Monday, November 30, 2009

Movember - Last Day!

The month formally known as November has now become "Movember" and it's almost over! 

My wife is looking forward to my newly sprouted growth being unceremoniously removed tomorrow morning. 

The "trucker"and "soul patch" have almost taken on a life of their own. The reaction of our motel guests has been extremely supportive and positive. It's a beautiful man moment when a fellow Mo-bro gives a nod and a wry grin in salute. 

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

...So, this is your last chance for Mo-teliers to join "Team Motella" (It's not compulsory to be a motelier - by joining our team we will grant you "honorary-mo-telier" status). 

Click HERE and follow the simple steps.

Motelier "Going for Gold"

At the height of the Nanny-State era under the previous government, then Minister of Tourism, Damien O’Connor launched a new environmental criteria, Qualmark Green, at a breakfast for delegates at TRENZ that was held in Rotorua in 2008. 

At the time the catchphrase "Going for Gold" was used as a gimmicky way to encourage tourism business owners to strive toward Green-Nirvana and achieve Qualmark Gold Enviro-accreditation. 

O'Connor proudly stated that New Zealand was “the first country in the world to have a fully integrated quality and environmental accreditation system.”

Somewhere along the way, Qualmark forgot to consult with the the largest accommodation sector that included motels about this new centralist directive and unilaterally inserted a fashionable and politically correct environmental criteria into their quality assessment. 

Accommodation businesses are now assessed on their allegiance to environmental and social mantra as part of their quality assessment process. Surprisingly, this contributes towards the property's final quality star grading.

What this means for accommodation providers that wish to protect their star grading is that they are now required to participate in producing a wealth of time wasting greenwash.

A portion of accommodation providers have chosen to ignore this new layer of bureaucracy, while others simply roll-over and accept it. One bemused motelier has written about it.

From time-to-time, we will be faithfully publishing the humorous contribution of a motelier as he grasps the day-to-day realities of conforming to Qualmark's Responsible Tourism rhetoric.

Watch this space...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Motel Management

We are having one of those perennial quiet weekends and have decided to watch  a few DVDs. 

This has turned into a reasonable successful exercise as we only had to use the pause button less than half-a-dozen times to react to our usually relentless "bell ringers" (valued guests).

I particularly enjoyed  the quirky movie, Management

Steve Zahn, plays a sad, irrelevant motelier working at his parents' roadside motel in Arizona. Jennifer Aniston plays a sales rep that stays at the motel and is strangely drawn towards the motelier's innocent (and creepy) charm.

The star for us was, Sonny's Motel, Madras that plays The Kingman Motor Inn, Arizona in the movie. We see that the motel's no-frills website pays simple testimony to its backdrop in the movie and the fact that it has been "proudly serving Madrid guests since 1956." Not surprisingly, the guest testimonials on TripAdvisor gives the motel a mixed review.

OK, I'll admit that this was an awkward American romantic comedy at its cheesiest and the movie's unlikely plot went off the rails a few times....but I liked it.

Maybe I was somewhat biased and titivated by the unlikely scenario of a small-town, 40 something motelier getting to nail Jennifer Aniston in the motel laundry?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Invercargill motels buck trend

We love invervargill! 

It is a special place and we were pleased to read a positive upbeat article that appeared in the Southland Times about motel occupancy. 

We note that this is fairly typical of reporting accommodation trade. A local reporter from her desk does a quick phone around to a handful of accommodation providers to gauge a general "feeling" on how things are going. This methodology can give some dubious results, in particular when investigating longer term trends.

We were amused that one newbie motelier was so keen to assist the local paper that she happily disclosed her occupancy rate for October!

Although statistics never tell the full story we note with interest that the Southland Regional Tourism Region's occupancy rate for motels was in fact 2.3% down for the 12-months ending September 2009 compared to the previous year. 

Southland's motels are performing extremely well however when to compared to national trends that recorded an occupancy rate for all motels 7.2% down for the 12-months ending September 2009.

We will be taking special note on how Invercargill will cope with hosting the Student Games early next year;-)

Invercargill motels buck trend
The Southland Times

Moteliers in Invercargill have defied the global economic crisis, with city occupancy rates flourishing.

295 on Tay co-owner Geoff Shepherd said it had been a busy year for motel owners, largely because of the number of events hosted in the city.

Business was booming so much that two additional units had been completed this year, expanding the total number to 30, Mr Shepherd said.

"This is the best year we've had actually. Things seem to be happening down here all the time."

"A lot of people say it's all down to Tim [Shadbolt], but I think it's the Invercargill Licensing Trust really. They funded most of the stadium, the velodrome, the pool.

"They get behind all these events," he said.

The new hockey turf complex at Turnbull Thomson Park had brought both the Chinese and Welsh teams to the motel during the Oceania Cup world qualifier tournament in August, and the velodrome and Tour of Southland had attracted many cyclists. Events such as the annual Burt Munro challenge and the 2010 University Games would also boost occupancy rates, Mr Shepherd said.

Queens Park Motels owner Mark Gane said that occupancy rates were higher than in previous years.

Mr Gane, the Southland branch president of the Motel Association of New Zealand, said most visitors to his motel were not involved with major sporting events because of the motel's location.

However, they're reaping benefits in a roundabout way, he said.

"We seem to get the overflow. Having said that, we still pick up our fair share," he said.

Sue Stewart, who has been co-owner of Birchwood Manor for only 10 weeks, said the number of bookings for the motel's 15 units had been high. Occupancy rates for last month were at the 83 per cent mark, she said.

Bookings for the motel had already been taken for July.

"I'm just amazed how many people are coming through. Anything that's coming up, we just get booked straight away."

Ray Clark, owner of the Tower Lodge Motel, said visitor numbers had increased noticeably in his 2 1/2 years of ownership. There was a combination of reasons for this, he said. "All these events, like the cycling and hockey, help to keep our numbers up," he said. Tower Lodge Motel hosted three teams during the Tour of Southland.

However, there was an unexpected spinoff of the worldwide recession, Mr Clark said.

There had been a noticeable growth in the number of Australian "walk-in" guests. "I think it could be because it's a bit closer to home, rather than going too far away," he said.

"What recession? If this is the recession, keep it coming."

Eleven motels contacted by The Southland Times declined to comment about their occupancy rates.

Source: Click HERE

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Off to Wellington

Ahh...I love the smell of aviation fuel in the morning! It's the smell of adventure, travel and money.

I'm off today to Wellington on some important Motella business.

I may tweet some pithy observations while I'm away:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Motel Privacy

In the accommodation game, guest 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.

We have been privy to all sorts of information from guests staying with us that will disclose anything from pending local business closures to the tardy performance of a local chain store manager. We also get to know a guests personal details such as eating and drinking habits or even if they are having an extramarital affair. Some of the information that we are privy to is more 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 if 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 someone asks us if a particular guest is staying then this can put us as an accommodation provider 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 rings and wishes to speak to a named guest then the call is usually transferred through without question.

There has been two very similar apparent slip ups by accommodation providers that have allegedly and unwittingly divulged guest information to others with serious consequences. We have been following the unfolding stories with interest.

The most high profile story concerns a well known ESPN reporter, Erin Andrews that was filmed nude inside her hotel room through the door’s peephole by a stalker. There has also been at least one other copycat incident. A family from Nebraska has claimed that their daughters were filmed from a hole drilled in an adjacent guestroom while staying in a hotel.

In both cases, the culprits approached a hotel and requested that they check-in to rooms that were adjacent to their victims that were identified by them. The hotels obliged without question. This allowed the culprits not only to confirm that their victims were staying at a hotel, but also which room they were staying in.

From a seemingly simple unguarded act, the hotels have exposed themselves to a storm of bad publicity and also face the risk of extreme financial penalty from legal retribution of the victims.

So the blame game is being played out in the American media. 

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) has taken an interesting position. President and CEO, Joe McInerney, in commenting about the Erin Andrews case 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 has also waded in and voiced an opinion on the Erin Andrews case by stating 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.”

Hmm ... the personal responsibility rhetoric sounds good, however in this case we feel that the AHLA and Cornell may be running interference.

As an accommodation provider, besides providing guests a place of peaceful enjoyment we also have a duty of care.

It will be interesting to see how the American legal system will determine what the hotels' responsibility should have been.

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.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The race to the bottom

A fellow "Motella" sent me an article (appended to this post) last week that appealed to me. We are not sure where this first appeared, however it was written by Dr Anthony Brien, PhD, MSc Hospitality Mgmt who is Senior Lecturer of Business and Hotel Management in the Department of Business Management, Marketing and Law, Faculty of Commerce at Lincoln University, Christchurch.

So, what is the phrase "The race to the bottom" mean?

Wikipedia states: ...Seeking a more favourable outcome at the expense of others by upsetting an equilibrium to their own favour, only to cause retaliation by the other individuals, resulting in all participants having an overall less favourable outcome.
As an industry we spend a lot of time looking over the fence tut-tutting others and widespread discounting appears to be the hot topic at the moment. 

The race for the bottom has an apeal as a dicussion topic amongst accommodation providers, however I would personally rather focus on "the race for the top" and discuss the importance of offering quality product and service. There are certainly good examples of individual businesses in the accommodation industry that are reaping a very good ROI as they continue to invest in quality.

It could be said that consistancy of "quality" is one of the biggest challanges collectively facing the motel industry at the moment and one of the reasons that hotels have supassed motels as the most popualar accommodation choice. There is a sad irony that those that set off on a discounting pathway to attract occupancy will be unable to reinvest and spiral towards economic oblivian.

We were amused to recieve a wordy industry newsletter from Qualmark NZ Ltd that self-describes itself as "New Zealand tourism's official quality agency." Not once was the word "quality" used in the newsletter, however not suprisingly there was ample space earnestly devoted to environmental mantra as the answer to business salvation.

We can't ignore that many accommodation businesses are being drawn into a cycle of deep-discounting that is confusing the market and restricting reinvestment of existing product. We can appreciate the rhetoric used in Dr Anthony Brien's article, so we have reproduced this below in full:

"The majority of commercial accommodation in New Zealand has recently been participating in, and arguably is still running in, the race to the bottom. The world recession has had a major impact on tourism, and within that, all commercial accmmodation has felt the squeeze – with the result being the down-hill discount race in full swing. While this may be an overarching theme for the industry, it is pleasing to note that in recent weeks some bottoming out or a slower glide path, in rate reduction, but nevertheless, the race appears far from being over and the recovery will take a long time.

As a strategy, discounting (lowering the cost) has its place, but is only one tool in the business strategy tool-box. Some have called for less discounting and more added-value – yes, this is another strategy, but begs the questions: “What value were you adding in the first place that did not attract business”? Do you know what value is and what is more value? And remember, adding-value, when you are already doing it, or more if you are, or not – costs. The underlying theme here is cost. Cost for the purchaser and for the supplier; but cost is only one component of the product/service we are selling. What is your accommodation experience value-proposition? Another, critical component of your selling price strategy.

Someone once said, “Knowing only your product/service cost and not its value as well, will not set you apart from the competition”. Quite true. In the manufacturing economy costs can be driven down with aggressive incorporation of technology, but in the experience-economy, the value proposition is critical as it engages so much human interaction. Yes, the punters want the best deal going, but as an operator you can only go so low with the price (cost) before it’s not worth opening the doors, and/or a significant amount of the whole experience is changed to accommodate the new cost. But are we really telling the punters that the experience will be reduced accordingly – present marketing campaigns suggests not. Frankly, the punter knows that they are getting a damn good deal, but their expectations and demands have not reduced. Playing with price and value is playing with a customers psychological price referencing – this can be a dangerous game.

More questions. While you will know the cost of your product/service, do you know the value – in dollar terms, of your product/service – the experience? When did you last check what the value was? Who did you ask? When did it last change? Why did it change – if it changed? If you can’t answer these questions you are not in the experience economy you are just selling a product and competition will be stiff.

Over 65% of New Zealand hotel accommodation is managed by offshore groups who appear to be using discounting to attract a larger share of a shrinking market. Local groups are also discounting, but will probably have a reduced survival rate against such major competition. At present there are not enough customers for everyone, so let’s accept that and drive for value and the price that this really needs to be to deliver it. This is not a story about collaborating to put prices up, it’s a commercial fact that present practice is unsustainable – for many businesses and for New Zealand. New Zealand is promoted internationally as a 100% pure destination with campaigns of late focusing on some form of experience. It is not promoted as a discount destination but in effect, (with a few exceptions), that is what we have become in terms of price, and eventually so will the experience. The laws of economics prove this point.

At the recent Tourism Leaders Forum Tim Cossar ended one of his presentations with the quote “United we stand – divided we fall”. Again, quite true. It will take courage and strong leadership to drive New Zealand out of its present mindset of a cost-driven approach. As a manager, what do you want your legacy to be? Let’s withdraw from the race to the bottom – there is no real winner in this race, and join (or start) the united race to the top, a race which is value-proposition driven, one where we genuinely, independently compete to enhance the overall accommodation experience and New Zealand’s economy."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Have you updated you EFTPOS terminal yet?

We predict that there will be an increrase in the use of the following card over the next few weeks;-)

Hat tip: Crusader Rabbit moves into air travel

Cheif executive of, Robbie Cooke

It's been no secret that having been planning for some time to expand their online accommodation reselling business into the online air travel market.

Chief executive, Robbie Cooke announced this week that they will be entering the air travel market and going head to head with Australian market leader Webjet.

Initial market penetration will be with the purchase of flight booking website
Further flight booking site acquisitions are planed for the future. It is unclear how flight reservations will be eventually integrated into the Wotif Group and it will be interesting to see if this can be done on without losing the focus and definition of this popular site. Alternatively a separate consumer brand could be developed. is also planning further development with applications for mobile devices believing that future use of this platform for booking hotel and flight accommodation will continue to grow.

The Social Media Guru

So how's your social media strategy? You do have one, right? You don't! Oh no, better call the Social Media Guru! 

So how long has the Social Media Guru been doing this for? 

"Six whole months and he has an internet blog and everything."

Show him to your computer and he'll "hook up your Tweeter to your Facebook and plug your blog feed into his Weeder"

Just please don't ask him the question "How will you be able to translate that all into sales and revenue."

Watch the following video and learn (Beware the F-Bomb is fairly prevalent though out): 

Hat Tip:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The "Hamster Hotel"

I come from an old school motelling background that dictates that we cater for a widest possible market demographic possible. This goes against mainstream marketing 101 that tells us that we should narrow our target market and promote a unique point of difference.

The philosophy of being being able to cater for the corporate, family or tourism market has worked well for us. We like to think that we are all things to all people, however we were surprised to learn of another market opportunity that has never occurred to us.

A hotelier in Nantes, France has opened what is believed to be the first hotel catering for folk who wish to experience life as a hamster.

It's true because it is on the internet!

For 99.00 Euro, guests can rent out a room designed as a hamster cage. They are able to dine on bags of seeds, have a workout on an over sized hamster wheel and then climb the ladder to settle down for the night on giant hamster bed stuffed with hay.

The mind boggles as to what type of demographic this will appeal to. Maybe those that are into heavy petting or perhaps those that missed out on having a small furry family pet when they were young?

TripAdvisor to add contact information to listings

We were interested with the recent announcement from that plan to offer links to accommodation business's direct website address, telephone number and email address.

Accommodation providers wishing to add these details will have to pay a yearly subscription ranging from $USD 600 for the smallest properties to $USD15,000 for hotels with up to 1,000 rooms.

This has the potential to be a great money spinner for TripAvisor as accommodation providers take advantage of offering the 25 million people that visit each month, one click access to their inventory.

It is difficult to second guess what uptake this may have with New Zealand accommodation providers, in particular smaller motel operations that average 15 rooms. For those accommodation businesses that are looking to redistribute marketing budgets from print to the web, we think it could be worthwhile investigating further.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Passionate About Bikes, Not Business

ACC Minister, Nick Smith fronted up outside Parliament to an angry mob of 6000 motorcycle enthusiasts incensed by ACC's proposal to hike their levies. 

In response it would appear that the Government has backed off somewhat with Nick Smith reported as saying:  "I've indicated to them that it's unlikely that the Government will agree to the scale of increase that the ACC board has recommended."

Whilst this is great news for middle aged fair weather Harley owners, it is unclear if this will add further to the proposed ACC increases for the productive sector.

Last week, according to the Tourism Industry Association (TIA), the accommodation sector is facing a levy hike of over 80%. Other "tourism operators" will also face substantial levy increases of between 30% and more than 100%.

Instead of rallying against hefty levy increases, questioning the Government's role in ACC and the ROI for its members, the TIA along with other trade associations have accepted that the tourism industry should absorb increases, albeit in a "staged" fashion. 

It is unclear what position The Motel Association of NZ have taken?

It is frustrating and ironic that our industry trade groups that represent private enterprise businesses always seem to default to centralist ideals to solve their members' problems.

It would appear that the motorcycle fraternity have based their protest on the simple fact that it wasn't fair to be hit with such a large increase. Hardly a strong augment, however it is interesting that with some well organised and passionate leadership they have appeared to have had some success.

One is left to wonder what our industry trade associations could have achieved?

Motel Religion

The other week, I had an earnest young chap that returned to our reception after checking-in, handed me a Bible and told me that it must have been left in the room by the previous tenant. I explained to him that the Bible in fact belonged to the room and they can be found in most motel and hotel rooms throughout the world. He then asked, "Why."

It was a good question.

The Bibles are supplied by Gideons International that is an evangelical Protestant organisation dedicated to distributing free copies throughout the world. 

It could be said that most people identify the Gideon name from the Bibles in motel and hotel rooms.

Gideons International was founded in 1899 in Wisconsin dedicated to Christian evangelism. The free Bible distribution began in hotels in 1908. In 2007, Gideons International gave away 76.9 million Bibles.

Historically, motels were looked upon with suspicion. The rented room was where criminals, prostitutes and unwed couples lurked away from the public eye. The roadside motel was a place for the desperate, lonely and lost souls. It is part of romantic folklore that many suicides have been prevented from the hope that the pages of the Gideon Bible inspired.

Today, in spite of the motel trade being somewhat more mainstream, the Gideon Bible continues to endure in very different times. Every few years our motels are visited by Gideons, spare complimentary copies of the Bible are offered to us and we always accept a few to top up supplies.

We regard placing Gideon Bibles in our rooms as a quaint, somewhat amusing custom that is part of motel/hotel culture.

We personally have no desire to spread religious rhetoric, so are we hypocritical for placing Bibles in our motel rooms? Should we be replacing these with copies of Atlas Struggled by Ayn Rand? Now this book contains a philosophy that I wouldn't mind sharing. 

Maybe we should be more politically correct and cover other religious views? Would an accompanying copy of the Koran, the Book of Morman or even The Way to Happiness from the Church of Scientology be appreciated? More recently, environmentalism has become the new religion - should we also be supplying copies of  Al Gore's latest tome? (This may also enhance our Qualmark Enviro-Green credentials).

I must say that I am surprised how often our Bibles are read, as it is common for guests to leave them out from their 'hiding place" in their room. So I guess giving people the choice of reading the Bible if they choose to is not a bad thing.

It has been said that "Bibles in hotel rooms are a bit like hairdryers: unless you're searching for one, it's unlikely you'll even notice them." Not surprisingly, copies are rarely removed from our rooms.

We were amused to read that openly gay Lord of the Rings actor Sir Ian McKellen makes a point of  making a beeline for the Gideon Bible as soon as he checks into a hotel room and rips out pages that that condemn homosexuality. For the record the passages are from Leviticus 18:22.

Apparently McKellen has inspired a small movement of copycat Bible page-ripping occurring in motel and hotel rooms throughout the world by gay sympathisers. 

There are also a small movement of atheists out there that are affronted by sleeping in the same space as the Gideon Bible and either remove the copy or place warning messages on it. Whoa - radical!

So accommodation providers be warned - it may pay to order a few more copies when the Gideon rep next calls.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

High rider trims his hedge

Click HERE for the full article from

The Prostitute Motel

We enjoyed this video (Vlog) about a guy that arrives at JFK Airport and finds a cheap motel.

After convincing the motel receptionist behind the bullet proof glass that he requires the room just for himself and for more than four hours he makes a discovery of some unique furniture once in his room. We think it may catch on here...

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Caravan Has Its Place

My daughter has just come home yesterday from a weekend with friends, staying in....a caravan!

Regular readers of this blog will appreciate my intolerance for caravans and I  was most concerned on how my daughter would cope with this new experience. To be truthful, my biggest fear was that Miss-11-year old would actually enjoy it! She arrived home sunburnt, extremely tired and frightfully grumpy. After having her first wash in 2-days she dragged herself off to bed. All my initial fears were completely unfounded.

Hosts from the popular television series, Top Gear enjoy boys-own antics that mainly involve copious burning of fossil fuels, the unapologetic passion for the motor car...and a disdain for caravans. 

We like that.

Richard Hammond has recently 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.

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 set up a protests outside his show at Birmingham,  handing out stickers saying "Hate Clarkson Love Caravans". Jeremy's response? “What have caravanners got against Kelly Clarkson?”

Meanwhile in New Zealand we also have enlightened commentary on the scourge of caravan culture. Television host 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!

W(h)anganui Mayor, Michael Laws is a man that has become infamous for saying what we all think, regularly ridicules caravans and has added: "Holiday parks are for people who can't afford motels."


As the weather warms, Kiwis are starting to think about how to spend their summer holidays. Progressive members of the public will be driving their cars between motels and not clogging up the highways and visually polluting the scenery with dingy mean-spirited caravans.

Just to prove that us folks at "Motella" are not completely self-serving, we are happy to demonstrate a caravan activity that we thoroughly approve of:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Guest complaint to hotel via Twitter

An interesting situation played out on Twitter this afternoon between a hotel guest and Hyatt hotels.

A weary traveler checks into the Hyatt San Francisco, finds a cockroach on his bed and tweets about his discovery including links to a photo and video of the crime scene with a mention to @HyattConcierge

@HyattConcierge is a central Twitter account monitored 24/7 by Hyatt staff and assists with typical concierge services like spa appointments, golf outings, dinner reservations...and guest complaints. 

In very quick time @HyattConcierge contacted the concierge at the local hotel that satisfied the guest by transferring him to another room and sweetened the deal by offering Hyatt's Club Level access.

We suspect that @HyattConcierge will be offering further compensation for the guest's harrowing find that was played out on social networks.

Well done Hyatt, that has identified the need to monitor and create a channel for guests to interact via a social network.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

100% Real

The recent sensationalist article in the Guardian screamed the headline: New Zealand was a friend to Middle Earth, but it's no friend of the earth. The writer gives New Zealand the dubious prize of being the world's worst polluter:
 "But my prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as "clean and green".

New Zealand secured a generous Kyoto target, which simply required it not to increase its emissions between 1990 and 2010. But the latest UN statistics show its emissions of greenhouse gases up by 22%, or a whopping 39% if you look at emissions from fuel burning alone."
Sadly this has been reported repeated in New Zealand's MSM without qualification.

While we may worry about potential tourists in our second highest market reading this drivel and putting off travel plans, there is probably a greater risk that gullible hand-wringing Kiwis will believe this uninformed narrow view.

Rather than launching into our own tirade, we suggest that you head over to the popular blog, MacDoctor that clinically dissects the pommy writer's ridiculous outburst HERE.

Dealing with feedback

The idea of the Internet being an exciting, unregulated pool of interactive information with the user being able to choose content and interact freely with others, excites some and fills others with dread.

We posted HERE about Google's recently launched offering that will allow users to make comments on most websites. Google Sidewiki enables anyone to publish and share comments about almost any website in a side window that opens alongside web pages. 

This has huge potential for wider use within the travel industry. With Google Sidewiki, if someone wishes to comment on your accommodation and services offered there is no need to go through the rigmarole of using a third party travel review site. Anyone using Google Sidewiki can simply visit your own corporate website and make comment on any matter they choose without qualification.

Once a comment is published the comment can be instantaneously broadcast to a wider audience on Facebook and Twitter.

If you are operating a blog with a comments section that is either too difficult to use or heavily moderated, then Google's Sidewiki can be brought into play. 

We note with amusement that popular right-wing blogger, Whaleoil is using Sidewiki to share his views on the Labour Party blog, Red Alert (Click HERE for a larger view).

So, a lesson here is that if you operate a blog you need to accept that not all comments will be complimentary. By all means have some clear standards, however do not block comments simply because you do not necessarily agree with them. Having the odd inflammatory comment keeps it real and encourages further interaction. It is often easier to respond via the comments section within your blog rather than commentary on other platforms.

You also need to make sure that you make it easy for your audience to engage in feedback. By all means add the requirement for commentators to enter spam stopping phrases if you must, however it is imperative that comments are instantly uploaded live without having to wait for moderation. Making it easy and by providing instant gratification will hopefully encourage regular feedback.

...So feel free to make any comments you wish on this blog. I have an incredibly thick skin and really won't mind if you don't agree with a view that I may express. So many of you would rather send me emails or contact me via Skype or phone, however I urge you to use the comments section by clicking below each post and start a conversation that a wider community can enter into...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Adding Value

In these recessionary times, accommodation operators need to think beyond the square and get innovative.

Adding value appears to be a catch-phrase that tends to be used a lot in the accommodation industry lately and in this vein we would like to suggest an innovative activity that could be offered to motel guests.

To the Point Luxury Cruise Lines (below) have created an innovative marketing opportunity from an initial annoying problem. We can see this idea being developed further and utilised by the motel industry.

We are sure this added value activity will be become particularly popular with motels in Bealey Avenue Christchurch, Fitzherbert Avenue Palmerston North and Te Rapa/Ulster Roads Hamilton, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when "targets" are more abundant by driving past on a regular basis in souped-up Subaru and Mitsubishi cars.

We are sure that guests would sieze the opportunity to try out a selection of assault weapons strategically mounted at motel frontages:

To The Point is excited to offer the ultimate adventure cruise along the pirate-infested coast of Somalia!

We board our luxury cruise ship in Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea, and disembark in Mombassa, Kenya seven adrenaline-charged days later.


Starting at $5,200 per-person (double occupancy, inside room) and $6,900 (veranda complete with bench rest), you'll relax like never before.

That's because you are welcome to bring your own arsenal with you.  If you don't have your own weapons, you can rent them from our onboard Master Gunsmith. Enjoy reloading parties every afternoon with skeet and marksmanship competitions every night!

But the best fun of all, of course, is Pirate Target Practice.

For the object of the cruise is to sail up and down the Somali Coast waiting to get hijacked by pirates.  The weapons rental costs are as follows.

Rent a full auto M-16 for only $25/day with ammo attractively priced at $16 per 100 rounds of 5.56 armor-piercing:


On a budget? Rent a full-auto scope-mounted AK-47 for only $9/day with 7.62 ball ammo at $12 per 100 rounds:

Hello! Nothing gets a pirate's attention like a Barrett M-107 .50-cal sniper rifle; only $59/day with 25 rounds of armor-piercing ammo affordably priced at only $29.95.


Need a spotter? Our professional crew members can double as spotters for only $30/hour (spotting scope included, but gratuities are not.)


Want to make a real impact?  Rent an RPG for only $175/day with three fragmentation rounds included!


Also included:  Free complimentary night vision equipment - and throughout the night, coffee, pastries and snacks are always available on the main deck from 7pm until 6am.

Our deluxe package comes complete with gourmet meals and all rooms offer a mini-bar.

But that's not all! Twin mounted miniguns are available for rental at only $450.00 per 30 seconds of sustained fire!

We guarantee that you will experience at least two hijacking attempts by pirates or you'll receive an instant $1,000 refund upon arrival in Mombassa.

How can we make that guarantee? We operate at 5 knots just beyond 12 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, thus in international waters where pirates have no rights whatever. In fact, we make three passes through the area's most treacherous waters to ensure maximum visibility by Somali "mother ships".

We repeat this for five days, making three complete passes past the entire Somali Coast.  At night, the boat is fully lit and bottle rockets are shot every five minutes with loud disco music directionally beamed shoreside to attract maximum attention.

Testimonials from previous participants in the Somali Cruise:

"Six attacks in 4 days were more than I expected. I bagged three pirates, my wife nailed two, and my 12-year old son sank two boats with the mini-gun. This wonderful cruise was fun for the whole family" -- Fred D., Cincinnati, OH

"Pirates 0, Passengers 32! Well worth the trip! Can't recommend it highly enough!" -- Ben L., Bethesda, MD

"I haven't had this much fun since flying choppers in 'Nam. Don't worry about getting shot by pirates... they never even got close to the ship with the crap they shoot and their lousy aim... reminds me of a drunken juicer door-gunner we picked up from the motor pool in Phu Bai!" -- Dan J. - Denver, CO

Come on board and bag your own clutch of genuine Somali pirates!  But cabin space is limited so you need to respond quickly.  Reserve your package before May 31st and get a great bonus - 100 rounds of free tracer ammo in the caliber of your choice.  So sign up for the Ultimate Somali Coast Adventure Cruise now!

Source: Click HERE

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Motel Life

The Mother-In-Law arrived yesterday. 

Is it somewhat ironic that it is Friday the 13th tomorrow?

How do you politely raise the question: - "When are you leaving?"

Worked out your ACC account yet?

Maintaining existing ACC levies under the current regime is clearly unsustainable with expenditure doubling over the nine years of the Labour government against inflation over this period of only 30%. 

It is clear that ACC should be substantially reformed and opened up to competition. Employers should have a choice of cover and benefits with policies that recognise good management practices. With the tail of economic crisis still with us, now is the time to curtail the entitlement mentality by qualifying and capping claims to affordable levels. The costs of maintaining the current bureaucratic regime would appear to be out of sync with the benefits delivered. 

While motorcycle enthusiasts have grabbed headlines rallying against proposed hefty ACC increases, media reports on the proposed levy increases to businesses have kept a relatively low profile.

So what are the proposed ACC increases?

According to the Tourism Industry Association (TIA), the accommodation sector will be facing a levy hike of over 80%. Other "tourism operators" will also face substantial levy increases of between 30% and more than 100%.

The TIA along with other trade associations have spoken on our behalf, however their stance is somewhat disappointing. They have simply rolled-over and have accepted that the tourism industry should absorb these increases. Their only concession is to suggest that the increases should be staged to give the industry time to manage and adjust.

The Motel Association of NZ has other priorities and doesn't appear to have a position on the proposed hefty increase in levies to be imposed upon its membership? 

The industry inactivity/acceptance of ACC's proposed increases to be imposed on its members is disappointing. The only voice of reason that has been reported has been from Hospitality Association NZ chief executive Bruce Robertson that urged ACC to undertake a rigorous cost-cutting approach.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

K Rudd Continues to Boost Kiwi Tourism

Statistics New Zealand have today released the accommodation survey results for September.

Overall it's good news with total guest nights in short-term commercial accommodation for September 2009 up by 3 percent compared to September last year.

The positive results achieved in September 2009 must be kept in perspective by being compared with last year's recessionary low base. It is noted that guest nights in September 2009 are 2 percent down when compared to September 2007.

When compared with September 2008, guest nights in the North Island were up 2 percent and the South Island up 4 percent. Similar to last month, regions that are on the main skiing routes seemed to return better results than those regions that are not. Kiwi operators have appreciated the unintended consequences of K Rudd's Australian stimulus package - a gift that keeps on giving!

Eleven of the 12 regions recorded more guest nights in September 2009 compared with September 2008, with the following regions showing the largest increases: 
  • Otago, up 19,000 (6 percent) 
  • Canterbury, up 11,000 (3 percent) 
  • Bay of Plenty, up 10,000 (5 percent).
The only region showing a decrease was Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman, down 2,000 (2 percent).

Largely thanks to our Ozzie cousins, international visitors boosted overall  guest nights in September 2009 with an increase of 8 percent compared with September 2008.

Domestic guest nights were not as strong by increasing by less than 1 percent in September 2009 compared with September 2008

It is noted that the 'hosted' accommodation group is no longer monitored in the monthly Accommodation Survey. It is pleasing that in September 2009, all four of the remaining accommodation types enjoyed more guest nights than in September 2008:
  • Hotels, up 4 percent
  • Backpackers, up 6 percent
  • Motels, up 2 percent
  • Holiday parks, up 1 percent.
Hotels continue to maintain their crown of hosting more guests than any other sector. 

In September 2009, hotels had the highest occupancy rate (51 percent), followed by motels (44 percent), and backpackers (33 percent).

Source: Click HERE

Motel Lost Property

I came across an interesting news article about a how a doctor left marijuana behind at a motel room that was discovered by housekeeping staff. The doctor was named and shamed in the local newspaper. The article with a trail of the doctor's excuses along with public reaction can be read HERE

This reminds me of when one of our housekeeping staff came across an enormous bag of weed in one of our motel units many years ago. Work came to a standstill as all staff gathered around to inspect the bounty. We ended up ringing the police to come and pick the bag up and we were informed in a matter of fact way by the officer that the the bag was a "dealers bag". Essentially this meant that it was so big that it must have been for supply.

I can still remember the reaction of one particular staff member that could not take her eyes off the bag and the look of sorrow and despair as the policeman drove out the motel driveway with the contraband safely stowed away.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Billboard Effect

We enjoy finding new accommodation industry specific jargon and catch-phrases. Using our own coded language gives us an air of superiority, loftiness and self-importance;-)

We were reading an article the other day and discovered a new term that we can add to our vernacular: 'The Billboard Effect."

So, What does this mean?

The Billboard Effect is the benefits that accommodation providers gain from marketing their property across many mediums. This can include listing inventory with an Online Travel Agents (OTA) such as and This exposure will generate complimentary reservations through other direct channels, such as the accommodation provider's own website, telephone etc.

A worthy question would be: "how much business does The Billboard Effect generate?" This would vary between properties, however we know ourselves that we have regular email, telephone and even off-road inquiries from potential guests that first source availability, room configuration and tariff details from our listings on OTAs.

An extreme example of this is that we now regularly see potential guests sitting in their car outside our motel with a laptop, researching accommodation options before they walk through the door.

Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research, has recently done an interesting study on The Billboard Effect and  has measured the actual direct reservation volume benefits from OTA exposure. This travel research is available HERE.

For those that do not wish to wade through the report, the findings report that OTA exposure increased direct reservations from 7.5 to 26 percent.

Although accommodation providers can grumble about "evils" of OTAs, it must be kept in mind that they provide valuable exposure and commission free bookings can be gained from OTAs' bleeding sales opportunities.

There is an increasing amount of potential guests that are using the internet to research accommodation options, however a hard core of them will still book through traditional channels.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Motel PMS

Having problems with your PMS?

A New Zealand motel that experienced difficulties with their "Callista" Property Management System (PMS) ended up having their system go off-line for 5-hours while techs attempted to resolve the problem.

At some stage, the relationship between the motel and Callista degenerated and things got rather heated. The motel decided to share their experience on Facebook and one of several posts went like this:

"Had a major problem with our PMS yesterday (Callista). Their tech managed to mess us up majorly, we ended up being offline for 5 hours on a very busy day....and the outcome, they have come out firing at us with both barrells and blaming us for everything from the system outage to global warming. Go figure. Watch out when dealing with Callista, very, very unprofessional!!! We are now looking to change PMS suppliers!"
Callista had the opportunity to respond on Facebook, however decided to post a curt one-liner:
"Our recorded transcript tells the whole story."
Soon after, the motel's Callista contact committed the ultimate snub and promptly de-friended the motel on Facebook! Oh the humanity!! 

We do not intend to apportion blame as we will never know what exactly went down, however we can understand the frustrations experienced by the motel with a seemingly indifferent PMS supplier. We've been there ourselves.

What is clear is that the customer has been left extremely dissatisfied and Callista could have handled this very differently, especially when given the opportunity to respond on a social networking platform. 

Begs the question: Has other accommodation businesses experienced similar issues with their PMS provider?

Al Gore Helping The Climate Change Debate?

The productivity of most of the world's countries, including New Zealand will be influenced by what climate change legislation America decides to impose upon its people. 

That is why we are following the progress of the Obama endorsed climate change bill in America with interest. The cap and trade bill proposes the reduction of carbon pollution output of 20 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels.

As the climate change bill in America stalls, we note the return of a familiar figure...

Expect to see more of carbon billionaire, Al Gore as he jets around the world making frequent  public appearances. We note that the media has greeted Al Gore's high profile 2nd-coming into the environmental arena somewhat more coolly this time around.  Al Gore, the self-styled high priest of climate change may be loosing creditability as the world starts to question some of his reasoning, self-interest and personal commitment.   

Ironically, a hypercritical and bloated Al Gore may assist in a backlash against environmental legislation as the world looses faith in the religion of climate change hysteria. 

Finally the masses may begin to understand that the biggest challenge we face is not from the myths of climate change, but from impositions that governments will place upon the world's producers.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Air New Zealand Take The P*SS

Full credit to Air New Zealand's marketing team for being quick out of the blocks:

Air New Zealand's "Sprung in Paris specials"ad featuring Hone Harawira

Air New Zealand's "Los Angeles fares with nothing to Hide" ad featuring Rodney Hide

Web Stats for Travel Category

So how are the those Kiwi-based Travel Category websites performing according to Nielsen?

The Top 5 web sites in the Travel Category tracking the number of unique visitors from domestic traffic to October 2009 (Click for a larger view):

Source: Click HERE 

The top 10 web sites in the travel category by the number of unique visitors from both domestic AND overseas traffic.

Top Travel Sites by Unique Browsers
Total Traffic October 2009


Source: Click HERE

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Motel Fair Go Update

The two faces of Sue Erasmus

In our post HERE we wrote about Sue Erasmus, a plausible South African, self-proclaimed business woman that claims to be a immigration and employment consultant. She enjoys using the services of motels and then leaving dud cheques upon departure.

She was the star of last week's consumer television television show, Fair Go and was outed in a set-up by one of the the show's presenters aided by moteliers Warren and Maggie Anderson of the Camelot Motor Inn that were chasing a bounced $700.00 cheque.

Last night's follow-up by Fair Go revealed that they had been contacted by 8 further people that have alleged to have had dodgy dealings with Sue Erasmus in her role as an immigration consultant. It was stated that South Auckland Police are currently investigating complaints.

Last week's show mentioned the suspicious MO of Sue Erasmus conducting meetings with men in curtained motel rooms. This week Fair Go host, Kevin Milne stated the obvious:  

"Her other job is working as an escort using motels to see clients."

He further stated some good advice: "We suggest that moteliers watch our for her as she has a habit of not paying her way..."

Click on the full Fair Go episode HERE

Tourism promotion 101

We like the marketing idea of treating friends and family by putting them up in commercial accommodation.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism launched the "Come Out and Play" promotion last year that encouraged locals to get their friends and family to come for a visit. We like this concept and by all accounts this was very successful.

Tourism promotion 101 is to encourage local communities to invite friends and family to stay with them. Often this foundation of tourism promotion is overlooked by tourism bodies that would prefer to chase the glamor of overseas marketing.

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 visit. 

My wife announced today that her mother is coming to visit next week. Bugger! Guess which motel she will be staying in?

Confessions of a Sales Rep

My motel career started in my teens growing up in a motel. I can remember being impressed with the sales reps that our family hosted. They drove the latest cars, dressed well, ate out at restaurants and seemed to have a great social life. 

Companies seem to be micro managing their sales team a lot more these days and there are a lot less excesses than there used to be. The pressure of sales targets and more accountability has changed the life of a sales rep, however a man away from home will always find some time for personal pursuits:
As the company’s national sales meeting got underway one particularly cocky sales rep was approached by a stern-looking man.

“Excuse me,” he said, “are you Stanley Jones?”

“That’s me,” the confident young man replied. “Stanley Jones is the name, selling is the game.”

“Tell me, were you in Palmerston North two months ago?”

Jones began leafing through his day planner, “Two months ago. Why, yes, I sure was.”

And did you stay at the Lacey Motel?”

“Now, let me see. Yes here it’s, the Lacey Motel.”

“And did you stay in room 31?”

“Hang on,” he murmured, as he turned a page, “Yes, I did.”

“Next to a Mrs. Porter?”

“Mrs. Porter? Hmmmm… Why, yes, she was in room 32.”

“And you slept with her on Saturday night?”

“Just a second,” the sales rep replied as he checked his entries. “Yes, your right. I did give her a bit of the in-and-out.”

The stranger turned bright red. “Well, I’m her husband, Mr. Jones, and I don’t like it!”

The sales rep looked at his book again. “Mrs. Porter, Lacey Motel 32,” he read. “No, sir, neither did I!”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spice up your website or blog

Running a blog is a lot like running a motel. Back of house is in a constant state of productive flux while the front of house always appears to be sparkling and serene.

Our Motella Engineering Department has been hard at work and we are pleased to announce that we have improved the "Motella Panoramic Slideshow Widget" as pictured below. It is pleasing to see this appearing on other blogs and websites.

Why not spice up your website or blog and increase traffic by adding this dynamic featureThe Motella Panoramic Slideshow Widget will make your website or blog update "every day" with fresh new content. And we are giving it way FREE.

Make you
r online presence more engaging and enjoyable, giving your readers another reason to return often.          

For instructions, simply: CLICK HERE announce...another sale

Accommodation providers are being invited to partake in "one-off" promotions by Online Travel Agent (OTA) on an increasingly regular basis.

The "Wotif Under $99" promotion went live to the public from 30th October and is active until 8th November 2009. This promotion followed on from this year's " 5-Day Sale" in June and the "7-day Ridiculous Rates Sale" in August that both promoted deals that were at least 50% off the rack rate.

This time, will be launching their "So Low, Just Go Sale" just 2-days after their current "Under $99" promotion. The "So Low, Just Go Sale" will be available to the public from Tuesday 10th to Monday 16th November 2009. To take part in the promotion, suppliers are again required to offer the now familiar formula of at least 50% off the rack rate. seem to be setting a trend of partnering up with Tourism New Zealand on every second promotion and this time it is their turn to go it alone. The sale will be promoted through advertising featuring on all the major radio stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Further promotional support will be by Wotif newsletters sent to its vast database of clients, website buttons on the website, press releases and use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. will be aware that they have been accused by some accommodation operators of normalising expectations of deep discounting in the accommodation industry with successive promotions purely based on slashing tariff.

With this in mind have qualified their latest 50%-off promotion by communicating to suppliers: "We understand that this promotion is not for everyone but we just wanted to give you the opportunity to participate." Fair enough.

Discounting room rates is a temporary solution and may fill some empty rooms, but the consequences can be severe with a negative affect on future profits.

Unlike our airline cousins, the accommodation industry by lowering rates does not necessarily create new demand. Discounting may only redistribute guests amongst suppliers and does not succeed in bringing new guests to the market.

Rather than berate, maybe accommodation industry should be looking at themselves.

We suggest that operators do not need to slash tariff on but would recommend that accommodation providers continue to use several OTA's as a valuable marketing tool. In our opinion it is not necessary to follow the small scrum of operators that regularly drop their pants on these platforms. 

OTA's still provide excellent exposure and yield for savvy operators that sex-up their offer and add value. Believe it or not the majority of punters that purchase accommodation from an OTA are not looking for the cheapest sub $100 offer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Motel Greenwash

Sufficient time has lapsed to safely recall our experiences staying at a couple of accommodation properties that will remain nameless.

The properties were both rated by Qualmark NZ and overall deserved their high star rating. In fact, we generally find that Qualmark's star grading system to be a very good indicator of the level of quality and services offered when comparing accommodation options from a consumer's point of view.

For those of you that don't know, Qualmark NZ contract trained assessors to evaluate tourism businesses including accommodation every year using an exhaustive list of criteria. The star gradings allocated to accommodation businesses are generally a credible comparison between other accommodation options that choose to be assessed by Qualmark.

At the height of the Nanny-State era under the previous government, Qualmark inserted a fashionable and politically correct environmental criteria into their quality assessment. This means that accommodation businesses are now assessed on their allegiance to environmental and social mantra as part of the assessment process. Surprisingly, this contributes towards the property's final star grading.

Extra special properties that demonstrate their environmental and social concerns can be awarded a separate Qualmark Green enviro-rating. 

Whilst we take issue with Qualmark and its Dark Green Agenda, the accommodation industry needs to take responsibility and be aware of the consequences of elevating environmental and social concerns to the detriment of guest comfort and choice. We are aware that there are some accommodation providers losing perspective by taking an over-enthusiastic, evangelist approach to environmental and social issues. We were dumbfounded when staying at one 5-star property that stretched out servicing their rooms to every few days for environmental reasons. 

OK, back to our accommodation observations ....Coincidentally, the properties that we choose to stay at both had achieved high Qualmark Green enviro-ratings. Next time we will be taking special note of these ratings...

At these particular properties there were a few irritating things that had a negative impact on our experience and all seemed to have direct correlation with the owners' heightened environmental evangelism. This was a shame, as they were very good quality properties, however the owners were seduced into saving the planet and forgot about the needs of the guests that they were hosting.

From our observations as a guest we have collated the following easy to follow guide for accommodation providers on what guest irritants to avoid when embarking down the environmental and socially responsible pathway:
  • Do not append a silly condescending enviro vanity message to your email reservation confirmation - you know the ones: "Please consider the environment before printing this email."
  • We do not want to use bulk unbranded soap/shampoo from a communal pump action bottle.
  • We do not wish to share bulk unbranded tea, coffee sugar from communal plastic containers.
  • We get no benefit from a power isolating switch that can only be activated by a key tag. They are a pain!
  • When we turn on the shower, we wish to control the water flow ourselves and not be dictated by a mean spirited water flow restrictor that necessitates running around under a pathetic water flow to get wet. 
  • We do not wish to be talked down to by silly signs in our room that would be better placed in a primary school reminding us to not leave water running and to conserve energy.
  • We do not wish to sort our rubbish in tacky plastic segregated bins - if accommodation providers insist on separating rubbish then that's their job.
  • We do not appreciate the inference that we are environmental terrorists by throwing our towels in the bathtub and not hanging them up for reuse. 
  • We like to read and navigate around our room at night that necessitates reasonable lighting. Low wattage, ill-fitting flouro bulbs that retrofitted into light fittings not designed for them do not produce good quality light.
  • When I open my door in the morning I expect to see a newspaper waiting for me. Your cost cutting exercise of insisting that I pre-order this the night before is infuriating.
  • And after enduring staying with you, we do not wish to read in the guest compendium smug boasts about how much water, electricity your business is saving, the number of rubbish bags you put out each week or how many endangered animals you are sponsoring!

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