotel room really is.

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And I think we're going to be in for a few surprises, aren't we, Julia?

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Possibly even shocks.

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Just wait till you see what we found.

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And perhaps most surprisingly,

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it seems whether you've paid £35 or £140 for your room,

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cleanliness isn't guaranteed and in case you're wondering,

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all our tests were in hotels in the UK.

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Coming up - as our test results are checked in a lab,

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how clean is your hotel room?

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Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye

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and so some things may look clean when they're not.

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And what determines how many stars a hotel deserves?

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Why you could be heading for disappointment if the ratings don't mean what you expect.

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Five-star, for me, meant luxury.

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Beautiful food, excellent service, be treated like an absolute queen.

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Now, whether the hotel you choose to stay in is simply a place to lay

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your head at the end of the day, or is a key part of your trip,

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one thing you're going to expect as a given, is that at least it's clean.

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I know I certainly do and that's the same whether it's a budget option

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or indeed a five-star hotel.

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But I'm afraid just because a room looks spotless,

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it doesn't mean that it's been thoroughly cleaned.

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There may be all sorts of things that the naked eye can't see and in fact,

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the signs of previous occupants may unfortunately still be there.

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So if you've ever wondered what secrets your hotel room might be hiding,

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we've done some tests to see what not just former guests have left,

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but more importantly, what the cleaners might have left behind.

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Now we all have our own ideas of what makes a decent hotel room.

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If there's enough room for all of us, and if it's comfy,

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and if it's got good reviews.

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If they've got tea and coffee facilities.

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-Location.

-Price.

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We're not looking for the Ritz, you know.

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But there's one thing that all of us would say is pretty much

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non-negotiable.

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Cleanliness is very important.

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It's OK to be basic but as long as it's clean.

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Cleanliness is important. The most important thing.

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I always look for cleanliness straightaway.

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So do I! And no matter what we're paying or what standard the hotel is,

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we all want to stay in a room that's scrupulously clean.

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But there are over 700,000 individual hotel rooms in the UK.

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And there could be more than you realise

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lurking in even the ones that looks spotless.

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Delia Cannings is something of a cleaning guru.

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What we have been doing this morning

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is looking at the impact of acid descalers on toilets.

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She trains people how to clean hotel rooms

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to the highest possible standard.

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And as someone who really knows,

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she says the industry as a whole doesn't always get it right.

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Sometimes, there is a priority of cleaning for presentation

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as opposed to cleaning for hygiene.

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We want you to walk in and we want you to be wowed and it looks lovely,

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it looks wonderful, it smells wonderful.

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Is it clean? The expectation of the guest is that they're staying in a

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clean environment and will leave that environment as healthy

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as they walked in.

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But as we'll see, there's more to cleanliness than meets the eye

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and Delia has concerns that

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sometimes the working conditions of hotel cleaners

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can make it difficult for them to

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always do the job as thoroughly as they would like.

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It has been known, in some organisations,

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for the people doing the cleaning to be paid by the room,

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as opposed to by the hour.

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Now, that is a real issue and it is being addressed.

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It's the exception, rather than the rule, but it happens.

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And, of course, if you've got people who are having to do more rooms

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to make a reasonable living,

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then the attention to detail is going to be lacking and, sadly,

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the standard will suffer.

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Recent reports into the treatment of cleaning staff in the hotel industry

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found that some hotels do still

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enforce strict targets for how many rooms

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must be cleaned during a set timeframe.

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And one study found that a branch of a well-known chain even withheld

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some pay if cleaners didn't clean enough rooms

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during their five-hour shift.

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I don't think you can blame the person that is cleaning for

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the standard in the room.

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There will be exceptions, of course, but on the whole,

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people go to work to do a good job.

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People care about what they are doing.

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If they are rushed, and if they are not given the correct tools,

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the time, and the training,

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it's going to impact on the overall finish.

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That's not the fault of the person that's doing the job.

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I think we need to look a little bit higher up the chain.

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Of course, many hotels have standards that staff must work to -

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for example, both the AA and Visit England have guidance laying out

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what they expect from their members.

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But guidance like this can sometimes understandably

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place emphasis on the visual appearance of a room. For example,

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part of the AA's guidance says that rooms of all star ratings should be

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cleaned daily and be looking clean and smelling fresh.

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However, microbiologist Dr Margarita Gomez Escalada

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from Leeds Beckett University

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says that when it comes to cleanliness,

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looks can sometimes be deceiving.

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I think visual checks, in the most part,

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are a good way to check levels of cleanliness,

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particularly looking for dust.

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That indicates things have not been cleaned well enough.

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However, I think, in some places, particularly high-traffic places,

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visual checks may not go far enough.

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One thing we need to remember is that bacteria are invisible to

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the naked eye and so, some things may look clean when they're not.

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And that can especially be the case with the parts of a room that guests

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touch the most - high-traffic areas that, as Delia knows,

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won't always show up dirt or bacteria.

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So, the toilet flush is an important area to clean.

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The light switches, the door handles are a very important place to clean.

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And Delia has very particular views

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on how exactly such areas should be cleaned.

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Work from the outside.

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Clean the edges there.

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Turn the cloth over, work around coming back to the buttons.

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We just take a dry cloth now and wipe it - leaving it perfect.

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Buttons and switches, in general, are contact points.

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But the remote control and the telephones - they're real hotchpotches of activity.

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Huge amount of skin gets trapped around the digits.

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Remote controls should be cleaned thoroughly

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every time a guest departs a room.

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Little bit more attention around the keys.

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And not just cleaned - it needs to be sanitised.

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When you're cleaning in a bathroom area of a room,

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the dirtiest area of all is usually the handle.

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This is the bit that's heavily contaminated,

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so give that a real good wipe,

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ensuring whoever touches that next is touching a clean surface.

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The question is, are all hotels living up to these exacting standards or could some of them

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be harbouring those dirty secrets?

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Well, with the help of Dr Escalada,

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we conducted an investigation of our own,

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testing a range of hotels on the cleanliness and hygiene standards.

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First, she trained members of the Rip-Off Britain team.

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So, for the swabbing, over the flat surface, you need the template,

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you need some swabs.

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They're being taught the intricacies of collecting swab samples

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for analysis at her university lab.

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Our aim is to look more closely at apparently spotless hotel rooms

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and find out just how clean they really are.

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The areas of the hotel that we're going to swab are the light switch,

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the bathroom door handle, a glass, the desk,

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the remote control and the bedspread.

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The reason we've chosen these to swab is because

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these are high-traffic items,

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meaning that we're most likely to be in contact with them when we

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go into a hotel room and, also, some of these could be overlooked.

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Press down on the template, choose the area you're going to swab.

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Just cover as much surface as you can.

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If an area has been properly cleaned,

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hardly anything should show up at all.

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So, we'll be looking to see if bacteria levels indicate that it's

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been missed out of a cleaning regime.

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Simply put, the more bacteria on the swabs, the dirtier it is.

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-There you go.

-Thank you very much.

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So, the team sets off on its mission to test five hotel rooms,

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ranging from a basic budget option

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through to the top-of-the-tree five-star.

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But how many will pass our undercover cleaning test?

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Well, later in the programme,

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we'll be back at the lab to see exactly what we found.

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We'll be showing super-cleaner Delia our results as well.

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Well, I guess that's the biggest shock of the lot.

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And we guarantee that YOU will have the same reaction.

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A touch of luxury, outstanding customer service,

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the best of the best -

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booking into a five-star hotel really does, I suppose,

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conjure up a different messages for all of us.

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But on the whole, I think we agree

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that we'll usually be willing to shell out

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just that little bit of extra money

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to stay somewhere that is extra special.

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Unfortunately, however, you very often tell us that

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the five-star establishment that you had thought you had checked into

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turned out to be far from the stellar experience

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that you were expecting.

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Now, that's partly because with no set standard

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either in the UK or abroad for that matter,

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determining what exactly deserves to be called a five-star

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or, indeed, any number of stars is not as simple as you might think.

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Because that five-star experience generally costs more,

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I think we all assume we'll be getting nothing but the best

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and a superlative experience

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is exactly what Alison Jones and her fiance Michael

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were looking for when they booked in to

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the Hilton Hurghada resort in Egypt.

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After seeing it advertised on Teletext Holidays

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as a five-star all inclusive resort,

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they paid £1,578 for a two-week trip.

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We were looking for a special holiday

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and we saw the Hilton, five-star,

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and we thought, "Wow, it's going to be amazing. Absolutely amazing."

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We were so looking forward to it.

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We were so excited.

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To have that sort of holiday is a once-in-a-lifetime for me.

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And those five stars meant a lot to Alison.

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Five-star was...for me, meant luxury.

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Beautiful food, beautiful surroundings, excellent service,

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top-of-the-range, all inclusive, be treated like an absolute queen.

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But Alison feels there was quite a gap between what she expected

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and what she got and, from the photos she took, it does seem that,

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at least, some parts of the hotel had seen better days.

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It was pokey, dirty,

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old-fashioned, needed painting.

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I was really, really disappointed.

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The "wealth of premium amenities" described on the Hilton website

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didn't live up to Alison and Michael's expectations

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and even their room -

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billed as "having stunning views of the Red Sea"

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and "the perfect place to unwind" - they felt was a let-down.

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It was not what I expected at all.

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It was dark, small - so we complained.

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And then they moved us to another room a few blocks up.

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When we arrived there, it was bigger,

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it was a better view, better balcony, um...

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..but, again, it was dirty, it was dingy.

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The couple complained and moved rooms a second time

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but they weren't happy with that one either

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and asked to change rooms yet again.

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In my eyes, they didn't do enough to change things.

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They left us moving rooms three times in three days.

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I don't expect that at the Hilton on my holiday,

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to unpack and pack three times.

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But when they also had serious concerns over the cleanliness

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of the pool area, the restaurant toilets, and there was a leak in one of their rooms,

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it felt to the couple that this was more like a three or even two-star

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experience than the five-star one they'd so looked forward to.

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So they had a meeting with the hotel's manager

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to voice their complaints.

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We said to them, "Five-star means luxury.

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"It means the best quality, the best service."

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He said that's what he provides.

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Keen to prove that,

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the manager waived their bar bill

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and offered them a free meal to make up for their disappointment.

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But though this gesture did go some way to appeasing the couple,

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they couldn't help feeling this was the sort of service

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that they'd expected all along.

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The last meal that we had, the one which they cooked specially for us,

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they brought out this beautiful fish - stunning.

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Absolutely beautiful.

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I expected that every single day.

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So, were they simply expecting too much

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and does five-star always mean everything you might think?

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Well, we put that to the company with which the couple had booked -

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Teletext Holidays -

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which said that though sorry the experience

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"didn't meet with expectations",

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as the couple hadn't raised concerns with the company at the time,

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it had been "unable to assist".

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It went on to explain that the star ratings it displays are based

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on suppliers' own ratings.

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We also contacted Hilton Worldwide

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which told us it was "extremely sorry"

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the couple hadn't enjoyed their holiday

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but "the hotel responded promptly and appropriately"

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to the issues raised.

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Taking "immediate steps" such as upgrading their room

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and providing additional dining options.

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It said it's "stepped up inspections"

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following Alison's comments about cleanliness and hygiene.

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Which - though it takes extremely seriously -

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doesn't reflect the typical experience of either this resort

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or of those across the Hilton portfolio.

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But it added that it, too, relies on local tourism authorities to give

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their own star ratings and in this case, the Hilton Hurghada resort

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was "rated five-star by the Egyptian Ministry of tourism".

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But it's clear from both those responses

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that what constitutes five-star in one country

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may not necessarily make that grade somewhere else.

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In fact, Teletext Holidays does allude to that

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in the small print of its website where it says...

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And with each country, hotel chain,

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and holiday company likely to have its own individual criteria

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for deciding if a hotel merits one or five stars,

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it's not easy to get a consistent idea of what ANY of those ratings

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actually mean.

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Which is why there's now a campaign by the umbrella association

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for the European hospitality industry

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calling for a single and comparable hotel classification system.

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But so far, some of the most popular holiday destinations -

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France, Italy, and Spain, for example, have yet to sign up.

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Here in the UK, while there's no one single authority that sets

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and awards star ratings,

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there are various well-known bodies that, again,

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use their own measures to rate and rank hotels.

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Kirsty Lloyd-Dukes is from the AA which sets out clearly

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what a hotel has to do to earn five of its stars.

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There are six different areas that we look at -

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service, hospitality, bedrooms, bathrooms, cleanliness, and food.

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And we look at a blend of the facilities - so, for example,

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how many beds does it have, what is the quality of the bedding,

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what's the quality of the pillows like,

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what are fittings like in the bathroom

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but we also look at the experience you have in the hotel.

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If you go up to a five-star, wow!

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I mean, you're going to be looking

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for excellence in every single level of service there.

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So, if you're a first-time guest,

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we'd expect you to be taken to your room,

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we'd expect to see a turndown service and really courteous welcome

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throughout, with all your needs looked after.

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But there can be huge differences in how hotel ratings are worked out

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across the globe.

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The AA rating is UK only.

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And unfortunately there is no one international standard for star ratings,

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so I think it'd be really difficult

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to have one global standardisation of hotels.

0:18:100:18:13

I think that's because the way of living is very different in

0:18:130:18:15

different countries, so your culture, your way of life,

0:18:150:18:18

how you do things and, also, your standard of living

0:18:180:18:21

can really vary between one country and another country.

0:18:210:18:23

But fundamentally, the same principles should be the same wherever you travel.

0:18:230:18:27

You should expect to have that really excellent level

0:18:270:18:29

of service and facilities in a five-star hotel anywhere.

0:18:290:18:31

Well, Alison would agree with that and she believes travel agents

0:18:330:18:36

should be clearer about the inconsistencies

0:18:360:18:39

in star rating systems

0:18:390:18:40

so that holiday-makers don't expect something they may not get.

0:18:400:18:44

I think travel providers should make people aware

0:18:440:18:47

about the differences in five stars...accommodations.

0:18:470:18:49

I think that not everybody realises that the starring system out there

0:18:510:18:55

is different from ours.

0:18:550:18:57

But I did expect a five-star system in place for the Hilton hotel.

0:18:570:19:02

Our travel expert Simon Calder has all the secrets to save you money on your travels.

0:19:090:19:14

He's full of tips on everything from how to avoid the crowds

0:19:140:19:17

to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.

0:19:170:19:20

This time, the USA.

0:19:220:19:24

First, you've got to get there.

0:19:270:19:29

And from Newcastle and Luton, that's now trickier

0:19:290:19:32

with links to New York being axed.

0:19:320:19:35

Transatlantic flights from Manchester and Gatwick

0:19:350:19:38

are increasing, as are many airfares.

0:19:380:19:40

So, if a nonstop hop looks too pricey,

0:19:400:19:44

then break your journey along the way.

0:19:440:19:47

Simon recommends flights via Dublin or Reykjavik in Iceland.

0:19:470:19:51

It won't take much longer and could well be a lot cheaper.

0:19:510:19:54

We checked a London-Orlando trip over half term,

0:19:540:19:57

and the nonstop option was twice as expensive as flying via Ireland.

0:19:570:20:02

And if you build in a city break, you can save even more.

0:20:020:20:05

Stop over outbound in either Dublin or Reykjavik for 24 hours or more,

0:20:050:20:10

and your air passenger duty liability

0:20:100:20:14

drops from £73 to just £13.

0:20:140:20:16

Don't squander your savings on an expensive taxi ride from the airport.

0:20:170:20:22

Let's take a New York JFK -

0:20:220:20:24

the leading gateway for flights from Britain.

0:20:240:20:27

The good news is that a taxi to Manhattan has a flat fare of 52.

0:20:270:20:33

But if you arrive into New York in rush hour, that cost can shoot up,

0:20:330:20:37

as prices on the tunnel tolls, which you'll pay on top of the taxi fare,

0:20:370:20:41

are much higher.

0:20:410:20:43

So, instead, take the air-train shuttle from JFK airport to Jamaica,

0:20:430:20:48

not the Caribbean island, the New York subway station.

0:20:480:20:51

That shuttle will cost as little as 8,

0:20:520:20:55

and in rush hour, it'll also be quicker.

0:20:550:20:57

But once you've reached your destination, wherever in America you're headed,

0:20:570:21:01

you'll find that things are not cheap.

0:21:010:21:03

Luckily, Simon has plenty of ideas for seeing the sights without spending a cent.

0:21:030:21:08

And while you won't get into the theme parks of Orlando for nothing,

0:21:080:21:12

America has plenty of world-class attractions

0:21:120:21:15

that won't cost you a dime.

0:21:150:21:17

These include the Getty Museum in Los Angeles,

0:21:170:21:19

the Smithsonian Mall in Washington, DC...

0:21:190:21:23

And walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

0:21:230:21:26

And even if there is an admission fee,

0:21:260:21:28

it could simply be a suggested donation.

0:21:280:21:31

The Met Museum in New York, for example, says

0:21:310:21:34

the amount you pay is up to you.

0:21:340:21:36

So while the suggested amount is 25,

0:21:360:21:39

you'd be perfectly entitled to hand over just 1 or 2 if you want -

0:21:390:21:43

especially as American visitors to Britain

0:21:430:21:46

get into all of our national museums for free!

0:21:460:21:49

But there's one last warning from Simon about hidden costs

0:21:490:21:52

when you're staying in the US...

0:21:520:21:54

When you're choosing accommodation,

0:21:540:21:56

be aware that unexpected extras can push up the costs alarmingly.

0:21:560:22:01

For instance, in New York,

0:22:010:22:03

six separate taxes can increase the quoted room rate by about one sixth.

0:22:030:22:08

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain, UK hotel rooms under the microscope.

0:22:160:22:21

What did we find when we took the results of our cleanliness tests

0:22:210:22:25

back to the lab?

0:22:250:22:26

This is of concern, because coming into contact with this level

0:22:260:22:30

of bacteria could be potentially dangerous.

0:22:300:22:33

We're getting into the realms of unacceptable.

0:22:330:22:35

One weekend last spring, we set up our annual pop-up shop,

0:22:400:22:43

with our experts on hand to share advice

0:22:430:22:45

to stop you ending up feeling ripped off.

0:22:450:22:48

Hello, girls.

0:22:480:22:49

-Hello, ladies.

-Hi, how are you?

0:22:490:22:51

Nice to see you. Out doing some shopping?

0:22:510:22:53

And this year, we were struck by how many people came to see Simon Calder

0:22:550:22:59

to ask about the risk of terror attacks in popular destinations.

0:22:590:23:03

Among them, Catherine from Salford.

0:23:030:23:05

Last year, we booked to go to Turkey so that we got a good price,

0:23:050:23:09

but obviously, now all the terrorist stuff's going on,

0:23:090:23:13

we was looking to change.

0:23:130:23:15

Let's start with the concerns that you have about going to Turkey.

0:23:150:23:19

They have seen a succession of attacks,

0:23:190:23:22

and there are warnings on the Foreign Office website that you need

0:23:220:23:26

to be very careful that...when you're going to Turkey

0:23:260:23:30

and that there will probably be more attacks on Westerners,

0:23:300:23:34

typically holiday-makers.

0:23:340:23:35

That is really worrying - of course it is -

0:23:350:23:38

but I would say it is a tolerable risk.

0:23:380:23:41

What does that really mean?

0:23:410:23:42

Well, life is all a matter of risk management. Of course it is.

0:23:420:23:47

You drove here today?

0:23:470:23:48

OK, you were taking a risk.

0:23:480:23:50

I cycled. That was taking a big risk.

0:23:500:23:52

Flying is no risk at all these days, thank goodness.

0:23:520:23:56

Erm, so people like you will quite often say,

0:23:560:23:59

"I'm going to Turkey. Is it safe?"

0:23:590:24:01

And all I can say is,

0:24:010:24:03

"No, it's not completely safe. Nothing is completely safe."

0:24:030:24:07

But it's not surprising that after a spate of terror attacks in France,

0:24:070:24:10

Tunisia and Turkey, travellers like Catherine may be worried.

0:24:100:24:14

In fact, bookings in Turkish resorts

0:24:140:24:16

are reported to be down by as much as 50%.

0:24:160:24:19

But Catherine's found that if she DOES switch to somewhere else,

0:24:190:24:22

the price of her holiday could rocket.

0:24:220:24:24

We booked it that far in advance to get the good price,

0:24:240:24:28

and now to go to a same kind of holiday

0:24:280:24:31

would cost double the amount.

0:24:310:24:34

The price of everything in, particularly Spain and Portugal,

0:24:340:24:37

has gone through the roof because so many people are saying,

0:24:370:24:41

"Oh, that's a safe haven, we'll go there instead."

0:24:410:24:44

And it doesn't surprise me that you're being asked for more money.

0:24:440:24:47

You've booked in advance. You got a great price, which is good.

0:24:470:24:50

I'm afraid, until things change to the extent that

0:24:500:24:53

the Foreign Office says it's no longer unsafe to go to Turkey -

0:24:530:24:57

very, very unlikely that that will happen -

0:24:570:24:59

you do have to take this choice.

0:24:590:25:01

Do we either go ahead with our plans or accept that we are going to pay

0:25:010:25:06

double for similar standards in Spain or Portugal,

0:25:060:25:09

or go for something much cheaper which is not going to be such a

0:25:090:25:13

good-quality holiday?

0:25:130:25:14

If you're concerned about the threat of terrorism on your holiday,

0:25:140:25:18

the Foreign Office website

0:25:180:25:19

clearly sets out the risk for individual countries.

0:25:190:25:22

I do look at risks an awful lot,

0:25:220:25:25

and I believe there are high risks in Turkey,

0:25:250:25:27

but they're not where you might think.

0:25:270:25:30

It's not from terrorism. Statistically,

0:25:300:25:32

you're much more at risk from road accidents,

0:25:320:25:34

because the driving's terrible and I would never rent a car there,

0:25:340:25:38

or from, sadly, accidents in water.

0:25:380:25:40

And you need to do everything you can, particularly if you've got a young family,

0:25:400:25:44

to make sure that you're absolutely watching them vigilantly.

0:25:440:25:46

Sadly, we have seen people who have

0:25:460:25:49

tragically lost their lives to terrorism.

0:25:490:25:52

We will, I fear, see more in future, but for the individual person,

0:25:520:25:56

the risk is almost immeasurably small.

0:25:560:25:59

I know it doesn't feel like that, but it's honestly true.

0:25:590:26:02

So, Simon's confident that

0:26:020:26:04

unless the Foreign Office advises against it,

0:26:040:26:06

Turkey remains a great holiday choice,

0:26:060:26:08

with the bonus of lower prices, as demand has fallen.

0:26:080:26:12

Looking at the numbers over the years,

0:26:120:26:14

as I've been doing for decades,

0:26:140:26:16

the risk for British travellers abroad

0:26:160:26:19

is lower than it has ever been.

0:26:190:26:21

We are safer than we have ever been

0:26:210:26:24

and I would most certainly take my family to Turkey,

0:26:240:26:28

and I would say that I think the risks

0:26:280:26:30

are acceptable for anybody else.

0:26:300:26:32

I share your concerns, but honestly, you get there, you get to the beach,

0:26:320:26:36

you get to this beautiful, relaxed place, and you'll think,

0:26:360:26:39

"What was I worrying about?"

0:26:390:26:40

So, what do you think you're going to do?

0:26:400:26:42

If you're willing to go, well, then, I'm willing to go.

0:26:420:26:45

Well, there may be almost no corner of the world

0:26:450:26:47

that Simon Calder hasn't explored,

0:26:470:26:49

so no matter what trip you're planning,

0:26:490:26:52

Simon may well have been there first.

0:26:520:26:54

-Where are you going?

-Well, the plan would be to go to Canada and Alaska,

0:26:540:26:59

but I have fixed holidays,

0:26:590:27:02

so that means that it's the last week of July and the first two weeks

0:27:020:27:04

in August, which is peak time,

0:27:040:27:07

so when's the best time to book to get the cheapest flights?

0:27:070:27:10

Well, you're not going to like the answer very much initially,

0:27:100:27:13

but I will try and help.

0:27:130:27:15

The best time to book for absolute peak season, which is late July,

0:27:150:27:20

early August, is the second that flights go on sale,

0:27:200:27:23

which is typically 11 and a half months before departure.

0:27:230:27:27

Thank you very much, that's great. Good advice, thank you.

0:27:270:27:31

Meanwhile, our pop-up shop gripe corner offers the perfect

0:27:310:27:34

opportunity to get any of your holiday complaints off your chest.

0:27:340:27:38

What I think is a rip-off is food in airports.

0:27:380:27:41

I travel a lot and they seem to

0:27:410:27:43

charge double the price of everywhere else.

0:27:430:27:46

While travelling on a flight to Lahore,

0:27:480:27:51

there was no harness available for my child,

0:27:510:27:53

and I do want to pursue this, so all flights leaving the UK

0:27:530:27:57

have got harnesses for a child over the year of two.

0:27:570:27:59

What really annoys me is the renewal fees for passports.

0:28:010:28:05

I know you have to renew them.

0:28:050:28:06

You've got to update your pictures, I understand that.

0:28:060:28:09

But it's a law to renew them, but you have to pay for the privilege of

0:28:090:28:12

complying with it - I just find that a bit irritating.

0:28:120:28:14

Earlier in the programme, we heard about the battle all hotels face to

0:28:180:28:21

keep themselves scrupulously clean,

0:28:210:28:24

and that means clean not just in a way that you can see,

0:28:240:28:27

but that stands up to even closer scrutiny.

0:28:270:28:30

But that's a tall order with hundreds, sometimes even thousands

0:28:300:28:33

of people passing through every day and not much of a break in between.

0:28:330:28:37

There's no doubt that cleaning staff can be rushed off their feet

0:28:370:28:40

trying to get rooms ready for the next guest.

0:28:400:28:43

So, what does that rapid turnaround mean for how thoroughly

0:28:430:28:46

each room scrubs up?

0:28:460:28:48

Well, in typical Rip-Off Britain style,

0:28:480:28:50

we've done some tests of our own to find out.

0:28:500:28:52

You'll recall we set out to take a snapshot of what might be lurking

0:28:560:28:59

in even the most spotless-looking rooms,

0:28:590:29:02

sending swab samples to a lab to answer one simple question.

0:29:020:29:06

How clean is your hotel room?

0:29:060:29:09

The key is to be consistent.

0:29:090:29:11

Medical microbiologist Margarita Gomez Escalada received 60 swabs

0:29:110:29:16

from our crack team of testers,

0:29:160:29:18

who sampled six high-traffic spots for bacteria.

0:29:180:29:22

The light switch, bathroom door handle, a glass, the desk,

0:29:220:29:26

the remote control and the bedspread.

0:29:260:29:27

Our mission, to find out if splashing out more cash for a place

0:29:300:29:33

to get your head down means you'll get a cleaner room.

0:29:330:29:36

Margarita's experiment is designed to be a straightforward process from

0:29:370:29:41

hotel room to petri dish, giving an accurate picture

0:29:410:29:45

of every site tested.

0:29:450:29:46

The swabbing process is a very simple, very effective process.

0:29:470:29:51

It involves using a sterile swab,

0:29:510:29:54

picking up the bacteria on the surface.

0:29:540:29:56

Then, the swabs are taken back to the lab.

0:29:560:29:58

Determining the numbers of bacteria that you find on surfaces

0:30:000:30:03

is very important, because it gives you a really good indication

0:30:030:30:06

of the level of cleanliness of a surface.

0:30:060:30:08

We took swabs at a random sample of five hotels in the same town,

0:30:100:30:14

each of which had a different star rating, from the equivalent of

0:30:140:30:18

a one-star up to a five-star establishment.

0:30:180:30:21

First up, our budget hotel.

0:30:210:30:24

Many of the most familiar booking sites and rating schemes don't refer

0:30:240:30:27

to one-star hotels any more, simply calling them budget options instead.

0:30:270:30:31

The one we chose was a small independent on the edge of town,

0:30:320:30:36

with rooms advertised from £38 a night.

0:30:360:30:39

So, what did Margarita make of

0:30:410:30:42

the cleanliness at our bargain-basement establishment?

0:30:420:30:45

So, for this hotel, things like the light switch,

0:30:450:30:49

the door handle in the bathroom, the glass in the bathroom,

0:30:490:30:51

since they have such low level of bacteria,

0:30:510:30:54

show that they have been cleaned.

0:30:540:30:56

She did, however, find a few bugs elsewhere.

0:30:560:30:58

But, on the other hand, we found some more on the desk

0:30:580:31:05

and the bed cover.

0:31:050:31:06

And the one that was the highest was the remote control,

0:31:080:31:12

which was this plate.

0:31:120:31:15

But on the whole, for Margarita, this hotel comes out rather well.

0:31:150:31:19

Overall, this hotel is pretty clean.

0:31:190:31:22

Such low numbers indicates good levels of cleanliness.

0:31:220:31:25

We showed the results from each hotel to cleaning expert

0:31:250:31:28

Delia Cannings, too.

0:31:280:31:30

Looking at the one-star, we've got some very good results.

0:31:300:31:34

So, let's move onto the next rung up, a two-star rated hotel

0:31:350:31:39

advertising rooms from £93.

0:31:390:31:43

The door handle or on the light switch, there was nothing.

0:31:430:31:47

And then there was just low levels in the rest, really.

0:31:490:31:51

And, whilst bacteria were found it slightly more significant levels

0:31:530:31:56

on the bedspread, overall, again, it was a positive result,

0:31:560:31:59

according to our experts.

0:31:590:32:01

So, there's evidence in the two-star of an effective cleansing regime

0:32:010:32:07

and therefore minimum risks.

0:32:070:32:08

All very reassuring so far.

0:32:110:32:13

Next, a hotel rated by all the big-name, online booking sites

0:32:130:32:17

as a three-star.

0:32:170:32:19

Part of a chain, it advertised room from a very reasonable £41 a night.

0:32:190:32:24

This hotel fared much less favourably in the lab.

0:32:240:32:27

Margarita found high levels of bacteria on the bedspread -

0:32:280:32:32

and worse was to come.

0:32:320:32:34

And that's the remote control, here,

0:32:340:32:36

which is really difficult to estimate even how many there was.

0:32:360:32:41

Those in the know have often suspected that remote controls are

0:32:410:32:44

one of the dirtiest things in a hotel room.

0:32:440:32:47

It's fair to say that the remote control doesn't feature as an item

0:32:470:32:51

that needs to have a specialised clean - and, actually, it does.

0:32:510:32:54

A number of soils will be congregating quite happily,

0:32:540:32:58

invisible, playing mayhem, ready for the next person to touch.

0:32:580:33:03

And, so far, our results seem to back that up.

0:33:050:33:07

Margarita's measuring how many colonies of bacteria

0:33:070:33:11

there are on each sample.

0:33:110:33:13

Maybe 1,000 or even above.

0:33:130:33:15

The higher the number, the dirtier the tested surface was,

0:33:170:33:20

and Margarita would say anything over 150 is unacceptable.

0:33:200:33:23

We were measuring for the presence of bacteria,

0:33:250:33:27

not identifying what they were, so these could be any kind,

0:33:270:33:31

from germs that are harmless to ones that might make you really ill.

0:33:310:33:34

Either way, they're evidence that somewhere

0:33:340:33:37

hasn't been cleaned properly.

0:33:370:33:39

This is - which is even worse - is the light switch,

0:33:390:33:43

and there are so many bacterial colonies on this plate

0:33:430:33:47

that they have formed a film over the agar,

0:33:470:33:51

and it's so very high that it's impossible to estimate.

0:33:510:33:54

The high levels of bacteria indicate, for sure,

0:33:540:33:58

that these areas have not been cleaned.

0:33:580:34:01

And Delia isn't impressed either.

0:34:010:34:04

The three-star...

0:34:040:34:05

..is shocking.

0:34:070:34:09

We're getting into the realms of unacceptable.

0:34:090:34:11

Next, we pushed the boat out and booked a four-star,

0:34:130:34:16

town-centre hotel with rooms advertised from about £107 a night.

0:34:160:34:22

But what did that buy us in terms of hygiene?

0:34:220:34:24

Well, apart from the door handle,

0:34:260:34:28

all the other areas we tested in this hotel

0:34:280:34:30

had high levels of bacteria that Margarita found worrying.

0:34:300:34:34

And there was one particular sample that looked quite innocent...

0:34:350:34:40

This is the swab...

0:34:400:34:41

..but actually yielded results that worried her

0:34:410:34:43

more than anything so far.

0:34:430:34:46

The level of bacteria we found in the glass - too high.

0:34:460:34:50

In fact, the number of bacteria that Margarita grew from the four-star

0:34:520:34:55

hotel's glass tumbler in the bathroom was off the scale.

0:34:550:34:59

And for Margarita, that's significant.

0:34:590:35:02

The fact that there's so high levels of bacteria in the glass

0:35:040:35:06

is concerning, actually.

0:35:060:35:08

Because you use the glass to consume water and thus you're potentially

0:35:080:35:12

ingesting the bacteria on the glass.

0:35:120:35:15

And that could potentially make you sick,

0:35:160:35:18

because it's really high numbers.

0:35:180:35:20

And that could be very serious for some of us, in particular.

0:35:200:35:23

This is of concern because, particularly for risk groups -

0:35:240:35:30

the very old, the very young, those with low immunity -

0:35:300:35:35

coming into contact with this level of bacteria

0:35:350:35:38

could be potentially dangerous.

0:35:380:35:41

You often hear people question the cleanliness of hotel room glasses,

0:35:410:35:45

and, while we didn't find that a problem across the board,

0:35:450:35:48

it certainly seems this hotel's four-star rating

0:35:480:35:51

hadn't bought us the highest standards.

0:35:510:35:53

Surely, still,

0:35:550:35:57

a five-star hotel where rooms costing from £188 a night

0:35:570:36:01

would take the top spot in our secret cleaning competition?

0:36:010:36:05

It was the last set of samples Margarita received from us

0:36:050:36:08

and they definitely stood out - but not in a good way.

0:36:080:36:11

The last hotel, from all the hotels that we sampled,

0:36:120:36:16

is the dirtiest across the board.

0:36:160:36:19

Almost all the samples here had either high

0:36:190:36:22

or very high levels of bacteria.

0:36:220:36:24

Two of them in particular,

0:36:240:36:26

with the first a spot no guest is likely to be able to avoid.

0:36:260:36:30

The bathroom door handle, the levels are pretty high and it stands out.

0:36:300:36:34

Door handles are a very important place to clean.

0:36:340:36:38

As you leave the toilet,

0:36:380:36:40

the handle is the area everybody has touched and not everybody's

0:36:400:36:44

hand-washing technique is robust, and therefore the chances

0:36:440:36:48

of contamination on the handle are high.

0:36:480:36:51

And what about the bedspread on our five-star, luxurious, king-size bed?

0:36:520:36:57

The bed was by far the worst.

0:36:570:37:01

There is no way to count that.

0:37:030:37:06

The covering blanket on the five-star bed was the only bedspread

0:37:060:37:09

in our overall test where the count was off Margarita's scale,

0:37:090:37:13

suggesting that the overall cleanliness of that

0:37:130:37:16

apparently-spotless, freshly-made bed rather depends on how often

0:37:160:37:19

the cover on top is washed.

0:37:190:37:21

The bed cover showing such high counts is quite alarming,

0:37:210:37:28

because one expects these things to go to the laundry

0:37:280:37:32

regularly and be laundered at high temperatures.

0:37:320:37:36

Margarita says there could be all sorts of explanations for such high

0:37:360:37:40

levels of bacteria.

0:37:400:37:41

There are bacteria that live in the environment

0:37:420:37:45

that could be brought in, so muddy boots could be some of that.

0:37:450:37:49

But also, our skin is covered in bacteria.

0:37:490:37:52

We shed skin cells all the time, so it could be some of that, too.

0:37:520:37:56

With the results of our last hotel in,

0:37:570:37:59

we did some final number-crunching to rank our hotels not in order of

0:37:590:38:03

their star-rating, but by the levels of bacteria instead.

0:38:030:38:07

First, the cleanest room was the two-star hotel.

0:38:080:38:11

Followed by the one-star,

0:38:110:38:13

which you might have imagined wouldn't have fared so well.

0:38:130:38:16

They certainly didn't come out with a totally clean bill of health,

0:38:160:38:19

but overall, these two were the most hygienic of the ones we visited.

0:38:190:38:22

In third place was the four-star.

0:38:230:38:26

That was the one with the dirty glass that Margarita was worried

0:38:260:38:28

could even make you ill.

0:38:280:38:30

Next to last was the three-star, with high levels of bacteria

0:38:300:38:34

on almost every service we tested in the room.

0:38:340:38:37

But the worst results and the highest level of bacteria in

0:38:380:38:41

our snapshot sample came from that five-star hotel which, of course,

0:38:410:38:45

was also, by some distance, the most expensive hotel room of the lot.

0:38:450:38:49

Five-star...

0:38:520:38:53

Well, I guess that's the biggest shock of the lot.

0:38:570:38:59

It's counts that are unacceptable.

0:38:590:39:01

The cleansing regime clearly is not as it should be.

0:39:010:39:05

Our experiments definitely showed that star ratings have no relation

0:39:050:39:09

with levels of cleanliness, for sure.

0:39:090:39:11

I mean, this is very important to say, this is a snapshot.

0:39:130:39:17

This is one sample of one hotel on a particular day,

0:39:170:39:21

but it's really quite interesting.

0:39:210:39:23

Of course, we're exposed to bacteria every day and it doesn't necessarily

0:39:260:39:31

mean it's dangerous.

0:39:310:39:32

In fact, Margarita also checked for faecal coliforms -

0:39:320:39:36

that's the bugs associated with poo to you and me -

0:39:360:39:39

and she didn't find anything significant.

0:39:390:39:40

And as it's those bacteria which are more likely to make you poorly,

0:39:420:39:45

that's definitely good news.

0:39:450:39:47

But what we did find does indicate that some areas of these hotel rooms

0:39:480:39:52

have been missed during cleaning.

0:39:520:39:55

And while, of course, we only took samples at a small number of

0:39:550:39:58

randomly chosen hotels, it's more than likely that similar levels of

0:39:580:40:02

bacteria, invisible to the naked eye, could be found in other hotels,

0:40:020:40:06

too, at home and abroad.

0:40:060:40:08

And it's clear that staying somewhere with a higher star-rating

0:40:090:40:12

is no guarantee that you'll end up with a cleaner room.

0:40:120:40:15

So, what's to be done if you're a hygiene-conscious type

0:40:160:40:19

who doesn't like the idea of being exposed to what the guest before

0:40:190:40:23

has left behind?

0:40:230:40:24

After all, no-one wants to take their own cleaning spray and sponges

0:40:240:40:28

away with them, especially if you've paid for five-star accommodation.

0:40:280:40:31

I think it's a case of being mindful and being aware that it's

0:40:320:40:36

maybe not as clean as you would have in your own house.

0:40:360:40:39

So, maybe not lie on the throw, on the bed cover,

0:40:390:40:44

because it may not be very clean, and do simple things,

0:40:440:40:47

like rinse the glass and rinse the mug before you use them.

0:40:470:40:51

And, like always, wash your hands.

0:40:510:40:54

And for cleaning expert Delia,

0:40:550:40:57

our results have confirmed her worst suspicions that training for

0:40:570:41:00

housekeeping staff must be improved - and fast.

0:41:000:41:05

I think that training and development is crucial

0:41:050:41:08

for the people that are cleaning these bedrooms.

0:41:080:41:11

But most of all, we need to make sure that they have the time -

0:41:110:41:14

sufficient time to do the job correctly.

0:41:140:41:17

The four Ts are so important -

0:41:170:41:20

tools, time, technique and training.

0:41:200:41:22

And when we can get that right,

0:41:220:41:25

that is the first step on the ladder to achieving the success,

0:41:250:41:28

ultimately, we all desire.

0:41:280:41:30

If you've got a story you'd like us to investigate,

0:41:390:41:41

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As well as the most up-to-date news,

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0:42:160:42:19

Well, I must say, I am still genuinely gobsmacked with what we

0:42:320:42:35

found in those hotels that we tested and while you could say,

0:42:350:42:38

"Well, it's just a case of what you can't see won't do you any harm",

0:42:380:42:41

but, to me, it seems very, very sloppy and it rather suggests that

0:42:410:42:45

it might be time for the whole industry to try and clean up its act

0:42:450:42:48

as far as the cleanliness of hotels is concerned.

0:42:480:42:51

And you know, one way of doing that just might be to tie it into a

0:42:510:42:55

universal standard for star ratings,

0:42:550:42:57

something that it really does seem is sorely needed to be absolutely

0:42:570:43:01

certain that when you book and then pay for a hotel,

0:43:010:43:04

you can be confident that it will be up to the standard that you expect.

0:43:040:43:08

Well, let us know your thoughts on the stories we've looked at today

0:43:080:43:11

and, indeed, on anything else you'd like us to investigate,

0:43:110:43:14

not just holidays.

0:43:140:43:15

We've lots of programmes coming up and even if it's not your case

0:43:150:43:18

we feature, we do read every e-mail and letter that you send

0:43:180:43:21

and each one of them, in fact,

0:43:210:43:23

helps us decide which subjects we're going to cover.

0:43:230:43:26

For now though, thank you very much for joining us.

0:43:260:43:28

We'll see you again very soon, but from us, it's goodbye.

0:43:280:43:31

-Bye-bye.

-Goodbye.

0:43:310:43:32

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.