Gatwick hotels

1 Jun 2006 by Alex McWhirter

Compared with the hotel scene around Heathrow, the situation at Gatwick has been far less volatile. In common with all airports in the UK, the number of passengers Gatwick serves has risen quickly (see box left), but in recent years there has been a fundamental change in the type of passenger, and this has affected the hotels, both those on site and off. Put simply, Gatwick has lost a significant amount of long-haul business – Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand moved their operations to Heathrow, and British Airways transferred many long-haul flights to Heathrow, as well as a significant amount of short-haul business. In its place, budget carriers came into Gatwick and though they have been hugely successful, those passengers are less likely to take advantage of a full-service hotel.

That said, on the plus side Gatwick remains very strong on flights to North America and the Caribbean. Under the terms of the Bermuda II Aviation Agreement, all non-stop flights to the Southern United States must depart Gatwick. As a result, American, Delta and Continental (which also flies to Newark Airport in New York) provide a lot of business. In recent years, Middle East carriers like Emirates and Qatar Airways have also moved in, so for US passengers wanting to access those flights, transferring at Gatwick makes sense, as does breaking their journey in London and using the Gatwick hotels.

So why stay in a Gatwick hotel? Firstly, the hotels tend to be less expensive than both central London hotels and Heathrow hotels. They are also viable alternatives for doing business in central London and the Southeast. There are strong transport links into central London, with a wide choice from bus to train, and these connections are relatively inexpensive for day trips (see Getting There box opposite). Brian Nelson, general manager of the Thistle, says: "Most flights take off early so guests want to be near the airport – they know they can easily go into London but can come here and be close to the airport for when they need to be."

Getting to the Gatwick hotels from the two terminals is generally less stressful than at Heathrow. The transfers can be quicker because congestion is less pronounced, though it is true that the transfers also tend to be less frequent, with each hotel having its own shuttle bus.There is also the option of using local taxis, which do not object to the short fare to take you to a nearby hotel – in marked contrast to the situation at Heathrow.

While only one of Heathrow's terminals has a direct link to a hotel (Hilton at Terminal 4) both Gatwick's terminals boast a hotel: the Hilton at the South Terminal and the Sofitel (formerly Le Meridien) at the North. The two terminals are well linked by shuttle train so it is also simple to stay in one and visit the other.

Other advantages are that Gatwick hotels tend to have lots of space because land is less expensive than at Heathrow or in central London – consequently there are good park and fly packages (see box on page 36). If you are staying for only one night, then the on-site hotels have clear advantages, but if you are staying for a few days – perhaps breaking your journey at Gatwick and visiting London – then there is a good choice of hotels with a country-house feel, which allow you to get away from both the airport and central London. In fact, you don't have the sensation of being in an airport hotel at all, and this can be worth a lot in terms of relaxing in the middle of what might be a round of stressful long haul business meetings. David Lane, general manager of Copthorne Effingham Park, says: "The Copthorne Hotels at Gatwick are both located close to the airport; however, both properties are away from the flight line, removing us from the hustle and bustle normally associated with airport hotels."

Gatwick also has a good range of budget accommodation. It is the only BAA London airport with a budget hotel (Premier Travel Inn) on-site – which has rates in line with those charged by its other properties outside central London. There are four other Premier Travel Inns nearby, as well as a Travelodge. It was far-sighted of Gatwick to recognise the need for such properties, to match the low-cost airline market it serves today.

As with Heathrow, meetings and conferences are a large part of business for Gatwick hotels. Proximity to the airport and good connections attract both international and local companies. Helen Turner, director of sales for the Copthorne Hotels, says: "The Millennium Suite at Effingham Park is one of the most popular venues for meetings and conferences in the Southeast."

Hilton London Gatwick Airport

South Terminal, Gatwick Airport, Crawley, RH6 0LL tel +44 (0)1293 518 080, hilton.co.uk/gatwick

The first of two hotels linked to Gatwick's terminals (the other is the Sofitel), the Hilton has been open since 1981, yet had a £27 million new wing added in 2003 which increased the total number of rooms to 791. You can reach the South Terminal via a series of walkways in five minutes.

When I arrived at reception there were four desks open, one of which was dedicated to Hilton HHonors members. There was a long queue but, once I was at the desk service was swift and despite forgetting my Hilton HHonors card, my details were looked up and added to my booking. It turned out that I was booked into an executive room, so could have avoided the queue by checking in/out at the executive lounge on the fourth floor, open from 6.30am to 11pm daily.

My executive room – one of those in the new extension – was modern, light and airy in neutral colours. Facilities included air conditioning, trouser press, laptop-sized safe, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, broadband internet access, minibar and tea and coffee-making facilities. The desk is a good size for working and has power supplies for UK, US and European plugs, conveniently placed at desk height. My bathroom was large with a bath plus walk-in power shower and scales.
As well as check-in, an executive room brings with it complimentary breakfast, light refreshments, drinks and canapés in the lounge, complimentary broadband in the lounge, a newspaper of choice and bathrobe and slippers.

There are two bars. The Lobby Bar on the first floor (which connects to the terminal) is open 24 hours, but since the queues at reception sometimes snake into the seating area, the Jockey Bar on the ground floor is a better choice. Next to the Lobby Bar is Amy's Restaurant (open from 11am to 11pm), with an East meets West theme and serving everything from curry to burgers and salads to pizza and pasta. On the ground floor next to the Jockey Bar is The Garden Restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a buffet/menu du jour option as well as an à la carte menu. My breakfast was good (if you're not in an executive room it costs £17.95).

A cyber café in the lobby offers internet access at £3 for 15 minutes, £5 for 30 or £8.50 for an hour. The lobby area has wifi provided by BT Internet and the rooms have broadband at £15 for 24 hours. There are 21 meeting rooms, which can accommodate up to 500 delegates. There is also a business centre. The hotel has a fully equipped gym which is part of the group's Living Well brand.

Verdict A conveniently located hotel with good facilities. Try to arrive off-peak or book an executive room to avoid the queues.
Price Best flexible internet rates for a midweek stay are £170 for a double room and £147 at the weekend.

Julian Gregory

Sofitel London Gatwick

Sofitel London Gatwick, North Terminal Gatwick Airport, RH6 0PH tel +44 (0)1293 567 070, sofitel.com

Apart from the Hilton, the only other hotel linked to the airport is the Sofitel – previously a Le Meridien. The cube-shaped Sofitel Gatwick is at the North Terminal and reopened in October 2005 after a revamp. The lobby area has been extensively redesigned to create a greater feeling of space, with water features, a lounge area, a massive TV screen projected onto one of the walls, and several food and beverage outlets.

The hotel is accessible either through a street level entrance or a covered walkway from the terminal building. Entering through the walkway feels a little like you are about to board a plane, but all thoughts of a cramped cabin are dispelled when you arrive in the huge, bright atrium of the hotel. The Sofitel has 500 rooms, of which 360 are classic rooms, 65 are deluxe rooms, and 46 are executive rooms. There are also seven suites (spread throughout the floors), two disabled rooms, and a triple room.

Classic rooms are located on the first six floors of the hotel, with deluxe room on the 7th floor and executive rooms occupying the top floor. Room views vary between external (some look out onto the runway with stunning views at night time, although thankfully being able to see the planes does not mean being able to hear much of them) and internal atrium views. The atrium is undoubtedly bright, but is unlikely to offer the same level of light as external rooms (particularly those lower down), and with the added noise coming from the restaurants and self-playing piano in the foyer, it might be worth asking for an outward-facing room.

All rooms have broadband internet access, satellite TV (the deluxe and executive rooms have LCD screens), minibar (complimentary in the executive rooms), trouser press, safe and air conditioning, while the bathrooms include products by Roger and Gallet (the deluxe and executive rooms enjoy enhanced amenities). The deluxe and executive rooms have also been fitted with the Sofitel "MyBed", and it wasn't until I saw a "normal" bed in the classic rooms that I realised quite how high (and comfortable) the "MyBed" is – Sofitel plans to progressively roll out the bed to the other rooms over the next year or so. Guests staying on the executive floor can use the lounge to check in, and there are complimentary drinks and canapés from 5.30pm–10.30pm, as well as continental breakfast from 6.30am–10.30am.

All of the hotel's restaurants and bars are located in or around the ground floor foyer area. Le Café is located in the atrium itself, a sort of outside café indoors, and serves snacks and light meals throughout the day. For more formal dining there is La Brasserie (where breakfast is also served), which offers contemporary cuisine with an emphasis on local, seasonal produce. The third restaurant, the Gatwick Oriental, is actually a franchise, part of the Ken Hom restaurant group, and as the name suggests serves a range of dishes with an oriental theme. There are also two bars, La Terrasse, with a lounge attached for afternoon teas, cocktails and light snacks, and Kua, a funky lounge bar on the mezzanine level overlooking the atrium, which shows sports events and serves Asian-style finger dishes such as crayfish wraps and marinated chicken skewers.

Access to the hotel's conference centre is through the atrium of the hotel – there is a separate reception at the entrance, which also doubles as a modest business centre. There are 14 modern meeting rooms, some with natural daylight, ranging in size from the Reardon room, which takes six delegates boardroom style, up to the Desoutter Suite, which can take banquets of up to 250 people, and can be split into three separate areas. Data projectors, 6ft screens, conference phones and satellite and internet links are all available.

The hotel's health and fitness club recently closed for a major refurbishment, which is likely to last until the end of this year. Details of the new area are sketchy at present, although if it is anything like the old leisure club, guests can expect an indoor swimming pool, gym, solarium and steam room when the facilities reopen. Sofitel also plan to move the British Airways arrival lounge (currently and somewhat strangely located on the 7th floor of the hotel) to this new area.

Verdict A perfect location for business travellers flying from either of the Gatwick terminals. The hotel feels fresh and has a good choice of food outlets – if you are looking for a fitness centre though then you will need to find an alternative until the refurbishment is complete.
Price Best unrestricted internet rate midweek is £163 for a classic room and £234 for an executive room, including breakfast. Weekend best unrestricted rates are £141 for a classic room and £212 for an executive room, including breakfast.

Mark Caswell

Travelodge Gatwick Airport

Church Road, Lowfield Heath, Crawley RH11 0PQ, tel +44 (0)870 191 1531, travelodge.co.uk, bus G23, 0.9 miles

The Travelodge is on the south side of Gatwick and very close to the airport – so close it is a popular vantage point for plane spotting since certain rooms offer an excellent view of the runway. It takes longer to get there by road than you would expect if you take the hotel shuttle bus (G23), which stops at two other hotels – the Ramada Plaza and the Clarion – before reaching the Travelodge. The 15-minute shuttle bus journey costs £3 (compared with a taxi which would be around £6-9).

The Travelodge may not be much to look at from the outside but it is the low-cost, low-fuss approach that bring guests here. There are no meeting rooms or leisure facilities, and the 185 rooms are identical in creams and blues with checked bedspreads on the double beds and light wood furnishings. The corridors are a little worn and battered but the rooms feel clean, simple and spacious enough, and all have a sofa that can be converted into a bed (kids eat in the hotel for free). There are five disabled access rooms on the ground floor. Internet access is available through the TV using a swipe credit card system, and a pre-paid card can be bought for £6 which gives unlimited access to the eight films available. No-frills is not an understatement – you can't even call reception from the rooms, which is the hotel's way of keeping staff costs down – but this is a standard rule at Travelodge which will not surprise seasoned guests. Everything is paid for upon check-in (room and breakfast) and there are no extras such as minibar or room service to run up a bill so there is no checkout, which saves time if you're after a speedy exit. The bar/café is an open area on the ground floor which serves breakfast (£6.50) from six until 10am, or an early morning breakfast bag can be requested for £4, which contains a croissant, cornflakes, orange juice and coffee. Dinner is served in the same area from five until 1am.

Verdict A good budget option within easy reach of the airport – if the absolutely no-frills approach suits you.
Price The saver rate costs £26 but must be booked seven days in advance. The flexible rate is £56. There is no parking outside the hotel but a BCP car park a couple of minutes from the hotel charges from £5.60 per day.

Sarah Maxwell

Premier Travel Inn

Gatwick Airport Central, Longbridge Way, North Terminal, Crawley, West Sussex, RH6 0NX, tel +44 (0)870 238 3305, premiertravelinn.com

Officially a Premier Travel Inn "Metro" (this brand of the chain is found in prime locations across the UK; there are four other Premier Travel Inns within five miles of the airport), the Travel Inn is located within the boundaries of the airport, a couple of minutes from the North Terminal. It's possible to walk from the hotel to the terminal, although following the signposts involves a slightly convoluted route which leads you through the corridors of the airport's administration department before you join the main terminal building – it also means climbing a set of stairs, so would not be advised for anyone with luggage. The hotel has a bus every 40 minutes to the terminal (£2.50 each way for adults, £1.50 for children).

This particular Premier Travel Inn enjoys Gold Award status, meaning that it scored over 90 per cent in an external audit of key areas including housekeeping, reception, food and beverage and health and safety.

There are 219 rooms, all in the same grade, although there are some family rooms which are slightly larger. The hotel is due to be extended in the summer, which should increase the number of rooms and will also extend the restaurant facilities.

Rooms are fairly basic, but are clean and modern. Security is an important aspect at the hotel, as guests must swipe their card key to access the room areas. Facilities include a king-sized bed (family rooms have single beds for the children), en suite bathroom with complimentary shower gel, TV, tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryer, and a desk area with wifi internet access (charged at £3 for two hours or £10 for 24 hours). The hotel also has rooms adapted for disabled use.
The hotel's restaurant and bar are next to reception and have an extensive menu of snacks and meals, including sandwiches, steaks, seafood dishes, pizzas and pastas. Breakfast is also served in this area, at £7.50 for a cooked breakfast buffet.

There are two meeting rooms, one holding up to 26 theatre-style, and the other with a capacity of 18 theatre-style – the smaller room has natural daylight, and both have wifi access.

Verdict A prime location for anyone flying from Gatwick, and great value for an overnight stay. It might be worth checking that your room is not too close to the extension works when they start, though.
Price There is a flat rate of £60 per night for both weekdays and weekends. This charge is the same whether you are the single occupant, or share with another adult and up to two children, so it represents excellent value for families. Limited overnight parking is available at £5 (see box for park and fly rates).

Mark Caswell

Renaissance London Gatwick

Povey Cross Road, RH6 0BE, tel +44 (0)1293 820 169, marriott.com

You'll find this 254-room, five-storey hotel on the airfield's northern perimeter. It's a mile or so from the North Terminal and slightly further from the South Terminal with the A23 trunk route and M23 within easy reach.

Renaissance is Marriott's lifestyle brand and the chain bills it as a "distinctive place to stay." But this particular property isn't perhaps typical of Marriott's upscale lifestyle brand. It was originally opened in the 1970s as the Gatwick Penta (Penta was a hotel chain once owned and developed by BA, Lufthansa, Swiss and Alitalia) and was built to a modest first class standard.This Renaissance reflects that fact with value for money accommodation and a location which is convenient for both airport terminals.

I confess not to have sampled any of the hotel's facilities as I arrived late in the evening and checked out at 6am the next day. But I used the hotel's huge car park (£6 a day) for a couple of days, as it was cheaper than the airport parks. My impression was one of a functional but somewhat bland hotel. The room was clean, comfortable and adequate in size and, most importantly, there was no aircraft noise even though I was facing the airfield.

Verdict An ideal place to stay if you are a member of Marriott's Rewards loyalty scheme. Good value but rather bland accommodation.
Price Under Marriott's fair pricing scheme online rates start at £92 including breakfast rising to £115 room only. Club rooms cost £145. Weekend rates start at £89 with park and fly priced at £119 for eight and £129 for 15 days parking.

Alex McWhirter

Holiday Inn Gatwick Airport

Povey Cross Road, RH6 0BA, tel +44 (0)870 400 9030, holiday-inn.co.uk, shuttle bus HI1

The Holiday Inn is a 10-minute drive north of the airport, and was previously a Forte Posthouse until it was refurbished and rebranded two years ago, when the meeting areas were added. The hotel has 214 rooms including 31 executive rooms. The lobby area has TV screens with flight departure information, and the reception area was well manned by friendly staff when I arrived. The basic rooms are larger than most standard rooms, and all have recently been equipped with triple glazing which makes them very peaceful. High-speed internet is available through the i-Bahn cable supplied in the desk drawer.

All rooms have a sofa bed, minibar, trouser press, tea and coffee facilities, air conditioning and 24-hour room service – and the TV has PlayStation as well as movies. Standard and executive rooms are the same size but executive rooms have power showers, nicer toiletries ("Seaweed Therapy") and bathrobes and slippers. None of the rooms has a safe, so guests must hand their valuables in to reception staff. Rooms do have a pillow menu with five choices, useful for allergy sufferers.

The ground floor restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, while a lunchtime menu is available in the lounge, with burgers, wraps and sandwiches. My cheeseburger (£9.50) was tasty, filling and a hearty portion. I ate in the bar Hub, which is a modern and pleasant area with comfortable booths, tables or counter seating.

The Academy meeting area is a self-contained section at one end of the ground floor, which keeps it slightly separate from the rest of the hotel. The 10 meeting rooms can take up to 120 theatre-style and the hotel's location near Crawley and the industrial estate – where large corporations such as GlaxoSmithKline have bases – make it a busy meetings venue. All the meeting rooms have high-speed internet access and a couple have wifi (the signal spills over from lobby area, which also has it, charged at £6 per hour or £15 per 24 hours). The hotel is well-equipped for parking with over 300 spaces. The shuttle bus, which takes 10 minutes from the South Terminal and 5 minutes from the North Terminal, costs £2.50 and runs 21 hours a day. Taxis to the airport cost £7-8.

Verdict A comfortable and modern hotel, well connected to the airport with good meeting facilities and a warm, friendly atmosphere.
Price Best flexible internet rate midweek is £116 for a standard room and £146 for an executive room. Weekend rates are £93 for a standard room and £122 for an executive room.

Sarah Maxwell

Thistle London Gatwick

Brighton Road, Horley RH6 8PH, tel +44 (0)870 333 9134, thistlehotels.com, take shuttle minibus marked "Thistle Hotel"

The three-star Thistle is a 10-minute drive north of Gatwick on the A23. Approaching the hotel, the first part you see is the former coaching inn "Chequers", which was built in 1745 and is now the hotel bar. It was previously known as the Halfway Halt as it is located midway between London and Brighton.

A side road leads to the hotel entrance, where a red carpet under an awning leads to the lobby. The low-rise hotel feels a little like a dated country house, but certainly has character, and is different from new-build hotels. A seating area opposite the reception desk has bookcases, vases and comfy sofas to create a homely feel, which is slightly marred by the office-style tiled ceiling and rather jumbled mixture of curtain, carpet and upholstery patterns.

The hotel has 104 rooms, including 78 located in a new wing that was added in 2000. Standard rooms have pay movies, trouser press and combined shower and bath – many lack air conditioning and none has a safe. Executive rooms are much bigger and are air-conditioned, with safes and extra toiletries. There are 12 family rooms available, which have two small beds for children. The best rooms are the seven huge premier executive rooms which, I was told, are the largest rooms at Gatwick – and I can believe it. They are decorated in bright blue and gold colours with a king-sized bed and are by far the most attractive option.

For eating, the pub has a good atmosphere and serves food from 12pm until 8pm. The restaurant, Kingsley's, offers breakfast from 6.30am (or a breakfast bag costing £5) and dinner. The cuisine is mainly English and the charges are £19.95 for two courses or £23.95 for three.

There are nine meeting rooms – used by local companies such as Philips – some of which have original features from the 18th century, including the old leaded windows. All of the meeting rooms have natural daylight and can take up to 70 people.

The hotel has 140 parking spaces and costs £6 for overnight parking (for Park & Fly packages see box). The hotel states that customers' cars will be moved to secure parking when they have left the hotel.

Verdict Apart from the new wing, the hotel feels dated, but the premier executive rooms are excellent and the bar has a great atmosphere.
Price Internet rates for a midweek and weekend stay are £87 for a standard double including breakfast, and £107 for an executive king room including breakfast.

Sarah Maxwell

Copthorne Hotel Gatwick Airport

Copthorne Way, West Sussex, RH10 3PG, tel +44 (0)1342 348 800, millenniumhotels.com

Surrounded by 100 acres of gardens in the village of Copthorne, this Grade 2-listed 16th century farmhouse is a 10-minute drive from Gatwick's South Terminal. There are two parts to the hotel: the main section, which sprawls outwards onto the gardens and the club section, which has a modern club lounge and king and club rooms. This hotel is more focused on the corporate traveller than fellow Millennium hotel, the nearby Effingham Park.

Inside, the features of the farmhouse have been preserved, with original beams, large stone floor slabs and bare brick walls. The classical music playing in the lobby fits well with the dark cosy leather chairs in the library bar, which is to the left of reception. Negotiating the deep-red carpeted hotel corridors, adorned with paintings of pheasants on the open brick walls, may be a challenge at first, as each time the hotel has been extended over the years it has spread outwards rather than upwards, creating a bit of a maze.

There are 227 rooms – 30 of which are dedicated to airline crew – decorated in traditional decor, some having wooden beam features. All rooms have internet access via the TV, trouser press, hairdryer and tea and coffee facilities. Only some have air conditioning, so you may need to ask for this when booking. Many of the rooms are on the ground floor so if you would prefer the first floor you should also request this. With the "connoisseur" upgrade, guests have access to the club lounge in the other part of the hotel. The lounge offers complimentary continental breakfast, soft drinks, tea and coffee, air conditioning and internet access. The £30 upgrade offers other additional touches such as duvets and chocolates, and bathrooms have a spa bath and black and white marble flooring.

The hotel is refurbishing around 100 rooms to be completed by September this year (to minimise disruption only 10 rooms will be refurbished at a time). These rooms will have a more modern take but still with a sympathetic nod to the traditional features, decorated in neutral colours (no more patterned carpets) with light curtains and dark wood furnishings to replace the dated pine wood. Duvets will also be added.

For leisure, guests can use the Dragon's Health Club, a short walk past the duck pond. The hotel offers four hours' free parking, which encourages local people to use the hotel's restaurants. On this front there is a wide choice.

The fine dining restaurant Lion D'or is open in from 7-10pm. Inside, there are wooden sideboards and pots and pans hanging from the walls with landscape paintings, patterned carpet and dried flowers. It cost £25 for a two-course meal and £27.50 for three courses. Round the corner is the Garden room which currently has an Indian theme and overlooks the gardens. The Brasserie serves a breakfast buffet; there is also a conservatory to relax and have drinks. For a more traditional take, there is the 16th century White Swan Pub, based inside the hotel, which overlooks the pond. The pub is open from five until 11pm. The hotel shuttle bus leaves every hour or so from the duck pond.

Verdict A traditional and charming hotel with all the modern facilities set in the heart of English heritage.
Price Published rates for a standard room are £175 and £205 for a superior, both midweek and at weekends. Lower rates are available online but come with restrictions.

Felicity Cousins

Copthorne Effingham Park

West Park Road, Copthorne, RH10 3EU, tel +44 (0)1342 714994, millenniumhotels.com

Set in 40 acres of parkland with its own nine-hole golf course, this four-star hotel was once a stately home. Effingham Park is a 10-minute drive (six miles) from Gatwick's South Terminal and the hotel shuttle bus leaves every 45 minutes between 5am and 10pm. Built in 1820, its country house character – on a par with the nearby Copthorne Gatwick – is a welcome alternative to the other, more modern airport hotels in the area. The two hotels help each other out when there are overspills (from delayed flights) and there is a free bus between the two so that guests can eat at the different restaurants and walk the grounds at each property. The busiest times for the hotel are weekends and summer and the average stay is around 1.8 nights.

The first sight you'll see in the lobby is a huge chandelier suspended from the top of the hotel through the middle of the hexagonal-shaped atrium. There are 122 rooms (11 set aside for airline crew) of which 98 are standard. Corridors are coloured deep red and standard rooms are traditional and distinctive, some with wooden beams, and pink carpets and bedspreads. All rooms have internet access via the TV, tea and coffee-making facilities and a trouser press. Bathrooms have the hotel's own toiletries and a bath and shower. Like the Copthorne, it is possible to upgrade to a connoisseur room for £30, with benefits including minibar, balcony and laptop internet access. There is no air conditioning in the hotel.

The hotel has excellent leisure facilities. There are two golf professionals at the hotel, who give lessons on the putting green before moving on to the par 35 course; golf clubs can be hired from the sports shop. The hotel has two flood-lit tennis courts, a croquet lawn where barbecues are held in the summer, and Le Club, a fitness centre with indoor pool, a small spa bath, and a golf pro shop as well as a good-sized gym with a lot of cardiovascular equipment, which is free to guests.

For meetings and events, the impressive Millennium Suite is a huge domed meeting space which, at 1,116sqm is one of the largest in the Southeast. It can hold up to 650 people for functions and events. The suite used to be a classic car museum, so the floor is heavily reinforced – easily able to withstand the weight of 650 well-fed delegates. The suite has natural daylight with windows all the way round the domed space. Smaller meetings can be held at the hotel's Wellingtonia Suite. There is wifi access in all public areas, and although there is no business centre there is a computer where you can check email, and reception will take care of other administration.

For food there is the Terrace, next to the lobby, which serves European cuisine. This is also where breakfast is served. The Terrace is not open for lunch but you can get a snack from the Lounge bar, which suffers an interesting patterned carpet. For a bit more liveliness, there is the Sports bar, downstairs, which has a pool table, large-screen TV for sporting events and traditional pub-style furnishings.

Verdict The hotel has a beautiful, peaceful setting and although not ultra-modern, the rooms are comfortable and cosy and there is a good atmosphere in the lobby area as golfers chat and meetings break out.
Price Published rates are £175 for a standard double room and £205 for a club king room, both midweek and at weekends. Lower rates are available but come with restrictions.

Felicity Cousins

Arora International Hotel

Southgate Avenue, Southgate, Crawley, tel +44 (0)1293 530 000, arorainternational.com, Fastway bus

The Arora International Hotel is located in residential Crawley, a 10-minute drive from Gatwick. Crawley's train station is next to the hotel giving easy rail access to the airport (trains run three times an hour and take eight minutes). Otherwise, the hotel has a Fastway bus that takes guests by road – though it leaves the airport's South Terminal at quarter past every hour, so depending on your schedule, you could be in for a long wait.

The sterile-looking facade of the five-storey hotel belies its sleek, cool and airy interior. The huge glass and chrome atrium is dotted with palm trees, comfy leather sofas, hand-shaped armchairs, and tables, and the glass wall looks out over a terrace, magnificent fountain and three acres of carefully manicured garden, cleverly disguising the main road nearby.

The 432 guestrooms are located in wings on either side of the atrium. There are 393 doubles, 20 twins and 15 executive/family rooms, as well as four disabled-access rooms. Standard rooms have an electronic Do not disturb sign as well as all the mod-cons you would expect – modem connection points, air conditioning, cotton duvets, tea and coffee-making facilities, trouser press, iron and ironing board, in-room safe, bath and a separate walk-in power shower.

The other room category is the premier, which offers early check-in and late check-out times, 25 per cent discount on all business services, and extras like a dressing gown and Gilchrist & Soames products. They also have exclusive access to the Oasis Lounge (it lives up to its name), which includes laptop workstation, internet access, newspapers and magazines.

The Mono Brasserie serves British food with "a modern twist" and a two-course express menu for business lunches, informal dining and group bookings. The Palm Deli and Bar, open 24 hours a day, offers drinks, snacks and an internet café with broadband and wireless connectivity, in the heart of the atrium. Morgan's Pub, adjacent to the hotel, has two happy hours (5.30-6.30pm and 9.30-10.30pm), pub menu, pool table and large screen for Sky and live sports.

There is an impressive health and fitness club on the lower floor, which includes a full gym, luxurious-looking spa bath, steam room, solarium and dance studio, as well as beauty treatments, personal training and exercise classes.

The Conference Reception and Business Centre on the ground floor has seven meeting rooms, two suites (the Longley Suite can be divided into two), a boardroom and penthouse, all fitted with audio and visual technology. Smaller meeting rooms have a multimedia projector and Smart Board – the latest interactive flipchart. The larger rooms have plasma-screen TVs with DVD and video, while the executive boardroom has dual plasma screens and a technology control system fitted into the furniture.

Verdict A hotel lacking slightly in atmosphere but clean, and with extensive facilities.
Price Internet rates start at £99 (published rate £165) for a superior double room midweek, and £149 (published rate £215) for an executive room. Internet weekend rates start at £75 for a superior double and £105 for an executive room.

Annabel Dixon


Ibis London Gatwick Airport

London Road, County Oak, RH10 9GY, tel +44 (0)1293 590 300

The 141-room Ibis is located south of the airport on the A23. The hotel has private outdoor parking, and is equipped with wifi access in the lobby and some of the guestrooms. Room rates are £54.95 for weekdays and £49.95 at weekends. A courtesy minibus travels twice an hour to the hotel, costing £4.50.

Clarion Hotel & Leisure Centre Gatwick

Langley Drive, Crawley, West Sussex, RH11 7SX, tel +44 (0)1293 608 608, choicehotelseurope.com

Previously a Quality Hotel and part of the budget Choice Hotels brand, the Clarion is one of the relatively few Gatwick hotels with leisure facilities, including a pool, sauna and spa bath. It also has wifi access in guestrooms for those with a laptop, and is a recently refurbished property (February 2006) with an executive lounge with free refreshments. The 246 rooms have air conditioning and satellite TV, and there are standard, executive or family rooms available. A shuttle bus serves the hotel (the same as the one for Ramada Plaza). Internet rates start at £98 for a double room.

Ramada Plaza London Gatwick Airport

Tinsley Lane South, Three Bridges/Crawley, RH10 8XH, tel +44 (0)1293 561186, ramada.co.uk

The Ramada Plaza is four miles from Gatwick and close to the centre of Crawley. It has 151 guestrooms with wifi available on the ground and first floor. Rooms are air-conditioned with 24-hour room service. The hotel has 12 meeting rooms that can hold up to 200 people, as well as leisure facilities, including an indoor pool, gym, sauna, steam room and beauty salon. The hotel is served every 30 minutes by the shuttle bus G23. Double rooms are from £99 and deluxe rooms from £119.

Getting there

Gatwick Express 30 minutes between Gatwick and London Victoria (35 minutes on Sundays). A standard single fare is £12 and return £23.50. Visit gatwickexpress.com or call 0845 850 1530 (UK only). The station is directly linked to Gatwick's South Terminal and is just a few minutes from the North Terminal via a free transit train link. Southwest Trains costs £9 return from Victoria to London Gatwick (35 minutes).

National Express Operates the majority of nationwide services from Gatwick. Tel +44 (0)8705 80 80 80.
Oxford Bus (The Airline) Link between Gatwick and Oxford, runs an hourly service. Tel +44 (0)1865 785 400, theairline.info.
Gatwick Flyer Operates direct services to Southend (from South Terminal only). Tel +44 (0)1708 730 555.

Getting to the hotels


To reach the shuttle bus area at the South Terminal, follow signs for the courtesy coaches. You'll need to descend two levels and bus stop 11 is to the left. A large sign lists the number to call on the courtesy phone provided for the hotel you want, which puts you through to a Gatwick employee for details of the next shuttle service. They run twice an hour, but it's a good idea to call the hotel to let them know you are waiting. The trip should cost £2.50 per person — if you're in a group it can make sense to get a taxi, which costs around £6. They can be booked at the second floor entrance area.


It's easier to find the courtesy coaches area at the North Terminal than at the South; you just need to stay on the same level and take the exit opposite arrivals, from where the hotel shuttle buses leave. It's the same system as the South, and the buses usually call at the North a couple of minutes after calling at the South.

Parking options

Both the North and South Terminals have short-stay NCP car parks next to the entrances which are best for stays of up to five hours. An hour costs around £3.80 and 18-24 hours £19.50. There is also a short-stay fast-track service which offers covered parking spaces close to the exits with slightly more security, so you can drive straight into your reserved spot and save time. The terminals each have a dedicated fast-track parking area. They cost £14 for up to three hours, and £24.50 (North)/£25.50 (South) for 12-24 hours. Pre-booking secures discounts (call +44 (0)870 000 1000).

For longer-term parking there are two long-stay car parks, one for each terminal. The South Terminal's car park, called NCP Flightpath, is a couple of minutes' courtesy bus ride from the terminal, while it's about 12 minutes from the North Terminal's Parking Express car park. The courtesy coaches run every seven to 10 minutes from the terminals to the car parks. Long stay costs £8.60 per day for one to five days or £8.30 per day for stays over six and over. You can save money by prebooking (call +44 (0)870 850 2825, or +44 (0)121 410 5105 from outside the UK).

Another option is the valet service: drop off your car and have it parked for you, then collect it on your return. Valet Parking NCP (North and South) caters for a minimum one-day parking with prices starting at £31 for the first day, then £11.50 per subsequent day.

A new long-stay option at the South Terminal is Park Plus. This allows you to drop off your car at the Park Plus car park to be parked by valet staff, while you get straight on the courtesy bus to the terminal, which runs every 10 minutes and takes a couple of minutes. Minimum booking is for three days, at least 24 hours in advance. Prices quoted by gatwickairport.com for a three-day stay (booked 10 days in advance) were £46.40 for Park Plus compared with £34.40 for long-stay with Parking Express and £67 for NCP valet parking. Don't forget that booking in advance does give you a discount on the drive-up price.

There are special parking packages such as the Special Weekender package available between 4pm Friday and 10am Monday — the pre-booked rate is £37. Valet packages also exist, including the year-round Summer Special (south) and Holiday Parking (north) available April-October. Pre-booked rates for the Summer Special are £44.70 for one week and £59.30 for two weeks. The Holiday Parking package costs £40.90 for one week and £53.90 for two weeks. Courtesy buses run every 20 minutes, with a transfer time of seven to 10 minutes. For more information see gatwickairport.com.


BCP offers airport parking with a courtesy ride to both terminals (seven to 10 minutes depending on which terminal). Its website (parkbcp.co.uk) quoted £27.95 for a three-day stay booked four days in advance. You can just drive up but the price is slightly higher. You can opt for the "meet and greet" service which was quoted at £64 and allows you to leave your car with a valet at the terminal entrance, who will park your car for you and then meet you with it upon your return.

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