Sunday, December 4, 2011

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? 

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