Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Motella Christmas!

This is my last post before I turn the lights out on this blog for a while... 

"Motella" has adopted a life of its own. It has become a third-person with his own identity that can say some things that we could never say ourselves.

We reckon that Motella deserves a rest and we would like to leave him in a warm friendly environment until we return.

We wish you all a productive and successful Merry Christmas!


What Is Social Media Now?

Just when you thought that this year has had enough mind-blowing social media presentations, you'll be pleased that they've managed to squeeze-in one more...

Below is an updated version that provides convincing reasons why 2011 is destined to be the year where social media will play a greater role in sharing ideas and influencing change. 

Social media is an evolving science and many tourism businesses will be trying to figure out how to effectively use this medium in order to successfully connect with punters.

Just how much time and resource should business operators be spending on social media?

Getting the moving target of social media etiquette wrong has its consequences and the public are quickly turned off with obvious ploys to sell.

Will 2011 will be the year where many tourism businesses add to the noise on social networks while trying to figure out how this medium can give measurable returns... or will the proven benefits of mainstream media shine through?

The Perfect Hotel For The Mother-in-Law

 Hat tip: Motivator Motel

Motella's Xmas

On Christmas Day we will be spending time with a procession of family members and friends that will take some time out of their home environment to come and visit us while we juggle guest demands at the motel.

It always interesting to observe what type of guests arrive to stay at our motel on Christmas Day. From previous experience we have catergorised them in to typical groupings.

We often have young or empty nest couples arrive that have purposely planned to avoid a "family Christmas." They arrive with smug smiles, their own catering and have a wonderful time together away from the obligations others would have thrust upon them.

One of the more high management groups of guests are the Asian gang of extended family members that usually depart from Pakuranga or Howick en masse and will sweep into our driveway late afternoon in several European sedans and people movers. The gaggle is usually made up of at least three separate family groupings that will arrive bewildered and confused: "why are all the shops closed?"

The vehicles will come to an abrupt halt and left parked in all sorts of imaginative acute angles in our car park while the occupants scatter to all points of the motel.  There will be a self appointed team leader that speaks a smattering of English that will engage in the obligatory negotiation process at reception. It will be difficult to establish exactly how many people will be staying, however the language barrier is often evaporated when communicating the numbers concerning tariff.

We usually commence the extended haggling session at double our usual tariff to ensure a mutually satisfactory "discount".

While most families will arrive before or after Christmas Day, we usually have at least one overenthusiastic family that have become bored with their Christams ritual and have decided last moment to hit the road. They will arrive late in the day, mum and dad are usually not talking, at least one child is howling and another is sheepishly clutching a sick bag.

And last but not least we often attract at least one lonely soul that has had an argument with a family member and after been ejected needs some time alone to reflect. Some arrive bemused with a reasonably humorous yarn to tell while sadly others sadly arrive with bruises. 

In this crazy industry where every day is a Monday, we still regard Christmas Day as a special time.

Let the insanity begin!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Pre-Christmas Web Browsing

How will the crucial Christmas and New Year period pan-out for Kiwi accommodation operators? Are potential guests being spooked with raising petrol prices or distracted with gadget purchases? Will Kiwis forget about an uncertain year and take a break in a motel or will they stay at home, sponge-off reletives or even resort to...going camping!

The following table gives us some insight into the websites potential holiday-makers are browsing on work computers just before they pull up stumps and take time off work. 

So what were the most popular destination and accommodation websites in New Zealand for the week ending 18 December 2010 according to Experian Hitwise?

 


Motella's Xmas Card Collection

Thought we would share some of our Christmas cards we received this year...

Christmas is all about giving, but sometimes receiving can be good too
A little of Santa's magic is uncovered
 Dam! I wish we saved some of those lights we strung up for Anti-Earth Hour
'Tis the season...for debt collection
 A little ashamed of this one (but I posted it anyway;-))


Oops!
 Who's gonna tell the kids!
 
Spreading the joy can have its consequences

Ah, Christmas and coping with in-laws
 
 For some reason we appreciated this pic that a dear reader sent us:
 
 And finally, we ask the pertinent question: Are the expectations of Christmas season just getting worse?
 

Motel ACC

It was heartening to see that National will allow private insurers to compete in the workplace insurance market alongside ACC. True to form, Labour, the Greens and unions are bitterly opposed to private enterprise getting a peak-in.

It is unfortunate that the Nats do not have the stomach to allow ACC to be privatised (as it should be) however most business groups have positively welcomed the half-way rhetoric as a step in the right direction.

Interestingly we see that the Motel Association (MANZ) has taken a slightly different tack and in particular have attacked the government's statement that there will be no increase in workplace earner levies for 2011. 

We are pleased to see a bit of passion and stroppiness from MANZ ...
PRESS RELEASE
from Motel Association of New Zealand
22 December 2010

Disturbed and Disappointed by Hospitality and accommodation ACC levies 10% increase

The Motel Association is deeply disappointed and disturbed by the announced increase in ACC levies for the Accommodation sector, said Michael Baines Chief Executive of the Motel Association.

It would appear that the Moteliers are paying for the inability of the rest of the sector to manage their risks. New Zealand owned and operated motels will suffer a movement in rates from 99c to $1.09 over 10%!

It seems as if the “business friendly” government has struck again with a large hike in regulatory charges to an industry peopled exclusively with SMEs. Again the Government seems to find a way of cloaking deceit in good news. Motels that have over 40% of the workers in the sector owner operators are going to carry the burden of those others in the sectors that fail to recognise their responsibilities. Members were surveyed 12 months ago showing 83% had not and neither had their staff made any ACC claims in the previous 12 months. It is hard to see the justification for a 10% increase in levies

This is a slap in the face for a small but important part of the New Zealand tourism industry. Motels account for over 30% of all commercial accommodation. Moteliers host millions of overseas travellers in their properties, as well as New Zealanders. Moteliers earn millions in overseas revenue and yet they are again being punished because they are a collection of owner operators. It would appear that this government’s tourism friendly approach is as fragile as its business friendly approach.

The Motel Association is extremely frustrated that once again the opportunity to show some common sense and leadership has passed a government minister by. Suggesting that there would be no increases in levies was misleading; certainly the overall take may be the same but individual sectors are facing substantial changes.

We would urge the Minister to reassess the changes to the individual sectors and impose a blanket no change policy across all sectors.

We welcome the opportunities for privatisation, we believe that it would be far cheaper for Moteliers to go privately than the current regime that has them subsidising those sectors that have a high claim profile!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Motel Style Gardening

It may come as a surprise to our loyal readers that in spite of my tendency to mock rabid environmentalists,  I am a keen gardener. Unusually for a motel we have large park-like grounds to maintain and I take pride in keeping nature under strict control.

It was a fantastic day here today at Motella HQ so I frogmarched my son away from his electronic world and made a dash for the outdoors leaving Mrs Motella to look after the motel reception. There was a list of gardening jobs that have been accumulating around the motel and with Christmas looming today was the perfect opportunity. 

There is nothing like the smell and sound of a 2-stroke motor interacting with the great wilderness. First was the chainsaw, followed by the hedge trimmer with my son in tow collecting the defloration behind me. The final flourish of the leaf-blower ensured all that unsightly small organic matter was whisked away from sight. 

As the blue smoke cleared, copious weedkiller was liberally applied to finish off any remaining unsightly greenery appearing in unwanted places.

Order has now been restored and once again man has triumphed over nature.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

FREE WiFi

Motel Movie Channel

Those sick perverted folk at Motivator Motel are at it again...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rico wants to feel you up with hope...

Rico, our favourite misunderstood furry travel ambassador is haranguing yet another hapless Air New Zealand passenger:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pre-Christmas Web Browsing

So what were the most popular destination and accommodation websites in New Zealand for the week ending 11 December 2010 according to Experian Hitwise?

The following table gives us some insight into the websites potential holiday-makers are browsing 2-weeks out from the important Christmas holiday period.

In-room Entertainment

New over at the Motivator Motel Blog:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hamilton Accommodation Rip-Off?

We note that a spokesman for Hamilton moteliers has added credence to a recent news story about alleged price gouging by accommodation providers over the Rugby World Cup period.

To demonstrate alleged price gouging, the Waikato Times story breathlessly reported examples of tariff over key rugby matches in Hamilton with the Novotel Tainui at $772 per night and the Ibis at $652 per night along with a minimum three-night stay policy.

A Hamilton motel spokesman has been reported as saying that the tariff charged is "a bloody rip-off" and has stated that "motel association members would not participate in price gouging."

It should be of no surprise that our view is that accommodation operators should employ "dynamic pricing" based on consumer demand. And yes this means unashamedly raising tariff over high demand periods. While there are a hard core of Kiwis that believe in the quaint socialist adage that businesses should be evenly rationing goods and services according to consumer need and not demand, we believe that the market should be left to decide value.  

We honestly don't know if Hamilton's Novotel and Ibis are offering value over the World Cup period, however we say "good on them" for sticking their neck out and allowing the market to be the judge by pricing accommodation over a significant world event.

In previous media beat-ups about alleged price gouging over the Rugby World Cup, we note that Hospitality Association chief Bruce Robertson has been quoted as saying:
"Price rises at busy times were "entirely normal" and if rooms were over-priced, hotels would have empty rooms because people wouldn't pay.
The market does actually work"
Hotel Council chairwoman Jennie Langley has commented on overseas tour operators that were inflating accommodation costs by saying: "the market will rule on the day".

Even the national body of the Motel Association of New Zealand has chipped-in with some common sense by commenting: "The market will decide." 

However, it would appear that Hamilton moteliers are sadly aligning themselves with another accommodation industry organisation that up until now has stood alone:

@home NEW ZEALAND is the national bed and breakfast association that is made up of lonely old moccasin slipper wearing, bed wetting, socialist wowsers that struggle to understand the fundamentals of running a business. To prove a point they recently ejaculated the following press release:
“However, as we could foresee this situation happening, we advised our members by general email on 20 April that apart from a slight adjustment to cover proposed increases in GST and other fixed charges, we felt their room rate should not be substantially different to what they would charge during a normal high season period.  I and my board feel that to hike prices excessively during RWC 2011 could cause future damage to the tourism industry both for accommodation providers and for other services reliant on tourism......"
 We reckon Hamilton moteliers are better than this;-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Should You Friend Your Parents on Facebook?

Trying to be digitally aware is important not only as business owners, but as parents.

Both our children have Facebook pages and part of my generation's micro-management parenting technique is to ensure that they are well schooled in operating their online presence safely with the appropriate security settings.

We also happen to be our children's "friend" (for now;-))
Click to enlarge

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Year in Review According to Google

We are in the season where networks are busily rehashing highlights from the past year.

What better entity than Goggle to pick out some monumental global moments of 2010 through search, images, and video:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Behind Closed Doors...

Those special folk at Motivator Motel are at it again:


 

Westin Stripped of Stars

We see that Auckland's troubled Westin Hotel has been stripped of their stars by Qualmark NZ for not meeting minimum standards. The sticking point appears to be that the hotel no longer has a fully functioning restaurant available to guests, so the decision seems to be fair enough. 

In a New Zealand Herald article HERE, it has been surmised that "The decision to remove the licence could further jeopardise the hotel's chances of attracting Rugby World Cup bookings, given Qualmark is New Zealand tourism's official quality agency."

So, will loosing stars really affect bookings for Westin?

According to a tweet from Lawrence Smith of Cabbage Tree Creative: "Given the rave reviews on TA (TripAdvisor), unlikely."

We tend to agree:

Is The Motel Industry in Crisis Yet?

The latest accommodation survey results for October 2010 have been released today by Statistics New Zealand and further underlines worrying trends for the motel industry. 

Total guest nights in October 2010 have decreased by 1.7 percent compared with September 2009. 

In the battle of the two islands, the North Island recorded a 0.5 percent decrease in guest nights while the South Island achieved a 5 percent decrease in October 2010 compared to October 2009.

Eight out of the 12 regions recorded less guest nights in October 2010 than in October 2009. 

In September, Canterbury with the earthquake on 4 September and subsequent aftershocks were able achieve a small increase in guest nights. Sadly in October, Canterbury lead a downward trend in guest nights for the South Island as international guest nights fell significantly, by over 27,000 in October 2010 compared with October 2009. This was partly offset by an increase of 10,000 for domestic guest nights.

The regions showing the largest decreases were:  
  • Canterbury, down 4.2 percent
  • Wellington, down 4.2 percent
  • West Coast, down 9.9 percent.
The regions recording the largest increases were:  
  • Auckland, up 1.8 percent)
  • Bay of Plenty, up 2.3 percent) 
  • Northland, up 3.6 percent. 
International visitor guest nights across New Zealand in October 2010 decreased by 5.7 percent compared with October 2009 and this largely accounted for the overall fall in guest nights. 

Domestic guest nights recorded a modest rebound by increasing 0.9 percent in October 2010 compared with October 2009. 

In spite of another soft month, hotels have once again solidified their dominance by being the only sector to record an increase in guest nights for the fourth consecutive month. Hotels recorded an impressive 4.3 percent increase in guest nights in October 2010 compared to October 2009.

The three other accommodation types in the survey all recorded decreases in October 2010:
  • Motels, down 5.4 percent
  • Backpackers, down 5.7 percent
  • Holiday parks, down 3.8 percent.
Hotels achieved the highest occupancy rate (56.1 percent) of all the accommodation types in October 2010, followed by motels (45.9 percent), and backpackers (34.8 percent). 

While there are pockets of strong motel businesses, there is a worrying trend of the motel sector as a whole is rapidly loosing market share. Last month we asked the question "are we being too hysterical if we start calling this a crisis?"

In spite of the euphoria surrounding the Rugby World Cup, the motel industry still has the long tail of the recession to contend with next year.  We reckon that the motel industry needs to take positive action, accept accountability and investigate the reasons why they are bleeding market share...

Motella's Christmas

You may have noticed that we have added some token Christmas decoration to our blog to get into the festive spirit. 

We see that many folk are adopting a scornful stance on Christmas with many bemoaning the intensity and commercialisation. We on the other hand look forward to Christmas and enjoy the edge of this time of year and the opportunities it brings.

We like the quote from Ayn Rand that capitulates Christmas for us:
"The best aspect of Christmas is that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift buying stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by departments stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only 'commercial greed' could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle."
We welcome the general orgy of capitalism at this time of year and particularly appreciate anything that extracts people out of their usual mundane routine...like going on on holiday...and hopefully staying at a motel or two along the way!

AA's New App

 

This week AA Travel revealed some good news and some bad news.

Consumers were contacted advising that some of their online information held by AA may had been breached. An unauthorised user has accessed individual consumers' email address, first name and password used on aatravel.co.nz when registering for the previous 101 Must Do’s for Kiwi’s and/or Great Kiwi Road Trips campaigns. While any breach of online information is serious, the consequences appear to be relatively minor, with some consumers receiving spam email.

The AA having to communicate a possible security breach is a shame, especially in the same week of releasing an innovative new iPhone App. This is a week when the AA shouldn't be spooking its advertisers about technology;-)

We downloaded AA's new XplrNZ app a few days ago and in spite of being busy at the motel we have been giving AA's significant investment a test drive.

iPhone users will be drawn to the app by the innovative use of location based service technology that makes functionality very personalised. The big sell for the app is the use of "augmented reality" that allows users to view real-time pictures through their camera that is overlaid with clickable icons.

As an example, app users on the go will be able to park-up and view a picture of their immediate surroundings through their iPhone's camera. Clickable icons will appear that will allow users to access further information about nearby attractions and accommodation options. If an accommodation option is selected, users will have access to the information available on the aatravel.co.nz website including pictures, descriptions, directions and "Been There" travel reviews. 

What is somewhat disappointing is that the app doesn't interface with AA's online reservation system. Users that select the "book" option will be given the option to phone, email or connect to the accommodation provider's website. 

Probably the most useful feature is the map function that will locate users and give clickable options of the surrounding area. Other options that successfully integrate location based services include access to AA's Great Kiwi Road Trips and 101 Must Do's.

Overall we reckon that the app is reasonably impressive. We spent a lot of time playing with the gimmickry of the augmented reality feature.

We wonder if AA's advertisers will appreciate the significance of the development and understand the concept? More importantly, will end users find the app useful in real-time and add value to AA's advertisers?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Motella Returns to Facebook

It's been a long time coming, but we have finally reinstated our "Motella" Facebook page. 

Without warning, our Facebook page was unilaterally shut down last month due to "Violation(s) of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities."

After much angst we found out that our Motella Facebook account was operating as a personal page and according to Facebook's terms of service this should have been in the name of a real person. We reckon that Motella has taken on a life of its own, however Facebook didn't agree;-)

We note that businesses using personal pages is a common occurrence, so this may serve as a heads-up to those folk that unwittingly using a personal page to connect their business with "friends." 

For those that wish to continue following our exploits via Facebook we have done the right thing and set up a brand new Facebook Fan Page. Please feel free to click on the Facebook graphic above to become our "fan."


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Luxury Lodge Welfare

Prince William seems keen to visit down under

Over at The Oswald Bastable Ranting blog we see that our prickly, politically-incorrect friend is calling out a luxury lodge owner that wants fellow Kiwis to subsidise her for the privilege of accommodating Prince William and Kate Middleton on their honeymoon:
"The Government is being urged to offer Prince William and Kate Middleton an all-expenses paid honeymoon to New Zealand to create a "fairytale" tourism driver.

Diana Moore, who operates the $10,000-a-night Lake Okareka Lodge near Rotorua, has suggested the government provide a honeymoon as its official wedding present "instead of giving a wedding gift such as a piece of furniture".

"The potential value in exposure to New Zealand from being part of this real-life royal fairytale is beyond imagination – certainly right up there with worldwide exposure from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit."

Although she'd "love to host William and Kate" after their April wedding next year, there would be no freebies, said Moore..."
So the luxury lodge owner doesn't wish to burden herself with the opportunity cost of giving away a room to budding royalty AND endure the enormous free worldwide publicity for her lodge. The arrogance and hypocrisy of a businesswoman expecting welfare from fellow Kiwis is breathtaking.

We reckon that Oswald has it about right when he described the luxury lodge owner as "the very worst type of bludger!"

There is an opportunity for the the tourism industry to step up and coordinate a kick-ass honeymoon package with quality business owners that are able to stand on their own two feet and understand the opportunities to showcase their businesses and New Zealand to the world. Just don't expect others to pay for it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hotel SOS Hits Taupo!

New Zealand's own local television adaptation of the popular English series format, The Hotel Inspector is "Hotel SOS" that had its first airing on TV1 last Wednesday.

After just one episode we're going to stick our neck out and award the series a prestigious four star "Motella Mark." We love it!

As predicted the 7:30pm time slot only enabled us about 10-minutes of live viewing as the demands of the motel took precedent. Thank goodness for TVNZ OnDemand where we were able to view the entire episode.

The Hotel Inspector had the benefit of the colourful, school matronly, Ruth Watson as host and we were impressed with the Kiwi fill-ins that performed their role magnificently. Our very own Frankie and Simon took on the role of joint hosts and quintessential Auckland pratts very seriously (probably even more seriously than they took themselves).

We reckon that "Hotel SOS" was able to tick all of the boxes that were essential to emulate the successful Hotel Inspector format:

1) An accommodation business that is failing - Tick
2) Unusually quirky and difficult owners  - Tick
3) A straight-talking, self-professed expert hotelier that harasses and hectors the owners until they realise the error of their ways - Tick

The hosts' ability to tag-team one another as they hectored and shamed last week's hapless accommodation owners of Hicks Bay Motel Lodge on the East Coast was reality TV gold.

Frankie and Simon truly understand the appeal of the show's format that relies upon the toxic relationship between the host(s) and the eccentric accommodation providers.

This week we see that the show is heading off to a motel in Taupo and it would appear that the show's producers have managed to find another strong willed and eccentric motel owner to wind-up.

We see that the online reviews of the motel make entertaining reading with the motelier described as "Dumbledore meets The Grinch on Mount Doom" and as "Catweazle after he'd let himself go."

The motel owner has been accused of having a unique view of customer service, selling spartan rooms with heaters on a pre set timers, rationed hot-water and a spa that was "similar to a flat bottom concrete sheep dipping tank."

We can only wonder why Hotel SOS has been restricted to only 4-episodes;-)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Movember - The Last Day!

That's right! Much to the relief of my wife it's the last day of the month formally known as November that has become "Movember."

My mo and soul patch has progressed from a mere smudge to something of manly-beauty with its own wild uncouth personality. The mo-style has been influenced by a cocktail of Merv Hughes, Chopper Read and a 70's porn star.

Movember has been a great fundraiser. It's about men having fun, taking the p*ss, celebrating manhood and raising much needed funds and awareness for men’s health – specifically prostate cancer and depression in men. This is important when you learn that close to 600 men die of prostate cancer each year in New Zealand and one in ten men will experience depression in their lifetime. 

This is your last chance to make a difference and support a worthy cause.

Dust-off your credit card, click HERE and follow the simple steps.

Indroducing Card Payment Fees?

Soon after championing transparent pricing with their memorable "Nothing To Hide" campaign, we see that Air New Zealand will be introducing card payment fees just in time for the holidays. 

From their website:
"Air New Zealand wishes to advise that in order to recover the costs associated with credit, debit and charge card transactions, Air New Zealand will be charging a Card Payment Fee (CPF) from 15 December 2010 for tickets paid for by credit, debit or charge card.
However no Card Payment Fee (CPF) will be charged when customers choose to pay by:
  • Internet banking (POLi)
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars™*
  • Air New Zealand Travel Card
  • Cash or EFTPOS at an Air New Zealand Holidays store or travel agent
*Bookings made with a mix of Airpoints Dollars and Credit/Debit card are not charged a CPF.
The CPF applies on a per person per one-way journey basis, and will be applied to adult and child fares. Infants are exempt.
The applicable CPF is:
  • $2 for domestic New Zealand fares
  • $5 for short haul Tasman and Pacific Island fares
  • $10 for long haul fares..."
Just when we thought travel businesses were showing restraint by self-exempting themselves from charging card payment fees, Air New Zealand has now set a game-changing standard that we hope the accommodation industry will not follow.

We understand the philosophy of businesses recovering costs and charging more for consumers that use a method of payment that costs more to process. After all, shouldn't consumers that choose not to pay by a card be rewarded with lower prices?

This may be so in theory, however isn't more important for businesses to offer a clean and transparent price that is understood by all? In reality, added fees just p*ss people off.

Consumers have little understanding or concern for a business's financial costs. And nor should they. For many people the impost of a card fee is a barrier and makes the current ease of purchasing travel with a card just that little bit harder. Making a customer swallow a rat by charging them a card payment fee is not a good way to maintain a happy relationship.

From a marketing and customer relations prospective, Air New Zealand should drop their silly fee by simply raising their airfares where necessary and we suggest that the accommodation industry desist from the temptation of imposing cost recovery fees and lift their tariff.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Are Kiwis Contemplating a Holiday?

Will Kiwi families be travelling this holiday season?

As we are fast approaching December, most Kiwis are starting to think about what they may be doing over the Christmas/New Year and January holiday season.

For those that will be going away for a break, the elongated decision making process of where to go and where to stay has probably begun for most consumers. They will be open to stimuli on the television, radio, magazines, newspapers, brochures, directories, friends, family, social networks and using work time to randomly browse the the internet for inspiration.

Never before has there been so much information available across all sorts of media. Before booking a travel experience, a potential guest will often go on a journey filtering different media to plan their holiday-break well before they leave home. Unfortunately many will become distracted along the way and end up purchasing one of those incredibly good value large screen LCD TVs or outfit their family with Apple devices instead.

In spite of the increasing competition from gadget consumerism, those that will invest in a holiday experience will inevitably make a decision last-minute. More than likely, accommodation at their first (or second) choice holiday destination may not be available by the time they start to making qualified inquiries. It is often forgotten that 4 million Kiwis tend to go away on holiday together at the same time of year.

The table at the bottom of this post shows the most popular destination and accommodation websites in New Zealand for the week ending 20 November 2010 and gives us some insight of what potential holiday-makers are looking at on the web pre-holiday season.

What stands out for us is the emergence of a new accommodation sector: The private "holiday home" market. Websites such as the AA's Bookabach and TradeMe's Holidayhouses are taking advantage of a flood of privateer homeowners that are increasingly willing to expose themselves to the short term accommodation market. Those websites that resell private homes appear to be solidifying themselves into the top-10 websites where Kiwis go when planning travel.

While the stats are interesting, they frustratingly do not give the full picture. Some websites in the top-10 are just informational postcards, some are Online Travel Agents (OTAs) while others are a bit of both. It is unclear if lookers are converting onto bookers.

We suspect that Wotif.com and Booking.com are converting browsers into sales at a ratio well above all others. We also suspect that there are other sites not featured in the top-10 that are attracting solid bookings from Kiwis:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Irrelevant Advertising

There's a lot of noise in the advertising world at the moment and it is becoming harder for companies to make the public pause and consider their offer. As soon as media tries to blatantly sell a product or service we tend to switch off.

Apparently it is creativity and emotion that makes advertising successful, not portraying the key benefits about the product or service. 

Will the following three and a half minute epic video sell any more services for the telecommunication company that commissioned it?  This is hard to say.

However, we were more than happy to sit back and enjoy an advertising company's imagination gone wild within a fantasy metropolis world that defies reason and the laws of physics.

Student's Political Lesson

Hey it's Friday! A great excuse to go off topic.
 
We like the following brief political lesson sent to us this week by an honorary "motella:"
"A young woman was about to finish her first year of university. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very left wing/labour minded, and she was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs – in other words, the redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch blue-ribbon liberal, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had attended, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harboured an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth, and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing at university.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 90% average, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many university friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing?” She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 50% average. She is so popular on campus; university for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over."

Her wise father asked his daughter, “Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 20% off your average and give it to your friend who only has 50%. That way you will both have a 70% average, and certainly that would be fair and equal.”

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, “That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the Liberal side of the fence.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A New Dodgy Business Guide?

We have posted before about the dodgy activities of National Business Online (NBO) Here and and NZ Look HERE.

Until recently, both web-based directories were offering listings of dubious value and using questionable sales techniques.

Interestingly, we received an unsolicited phone call from a new business directory called UAskNow.com. The MO turned out to be surprisingly familiar...

We were rung by Tania and offered to "renew" our listing in an online business directory -  UAskNow.com. I know very well that we have never had a listing with them and when pushed Tania admitted that they had kindly given me a free listing that had come up for renewal.  Funnily enough, there is no listing for our business on their website, however as an "existing customer" I was offered to renew my listing for the knock-down price of $99.00 for a 2-year subscription. There was no time to waste and I was given until midday to sign-up. 

The high pressure sales pitch is performed by a pleasant lady that has a full grasp of the English language. This is a pleasant change from having to endure the exotic dialects commonly used by pro-forma sales staff.

Soon after hanging up the phone, the sting arrives in the form of a fax that invites us to complete, sign and fax back to secure our listing:

U ASK Now Listing Form 2010                                                              
Much like NBO and NZ Look, the sales technique appears to be a well worn tactic that dupes and pressures business operators into believing that they, other staff members or previous owners have subscribed to a directory listing. The listing benefit is dubious and the long term objectives for the company appear to be questionable.

Needless to say that we will not be subscribing to the UAskNow.com directory.

We suggest that you head over to our good friends at the NZ Scams To Avoid Blog that have reason to believe that UAskNow.com are being operated by the same scamsters that were behind the dodgy (and now defunct) National Business Online (NBO) and NZ Look.

If you have signed-up and paid-up $99.00 for a directory listing, we would be interested to hear from you.

The market does actually work

We have been remiss in blogging lately as we have been somewhat sidetracked with our day-job...

We did find time to read an article in yesterday's New Zealand Herald about accommodation tariff hikes in Auckland during this week's U2 concerts.

The article follows the tried and true MO of gathering the worst examples of price differentials to try and create hysteria from alleged "rampant and unfair profiteering."

Hotels mentioned were the Hotel Grand Chancellor offering a two-bedroom apartment for $999 over the concert period - up from the usual rate of $309. Auckland's Crowne Plaza with an unspecified room type for $359 - up from the usual rate of $171 and the Duxton Hotel with a spa room for $269 - up from the usual rate of $189.

If you can be bothered you can read the article HERE, however the best response to this contrived phone-around puff-piece of journalism was from Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson that was quoted:
"Price rises at busy times were "entirely normal" and if rooms were over-priced, hotels would have empty rooms because people wouldn't pay.
The market does actually work" 
Couldn't of said it better ourselves - Nice one Brucie!

Motel Tall Tale?

Motels and their guests can be the unfortunate victims of pranks from time to time. Our post HERE  covered a popular prank that had been performed at several accommodation properties in the USA last year.

We were amused to read the following news report from South Carolina that gives us a possible new version of the prank that incites a guest to smash up their motel room.
"A motel guest in Spartanburg has told sheriff's deputies that someone called his room and told him to smash the room to free a small person trapped next door. Spartanburg County sheriff's deputies say they responded to a motel Sunday night after a guest nearly punched through to the next room with a wrench.

Multiple media outlets reported a motel worker called deputies after she discovered the man had damaged the television, mirrors, and the wall between rooms.

The man told deputies a man who called his room about 11 p.m. Sunday said he was a manager at the motel. The guest told deputies the caller told him there was a 4-foot, 3 inch man trapped in the next room.

No charges have been filed."
Source: Click HERE

Hotel SOS

Who is going to be New Zealand's version of Ruth Watson? We will require a well built, authoritative woman that looks good in brightly colored blazers and tends to say f*ck a lot.  

We see that New Zealand has produced its own TV version of The Hotel Inspector that will be called "Hotel SOS".

We particularly enjoyed the earlier English versions where the original hard-nosed host, Ruth Watson; a potty mouthed, hoity-toity busybody uncovered tacky and grotty hotel experiences. Watson, with the authority of a school mistress, hectored and shamed hapless Pommy accommodation owners into rethinking their hospitality lifestyles. We liked that!

Last year, Qualmark NZ sent an email to all accommodation license holders seeking expressions of interest from operators that wanted to become involved in an earlier Kiwi version of the show. 

Qualmark commented:
"This is an opportunity to showcase quality processes and best practice techniques on prime time TV, which is such a powerful medium."
The original Kiwi concept was to highlight the virtues of Qualmark and one of their inspectors was to give a quality star grading after the TV host had subdued the operators and magically transformed the struggling accommodation business. It is unclear if Qualmark will be involved in this latest television version, however we see that the main sponsor of the show is now Homebase that will be performing the staged makeovers.

If the Kiwi format is to emulate the successful English entertainment formula, the following necessary elements are required:

1) An accommodation business that is failing
2) Unusually quirky and difficult owners and
3) A straight-talking, self-professed expert hotelier that harasses and hectors the owners until they realise the error of their ways

The appeal of the show is the toxic relationship between the host and the eccentric accommodation providers, however, judging from the promos we are betting that the Kiwi version will be more restrained and politically correct.

Frankly we are not holding out too much hope that Hotel SOS will have any depth and are cringing in anticipation that this series will be just be another brain-dead formula makeover series. We could be wrong!

We can judge for ourselves when Hotel SOS travels to the Hicks Bay Motel Lodge on the East Coast. 

It's on at 7:30pm on TV One tonight - unfortunately, it's a time when we are always busy at the motel!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rating Backpackers

We were interested to learn that Australia's official accommodation star rating agency, STAR Ratings Australia (SRA) will cease grading backpacker accommodation.

In a recent strategic review, SRA proposed to drop the backpacker category due to "lack of demand" however "will consult with key operators to identify alternative arrangements." It is unclear what "alternative arrangements" may mean? Could it mean that a more appropriate and cost effective (ie dumbed-down and cheap) grading system will be considered or is the consultation process merely going through the motions with tangible outcomes unlikely?

Backpacker operators have always been fiercely independent, pragmatic and closely connected with their young market. It is clear that not enough Aussie backpacker operators could see the value in signing up for a centralised star grading scheme. It is also apparent that star ratings were well down on the list of what guests staying in backpackers were looking for. When seeking accommodation, backpackers tend to be influenced by other backpackers' recommendations, guide books, social networks and consumer rating websites. This is interesting if we consider that today's backpacker guests are tomorrow's consumers of hotels and motels.

By relinquishing an "official" star rating program,  the Australian Backpacker sector could use the opportunity to take charge of their own destiny and set their own standards. Quality standards are more effectively delivered through strong voluntary trade associations, accommodation marketing groups reacting to social media such as online guest reviews. In the online world the consumer is increasingly dictating quality standards with real-time feedback.

Is it a coincidence that most operators in the New Zealand backpacker sector have also shunned their official accommodation star rating agency, Qualmark NZ ?

A popular rating scheme in New Zealand is the privately operated Budget Backpacker Hostels NZ Ltd (BBH) that have successfully cornered the local Backpacker sector to the detriment of Qualmark. Guests that stay at a BBH property can rate their overall experience by responding to a simple question: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you enjoy staying at each of the Backpacker Hostels you've used in New Zealand?" 

Every year the responses are collated into a percentage rating to enable future guests to determine the "quality" of the experience of BBH rated accommodation.

From what we can see this system is simple, cost effective AND it works.

Maybe other accommodation groupings could learn a lot from the backpacker sector?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Frivolous Friday!

Just to prove that we are young at heart, cutting edge and down with it (or is that up with it?), here's a bit of grime-techno-new wave music to blast those tacky 5-watt computer speakers - The video is pretty amazing too:

Air NZ's Rico - Social Media Fame

In an interesting marketing twist, we see that Air New Zealand's controversial social media ambassador and English-language abuser, Rico is appearing on overseas blogs.

Rico has been featured on the popular aviation advocate and geek blog, Airline Reporter by answering questions posed by the blog's creator, David Parker Brown.

Although it can't be underestimated the resource needed to create a one-off personalised video, this appears to be a simple and effective way to promote a brand via social networks.

What sort of questions would you put to Rico?





Overview of the B & B Sector

We note that the quirky folk over at Motivator Motel seem to have a healthy disrespect for the Bed & Breakfast sector;-)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Japanese Whalers 1 Sea Shepherd -1

We see that the Maritime New Zealand investigation into the eco terrorist smackdown in Antarctic waters has spluttered to a draw. 

We are no fan of the egotistical, charlatan, Paul Watson the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and his flock of earnest eco-worryers. We question their selective morality of protesting against a country that is legitimately harvesting a natural resource.

We wonder how many Japanese tourists have been put off travelling to New Zealand because of these self-righteous clowns.

Now that we know that there is no one to blame, it seems to be a great opportunity to relive one of our favourite videos: Japanese Whaling vessel, Shonan Maru rips the bow off Sea Shepherd's fizz-boat.


US Airport Rage

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in America have copped some severe criticism on their newly introduced airport security measures that include "invasive" full body scanners and enhanced pat downs in private rooms.

It is difficult to predict the scale of the reported rage amongst US air travellers and if these new security measures will turn folk away from travel by air.  We hope it won't.

Passengers are planning a boycott of the scans on November 24 (the day before Thanksgiving Day) that is the busiest US travel day of the year. It will be interesting how well this will be supported on a day when most travellers wish to travel with the minimum of fuss to be with their families.

Lucky for us, those crazy Taiwanese folk at Next Media Animation have made it easy for us to understand the big issues of this developing story:

Cutting Edge Design?

Another irrelevant motivational poster from our partners at: Motivator Motel

Don't Touch My Junk

John Tyner when flying out of San Diego took exception to the idea of exposing himself to the new airport security full-body scanner for what he claimed were modesty and health reasons.

Those that refuse to be scanned are required to go through a manual inspection and Tyner initially seemed to take this in good faith, until he was informed that he would be subject to a "groin check" with the option of a public or private session.

Tyner replied that he was happy to remain in public view, but "if you touch my junk I am going to have you arrested."

This is when it turned nasty.

Tyner captured the whole process on his cell phone and has posted the obligatory video on YouTube.

Is travel becoming too invasive and too much of a rigmarole? Maybe Tyner's belligerence of questioning new airport security measures will start a conversation about freedoms vs safety, however it is probably naive to believe that new heightened airport security measures will be relaxed anytime soon.

Ideally, we reckon that the market should decide about security measures. Airlines should be given the option to accept passengers that have not been through a security check as long as this is disclosed to passengers when they make a booking.

If you were booking an American flight, would you pay extra to be safe in the knowledge that you and your fellow  passengers were flying with an airline that insisted that all its passengers go through a rigorous security process?

I think I would.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rampant Blogger

I wear many hats and one of my many guises is a "Blogger."

I belong to a special network of digitally connected self-opinionated folk that are intoxicated with the rush they get when they observe the visitor stats on their blog escalate, are mentioned in another blog, one of their tweets is retweeted or are repeated in the MSM.

...So understandably, I was chuffed when our YouTube video we uploaded this week went viral and was the 2nd most uploaded video in New Zealand today:


It doesn't take much to get me excited these days...

Click the "Get Widget" link below to place this widget on your website or blog!