IT'S a town regularly mocked by those living elsewhere, but according to one hotel chain Swindon is fast becoming the place to be.

Best known for its beautiful citizens in the form of Billie Piper, Melinda Messenger and Diana Dors, rather than its beautiful scenery, Swindon is not your typical tourist town.

And with top landmarks generally being made of concrete such as the Magic Roundabout, it could be tricky to see the attraction for visitors.

But the Holiday Inn hotel chain has named Swindon as the UK's most unlikely holiday hotspot with bookings at its Swindon hotels having jumped up by almost 12 per cent in the past 12 months. According to the firm, Swindon is its fastest growing holiday destination, showing that visitors are not deterred by the town's regular beating from sectors of the media.

Although it has been described as the "a**e of the world" in best-selling book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, and as a "knackered, kind of Fresno town" by comic Eddie Izzard, people seem to be flocking to Swindon in their droves.

The findings have been based on room bookings at the 117 Holiday Inns and 110 Express by Holiday Inn venues in the country, in towns with two or more of the hotels. Swindon Council's director for economic and cultural development Bill Cotton said: "I'm really pleased but not surprised that there is such growth.

"Everyone in the tourism industry feels the product here is improving with lots to see and do, and there's a growth in business tourism like corporate events.

"For the genuine leisure tourists our location is excellent as a base for the Cotswolds, and every hotel in the area is booked up for the air tattoo weekend."

Holiday Inn says that having the celebrity endorsement of architect and Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, who is working on eco-housing in the town, will help boost Swindon's image.

Mr McCloud said: "Swindon is a delight - I love it.

"I travel all over Britain, I look at a lot of really c*** towns and Swindon is not a c*** town."

Alexi Hakim, InterContinental Hotels Group chief operating officer in the UK, said: "Holiday Inn customers certainly seem to agree with Kevin McCloud that Swindon has lots to offer visitors.

"It's great to see towns and cities which have been bashed by critics enjoying a popular renaissance."

Swindon is also the only destination in the top 10 to come from the south of the country, with northern development hotspots such as Leeds and Manchester also joining the elite.