Saturday, December 24, 2011

Seasons greetings to one and all!

Motella HQ's secret lair now has an eerie silence.

Chairs are stacked on desks, piles of paper, files, empty bottles, takeaway containers and chip packets have been cleared away. We are about to lock-up and turn off the lights for a while while we concentrate on the day-job that's about to get chaotic.

If you get bored or require some guidance, there's 1,400 historical posts to read in the "Blog Archive" section.

May you all have a profitable and joyous Christmas and New Year!

Motella 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 relaxing Christmas routine 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 Christmas 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!

The Great Kiwi Pioneering Spirit


Suddenly it dawned on them that they should've booked-in to that motel...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Anticipating the year ahead

Unlike some people, we're looking forward to 2012!

The Motella 2012 Predictions

As we look forward to leaving 2011 behind us, we can now focus on the likely predictions relating to the motel industry for next year. Right off the bat we can confidently say that in 2012, trade will continue to be challenging.

With the majority of accommodation businesses unable to fill-their-tanks over the RWC, there is a real risk that many will sink into the depths of winter-blues mid 2012. "Just one-more hard winter" may yet again be the catch cry for next year as accommodation providers tough it out in time for an improving economy over the summer season late next year.

Motels that are well located, have reinvested, offer a good quality product and friendly, professional service will always do well - others next year may continue to struggle. 

We can be thankful that New Zealand is in a relatively fortunate position and it will never be as bad as the naysayers' predict.

Here's our top 15 predictions for 2012:

  1. Some Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) will go bust. OTAs have had a period of upheaval and consolidation over the last few years. While online sales will continue to rise, the phenomenal growth experienced as customers gravitated en-mass to online channels is now behind us. Some OTAs may experience growth by continued acquisition, but not at the rate of previous years. Large Northern Hemisphere OTAs are playing the long game and investing unsustainable resource to gain market share. There will be some smaller operations (and a few larger ones) that will be unable to sustain the pace and will not last the distance next year.
  2. The Google factor. Google's master plan for world domination of the travel industry appear to be under wraps for now. As the majority of travel decisions are filtered through their search engine, Google have the power to influence consumer behavior and dominate the travel industry. How Google will skirt around anti-trust laws and maximise this influence in 2012 remains to be seen. Google is unlikely to involve itself directly with the travelling public, instead they will cash-in on numerous levels of search advertising and developing/licensing further platforms such as Hotel Finder.
  3. OTAs will attempt to raise commission rates. OTAs are experiencing a declining growth in demand along with increased competition. Fickle consumer behavior is necessitating an increase in the ratio of staffing levels per transaction. For OTAs to remain visible, increasing investment in marketing is required (Google is the big winner here) and the cost of new and improved technology is increasing. While traditional agents operating from bricks and mortar on highstreets have been able to maintain commission levels for many years, there seems to be an irony that web based agencies may not be able to sustain the same levels.
  4. Some airlines will go bust. The profitability of many airlines have always been volatile and further offshore based casualties may cause ripples in New Zealand.
  5. Quality will overtake Environmentalism. Accommodation providers will give green-initiatives less priority in 2012 as the focus is diverted to the necessity of investing in quality. The consumer is increasingly looking for value, but does not want to compromise on quality. After experiencing difficult economic times, eco-guilt is fading. The consumer has a sense of quality entitlement and is starting to resent miserly accommodation eco-practices dressed-up as saving the planet. Accommodation providers will be responding to customer demands by delivering tangible quality customer experiences. In 2012, economic sustainability will replace grandstanding green-wash  
  6. 100% Pure. Tourism New Zealand will continue to edge the 100% Pure slogan away from a perceived environmental reference to a focus more on the visitor experience. The new aspirational moniker "100% Pure You" has been introduced this year and there will be continued subtle development in a move away from a reliance on marketing natural landscapes.
  7. Qualmark NZ Ltd. Expect some fireworks as Qualmark impose their newly signed-off quality assessment criteria for motels and commences its new regime of inspection by surprise. The motel sector having dragged-on the review process of its assessment criteria longer than any other sector will get a reality-check in 2012 when the new criteria is applied. In line with ever-changing customer expectations, some star ratings will need to fall and those motels that relied upon the previously embedded Enviro-award to boost their star ratings will get a double-whammy.
  8. Domestic travel People will still travel in 2012. There will be a modest growth in commercial travel in 2012, as most companies realise that they must continue putting reps on the road to maintain sales. Leisure trade will continue to be challenging as customers are distracted with the perception of "cheap" overseas travel and any must-have consumer-item with a screen on it.
  9. Local Government. Moteliers that have faced the brunt of local rate increases will be disappointed with the lack of action after this year's review on the performance of local government. The rationalisation of council operations and the introduction of private enterprise is unlikely to occur in 2012. Expect further council blow-outs next year exasperated by localised RWC expenditure.
  10. Bed Tax. This bogey will not die - be vigilant that this still may be raised from "left field" in 2012.
  11. Will 2012 be the year of the mobile channel? Maybe - The hype will reach fever pitch as new players line up to offer accommodation providers with directory-style listings. Accommodation providers will also need to consider investment in their existing websites to convert them into mobile capable sites. 
  12. The rise of the "Apartment" sector This year, the motel sector by allowing jealousy, ego and insecurity to rule, have cut loose the apartment sector. The motel industry have let the genie out of the bottle and have enabled a small independent new accommodation sector to be formed. Watch this small but perfectly formed sector establish itself and grow in 2012 and present a new appealing accommodation option to the public.  
  13. The rise of the "Holiday Home" sector TradeMe's Holidayhouses and AA's Bookabach remain popular travel websites as a flood of privateer homeowners remain willing to expose themselves to the short term accommodation market. The web stats suggest that a vast number of Kiwis planning a trip seem to be at least willing to have a voyeuristic look at the emerging holiday home sector while considering accommodation options.
  14. Last minute travel. The last minute model of selling inventory online will continue in 2012 with the average booking lead-in time reducing further. The introduction of copycat mobile apps like Get a Room that only offer rooms after midday on the day will encourage this trend.
  15. The rise of Social Media? Social Media will continue to rise in popularity as businesses jump in with a me-too attitude. Those already in this space will be wondering if the time and effort is worth it and sadly 2012 will not reveal a clear answer to this question. The promise of social media channels evolving into a mainstream method of marketing for the accommodation industry is still some time off.
Have we missed anything out?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bowie's lost 1973 Top of the Pops performance

What a great Xmas present! - After 40 years an iconic glam David Bowie tape is discovered capturing when he was at his most stroppiest, creative peak.

The scourge of caravan culture

As Kiwis look forward to shutting down workplaces across the land for the great annual pilgrimage to the beach, they will thinking about their mode of holiday accommodation.

There is a common New Zealand psyche that dictates that when choosing holiday accommodation, Kiwis err on the side of...being miserable. That's why the number one preferred Kiwi holiday activity involves sponging free accommodation off friends and family.

Slightly higher up the food chain is a hard core of mean-spirited Kiwis that revel in clogging up the highways and visually polluting the scenery with cumbersome caravans and other assorted motel-dodging camping paraphernalia. 

Regular readers of this blog will appreciate my intolerance for caravans and any other form of camping. I'm not alone.

Jeremy Clarkson has been so outspoken about the blight of caravans that he has been stalked by disgruntled members from the the UK Caravan Society that have seen fit to protest outside his Top Gear television show

Fellow Top Gear host Richard Hammond has released an interactive DVD where the viewer is rewarded at the end with the chance to blow up a caravan. (Worth considering as a Christmas stocking filler for the kids).

Meanwhile in New Zealand we also have enlightened commentary on the scourge of caravan culture. Media personality and car-nut, Paul Henry has been quoted: “Have you ever seen a caravan blow up? Oh, you can not get enough of watching caravans blow up. ..."

You just can't argue with logic like that!

Ex-W(h)anganui Mayor Michael Laws in one of his more insightful rants once said "Holiday parks are for people who can't afford motels."

While praising the enlightened that will be spending quality time staying in motels this holiday season, we can concede that sometimes caravans do have their place:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sh*t Car - Great Ad

Painting it Black

I see that Air New Zealand continue to paint it black, with their latest effort of sprucing up a brand new Boeing 777-300 before delivery. The paint job looks stunning on the biggest plane yet to be given an all-black treatment.

On previous promotional black plane versions (as on the Airbus above) the koru logo was made smaller on the tail section to allow greater dominance of the sweeping 2-tone silver fern. It is interesting that with their latest version, Air New Zealand has returned the koru back to a more prominent scale similar to their existing teal accented fleet.

Will this steam rumors that the koru is about to be dropped in favour of the silver fern?   

More Mobile Motels

It seems that all research is pointing towards more and more travellers turning to their mobile devices to not only research accommodation and travel options, but to make bookings. This makes perfect sense as we are all intrinsically aware that upwardly mobile, on-the-go-travellers are increasingly making last-minute decisions and are spending more time looking for travel inspiration from the screens of smartphones and tablets. And mobile is the perfect fit for travel...because it's mobile!

Mobile channel bookings have increased four-fold between 2008 and 2010 and although this has started from a from a low base, it's likely that this phenomenal rate will continue. To support this theory, Google have predicted that mobile will overtake PCs as the most common web-access device by 2013.

It's difficult for an accommodation provider in New Zealand to put all of this into perspective, especially when consumer behavior here tends to lag behind overseas travel trends. 

It would seem inevitable that Kiwi consumers will catch-up. Travellers are adopting smartphones and tablets at a rapid pace and they are the hottest desirable Christmas gift this year.

In order for accommodation providers to expose themselves to a relevant audience, it's crucial that this includes optimising websites for mobile along with using booking engines that are also mobile-enabled.

While it is probably cost prohibitive for most accommodation providers to create, market and maintain their own mobile application, it is appealing to use third party providers that list bookable accommodation options on a mobile app. 

Up until recently, Kiwi moteliers relied upon listing with northern hemisphere Online Travel Agencies to be included on mobile apps. It's great to see that AA Travel have added online booking to their iPhone app over the weekend and have ended Jasons Travel's brief reign as the only New Zealand based company to offer a bookable accommodation app. 

Much like Jasons app, the process of identifying suitable accommodation options when using AA Travel's updated app may not be as user friendly as it could be. After selecting a location, users are presented with an unwieldy list of accommodation options that are unqualified by availability and room type (ie suitability of room according to number of persons). With this said, AA's app is still very usable and its timely release before the Christmas holiday season is significant.

If we are honest, the release of both the AA and Jasons apps will probably not unleash a tsunami  of bookings for accommodation suppliers at first - however, who knows what their significance as a source of business may be by this time next year? 

Hopefully, Kiwis that have received a shiny new Apple mobile device under the Christmas tree in a few days time will join others that are increasingly making travel decisions on-the-go. It's good news that we have a choice of apps by two competing New Zealand travel companies that have enabled iPhone users to book Kiwi motels.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

North Korea Party Rock

Nothing beats mandatory party rocking!

Nelson Visit

I've just returned to Motella HQ after a brief mercy dash to Nelson to assist with the recent floods - I'm sure the economic boost from my efforts of frequenting the city's accommodation, bars and cafes have helped immensely.

Although there was evidence of major slips that have devastated dozens of fine homes, all services are operating and the region is ready and willing to accept the traditional influx of visitors over the pending high season. The full day I spent there was bathed in brilliant sunshine.

Sadly, the array of marketing collateral I prepared before my arrival to assist with the promotion of the region was not required:

Return to the Sunset Motel

Some guests will arrive at a motel reception in a state of disarray and distraction. Often they are at the end of a long journey and away from their usual environment, so it is understandable that sometimes they leave common courtesy at home and struggle to burst forth with basic communication.

Obviously an accommodation provider wishes to put newly arrived guests at ease and quickly dispatch them in a friendly and efficient manner, however sometimes extracting the courtesy of basic communication can be a chore.

I love it when my warm welcoming salutation is ignored by a newly arrived guest at my reception that is about to check in. An awkard silence ensues while the guest fumbles with various papers and then abruptly slaps down a reservation confirmation on the reception desk while blankly staring into the distance without uttering a word.

Another situation I find amusing is when a newly arrived guest again ignores my friendly salutation and simply responds by yelling their name at me.

In an ode to those special customers, Motella Productions have produced a second video that may provide just a little bit of therapy to those heroic, long-suffering accommodation providers over the pending busy season.

Again we must mention a disclaimer: The majority of our guests are fantastic folk. Most of them are motivated, engaging people that have an interesting story and purpose....However as a motelier sometimes you come across those rare high-maintenance "special-needs" guests that require you to maintain a smile while biting your tongue:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Motel Holiday Horror

Our friends at Roarprawn are taking a well deserved pre-Christmas break without the benefit of a corporate expense account and are making their way around the country under their own steam.

Social media has allowed us to tag along for the ride and we were particularly interested to view the choice of digs when the Roarprawn possy stopped off at a Kaikoura motel:
"Its a place probably built in the 70's and its bloody tired.  Now we don't really mind tired but we don't abide grubby and this one is grubby."
Eww! Doesn't sound like a promising start...
"We have with us some precious cargo - a mate who owns a lobster exporting company gave us over a dozen cray tails for xmas.  so a fridge is good. I unpacked them and put them in the fridges freezer and as i closed the door it fell off. Landed on my toe..  it hurt. but i could not help laughing.  the sheets are clean but the toilet would be a great centrepiece in a horror movie of the genesis of some alien life form.

So we wont be back. But like all good holidays the bad experiences are all part of the trip."
While social media allows shared vivid descriptions on travel experiences, pictures leave nothing to the imagination - From the toilet of horrors, broken-down fridge and those depressing white painted block walls.

The lesson here is that if you go away on holiday and pay sub-$100 tariff, you'll probably end up in a bed where you will be unwilling to remove your clothes;-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

More Disturbing "Do Not Disturb" Signs

In our post Disturbing "Do Not Disturb" Signs we discussed in-depth those flimsy "Do Not Disturb" door signs that are often used in hotels and motels. They allow guests that additional protective barrier to shut-out the outside world so that they may indulge in whatever the darkened confines of their rooms allow. 

Having housekeeping staff bursting-forth at an inopportune time can be off-putting for all concerned. 

As we highlighted in our post, some innovative accommodation providers make their Do Not Disturb signs into a quirky art-form, giving them a unique point of difference. But lets be honest - many accommodation providers don't provide these signs and those that do, usually default to bland. unimaginative corporate signs that are.....boring!

My suggestion for all those enlightened Kiwis that are about to join 4-million others to enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation is to create your own Do Not Disturb signs and take them on holiday with you. Don't settle for using a plain old boring Do Not Disturb sign that may be supplied in your guest room.

To make it easy, we've gathered a few inspired ideas below. Simply select your favourite, print out, cut around the edges and...Voila! All of a sudden your holiday will become just a little more interesting...

Content stolen from: HERE

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Assisting Bay of Plenty Tourism

In a public spirited gesture, we continue to assist the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to raise awareness of the coastal Bay of Plenty as a great holiday destination after the grounding of the Rena in early October:

Rampaging Teens Wreck Motel

Was it advisable for this motel to accept a reservation from a rabble of high school students that were attending a school ball?

(WARNING: Fellow moteliers may find scenes in this video disturbing)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bay of Plenty Tourism

I see that the Bay of Plenty Regional Council are investigating the redistribution of targeted levies from the business community to partly fund a tourism campaign. They reckon half a million is the minimum required to restore the coastal Bay of Plenty's reputation as a great holiday destination after the grounding of the Rena in early October.

In a public spirited gesture, we're assisting with the cause:

Top-10 destination and accommodation websites

We last took a snapshot of the top-10 rankings for destination and accommodation websites in New Zealand for the week ending 12 November 2011.

After a hard year, stressed Kiwis continue to plan their annual break online. What websites are they browsing? 

TripAdvisor, owned by Expedia remains the most popular travel website that the largest percentage of Kiwis visit while researching travel.

NASDAQ listed heavyweight, Priceline, owns that has made a runaway rise to the number two spot and at number four.

Australian owned rises one spot to the number three position.

Kiwi-owned bookable sites round off the top-10 with TradeMe's Holidayhouses and AA's Bookabach remaining popular while the "Ugly Sisters" - AA and Jasons still attract significant traffic. 

The top-10 rankings for destination and accommodation websites for the week ending 10 December 2011 according to Experian Hitwise are:


What is "First Class" Accommodation?

The accommodation industry uses many descriptive words that can overstate the quality on offer. Overuse of certain words such as "boutique" and "luxury" are probably viewed as too cliche and lack meaning.

It was interesting to note that a recent decision by the Employment Relations Authority has determined that it was not possible to give a meaningful interpretation of the term "first class'' when describing hotel accommodation.

An Air New Zealand pilot has claimed that his employer that the Manhattan Beach Marriott in Los Angeles used for crew stopovers did not meet the definition of a "first class'' hotel, as set out in the collective agreement with the Airline Pilots' Association.

In dismissing the case, The Employment Relations Authority found that even with the most objective analysis, it was not possible to give a meaningful interpretation of the term "first class" when referring to hotel accommodation and added that the term "may be somewhat outdated and may apply to another era of travel.''

The authority found that the Air New Zealand and the Airline Pilots' Association had correctly followed a process of inspection and recommendation to decide whether staff accommodation was acceptable.

The aggrieved pilot, Michael Alexander Talbot has previous form of taking Air New Zealand to task over the quality of accommodation and in this recent spat was ordered to pay his employer $1500 for the cost of the half-day employment hearing.

Motel Christmas

My, hasn't the year flown by...don't worry we are not about to burst forth into one of those excruciating family Christmas form letters, but you may have noticed that we have hung a few token decorations on our blog in an attempt 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.

The insightful words of Ayn Rand 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 free-spirited orgy of capitalism at this time of year and particularly appreciate anything that extracts people out of their usual mundane going on holiday...and staying at a motel or two along the way!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest nights fall despite RWC

With the Accommodation Guest Night Survey for October released this week, we can finally get a picture of the number of guest nights generated over the Rugby World Cup period. 

Changes with the school holidays, the continuing ripples from the Christchurch earthquake disaster and the Rugby World Cup have all had a major impact on overnight stays in commercial accommodation over September and October. 

While publicly talking-up the potential success of the RWC, well seasoned tourism industry folk have always known that it was going to be difficult to generate widespread economic benefits by hosting such a major event. While all positive media has been earnestly focused on the one-off flood of overseas visitors attracted to New Zealand for the RWC, the opportunity cost of public expenditure, diversion of resource and lost accommodation trade from traditional sources has been conveniently ignored.

While there have been pockets of positive activity within the different accommodation sectors throughout the country over September and October, the main winner appears to be Auckland hotels. The losers appear to be accommodation providers in the South Island that have been dragged down by the Christchurch earthquake recovery. 

While the Rugby World Cup boosted overseas visitors, domestic leisure travellers stayed at home preferring to watch match coverage with friends and family in their own living rooms.
Domestic business travellers tended to reduce travel to avoid perceived traffic snarl-ups and higher accommodation rates.

The net result was that overall guest nights rose just 0.3 percent in September and fell 1.5 percent in October.

The accommodation industry is made up of an eclectic group of enthusiastic folk that include quirky B&B owners, lifestyle holiday park owners, Ma & Pa moteliers and large corporations that operate hotels. They all have one thing in common - they all live on eternal optimism. Next year is always going to get better. Accommodation providers love what they do and will carry because they can. They will continue to invest money into an industry that they are intoxicated with. 

It will be interesting to gauge the much touted "long term benefits" the RWC may bring to Kiwi accommodation providers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Should Today be a National Holiday?

Here it is folks - this is where it all started.
Kneel at the alter of the first - The world's first motel!

Today marks a monumental day in our history. On this special day, in 1925, the world's first motel opened, The Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, California USA.

My annual virtual drive-by pilgrimage on Google Earth shows the sun setting on a hallowed site where time has stood still. 

What remains on this site should be a shrine. A museum. A monument to the great, exuberant, liberating, convenient, homey, seedy, memorable, storied, idiosyncratic and increasingly blurry phenomenon of the motel. 

At Motella HQ we salute the innovators of that great institution that we all take for granted, the humble and noble "motel." 

We will be spending today in celebratory mode and pausing to reflect on the contribution that the motel has given mankind.

Jasons App Launched...Finally

As a Motella exclusive, we can announce that the eagerly awaited "free" Jasons Travel app has been finally launched.

Just in time for the Christmas season, Kiwis travelers can now use the first locally released app that is booking-enabled to book rooms on the go from their iPhone or iPad.

From the home screen, Apple-users have the option to browse New Zealand accommodation and activities. There is a separate hotlink for accommodation "Hot Deals" and a "My Jasons" option where users can set up a new account or connect via Facebook to keep track of saved accommodation, activities and previous bookings.

Browsing accommodation listings can be achieved by typing a destination name that uses predictive text or by using a current location option that will search for accommodation options nearby.

Individual accommodation listings within a region appear with the higher paid "Hot Deals" given priority. The user can view a property's full listing details by selecting from a list or from a map option that will pinpoint location.

The property's full listing detail includes the starting tariff, expanded description, photos, map location, reviews and Qualmark or self-rating. Users can also link to activities nearby.

The user can save the details to their My Jasons account for future viewing or even go old-school and phone the property direct. Pressing the "Book Now" button will take the user to the reservation page where rooms can be selected and booked from the app.

Overall the app is very nice and extremely intuitive. I like the look and feel of the no-frills clean design and smooth functionality. I particularly like the design of the easy to navigate booking pages.

The only criticism is that prospective bookers are unable to drill down specific accommodation results by arrival/departure dates and room type/number of persons until an individual property is selected. This may cause some users some angst while they wade through more listings than they need to, however the majority of users should hopefully find the app very usable.

It's now up to AA Travel to update their current informational app to see if they can go one better before the busy holiday season is upon us.

Go to the iTunes store to download the Jasons App: HERE 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Outsource Visiting In-Laws To Motels This Season

The tragedy of owning a motel means that it is difficult to sell the notion that the in-laws should stay in alternative accommodation when they come to visit.

Thankfully I don't need to worry about this irksome phenomenon this year as I've been given an early Christmas present - my beloved In-Laws are sadly unable to make their annual pilgrimage to visit our motel to enjoy our fully catered hospitality over the festive season. 
While I'm being spared, I would like to extend  my sympathy to those that will be faced with the stampede of freeloading relatives over the stressful Christmas/New Year period. 

As a motelier, I'm willing to help alleviate the pain of others ...

Motels should look at this time as a marketing opportunity by encouraging swelling households to outsource accommodation. Tourism promotion 101 is to encourage local communities to invite friends and family to stay with them. Often this foundation of tourism is overlooked by tourism bodies that ignore the "visiting friends and family" market by preferring to chase the glamor of overseas markets.

So my challenge to my fellow motelier brethren is to package an " In-laws Special" that includes a night's accommodation in a twin-bedded unit and a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine to help the occupants forget what a horrible choice their child made in marrying someone who would rather put them up at a motel over Christmas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Public Freak Shows

When I wrote a post last month: Operating A Motel Has Its Privileges, a few people accused me of taking the p*ss.

The gist of the post was that moteliers are fortunate that the majority of the traveling public that stay with them are good folk when compared to the broader customer base that other customer service sectors are compelled to interact with. I stand by this premise.

A dear reader sent me a link to the People of Walmart, a website that provides an inspiring platform for user-generated content that captures and ridicules the rise of American trash culture found stomping around the aisles of Walmart.

If I had the time to expand my vast social network, I would set-up a Kiwi version devoted to capturing the swelling heaving masses that regularly mooch around the aisles of Pak N Save and The Warehouse. I reckon there'd be no shortage of material...


Watching Erin Andrews

There are certain issues that I keep a very close eye on in the accommodation industry and for some unknown reason I'm attracted to the plight of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews (pictured above).

In 2008, while staying at a hotel, Andrews was spied upon and secretly filmed nude though the guest room's peephole by a serial stalker. After images were widely distributed around the internet, the offender was charged, pleaded guilty and is currently cooling his heels in a federal prison. The litigation is still dragging on with the recent announcement that Andrews is now seeking US$10 million from the West End Marriott Hotel and the convicted peeping-tom for negligence, emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

I see that Andrews has been criticised in the media for overplaying the victim-card and using her bizarre misfortune to cash-in and enhance her public profile. 

It is alleged that Andrew's stalker approached the hotel desk where Andrews was staying and requested that he check-in to a room adjacent to her. The hotel obliged without question and by doing so allowed the the stalker to confirm that his victim was staying at the hotel and identify the room she was staying in. 

With knowledge of the guest room Andrews was staying in, the creepy stalker, altered the door's peephole and took video footage.

From a seemingly simple unguarded act, the hotel has unwittingly exposed (in this case literally!) their guest. They have also attracted a storm of bad publicity and face the risk of extreme financial penalty from legal retribution. 

This ongoing story should remind accommodation providers that they are under obligation to provide a duty of care and the protection of guests' privacy is paramount. 

When staying at a motel or hotel, guests share information for the exclusive use of the accommodation provider on the understanding that this will not be divulged to others. 

In our motel we've been privy to all sorts of information from guests staying with us that would fill many gossip columns. We also get to know a guests personal details such as eating and drinking habits and even if they are having an extramarital affair. Most of the information that we are privy to is mundane such as telephone numbers, address and credit card details however no information about guests, no matter how trivial  should ever be divulged to others.

The only exception is when information is sought by the police. In that instance we will assist all we can as we expect the police to assist us if called upon.

We are aware that if a member of the public asks if a particular guest is staying with us then this can put us in a difficult position. By rights an accommodation provider should not divulge up-front that a particular guest may be staying with them, however in the interests of providing customer service a pragmatic approach is usually taken. If a caller wishes to know if someone is staying with us or what a guest's room number is, then those direct questions are diplomatically sidestepped. However, if someone wishes to speak to a named guest then the call is usually transferred without question. 

When the Anrews story first broke, The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) took an interesting position. President and CEO, Joe McInerney said that the emphasis has been misdirected. 

“The whole thing got out of proportion. The question shouldn’t be how did (the stalker) get the room next to (Andrews) but how did the pictures get taken. Being in the next room doesn’t matter. People are missing the point. If a guest notices that someone is harassing or following them, they should report it.”

Reneta McCarthy, lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration also waded-in and stated that it is up to the guest to share the responsibility with the hotel of ensuring their own protection. 

“I think it’s strange that Andrews didn’t notice that her door had been messed with.”

The personal responsibility rhetoric sorta sounds good, however in this case we feel that the AHLA and Cornell could have been ducking for cover and running interference. 

The role of an accommodation provider is to provide guests a place of peaceful enjoyment with a duty of care that covers a vast array of responsibilities including protecting guests' privacy. It will be interesting to see how the American legal system will determine what the hotel's responsibility should have been in the Andrews case. 

In the interim it may be a good opportunity for accommodation providers to reflect on their privacy policies and in particular consider how best to deal with adjacent room requests. It may also be an opportune time to fit a security flap to those pesky guest room door peepholes?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Motels - Back to the Future

Pride of place in my vast collection of motel memorabilia is a classic "Motels" guide published by Jasons in 1980.

The Motel Association featured prominently in the leading pages of the guide, with two-pages devoted to introducing the NZ motel "apartment" concept to the world.

It is interesting that over 30 years ago, the Motel Association (with its groovy retro-Kiwiana logo) was at pains to differentiate New Zealand's unique motel product from the negative connotations that were perceived to be harbored by overseas visitors.

The New Zealand motel industry has always offered a quality product that is unique by world standards, however New Zealand moteliers have always been self conscious that the world may associate Kiwi Motels with their less savory overseas cousins. There has always been an underlying fear that motels may be perceived by our overseas guests as establishments of ill repute that were suitable backdrops for tacky American B-grade movies.

This oversensitivity is one of the reasons why the motel industry started to insert the more fashionable and friendly phrase "Apartment" into its vernacular.

Back in 1980, the motel "apartment" offer was described as self-contained with full kitchens "fully carpeted with easy chairs, settee, coffee tables, TV and tasteful furnishings." (Motel guest rooms without kitchen facilities were referred to as "Serviced Motel Units").

It is interesting that Qualmark recently announced that the motel sector will now be differentiated and known as "Motel." The ill-fated and clunky all-encompassing Serviced and Self Contained sector name that described a collection of accommodation types has finally been put-down.

The motel sector's long time flirtation of possibly including "Apartment" in their sector name has now been officially snuffed-out with the emergence of the new Apartment sector that has yet to be fully defined.

The drafting process of defining what accommodation businesses will be domiciled as either a Motel or Apartment is yet to commence and will inevitably prove to be contentious.

Unfortunately motel properties that added "Apartment" to their business name will be included in the Motel sector and many motel rooms will continue to be described as motel apartments for some time yet.

(Click for a larger view)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kiwi Travel Habits

Our bright young friends at Trade Me's Travelbug have been doing a bit of research to raise the profile of their brand.

With the lure of winning an iPad2, almost 11,000 Kiwis completed Travelbug's online survey that gave a snapshot of their travel plans, habits, preferences and more. 

It was pleasing that 82% of Kiwis intend to indulge in domestic travel within the next 3-months. Not suprisingly, Queenstown wins the crown as the most favoured destination. 

One stat that looked a little iffy was that "71% of Kiwis usually stay in commercial accommodation." I would have thought that this was on the extreme side, however this result is probably understandable from a pool of consumers that visit an online travel website.   

In order to spare us wading through boring spreadsheets of results, Travelbug have kindly produced one of those nifty infographics for those of us that are challenged with short attention spans:

Stop The Insanity!

At Motella we are passionate about cars. We look upon the car as the ultimate prize of consumerism. We encourage our fellow man to rid themselves of senseless guilt and celebrate the benefits of living in a modern, mobile society while burning carbon - and staying at a few motels along the way!

Cars are a magical combination of ego, beauty, sex and function - and we reckon its perfect form should not be interfered with.

We have earnestly reported on the scourge of those My Family Stickers applied to car windows and exposed the silliness of car flags.

It disappoints us to learn of a new insidious trend is creeping into modern-day car culture - "Antler and red nose" car accessories! 

We urge the swelling mass of pride-deficient car-owners to desist with all this masterbatery-madness immediately!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Will flying cars soon become a reality?

As someone that has grown up in the 70s, I can't help feeling somewhat ripped-off. As kids, television and movies promised us so much in the future including radical new ways of transportation.

In spite of all the technological breakthroughs, I still haven't got easy access to a Jetsons style personal jet-pack OR a flying car.

...maybe that flying car dream is a little closer than we think:


Sunday, December 4, 2011

The benefits of capitalism

Anyone that mocks Gareth Morgan's egalitarianism bent is a friend of the Motella Blog:
Letter of the week in The Press: 

"Remember every time you enjoy a latte … you are lucky to have the benefits of capitalism,” writes The Press’s letter writer of the week.

In answer to Gareth Morgan and Susan Guthrie (“Reviving the values of an egalitarian society,” Perspective, Nov 21), I’m for business, technology and the highest wages I can generate . . 
The countries that have experienced the flow-down from the Industrial Revolution are immeasurably better off than those that haven’t. . .

Please don’t tell me that you won’t permit me to have my washing machine, my automobile, my iPhone or the wages I earn.

You can live in any way you choose (I will not interfere) and spend your money the way you choose on the priorities you value.

Remember, every time you enjoy a latte or an organic salad, you are lucky to have the benefits of capitalism at your beck and call, and it not only saves and extends your life, but enhances your life beyond measure.

I’m against your egalitarianism, your environmentalism, and every other anti-man dogma you can invent. You can keep your redistribution of rewards according to your primitive outlook. I’m for laissez-faire!"

– D. McFarland.
Hat tip to Homepaddock

Motels - Back to 1980

This weekend I've been sorting through my vast collection of motel memorabilia and came across a classic "Motels" guide published by Jasons in 1980.

The 400 page motel travel publication claimed to be "New Zealand's most comprehensive guide to motel accommodation" and featured on the cover in vibrant colour: impromptu picnicking on the shores of Lake Taupo, sunbathing at the Bay of Plenty and sail surfing in Fiji.

In 1980, travel in New Zealand was stifled by the effects of the oil shocks and measures imposed by the Muldoon government included car-less days, the reduction of the open-road speed limit from 100 km/h to 80 km/h and restricting the hours that petrol could be sold.

Other highlights of 1980 was National's young whipper-snapper, Don Brash losing to Social Credit's Gary Knapp in the East Coast Bays by-election, Saturday trading was partially legalised and unions were flexing their muscle by crippling Kinleith Mill with an eighty-day strike.

Over 30 years has elapsed since the publication of Jasons 1980 "Motels" guide and as I nostalgically flicked through the motel listings, I couldn't help thinking that not a lot has changed with the basic motel offer.

There are differences however, and it is amusing to note some properties sporting 3-digit phone numbers while others that were technologically advanced proudly included their telex number. 
Separate tariff was commonly displayed for either single or double occupancy and "extras" were charged at either an adult or child rate.

If guests had the cheek to only stay one-night a surcharge was often imposed. Colour TVs weren't necessarily a standard item in all motels in 1980 and this feature was high up on the amenity listings if available - while others that were only part way through updating to this new technology only had "colour available." A typical motel listing would often cheerily encourage the reader to write for a free brochure.

Motel listings in the guide were black and white, however a few adventurous moteliers were able to insert a garish red background into their display ads (probably for a horrendous cost) to stand out from the others.

Other advertising featured in the guide included the obligatory commercial real estate firms, accommodation chains and worryingly a full page advert for "Actizme" a chemical to combat pollution problems from odours and above ground seepage from household septic tanks. 

The Motel Association featured prominently in the leading pages of the guide, with a page devoted to their Code of Standard Practice. Interestingly this included the industry standard cancellation policy at the time with the cut-off of up to 4.30pm the day prior (and this also applied to travel agents).

So, what was the motel tariff back in 1980? Has motel tariff kept pace with inflation?

From my casual observation, the average advertised tariff for double occupancy in a (AA) four star motel property in the "Motels" guide was approximately $23.00.

So how much would this $23.00 tariff be in today's money?

If we use the general Consumer Price Index as an indicator, we can enter the 1980 index value for the first quarter of 1980 and compare this with the index value for the first quarter of 2011. If we calculate these figures it gives us a percentage change of 365.7% and a compound average annual rate for inflation over the last 31 years of 5.1%.
A motel tariff for double occupancy in 1980 that cost $23.00 would cost the equivalent of $107.11 today.
So has motel tariff kept pace with inflation? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

QR Codes

(Go-ahead and scan it!)

The latest fad of attaching QR codes is becoming prevalent on travel collateral.  

QR codes give purpose and an excuse for those smug smart-phone wielding folk to whip out their beloved electronic devices to discover what enchanting digital message awaits them. I must admit that I'm probably a good target for marketeers that use these randomly formed blocks as curiosity often gets the better of me. 

Like anything new and innovative, accepted rules and etiquette on how and when QR codes should be applied are being made up as we go along. I enjoyed this amusing skit from Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing, that gives us his unique perspective of QR codes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

R.I.P. Air New Zealand's Rico

Social media campaigns have a limited shelf life...

New Name Announced For The Motel Sector

Only a month after introducing new branding in June this year, Qualmark NZ  announced that they were going to split the Self Contained and Serviced accommodation category into two new sector categories in order to differentiate "Motels" from "Apartments."

Those moteliers that were keen to update Qualmark branding on roadside signs and other marketing collateral were put in a frustrating holding pattern while the new moniker of the split accommodation sectors was decided.

The Self Contained and Serviced category included motels, motor lodges, motor inns, motel apartments, serviced apartments and serviced holiday cottages. In earlier correspondence to licence holders, Qualmark suggested that the two new accommodation sector categories would be most likely named "Motel Apartments" and "Serviced Apartments" effective from the 1st of September. 

The final decision came two months late, however it was finally publicly released today that the new sector name for the motel industry will be fittingly called "Motel" and "Apartment" will be used for the apartment sector.

While sector names are generally used within the industry, they do tend to spill out into the public domain and can cause confusion.  Many moteliers considered the generic term, Serviced and Self Contained being somewhat clunky and having little relevance in describing an accommodation category that is largely made-up of motels.

While for years unable to provide clear advocacy in the elongated Self Contained and Serviced criteria review, the motel industry has devoted a lot of time and wasted emotional energy into trying to decide what sector name Qualmark should use to describe the collection of motels. Hopefully the focus should now be on thrashing out what should be included in the assessment criteria that will be used to benchmark motel licence holders. 

While renaming the sector is academic, the more important aspect of the separation is that different criteria will be used to assess Motels and Apartments.

Many moteliers have an unhealthy inferiority complex to their perceived flash-harry apartment sector cousins and will be celebrating the removal of apartment businesses from "their" sector. I suspect that the old-school seasoned campaigners that have long since advocated separation will be under the illusion that with the competition removed, motels will somehow now have a fairer crack at the stars. They will be disappointed. 

Moteliers are quick to point-out the perceived unfair operating advantages apartments enjoy with differing ownership structures, council rating and Building Act interpretations etc. What is overlooked is that these factors do not influence the customer experience. While motels and apartments started off life in slightly different camps, the two sectors have a lot in common and in time I can see them morphing together.

Purely from a guest perspective the main difference between apartments and motels is that most apartment units are built on top of one another while motel units are built alongside one another - this is of course not strictly true in every example. Guests find it difficult to tell the difference between the two sectors and more importantly they probably don't care. 

I can see that there are more advantages keeping motels and apartments benchmarked under a common quality criteria as it is now. In my opinion the motel industry will be the loser in the proposed separation and there is a risk that they will quickly become the poor second cousin to the new Apartment sector.

 I suspect in this case the motel sector should have been more careful what they wished for.

Where's my personal jet-pack?

Growing up in the 70s, I assumed like most other kids that adulthood would bring with it a Jetsons style personal jet-pack. Alas like so many childhood assumptions I was wrong.

The dream of the average punter purchasing a commercially available jet-pack from The Warehouse that could provide a viable means of transport doesn't seem to be happening any time soon. In fact up until now jet pack advancements seem to be advancing at a snail's pace.

We've had a Kiwi inventor achieve a manned "flight" in a bulky fan powered jet pack by lifting a few metres in the air. Unfortunately "Jetman" Yves Rossy requires a helicopter to lift him off the ground, however once he jumps out at altitude and fires up four jet engines attached to a rigid wing - a little magic happens. 

Sometime in the future, motels, with their typical open plan cobblestone court areas will make a perfect landing target for jet-pack holiday makers touching down after a flight.

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