Monday, February 28, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes

I had an extremely positive consumer experience in the weekend. They are becoming exceedingly rare so bear with me...

It was Sunday morning and I suddenly realised that after the distraction of a busy week I hadn't brought a gift for my wee nephew's christening. I have a habit of leaving things to the last moment and tend to derive some sort of perverse pleasure from the adrenalin rush of urgency.

The christening was to kick off in half an hour - so what to do?

I suddenly had an inspired idea that I would purchase a photography portrait gift voucher and started thumbing my way through the Yellow Pages for inspiration. The adverts included photographers that traded from bricks and mortar on the high street, however it was 9.30am on a Sunday, so most would have been closed or a few would open from 10am.

I then came across the name of a photographer that I recognised as a Facebook friend. He did not trade from a static storefront and his advert simply had a website address and a cell phone number. I didn't have time to browse the website so I was grateful that the cellphone number was an instant hotlink to who I wanted to speak to.

After a few rings and cursory introduction I was able to select a photography option and within minutes a PayPal invoice and the gift voucher magically appeared in my email in-box as promised.

After I electronically paid the PayPal invoice by credit card and printed the gift voucher I was sorted!

So what can we learn from this?
  • It is really important for businesses to be always accessible to their customers. Those that snooze will lose.
  • Technology is great, however perceived problems can be quickly overcome person to person and the human touch is still important. Talking to the business owner (or at least someone that knows what they are talking about that can make instant decisions) is empowering.
  • Social media is a great introduction, however my end lead was via traditional paper-based media (Yellow Pages). 
  • While a customer is hot it is important for businesses to have the tools to instantly extract money from them. PayPal was used in this case as an effective method.
  • Exceed expectations with effective use of technology.
  • Make it simple!
Probably one of the most important aspects that struck me about this simple transaction was that business owners can gain a lot by learning how the younger generation operate - This accomplished photographer was 15 years old... Trading Results

With many switched-on Kiwi accommodation providers successfully using as a sales channel, it is of interest that Wotif  have released their half-year results to December 2010.

Outside the business generated from Kiwi accommodation provider's chosen booking engine on their own corporate website, continues to deliver more business than any other Online Travel Agent (OTA).'s successful formula of codifying accommodation options in a simple comparative one page grid system has proven to be the most consumer friendly and is often copied by other OTAs. 

Aussie-owned Wotif's impressive growth over successive years appears to have waned with an 8% comparative profit fall in the most recent six months reporting period. This has been attributed to a 4.8% drop in room night sales and increased expenditure in advertising that included a television advertising campaign. 

In challenging economic times, Wotif has retained its number one position as Australasia's leading OTA by maintaining its accommodation market share with a high consumer awareness and increasing accommodation suppliers by 9 percent.

In this reporting period, extended its consumer bookable window from 3 to 6-months and it is noted that this has only marginally stretched the average booking lead-time from 13.45 to 13.76 days. The average nights booked has dipped slightly from 1.96 to 1.91 nights, however it is pleasing that average room-rates have increased by 5.9 percent.

Qualifying pedestrian trading results, Wotif Chief executive Robbie Cooke has been reported making the following comments:
"...several key Australian holiday destinations remained soft, meaning that domestic holidays were "great value propositions."
He said more people were "reawakening to the quality and variety of Australian leisure destinations, which peculiarly took an American, Oprah, to highlight to us".
Last year, he said, many consumers travelled overseas because of the high Australian dollar.
But falling consumer sentiment suggested there were early signs that more people were now choosing to take a holiday break at home.
However, the floods in Queensland, northern NSW and Victoria had dampened many consumers' appetite for domestic holidays."
Although Wotif do not separate Australian and New Zealand trading, we would guess that the challenges and trends are very similar between markets.

We wonder what effect the earthquake in Christchurch will have on the psychology of Kiwi business travellers and holidaymakers? Half Year Results to December 2010                                                              

Friday, February 25, 2011

To Our Christchuch Moteliers

I have just returned home from Wellington where the cruel irony of the latest Christchuch quake has dominated a planned gathering with fellow moteliers.

Our thoughts are with those brave Christchurch moteliers that are battling-on with their businesses in an extreme environment.

Christchurch moteliers have prioritised cleaning-up the front-of-house in order to continue trade, while disorder reigns in their own homes. While most businesses remain deserted,  moteliers carry-on doing what comes naturally; hosting guests while offering support and empathy.

There are challenges of operating a motel with no water, some still have no electricity and provisions are now difficult to obtain, however moteliers are continuing to host guests to the best of their ability. 

There is the added stress to endure of managing the changing landscape of their booking sheets with future reservations made before the earthquake now vague promises that need to be reassessed.

While there is a calm professionalism in dealing with guests front-of-house, we can appreciate that behind the scenes away from the public gaze, moteliers are trying to restore order in their own homes, comfort family and minimise their own personal trauma.

Our thoughts are with you...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Motel Pranks

Here's a heads-up for accommodation providers that should insist that telephone callers wishing to be connected to a room number be asked to identify the occupants by name before transferring the call.

Motels and their guests can be the unfortunate victims of pranks from time to time and the consequences can be extreme. 

We have posted before about a pranks at motels that are reported from time to time, particularly in the United States. The MO of the prank is simple. A prankster telephones a motel and asks to speak to a guest by a random room number and after being connected, the mayhem begins...

Once a mischievous caller is connected to an unsuspecting motel guest, a popular prank is claiming that there is a gas leak and instructs that the windows be smashed immediately. 

Another variant involves the prankster instructing a guest to smash through a wall in their guest room to free a small person trapped next door.

Other reported cases involve a caller urging a guest to trip the motel sprinkler system that causes thousands of dollars worth of damage. One random call convinced one hotel guest to drive a truck through a hotel lobby in order to turn off a fire alarm. 

An epic-prank that is probably the most outrageous, convinced a guest staying at a Motel 6 in Texas to ingest his own urine and stool samples in order to avoid contracting the H1N1 flu virus. 

On the face of it, the chances of a stranger convincing random motel guests to perform ridiculous and outrageous acts would appear to be fairly slim. However as most moteliers can probably attest to; the public ain't getting any smarter.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Got Your Tickets Yet?"

Titewhai Harawira: RWC a chance to protest treatment of Maori

The 2011 Dirtiest Hotels

The Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels that are based on TripAdvisor traveller reviews is perhaps the most widely distributed and eagerly awaited accommodation survey. 
The hunger of a voyeuristic public gives TripAdvisor some excellent brand exposure, however not everyone is happy about TripAdvisor using its extensive database to expose unsavory accommodation. UK company KwikChex that offers businesses online reputation management tools have been making noises about legal action against TripAdvisor on behalf of its hundreds of hotel clients for some time.
KwikChex's main beef seems to be with negative customer reviews appearing on TripAdvisor that are claimed to be untrue, damaging or legally unsubstantiated however they are also not happy with the annual Dirtiest Hotels survey. 
It is difficult to evaluate if KwikChex have a legal case or have the necessary resources to take on Expedia owned TripAdvisor. It has to be kept in mind that KwikChex by going public with an elongated threat of litigation is gaining valuable publicity with a sympathetic group of accommodation providers and are highlighting their own services.
Overall we reckon that the exposure to the light of less-than-satisfactory accommodation options takes away the mystery and in fact exposes that the majority of accommodation providers offer enriching experiences for the travelling public.
Sometimes you need to expose the extremes in order to appreciate the overwhelming positives. And besides, all accommodation options that gained all top 10 positions in this survey are a world away from the array of fantastic accommodation options available in Kiwiland. 
To maximise exposure, this year, TripAdvisor have ranked lists of the top-10 dirtiest hotels according to region:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Napier Motels Targeted

Unfortunately I missed the hidden camera segment on TV3's entertainment/consumer program, Target that aired earlier this week featuring Napier motels.

I usually find Target excruciatingly brain-dead and boring. It's one of many formula reality TV programs, dumbed down into easy digestible chunks so as not to be too taxing on the "average" viewer. The motel industry is one of Target's perennial favorite haunts and I only endure these regular segments due to my motel industry fetish.

To view this week's episode: Click HERE 

In this week's episode, the usual MO ensued with Target wielding a covert camera checking-in to four separate motels and evaluating;  guest facilities, room amenities/condition, fire evacuation signs, smoke detectors, room keys and window latches before unleashing the much anticipated shock horror part of the show that involves identifying nasty bacteria with swabs and the obligatory black light. 

We see that Napier Motel Association President Tim Stephens issued a timely press release that has attempted to put a positive spin on Napier motels starring on Target. Usually any protest attempt would get little public sympathy and would be counterproductive however the press release seems to have been a positive therapeutic exercise for Napier's moteliers without causing further collateral damage.

This ambush, reality TV style can be most upsetting to moteliers. Although we could question some of Target's methods, there is simply no defence for finding less than high cleaning standards in the motels that are featured.

Overall the Napier motels featured fared reasonably well, however shows like Target will never promote the motel industry and it is unfortunate that long-lasting niggling doubts of the general motel product will be embedded with some consumers.

So what was the biggest misdemeanor that was uncovered in a motel? 

I am a fan of silly signs in motels and took special note of the following tacky sign that made an appearance on Target. We are sorry to say that similar signs make a regular appearance in motels, often affixed with blue-tack. This Napier property's sign does get some bonus points for font selection and use of lamination, however we believe that this is one of many signs that menopausal moteliers should desist from using immediately! 

Napier moteliers can now rest easy, unlike the rest of the motel fraternity throughout the country that are dreading the day when Target decides to visit their region and books-in for the night;-)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Motel Gold!

Heard an interesting story today....A motelier was recently shooting the breeze with one of his worldly jet-setting guests and the conversation turned to motorcycles. The guest mentioned that he owned a couple of Honda Gold Wing motorcycles and the friendly motelier responded that he was a huge fan of those gaudy "bigger-is-better" American built motorcycles and had always dreamed of owning one.

Through our extensive network we have heard that a gobsmacked motelier has today received a special gift that was mysteriously left on his motel driveway - One bright red 6-cylinder, 1500cc Honda Gold Wing accompanied with signed change of ownership papers.

The motelier is reported to be ecstatic with his new prize parked outside his motel reception (below)... his wife was unable to be reached for comment!

Motels feeling the pinch?

The article in the Herald on Sunday "Motels feel pinch" was a lightweight ring-around of various moteliers following November's stats that revealed a continuing decline in guest nights compared to the hotel sector. 

While there are many good examples of strong motel businesses that are well positioned, have reinvested and are well run; as a collective we're not doing so good. It's beyond question that there has been a short term blip in consumer demand for motels and guests seem to looking elsewhere. 

The Herald on Sunday article faithfully reported a clutch of reasons as to why the motel sector appears to be losing market share that included discounting from other accommodation sectors, competition from holiday home sites such as and the perennial issue of commercial versus non-commercial rated accommodation.

One property owner seemed to believe that a long term downturn in trade was inevitable and extolled the lifestyle benefits of the motel sector. 

The Motel Association was quick to blame those devious accommodation players in the market place that operate accommodation businesses from residential rated properties. We agree that this is an anomaly, however this is a separate issue that requires joining the chorus of valid business groups that advocate a rating system that is applied according to use rather than perceived ability to pay. This includes the gradual removal of differentials applied between residential and commercial property...

Getting back on track, Jasons CEO Matthew Mayne said that "hotels could not compete with the owner-operator service that motels provided, but getting customers through the door was the trick." And that's the rub. We reckon that the motel product is still a fantastic and relevant product. Motels are easily accessible, their hosts go that little bit further with friendly personalised service, motels offer tremendous value and you can park right outside! The flat management structure of a motivated Ma and Pa that are running a business (and not there for the "lifestyle") should be unbeatable.

We respect that it is difficult to communicate with the MSM, so why is the motel sector really losing market share?

The reasons are numerous, however we reckon that they can be capsulated under two main headings that require urgent attention:
The quality of the motel product and the acumen of its operators.
So instead of witch-hunting other accommodation sectors and blaming others, maybe the motel sector should be looking closely in the mirror where the solution to their collective woes will be reflected back at them.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Atlas Shrugged - The Trailer

After many years of being shunned from left-wing Hollywood producers, Atlas Shrugged is to be finally made into a movie with part one of a trilogy due for a cinema release on 15 April 2011 (American Tax day!).

This morning was the first release of the movie trailer and after watching it I'm still nervous as to the likelyhood of the film doing the book justice.

Is still possible that against all-odds this independent low-budget movie will become a worthy cinematic mainstream success? 

What is more important is the much needed debate that this movie has the potential to create. Pinkos will hate and despise the movie and hopefully the noise they will generate will be a major force in promoting its manta to the masses.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hotel Sector Continues To Dominate

The latest accommodation survey results for December 2010 were released yesterday by Statistics New Zealand and further underlines a worrying trend for the motel industry. 

While total guest nights in December 2010 decreased by 2.4 percent compared with December 2009, it is noted that the hotel sector still managed a gain in guest nights for the 13th consecutive month (see below). 

In the battle of the two islands, the North Island recorded a 1.1 percent decrease in guest nights while the South Island achieved a 4 percent decrease in December 2010 compared to December 2009. 

Ten out of the 12 regions had fewer guest nights in December 2010 than in December 2009. 

The only regions recording increases were:
  • Auckland, up 5.0 percent
  • Wellington, up 3.4 percent.
The regions recording the largest decreases were:
  • Bay of Plenty, down 27,000 (7.8 percent)
  • Canterbury, down 18,000 (3.5 percent) 
  • West Coast, down 15,000 (11.1 percent).
Interestingly the Canterbury earthquake and subsequent aftershocks have been blamed for all South Island regions recording guest night decreases in December. The decrease in the South Island accounted for three-quarters of the national decrease in guest nights.

International visitor guest nights across New Zealand in December 2010 decreased by 5.6 percent compared with December 2009. While overseas arrivals actually increased in December the disappointing decrease in guest nights were due to shorter stays.

It was good to see another rise (if only modest) increase of 0.3 percent in domestic guest nights for December 2010 compared with December 2009. 

The hotel sector's stellar performance continues with an increase of 2.9 percent increase in guest nights in December 2010 compared to December 2009. 

All other accommodation types in the survey recorded decreases in December 2010:
  • Motels, down 4.8 percent
  • Holiday parks, down 4.9 percent 
  • Backpackers, down 3.4 percent.
Hotels achieved the highest occupancy rate (54.1 percent) of all the accommodation types in December 2010, followed by backpackers (46.5 percent) and motels (46.3 percent).

While there are pockets of strong motel businesses, the worrying trend of the motel sector bleeding market share continues. 

We are extremely nervous about what guest night results will be released for January. This a critical month where the majority of accommodation operators fill their tanks and set themselves up for the year ahead. Unfortunately we sense that our fickle domestic market were spooked over the January school holiday period with many putting-off their usual travel plans.

Another campaign is needed to encourage Kiwis to hit the road again and in particular not to defer domestic travel - particularly over the Rugby world Cup!

What Airline Has The Hottest Flight Attendants?

In spite of majority government ownership, we like the fact that Air New Zealand punches well above its weight on the world stage by regularly winning international accolades.

We have noted that "our" airline's standards have slipped in one particular area. Air New Zealand seems to have adopted a Sue Bradford syndrome and is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to hot cabin crew.

Regretfully, we see that Air New Zealand has been unable to make the top 10 in a new survey that has ranked the most attractive cabin crew. 

The winner with the most attractive cabin crew were Virgin Atlantic that seem to understand that travel should be sexy and fun. 

The Top 10:

1. Virgin Atlantic
2. Singapore Airlines
3. Etihad
4. Emirates
5. Aer Lingus
6. Lufthansa
7. Cathay Pacific
8. TAP
9. KLM
10. Iberia

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Charlie Sheen's iPad

We are fans of Charlie Sheen's method acting technique that ensures that his character on Two and a Half Men is believable. In fact, Sheen never seems to venture out of character with his real-life drinking, womanising and hell-raising.

Sheen is a loyal supporter of the accommodation industry as his off-screen career enhancing activities usually take place in a hotel.

Sheen's recent widely reported shenanigans took place at the the Plaza Hotel in New York where accompanied with a budding young porn actress, he proceeded to get drunk, high on cocaine and naked before trashing the room.

So why did Sheen choose the swanky 5-star Plaza Hotel above all others?

We reckon that the Plaza Hotel appealed to Sheen because every room has its own networked iPad!

Every iPad is installed with the Plaza Hotel custom app that allows guests to control lights in the room, change their heat and air conditioning systems, order room service, make restaurant reservations, request wake up calls, communicate with the concierge, and even print boarding passes.

From what we can gather from their website, a basic room at the Plaza Hotel is US$600 per night, however if you wish to surf the net on your in-room iPad you will be charged US$15 a day for internet (wired or wireless). 

What is unclear is if the iPads are complimentary -  like the soaps, shampoo and coffee sachets? 

So is it a coincidence that Charlie Sheen and his "Two and a Half Men" co-stars reportedly handed every crewmember an Apple iPad for Christmas last year? We wonder if each iPad had installed the Plaza Hotel custom app?

Intelity's ICE Touch Premiers at The Plaza Hotel from Intelity on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dave's Farewell

Sorta makes you stop and pause when you send off someone that's younger than you are...

The Shaving Helmet

Being follically challenged I have resisted the traditional comb-over and  have gone for the no-nonsense Kojak look. 

I've got the shower routine down to a fine art, however a shaving helmet that takes less than 30 seconds to return me to a smooth finish each morning would be very handy!

Is this Real or Fake?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Travelocity Mix-up Makes Campbell Live

We see the story of the Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments in Queenstown that were disadvantaged by unfortunate guest review mix-ups has made Campbell Live this evening.

The hotel has previously claimed to have lost "almost $245,000 over two years" after negative reviews were posted on the Travelocity website about a budget motel in Texas that were incorrectly linked to the Rees Hotel.  

Hopefully the hotel will be making up lost ground with the positive publicity appearing in the MSM.

TOUGH TIMES: the plight of small business

While the motel industry seems to cuddle-up to a centralist tourism industry, we have always believed that we have more in common with the hospitality industry.

It seems appropriate that day after John Key announced that the minimum wage of $12.75 will be increased to $13.00, Dr Muriel Newman's New Zealand Centre for Political Research weekly newsletter has included an article: TOUGH TIMES: the plight of small business.

While the content of the article is hardly inspiring, the issues faced by hospo owner/operator "Michael" will resonate with a few of our motelier readers that I have been talking to recently:

Michael has been in the hospitality industry for 30 years. He’s a good operator. The awards displayed on his wall prove it.

It was three years ago that he bought his current establishment. That was before the recession hit. In each of the last two years his turnover has dropped by about 10 percent. The prospects for the year ahead are not encouraging.

The plan was that after three years he’d be sitting pretty with an increased turnover and a better bottom line with which to pay off the debt that funded the purchase. The business was his retirement savings plan.

The reality Michael faces today is not what he had planned. He’s now working more than 60 hours a week. The business is struggling and unlikely to return a profit this year. Debt has increased. Michael worries the bank manager will pull the plug after the annual visit which is scheduled for April. He is not able to sleep properly and his health is suffering.

The recession has certainly hit the hospitality industry hard. But that’s not the full story. Wage costs have increased and although Michael has reduced staff numbers, he can’t cut back anymore. Nor can he work any more hours in the day. He hasn’t had a holiday since he bought the business and he won’t get one this year either even though he needs one now more than ever.

Since Michael bought the business, the hourly wage rate has gone up, employer contributions to KiwiSaver have kicked in, and now he now has to provide his staff with an extra week’s holiday a year. These costs have hit the business hard, and the irony is that while the staff get an extra week of paid holiday, he can’t afford a holiday at all.

Michael used to hire young people on the youth wage for some of the basic jobs like dishes and cleaning. He liked giving youngsters without too many skills a start on the employment ladder. However, once the youth rate was scrapped and they had to be paid adult wages, he had to let them go. The jobs were not worth the higher wage costs, especially when young people need more supervision   

Michael’s overheads are mostly made up of rent, rates, power, fuel, advertising, administration and compliance expenses. When he bought the business these costs represented 20 percent of his turnover. He’s reviewed the costs many times – more so in recent months – as he’s been searching for ways to make ends meet. But he can’t cut his overheads any more and has been struggling to contain them in the face of higher power, fuel and freight costs, caused by the introduction on 1 July of the Emissions Trading Scheme. Add to this, increases in ACC, as well as the time and cost of inspections from bureaucrats protecting the public interest - at his expense!

Michael’s rental agreement contains a ratchet clause so although his turnover has fallen, the best he can hope for when the rent is reviewed this year is that it stays the same. In spite of reducing discretionary spending like advertising and deferring maintenance he can’t find any more ways to cut costs.

It’s not only central government that must bear some responsibility for the plight of small businesses like Michael’s. Local government is also responsible. Michael, of course, must pay the rates on his landlord’s property so it’s Michael who bears the costs of the rate increases - which for Super City operators will be around 4.9% this year. To make matters worse he’s had to battle with the local council over his operating hours, setting him back more than $10,000; that’s $10,000 he didn’t have.

The bottom line is that there is nothing left on the bottom line. He’s working more hours than ever in the business but this year he’s not likely to make anything from it.

2011 has started as badly as 2010 was. If it remains that way, Michael will have to close his doors - for the first time in 30 years.

Unfortunately Michael’s story is unfolding all around New Zealand. Paul Holmes described it well in an article in the Herald last August when he said, “The economy is tanking. Let us push away all the pink fluff and the political talk and the fine words and face it. The economy is heading south very deeply and very sharply. It is happening now. What we all dreaded is happening. What makes it a really lonely feeling is that we all know - those of us who watch these things and have been round for awhile - that neither the politicians nor their officials have an idea in hell about what to do.”

New Zealand is a nation of small business, and the reality is that for every tragic business story there is a tragic human story. Last week’s Household Labour Force Survey shows that unemployment has jumped over the last three months from 6.4 percent to 6.8 percent with 158,000 New Zealanders now out of work. In addition, Statistics New Zealand’s latest figures show more Kiwis are trying their luck across the Tasman with the long term outflow to Australia increasing from 18,512 in 2009 to 21,856 last year.

But hidden in the statistics is another story – youth unemployment. Over the last three months the number of 15 to 19 year olds who are out of work has increased by 6,000 to 25.5 percent. Having one in four of our young people out of work is bad enough, but it’s worse when you know that government policy is largely to blame.

Before 1994, there was no minimum wage for those under the age of 20, just as there is currently no minimum wage for those under the age of 16. However, regulations were gradually introduced until the youth rate for young people aged 16 and 17 was pegged at 80 percent of the adult rate. That is until Green MP Sue Bradford’s private member’s bill abolished youth rates altogether in 2008. Currently that means that it is illegal to hire a young person for anything less than $12.75 an hour, or $510 a week. In other words, unless a young person has a productive value of at least $510 a week, they are a cost to the employer. The result, predictably, is that fewer youth are employed. They end up on the dole, doing nothing, receiving $160.

Economist Dr Eric Crampton from the University of Canterbury has studied the effects of public policy on youth unemployment and found:

“Starting mid-2008, youth unemployment rates began skyrocketing relative to the adult unemployment rate. We were in the midst of a pretty serious global recession. But relative to the adult unemployment rate the youth unemployment rate jumped far more than it had in prior recessions.

The graph
above shows that relationship. If the adult unemployment rate perfectly predicted the youth unemployment rate, the blue line would be flat at zero.  When it’s below zero, the youth unemployment rate is less than we might have thought given the adult rate; when it’s above, the youth unemployment rate is worse than expected. By December quarter 2009, the youth unemployment rate was more than seven percentage points higher than would have been expected given the previous relationship between adult and youth unemployment rates. That’s around 12,000 kids out of work who wouldn’t have been had the youth unemployment rate followed the same trend relative to the adult rate that it had in prior recessions. As of September quarter 2010, the excess residual of just under six percentage points suggests about 8,500 youths who would otherwise have had jobs.” To read Dr Crampton’s full article click the sidebar link>>>

In other words the abolition of the youth wage has been responsible for youth unemployment skyrocketing. Despite this, and despite the government knowing this, National has opted to leave Sue Bradford’s socialist law in place and leave our kids on welfare.

While the National Government has improved the business environment through a lower company tax rate and a 90 day grievance-free trial period, much more could be done - and should be done in these tough times. Government should give priority to fostering the growth of small business by cutting red tape (particularly reforming local councils to make them enabling instead of disabling!), reducing company tax rates further to give local businesses a stronger competitive advantage (Canada has done this by cutting company tax to 16.5 percent, to match the rates in the economic powerhouses of Hong Kong and Singapore), freeing up the employment market (reintroducing youth rates would be a good start!), and essentially leaving small business alone so they can get on and create jobs and wealth for the nation!

Unfortunately while governments have a propensity to keep passing costs onto small business - treating them as the paymaster for their social programmes – they should be taking a more principled approach. Small businesses are not a soft touch; they simply do not have an unlimited capacity to absorb endless costs imposed by central government. If the government keeps putting on yet more and more pressure, they will simply drive more and more small businesses, like Michael’s, to the wall.

Labour’s plan to “Mondayise” Waitangi Day and Anzac Day is a case in point. If this goes ahead, they would no doubt expect employers to pick up the cost. If a government wants to give workers another holiday, then it is they, not employers who should pick up the tab.

What businesses want from the government is a regulatory environment that fosters wealth creation, by encouraging enterprise and initiative. But most of all, small business wants government and bureaucrats to get out of the way. If we don’t treat small business right, they won’t hire people. If we continue to treat them badly they will either shut up shop or join the increasing numbers of Kiwis heading across the Tasman to what many believe is a more benign business environment.

Source: Click HERE

Monday, February 7, 2011

HomeAway's New Anti Motel/Hotel Campaign

HomeAway is an OTA that claims to have the world’s largest collection of vacation rental homes with more than 540,000 paid listings across 120 countries.

HomeAway's aggressive marketing stance is based on the notion that the public should forget about those pesky hotels and motels and rent private homes instead. They are putting their money where their mouth is and are spending millions to spread the word by trashing conventional commercial accommodation!

Last year's Super Bowl was used as the launching pad for HomeAway's multi-media advertising campaign, “Hotel Hell Vacation.” Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and the Family Truckster made a return from the gaudy 1980s Griswold's Family Vacation movies with an 14-minute mini-movie to promote HomeAway.

Meanwhile Kiwis are leading the worldwide trend of booking private homes for holidays. Websites such as the AA's Bookabach and TradeMe's Holiday Houses are attracting increased traffic on the web from Kiwis browsing for alternative accommodation options. And punters are spoiled for choice with an over abundance of Ma and Pa owners of domestic accommodation that crave to get some short-term rental action.

The market of available short term rentals is surprisingly huge with Bookabach claiming to have over 5,300 listings and Holiday Houses over 7,500. Not only are these fee collecting websites very successful, they are also providing a happy hunting ground for the IRD;-)

Although guest nights for short term rentals of private homes are not recorded on the Statistics NZ's official accommodation survey, we reckon that holiday rentals while operating below the radar are New Zealand's fastest growing accommodation sector. 

With an apparent squeeze on the domestic leisure market at the moment, motels and hotels especially must be wary of competing with a Johnny-come-lately accommodation sector. 

We see that HomeAway have again used the Super Bowl to introduce a new campaign assault. This week, HomeAway introduced the world to The Minister of Detourism that has been given the task of "saving vacations":
"Families are being swindled. 
Because hotels hate your guts! 
Rent a vacation home from Space...privacy...freedom.
Why hotel when you can HomeAway?!" 
We wonder how mainstream accommodation sectors may wish to respond?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Motella's Hospo Experience

One of my better accomplishments in recent memory was enticing Mrs Motella and the family along to Hooters for an educational evening.

As expected the food was absolute shite, however overall the Hooters brand experience was very slick and extremely well done.

When we arrived the place was packed and we were told that there would be an half an hour wait. Like a lot of American diners there was no waiting room inside (this was chock-full of income generating table space) so with a few other hopefuls we patiently waited outside. Our lovely waitress keep us posted during our wait and true to the Disney experience of always overstating the wait time we were seated within 15 minutes.

How Hooters manages to find a restaurant full of fit waitress staff in the land of the bulge is beyond me. They were all from the same mold - incredibly gorgeous, well spoken and very intelligent. The script during the evening was very professional and impeccably delivered. Impromptu song, dance and friendly banter with customers kept everyone entertained.

At the end of the evening we were escorted from our table to the cash register and along the way, our waitress managed to up-sell us a t-shirt and even signed a calendar for us. Wham-bam thank you ma'am the experience probably only lasted 90 minutes and our table was turned over before we even left.

The pinnacle of American capitalism almost brought tears to my eyes... 

So...the question I'm asking myself now is: How can I wrangle a family holiday over to the Maldives ??

Moteliers Wanting More?

It is always disappointing for motel owners when events clash. We feel the pain of the cruel irony of having empty rooms one week followed by the next week being unable to satisfy over-demand due to overlapping events.

We were interested to read the reaction and dismay of moteliers in Whangarei that are being stretched by hosting two major sporting events next week.

We see that Whangarei moteliers have taken a knee-jerk stance and have suggested that their council "take a more active role" and there is a suggestion that an events coordinator should be employed.

We are aware that many organisers of events operate in isolation and circle future dates that have significance to their particular event with little thought of accommodation demands. They tend to place an over importance on their particular activity and discount other groups that may also have events planned at the same time. Luckily other organisers go out of their way to consider the availability of accommodation. However, this can be difficult when events are planned many years in advance and usually exclusively occur during the warmer months where there is a tight window of available dates to maneuver.

Would an Events coordinator make a difference? We doubt it!

 We wonder how much public money would moteliers be comfortable their council spending on the creation of an events coordinator position? Would an events coordinator be an appropriate public investment? 

If clusters of private businesses wish to appear credible, we reckon that they should be consistent in calling for councils to restrict activities to core services, restrain expenditure and effectively identify actual use of public goods and services by property owners.

Advocating more council involvement along with an apparent self-serving publicly funded events coordinator does not seem to fit this ethic.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Our Sashaying PM

Our lazy blogging continues with Whaleoil's perfect blend of an hilarious 90's music video spoofing the fashion industry and our flamboyant PM sashaying his way down a catwalk - very funny!

Why Tangi Day?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Downloading Hotel Porn

We say good on Labour MP Shane Jones for his elevation in "Fail Goof's" new shadow cabinet. We appreciated that Shane "Tugger" Jones valiantly assisted the economic fortunes of the accommodation industry last year by "single-handedly" availing himself of hotel extras.

However this year, we expect that Jones will be ripping up his Marriott Hotel loyalty card after the hotel chain recently announced that they will be stripping skin flicks from guest room TV screens.

Marriott is the largest U.S. hotel chain will no longer offer in-room adult movies. In a statement, Marriott took a paternal approach to porn:
"It is our practice to keep adult content out of the reach of children and unavailable to any adult who chooses not to view it.”
The accommodation industry's dirty little secret is that most major hotels offer adult pay movies. Why do they do this? Simply, because their guests demand it AND it supposedly generates huge profits! It has been reported that up to 50% of the hotel guests purchase the material and it is estimated that between 70 -80% of the hotel's in-room profit come from adult movie viewing.

However guest demand is rapidly changing as the source of porn transfers from the hotel in-room movie screen to guests' personal laptops.

Although Marriott appears to be taking taking the high moral ground it has been suggested that they wouldn't have pulled porn if hotel pay-per-view content consumption wasn't declining. If they were serious about promoting their own brand of wholesome christian family values they would have introduced a McDonalds style porn-blocking software across their hotel guest Wi-Fi networks - we don't see them doing this anytime soon!

With MP's expenses now more transparent it will be interesting to see how many GBs of data Shane Jones will be routinely purchasing from accommodation providers to feed his unfortunate habit;-)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A morning visit to the bank

With most motel guests preferring to pay me electronically, inane trips to the bank are thankfully becoming more irregular.

Unfortunately a visit to the bank was necessary this morning to get rid of a few cheques and cash that some of my less enlightened guests had insisted on giving me this week.

As I entered the bank I was surprised how busy it was and took a slalom course around various disheveled bodies towards the sole business teller at the far end of the bank. I walked past an unwashed, tattooed rabble forming a rag-tag line that went almost to the door. They were waiting with blank stares for a busy team of  personal banking tellers to serve them.

I always feel awkward going to the segregated business teller and this morning dozens of eyes that were stuck in a crowded slow moving line seemed to stare enviously at me as I waited patiently behind only one other person.

As I waited, I observed that the routine performed by the numerous personal banking tellers was the same. The customer clutching a withdrawal form swaggered forward when their turn came and grunted at the teller in pigeon English for their balance. When this was revealed, an amount was then able to be scrawled onto a withdrawal form and shoved at the teller. A wad of cash was handed over in return.

It occurred me that the person in front of me at the business section was the only other person in the bank making a deposit while the remaining shabby tattooed mob of what Michael Laws would uncharitably describe as ferals were all making withdrawals.

I naively wondered who was paying for the rapid extraction of cash that was being efficiently performed...... and then it struck me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where is Pearl Going?

Remember Pearl Going?

Her full name is Sian-Pearl Going and is a 20-something fit blond with piercing blue eyes, sometime model, socialite that has dabbled in the fashion industry and has been described as someone that tends to overstate the truth... 

Pearl recently appeared in Dunedin claiming that she is a travel writer and had planned to make the most of southern tourism hospitality until she was sent packing when it was discovered that her guise of a credible travel writer didn't quite ring true.

The bizarre story has been retold in detail by the popular Whaleoil Blog and now we see that Pearl's antics have raised the heckles of successful travel and lifestyle journalist, Rachael Oakes-Ash that not surprisingly gets a little bitchy about pretenders in her industry.

Rachel wrote on her blog her version of the latest Pearl Going saga that included some helpful advice for tourism folk that host travel writers:
Tourism operators beware, just because someone has a blog and a digital camera doesn’t mean they’re a journo as one New Zealand tourism operator found out last week. 
We note that Rachel's well written blog post was also published as an article in the lofty Hotel and Accommodation Management website under the dramatic tile: New Zealand Hotels: beware of bogus travel writer 'Sian Pearl Going' 

Unfortunately we note that the article didn't last there long and has been taken down. Luckily Google has kindly left us a digital footprint: 

So why was the article removed by Hotel and Accommodation Management?

Were they threatened by Pearl Going's lawyers or was it taken down by management after it was discovered that the contents of the article were a little bit too racy and didn't quite fit the usual cut and paste tosh that is typical of form-written trade media?

I guess like the mystery that is Pearl Going, we may never know...

Streaming Cyclone Yasi LIVE via Social Media

LIVE webcam of the approaching Cyclone Yasi due to strike north of Townsville in North Queensland, Australia. 

This webcam is situated in central T1 Apartments in the CBD of Townsville.

Streaming live video by Ustream

Live Cyclone Yasi broadcast from suburban house in Edge Hill Cairns:
Watch live video from Cyclone Yasi - #bigyasi on twitter on

Is Air New Zealand's Koru on notice?

We are a fan of Air New Zealand's pimped new ride, however we wonder if the introduction of a one-off new livery will open the door to a debate on refreshing the dated koru as a dominant feature on future aircraft.

Via Twitter, Air New Zealand has pointed to a Twtpoll where you can enter your valued opinion and see the results live below:

Apparently, John Key likes Liz Hurley

Much to the disdain of Green MP Sue Kedgley, we learn that John Key likes Liz Hurley and reckons she is hot.

Not too sure what Kedgley is so upset about, as we think Key may have a point:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Air New Zealand's New A320 All Black Plane Touches Down In Auckland

There's nothing like...being a good sport

According to to Keeping Stock, it was 30 years ago to the day...

Hotel star rating system to be scrapped

We were interested to read that the British government looks likely to scrap their national hotel star rating system.  

British tourism minister, John Penrose has said: 
 "Travel websites, like TripAdvisor, could provide a more efficient service if this star rating system was done away with. People in the industry want people to use those kinds of websites more frequently. It is actually rather bizarre that the government is involved in rating hotels. Its odd, because there is no government rating scheme for things like cars or cornflakes, so why hotels?"
We find Penrose's rationale difficult to argue with and we suspect that the New Zealand government is thinking along the same lines.

In a review review of the New Zealand government’s tourism sector agencies in the middle of last year, we were pleased to see the report challenge the appropriateness of the government's 60 percent ownership and ongoing funding of tourism quality rating agency, Qualmark NZ Ltd.

The review supported Qualmark's development of a 2-3 year plan for achieving financial sustainability and suggested that a sell-off be considered when this has been achieved.

In response, Qualmark announced Major Changes in their Business, late last year. From this announcement, we can see substantial cuts in costs, however services will be reduced, sectors will cross-subsidise fees, new fees will be gradually introduced for the enviro-awards  and there is no obvious plan to grow or maintain the market. We also sense the Qualmark have an entrenched desire to police instead of getting to understand the physiology of their client base and connecting with them.

We suggest that the inevitable is not put off any further and planning should be commenced with urgency to cut this organisation loose.

As an indication of ongoing government financial support required to keep Qualmark afloat, taxpayers subsidsed $1.1 million in each of the years ending June 2008 and 2009 - we don't see this trend changing. The review recommended to consider selling Qualmark to either the private sector or the Tourism Industry Association. We reckon that a sale should be carried through and timed soon after the Nats return to office towards the end of this year.

While it will be sad to see Qualmark disbanded in its current form, time has moved on and customer review based systems are destined to be increasingly more relevant as a means for the travelling public to compare options and for accommodation providers to benchmark their performance in real-time.

It’s clear that consumer habits are changing and it's somewhat ironic that the AA with a 40 percent shareholding in Qualmark have recognised this by embarking upon their own traveller review program. 

Are accommodation providers willing to be weaned off a subsidised centralist quality control organisation and are they ready to embrace a quality system based on online guest reviews? 

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