The Good Hotel Guide: CEO reveals what his reviewers look out for in Yorkshire and beyond

The Good Hotel Guide has been bolstering the reputations of hospitality venues across Yorkshire since the 1970s. CEO and owner Richard Fraiman tells Chris Burn what his reviewers look out for.

Back in the late 1970s, enterprising literary agent Hilary Rubinstein came up with a simple but effective formula for judging whether a hospitality venue was worthy of inclusion in the annual Good Hotel Guide he had created.

“A good hotel is one where the guest comes first” was the mantra for the guide, whose first print edition came out in 1977 and is still going strong to this day.

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While changing times and reading habits mean the guide is now a digitally-focused operation rather than a print one, that blueprint continues to endure.

Middlethorpe House has featured in the Guide,Middlethorpe House has featured in the Guide,
Middlethorpe House has featured in the Guide,

Richard Fraiman, the current CEO and owner of The Good Hotel Guide, says those words have remained at the front of every printed guide and are at the heart of the organisation’s ethos.

“It is not about stars, it is really about hotels that put the guest first,” he says. “We specialise in smaller, independent, owner-operated hotels. The median room count for hotels in the guide is 11. We have guesthouses, B&Bs, pubs with rooms – often these places can be overlooked and our readers love them.

“A cornerstone for us is our independence. When we inspect a hotel, we pay our own way. We really like to experience a hotel anonymously.”

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Fraiman has been involved with the guide for almost a decade and ushered it through some major changes in our digital age. Having been set up by Rubinstein, it was subsequently taken on by journalist Adam Raphael and his wife Caroline, who edited the annual tome recommending hundreds of the best hotels in Great Britain and Ireland.

The Devonshire Arms is another guide favourite.The Devonshire Arms is another guide favourite.
The Devonshire Arms is another guide favourite.

As print sales started to decline around 15 years ago, a website was launched and Fraiman subsequently came on board around 2014.

Having worked in senior positions in New York for magazine publishing giant Time Incorporated, he and his family had just moved back home to England and Fraiman was looking for a new challenge when he chanced across a copy of the guide.

“I found myself in a bookstore, I picked up The Good Hotel Guide, thought it looked interesting. I dropped Adam a line and said ‘Let’s have a chat’. We hit it off and I joined him as a consultant and then I took over the running of the enterprise.

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“I was kind of running it as CEO from 2015 through to the middle of 2022 when I purchased the business from Adam.”

Richard Fraiman is CEO of The Good Hotel GuideRichard Fraiman is CEO of The Good Hotel Guide
Richard Fraiman is CEO of The Good Hotel Guide

One of his biggest decisions was to stop printing the guide on an annual basis to allow for a greater focus on its website. The last annual edition, the 46th, came out in 2022, with no follow-up in 2023.

Fraiman ref lects: “To a certain extent, putting out the edition annually was hamstringing the organisation. All our efforts went into putting out the print guide, which was a beast. It carries anywhere between 600 and 700 hotels. It all needs to be fact-checked, the book needs to be designed and printed and ch ecked again.

“It allowed us to make digital the focus in 2023. I have very mixed emotions about not printing a guide. It normally comes out in October, so in 2023 we updated the guide online and put a considerable amount of effort into updating all the entries.”

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Pulling together the guide is a considerable operation . It relies on hundreds of readers of the country who send in reviews. “We categorise them into new reviewers, regular reviewers and trusted reviewers, based on frequency and quality of reviews they send us. We use those reports, along with a questionnaire we send to the hotels at the start of the year and any secondary sources that might be relevant,” says Fraiman.

Richard Fraiman (right) with Adam Raphael.Richard Fraiman (right) with Adam Raphael.
Richard Fraiman (right) with Adam Raphael.

“We use those three things to craft a single review which we feel captures the essence of the hotel and use them to decide whether or not a hotel should stay in the guide.”

Fraiman also does some reviews himself. “I’ll do some inspections with my wife. It is really important to do that and my wife has a very good sense of the kind of hotel that should be in the guide. But generally we rely on the team and some of trusted reviewers who we ask to go out and do inspections. We probably inspect 50 to 60 a year.”

With the changes to the company’s publication model, the way it makes its money has also shifted. Previously entries in the print guide were free but featuring on the website came at a cost. However, now those deemed worthy of a place in the guide receive a simple free online entry but those willing to pay an annual subscription fee get the fuller review featured, along with multiple pictures and direct links to their websites and booking platforms.

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The company also runs regular Editor’s Choice Awards for different categories to hail hotels that go above and beyond for their clientele.

Seven places in Yorkshire won awards during 2023. In the dog-friendly category, the Devonshire Arms, on the Bolton Abbey Estate, and the Traddock, in Austwick, both featured.

Cambridge House, in Reeth, was named in the best hotels for walking holidays, while Lastingham Grange was selected in the country house hotel category. The latter venue has a long-standing association with the guide; it is one of only four hotels to have appeared in every edition.

Middlethorpe Hall & Spa, in York, was a winner in the hotels for weddings category, and Angel Inn, in Hetton, was selected in the pubs with rooms category, while No1 York, in York, was listed in the hotels in cities/towns section.

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Fraiman says the awards are particularly significant for many at what is a very challenging time for the industry.

“ For the typical small hotelier, over the last couple of years they have seen their margins really squeezed with labour costs going up. If they do food and beverage, those costs have gone up, as has electricity and power. The only thing they can do is take their prices up.

“I did a hoteliers’ survey a t the beginning of September. It is a very mixed picture – some are doing OK but others are finding it challenging out there.”

Fraiman says that being selective is a key part of the guide’s success. “ If it is not good, it is not in the guide. We define the word ‘hotel’ broadly but for your average consumer who is looking for something characterful and wants to know it is a quality place, the guide is probably the best place to come.”

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