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RAC hotel inspection scheme is scrapped

14 July 2005

The RAC hotel inspection and accreditation business is to close after 101 years, bringing an end to the motoring group's series of guidebooks.

Its accreditation scheme will finish at the end of the year, and the last guide will be published next January.

Peter Matthews, head of hotels at RAC, said: "Closing RAC hotels is a very sad step, but ever-rising costs gave us the choice of lowering our standards - which we weren't prepared to do - or closing down an uneconomic business."

The RAC was acquired by insurance giant Aviva earlier this month, but denied any connection between the purchase and the closure of the business. Instead it cited financial reasons, which were being investigated before Aviva's takeover.

The move is the latest closure in the guidebook market. The Consumers' Association, which owns the Which? Pub Guide and Which? Guide to Good Hotels, announced in April that the guides would no longer be published annually.

Tamara Heber Percy, a director at hotel guide Mr & Mrs Smith, said there had been a shift in the guidebook and hotel ratings market.

People's expectations of printed guidebooks have changed and they have to work a lot harder to be relevant to their readership," she said. "Faceless guides which purport to give hotels fixed ratings have become irrelevant and inconsistent."

Restaurant critic Egon Ronay, who worked on the RAC guides, said he understood Aviva wanted to concentrate on athletics and cricket sponsorship, but believed there was still a strong market for guidebooks.

Ronay is launching a new guide to more than 500 restaurants and pubs in November, which he declined to name. He dismissed the claim that the internet threatened guidebook sales.

"There's a lot of information you can get on the internet, but it's out of the question for the internet to give information based on the sort of inspection we do," he said.

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