Thursday, March 31, 2011

A New Motel Amenity?

Oh dear! Will large blue inflatable PVC Swiss balls become the new trendy recreational item to offer guests in the nation's motels and hotels? 
Truth Page 03 Apr1                                                                 
Source: WhaleOil

Will Google's +1 Influence Travel Website Browsing?

We were interested to see that Google is getting more social by introducing its answer to Facebook's “like” button:

Motel Toilet Paper

We have been a wee bit lax in posting lately - the day job needed some attention this week, however we are slowly getting back on top and intend to make up for a few days of digital inactivity with a post on ...toilet paper.

It's a topic that has has intrigue and the basis of great debate. 
As a social service, we have previously answered that age-old question "which way should you hang the toilet paper?" Is it against the wall or away from the wall? The correct answer that is well known by accommodation providers worldwide.

In our post HERE you'll discover why it's away from the wall! 

After extensive research we have also previously answered that other question that have intrigued guests staying in commercial accommodation over the years: "why do hotels and motels form a V in the toilet roll?" 

All the detailed answers are in our post HERE. 

It's our humble opinion that the value that guests' place on the toilet paper placed in guest-rooms is often underestimated by accommodation providers. It's about time the mundane task of using this essential item is made to be a bit more fun and elightened accommodation owners should be leading the way.

I think creative people have a lot of energy, and when we are in the bathroom, there usually isn’t anything particularly interesting to keep our attention, so when someone does something fun with toilet paper, it entertains us, and that is all we need to make us smile.

People usually feel strongly about the kind of toilet paper they like to use. Some people prefer the super cozy soft kind, while others go for the most inexpensive toilet paper since it’s just getting flushed away. Regardless of what kind you prefer, I hope you will enjoy checking out these entertaining toilet paper designs that will be soon added to motel/hotel guest rooms:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Comic PM

John Key hooks up with Shane Warne alter ego played by Australian comedian Peter Flaherty and is recorded in an unscripted 7-minute video that will be used to promote Napier's Art Deco Weekend.

The prime minister laughs, jokes and pokes fun at himself during the session and discusses Liz Hurley, purchasing BMWs, cricket, Bondi bludgers and his preference for Holdens.

Some folk will bemoan a PM letting his guard down and acting less than statesmanlike. Former PM, Helen Clark would have never put herself in this position...and that's why we like it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

EU Business Register Scam?

As busy and easily distracted small business owners, moteliers seem to be an easy target for scams that are designed to deceive and extract funds. 

Legitimate online motel directory listings and contact details are easily found scattered throughout the Internet and this makes it easy for unscrupulous hawkers and scam artists to build a database to methodically troll. 

Many moteliers will be familiar with dodgy international players such as Nova Channel AG from Lucerne in Switzerland and the International Travel and Tourism Guide from the Czech Republic.

For many years, these firms in various guises have been sending pro-forma invoice forms for the inclusion in a directory (and a CD Rom!) of dubious value using questionable sales techniques.

As soon as one dodgy online directory fades into the ether another seems to take its place and that's why we were interested to receive the following email from the EU Business Register domiciled in Spain:

From: EU Business Register []
Sent: Sunday, 27 March 2011 6:19 a.m.
To: xxxx
Subject: EU Business Register 2011/2012

Dear Madam/Sir,

In order to have your company inserted in the EU Business Register for 2011/2012, please print, complete and submit the enclosed form to the following address:

BOX 252 - 28020 Madrid

Fax: +34 91 791 9167

The email came with the following attachment:

EU Business Register

The sales technique used the EU Business Register appears to be a carbon copy previously used by Nova Channel AG and the International Travel and Tourism Guide.

On the face of it, EU Business Register are simply requesting business owners to "update" details for an internet directory listing and they state "updating is free of charge" however it is also stated "only sign if you want to place an insertion."

Many business owners complete and return believing that they are updating a free listing. But by signing the document they are unknowingly agreeing to a directory insertion with a subscription @ EUR 995.00 per annum for the next three years.

We know from the direct experience of others that a simple unguarded mistake can lead to a lot of worry and angst for fellow business owners that are often hounded by the dodgy directory company's own internal debt collection agencies.

A simple piece of advice ignore and delete any email offer.

And if you did sign, please feel to contact us.

Motel Regrets

Source: Motivator Motel

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Motel Maze

Source: Motivator Motel

Celebrating Human Achievement

After another busy week at Motella HQ, we are today scurrying around with some last minute touches in preparation for this evening's celebratory activities.

It's today that we honour Human Achievement Hour from 8.30pm that has once again coincidentally clashed with this year's masterbatery Earth Hour. 

Human Achievement Hour celebrates man's ability to think, reason and change his environment to suit his needs. Now is the best time to be alive and 2010 was another year of human endeavour that gave us flying cars! Jet packs! Lasers that zap malaria-carrying mosquitoes! Check out the year's biggest (and coolest) breakthroughs in science, technology and the arts accoring to Time Magazine.

Celebrating Human Achievement Hour will mean turning all available lights *ON* and ridiculing those blow-hard, hypercritical eco-show-offs that allow silly bint "celebrities" like Keisha Castle-Hughes to think for them. We will be taking particular note at the irony of business owners that will be sitting in delusional darkness while grandstanding hypercritical social responsibility....for one hour.

Sadly this year we are unable to hire our usual diesel powered lighting towers due to demand in Christchurch however being public spirited we still intend to do our bit. We took a trip down to Bunnings earlier this week and have picked up several of these:
"WARRIOR HALOGEN WORK LIGHT. These handy portable units come complete with carry handle and the 500 watt halogen bulbs are included."
Our motel will once again be a beacon of light ensuring that we confront anti-human globalised gullibility while celebrating the advancement of human prosperity.

Now that's something really worth celebrating;-) 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Motel Décor

Keeping things low-brow and lightweight on Frivolous Friday:

 Source: Motivator Motel

Extreme Motel Video 2

In a post earlier this week we highlighted one of our favourite accommodation chains, Wego Motels.

Companies using short introductory video in their online marketing mix is becoming a "must-have" accessory and Wego Motels, a quirky and crazy Taiwanese accommodation chain has taken this hottest trend in online marketing and ramped it up to another level.

For motel marketing inspiration we have below Wego's second mini-movie, "Room Service" that is designed to pique teens' curiosity and in an obscure art-house way capture the Wego experience.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Air NZ Environmental Trust Update

I've just booked some flights with Air NZ and have kindly redesigned the Greenwash section of their online reservation form:

Darren Hughes Checks-out

Loving the Darren Hughes saga and the commentary second-guessing what may have happened after an 18-year old male went home with Hughes in the early hours after a night on the tiles.

Was the 18 year old's personal responsibility neutralised by his naivety and the undue influence of an intoxicating senior member of the Labour party? Did Hughes lash-out inappropriately once behind closed doors? or did the young 18 year-old Labour party stooge get a bit flustered and have a sudden change of heart?

There is a certain irony that this story may have been projected differently if Hughes had managed to pull an 18-year old female.

The real story is how Labour handles the aftermath. Is this incident that has been kept under wraps until now, enough to roll Fail-Goff as leader?

Meanwhile we see that Whaleoil is kindly offering a rare olive branch to the Labour Party by offering some training videos that will assist them with their media spin as this sordid little story unfolds: 

TripAdvisor Security Breach

Looks like TripAdvisor has had a relatively minor security breach and are appearing to do the right thing by advising members' on their database: 

To our registered owners and Business Listings subscribers:

This past weekend we discovered that an unauthorized third party had stolen part of TripAdvisor's member email list, including some registered owners' email addresses. We're taking this incident very seriously and are actively pursuing the matter with law enforcement.

You may receive some unsolicited emails (spam) as a result of this incident. I want to reassure you, however, that no additional information beyond email addresses was lost. Any other information you have shared with us, such as your name, address, title, and credit card or bank information, is still secure.

We will continue to take all appropriate measures to keep your personal information secure at TripAdvisor. I sincerely apologize for this incident and appreciate your participation in our travel community.

Christine Petersen
Christine Petersen
President, TripAdvisor for Business 

For more information: Click HERE

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Been called by NZ Key List yet?

Motels seem to be a favourite target of telemarketers that attempt to sell worthless listings on online directories.

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

All of these web-based directories have offered listings of dubious value by using questionable sales techniques. As soon as one online directory fades into the ether another seems to take its place. 

Our good friends at the NZ Scams To Avoid blog have alerted us to a new directory called  that seems to have striking similarities to the aforementioned directories. We won't link to but hope that the gatekeepers at Google will elevate us in their search rankings so that when business owners search for they will trip across this post.

We hear that telemarketers are methodically making unsolicited phone calls to Kiwi businesses right now and are busy populating the with listings. Some business owners will pay but most of the listings that appear on the site are added gratis to add legitimacy.

The surprisingly familiar offer is for small business owners to buy a listing for one year and get one for free. But don't worry if you don't buy now, they'll list your business anyway. The trouble is that they will soon return with a high-pressure sales patter to "renew" your listing.

For what's it worth, if call and offer you a listing on their obscure directory - we suggest you don't bother....and please feel free to contact us with your experience.

Pimping Accommodation Loyalty Schemes

There is a lot of resource pumped into accommodation loyalty schemes and for good reason.

Human behaviour dictates that consumer choices are often made for illogical reasons and we see examples of this occur on a regular basis in our own business.

The lure of getting a stamp, a card loyalty card swiped or points can be a powerful motivation for some.

We were amused to read a story of a pimp that was recently convicted of prostitution-related charges in a Massachusetts court.

The pimp advertised his hookers' services for $240 for an hour and $150 for a half-hour and exclusively used a certain chain of hotels because they offered a generous loyalty point scheme. The pimp booked the rooms and made sure that he collected the reward points up-front. Like any good pimp should, the proceeds of in-room activities were split with the women - but the women were made to pay for the hotel rooms they used.

The cruel irony is that most points earned with loyalty schemes tend to expire after a certain amount of time. Our hapless pimp will more than likely be unable to cash-in on his mountain of accumulated points as he has now checked-in to prison for the next two and a half years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Storming The Christchurch Cordon

We have enormous sympathy for the frustrated group of central Christchurch business owners that have stormed a cordon to protest the lack of access to their businesses. In one video we saw, Denis Harwood the angry owner of 161 Hereford Suites & Apartments say:
"I have New Zealand's newest 5-star hotel. After the rescue effort finished (the hotel) was broken into. All the keys were on their hooks but every single $1,500.00 security door was smashed-in and the cash drawers were ripped open. Now there's no bodies in the cash drawers, so who is doing the looting?"
This is a classic struggle between non-producing bureaucrats that are protecting unwilling people from themselves and heroic small business owners that are ready and willing to take accountability for their own actions. Our producers wish to get their lives back on track and begin the process of taking back possession of their property to start the process of rebuilding Christchurch. 

Fresh from eyeballing the army, police and officialdom at the front line, Christchuch businessman and protest leader, Kurt Langer has circulated the following open letter:
Please forward this email/letter on to all that you know who can help us make this happen!
The people of Christchurch who own businesses and buildings within the Central area of Christchurch have the following concerns.
1. We have lost faith in the competence and willingness of the Civil Defence and the Earthquake Authorities to be effective caretakers of our property.

  • Civil Defence is not adequately protecting property in the central city from looters.
  • Civil Defence is demolishing buildings and businesses without consultation and against the declared interests of their owners.
  • Civil Defence is destroying property without any due diligence or care about the value of what they are destroying.
  • Civil Defence does not even care to consult with owners of property in any meaningful capacity.
  • By any meaningful standard, the actions of Civil Defence are far more destructive to Christchurch businesses and business owners than the petty pilfering of looters.
2. We have lost faith in the ability of Civil Defence and the Earthquake Authorities to bring about meaningful recovery in the Christchurch central district.
  • If recovery has any meaning at all, it is the recovery of Christchurch businesses.
  • The "recovery" to date has been micro-managed, alienating the very individuals whose recovery is essential to restart business in Christchurch.
  • There has been no interest in working with the very people of Christchurch whose business it is to run business, rather keeping the attempted recovery within the hands of too few individuals.
  • Four weeks after the quake, and very little has been achieved beyond the original rescue effort. No surprise when the people who run Christchurch's businesses are excluded rather than embraced.
3. We call upon the New Zealand Government to:
  • End the State of Emergency on Friday. With rescue and immediate recovery complete, responsibility, risk and stewardship for property should revert to its owners.
  • Immediately reinstate personal property rights, guaranteeing property owners the final say in the determination of their property.
We say: “Tear down this State of Emergency and let Christchurch businesses begin the job of getting back on their feet.
Kurt Langer
Now no longer and maybe never accessible:
91 Cashel Mall
Christchurch 8011
New Zealand
M: +64 (0)21 407 506

Room Upgrades?

Source: Click HERE

Monday, March 21, 2011

Roarprawn's Hotel Hell

We see that our feisty friend the Brunette over at the popular Roarprawn Blog is not happy about a recent accommodation experience she endured at a Wellington hotel after booking via

In her revealing post she rattles off a shopping list of the hotel's inadequacies including a smelly room, a tap that wouldn't turn off, a moldy bathroom, missing TV remotes, no milk or cups, no minibar and a suspicion that that the bed linen may not have been changed since the last hapless occupant. Ewww!

From a grumpy accommodation operator's viewpoint we respectfully suggest that there were a few smoke signals advertised on Wotif that strongly indicated that this spartan budget hotel was never going to offer an experience fit for a celebrity blogger. We note that the hotel self-rates itself at a "realistic" and lowly 2-star. We also note that examples of tariff on offer include sub-$100 deals and a "Studio Meal Deal" for $119 that gets you a room with free parking, internet and a Fish n chip meal for two!

So is "buyer beware" and "you get what you pay for" a valid argument that qualifies a "horror" accommodation experience?

Frankly this sort of accommodation is embarrassing and there is no excuse for lack of cleanliness, however there will always be a place for budget hotels. We note that for a measly few more bucks, guests can rapidly elevate themselves up the quality ranks by choosing some excellent value alternative accommodation. The real crime is that the disparity in tariff is so small!

Star ratings and tariff are reasonable indicators of quality, however social media takes no prisoners and will deliver the best indicator of quality and experience before you book on most occasions.

It's social media that is now quickly exposing inadequate accommodation along with those worthy properties that are doing it right on Facebook, blogs and guest review sites such as TripAdvisor

Many Online Travel Agents are now publishing guest reviews on their sites and this real-time exposure to the light is ensuring that accommodation providers continually need to lift their game. If they don't - the market will dictate that shoddy accommodation won't be sticking around for too much longer.

For one property, the Brunette has delivered a social media barb that will hurt. 

Extreme Motel Video

Probably one of the hottest trends at the moment is for companies to add video into their online marketing mix. The web is awash with businesses using video trying to promote a product or service.

While print and static websites aren't going away anytime soon, consumers are increasingly turning to video online, not only for entertainment but also for information. More and more online retailers are using video to help sell items and there appears to be plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that an increasingly time-poor, lazy consumer is naturally attracted to video. A video presentation can give the consumer reason to briefly pause, watch and then buy.

While video isn't a requirement in an online marketing mix, we suspect that consumers will start to expect video and if it's not there, they may start to wonder why.

One thing that is apparent to us is that it is relatively difficult to sex-up a motel product using any media - including video. Unfortunately video examples that are being used in New Zealand at the moment are about as exciting as a late-night television infomercial.

While it is accepted that most promo-videos should only be between 1 -2 minutes in length, we see that one of our favourite accommodation chains, Wego Motels has broken new ground in motel marketing and have taken video to the extreme.

Those quirky and crazy folk at Taiwan-based Wego hired professional directors and actors and paid nearly US$400,000 to produce a series of artsy, provocative flicks that have crossed the line into soft-porn mini-movies. While the movies are set in Wego properties the actors and storyline take a staring role and the obvious "sell" has faded into the background.

Wego's first movie "Shower Cap" is supposed to appeal to young women and in an obscure way capture the Wego experience.

Could this work in New Zealand?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Future of Travel Marketing

Across the ditch it is interesting what is happening with tourism marketing in the social media space.

First up we have Tourism Australia that has launched a social media promotion called Making Tracks that is part of their A$150 million "There’s nothing like Australia" campaign. A series of videos have been produced that builds up to Australia hosting the 2011 YouTube Symphony Orchestra by following four musicians as they make their way around Australia.

Extracts from the tour have been broadcast on YouTube and Tourism Australia’s website as a prelude to the musicians’ finale performance at the Sydney Opera House tomorrow (Sunday March 20).

The campaign is .....boring!

We give this a FAIL and challenge our dear readers to watch one of the videos all the way through:

Meanwhile, Tourism Queensland (TQ) has launched their latest social media campaign Million dollar Memo.  The concept is strangely familiar by drawing on the successes of their previous promotion, Best Job in the World

A "Million Dollar" memo is sent inviting companies and workplaces worldwide to submit a video explaining why they should win the Ultimate Reward - One million dollars worth of travel experiences in Queensland.

The campaign has the potential to gather self-perpetuating social media content as business groups compete to stand out while highlighting the virtues of Queensland as a travel destination. 

Some of this content is relatively well-done, however we have seen this before...

As social media evolves I suspect that these campaigns will find it increasingly difficult to justify ROI as audiences become jaded with big box destination campaigns. What we like about social media is that individuals and private businesses using innovative quirky ways to deliver an interesting message can use social media just as effectively.

The time when publicly funded tourism organisations using collective funds to launch mainstream media big-bang generic promotional campaigns is now behind us. We suspect that major social media campaigns that are now undertaken by tourism organisations (including Tourism NZ) will also become obsolete as they become less relevant and valued by an evolving audience.

As audiences look for more authentic and fresh content, we expect that private travel companies will soon start taking over this social media space with smaller, more cost-effective targeted campaigns.

So we reckon that the model of a government providing collective centralist marketing on behalf of a selected industry group will soon become obsolete with the advancement of social media

And that's why we love this space...


We stumbled across an interesting initiative that has been put together by a proactive group of Kiwi bloggers. 
Blog4NZ is reaching out to the international travel blogging community to generate positive Kiwi travel related social media content to counter the bad publicity following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch on February 22.
Bloggers and travel websites around the world are being urged to publish content between March 21-23 2011 that gives the underlying message to the world that New Zealand is "open for business."
The incentive is not just the glory of being published, but over $10,000 in travel prizes to say thank you to bloggers.
In collaboration with key tourism groups, Blog4NZ is being organised by a small group of innovative Kiwi travel bloggers that include:
Jim McIntosh from Holes in My Soles
John Reese from the French Way Travel Blog
Craig Martin from the Indie Travel Podcast
Dan Roberts from Travel Generation

Sounds like interesting concept - we will be curious about the quality of the incentive based content that will be generated by random contributors. 
Go check-out Blog4NZ for further information.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Motella Visits The Sydney Hotel Hospitality and Design Expo

It appears that my free VIP invite to attend the Hotel Hospitality and Design expo that was held in Sydney over the past few days was lost in the post...

One exhibit that I would have liked to have checked-out was the "Hotel Room of the Future" that showcased the latest in technology from suppliers that were in attendance.

Not one to be discouraged about being overlooked once again, I have decided to undertake a virtual tour of the "Hotel Room of the Future" exhibit:

The ability for guests to check-in and manage their in-room dining via their mobile phone was provided by MyStayManager smartphone technology. To access the room you call a number and then hold up your mobile phone to the top of the door handle to unlock it. This is a great feature, however we can imagine that the iPhone's notoriously short-battery life could come into play by not allowing some hapless guests with a flat phone battery to check-in to their room late at night;-)

Once inside the room, guests can play videos, music and explore their location from a coffee table with a large touch screen embedded on top. The NSquared device enables the guest to virtually explore by a giant touch-screen the hotel and surrounds, order room service or build an itinerary for their stay and send it to the front desk.

The hotel's Suite Control allows the hotelier to configure individual guest rooms' heating/cooling system, the TV, lights and other appliances remotely, from any Internet connection. And guests using an in-room touch screen or an iPad (as used by Charlie Sheen) can control curtains, lights, temperature, TV, music, schedule wake-up calls, request valet and more.

The iGlass window can switch from clear to white at the touch of a button, providing increased privacy. Based on liquid crystal polymer technology, it switches over within 20 milliseconds to hide you from the outside world.

In a similar style to those hilarious over-engineered Japanese bathroom accessories a sensor in the hotel's toilet will open the lid for if guests come within 1.8m. Guests will feel like a king once perched on the heated seat "throne" and once the job is done will enjoy the integrated warm air dryer and built-in air purifying system. As guests depart to indulge with further gadgetry outside the bathroom, the toilet will automatically flush and close the lid.

Housekeeping will appreciate the "Self-cleaning" ACTIVE tiles on the bathroom floor that have an anti-bacterial layer claiming to break down pollutants in the air and be self-cleaning.

The "Bartech" fridge that automatically registers and charges when a drink is removed seems to be old-school technology but is still pretty cool.

When it comes to sleeping, AH Beard have created a bed with an ergomotion base that claims to let guests experience "zero gravity" along with three massaging settings via a wireless remote. The beds are currently available in stores for around AUD $10,000, but the company confidently predicts that they will be coming to more four or five-star Australian hotels soon.

So there you have it...still would have preferred being at the expo live and fiddling with all those remote controls and touch screens. I wonder if they would have let me try out that quirky automated hotel toilet?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Motel Marketing

This time of year, motels throughout the country are trying to figure out marketing budgets for the next 12-months. This happens to coincide with the 'Ugly Sisters" (Jasons and AA) hitting the road with their reps offering new multi-media marketing combos to bewildered moteliers.

In order to work out the distribution of marketing spend, a hard core of analytical motelier types ask every single guest how they found them and faithfully record this data for prosperity, others follow what the latest industry buzz tells them to do while others rely on gut-instinct.

While moteliers collecting and analysing the source of business data from their guests is the sensible and correct thing to do, this unfortunately does not give 100% correct lead as to what mediums are really generating business.

Google Analytics will measure with certainty all sorts of webstats including ranking what websites refer potential guests from but it will not reveal the multi-media the browser may have been exposed to before going online. Websites that generate reservations can also be easily measured and ranked however websites that produce seemingly insignificant business can still provide a valuable link for browsers that are researching accommodation options and will book by other means.

Asking guests directly how they found you is a good idea, however the results must be taken with a grain of salt. Most guests become bewildered and confused along the multi-media journey that may include social networking, print and digital. If a potential guest finds that one piece of the puzzle is missing, they will become distracted by dropping a positive lead for another. If most guests are asked what paid marketing lead them to make a buying decision, most would be unable to positively identify with certainty what particular website, directory etc that influenced them. And if they could it would only be the very last source of many that they have referred to.

We would like to think that all marketing should be focused online. Digital is exciting and sexy, we feel reasonably comfortable in this space and are intoxicated with any media delivered by the comforting glow of a screen. Although dead tree media is less exciting, it is far from dead and still a major part of the equation that drives a substantial amount of business. 

John Wanamaker, the US department store pioneer, is often quoted as saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half”. Unfortunately this unhelpful quotation seems to be even more relevant today, especially when marketing motels.

So after spending an exhilarating evening last night with a vivacious AA Guides rep that offered me an array of multi-media marketing combos, I hope I managed to tick the right boxes... 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sexy Motel Batcave

If I had to choose my favourite superhero it would have to be that brooding alter-ego man in black, Batman. So the next time I'm looking for a motel to stay in Kaohsiung City Taiwan, I'll be definitely checking-out the Eden Motel.

Holly Batcave! One of the 46 theme rooms at the Eden Motel has been tricked out in a full-on tribute to the Caped Crusader, complete with a couch modeled after the Batmobile that juts out from one of the rough, cement-like walls.

We are a big fan of theme-rooms and this has to be one of our favourites - So outrageously silly, but seriously well done.

The best part is that this motel conveniently rents by the hour, which means there's a low commitment factor if you're not, uh, satisfied. Second best part? Around the holidays, the motel gives away "lubrication, sexy lingerie and other perks." 

If you can convince the wife to slip into that Catwoman outfit, the tariff of USD$50 for a three-hour block represents excellent value...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top Kiwi Travel Websites

So what were the most popular destination and accommodation websites in New Zealand for the week ending 5 March 2011 according to Experian Hitwise?

We see that Trade Me owned Travelbug has dramatically surged from nowhere and has spanked all opposition to take top spot. 

Is this is a one-off rouge result or has the momentum and success of big brother TradeMe finally paying dividends?

Celebrating Human Achievement

At Motella HQ, we have started planning for Human Achievement Hour that has once again coincidentally clashed with this year's insidious Earth Hour. 

Naturally, we will not be joining the hippies, enviro-activists and other associated loonies around the world that will smugly sit in darkness for one hour on Saturday 26 March for Earth Hour in order to highlight the confused ideals of man-made global warming.

Inevitably, part of celebrating Human Achievement Hour will mean ridiculing those blow-hard, hypercritical eco-show-offs that will take part in Earth Hour. We love what the Ayn Rand Institute wrote about these folk:
"Participants spend an enjoyable sixty minutes in the dark, safe in the knowledge that the life-saving benefits of industrial civilization are just a light switch away... Forget one measly hour with just the lights off. How about Earth Month... Try spending a month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration; without power plants or generators; without any of the labour-saving, time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial energy makes possible."
Last year as fools sat in self-righteous delusional darkness, we managed to bathe our motel in light with two hired NIGHTSHIFTER 4000 self contained lighting towers. Each unit was powered by a CAT diesel engine powering 4 x 1000 Watt high performance metal halide lamps.

Unfortunately lighting towers are at a premium this year due to demand in Christchurch however we still intend to do our bit by turning on every light source we can muster to ensure that we confront anti-human globalised gullibility. 

While ecofascists return to the Dark Ages, we will be celebrating advancement of human prosperity with Human Achievement Hour on Saturday 26 March. Light represents man's ability to think, reason and change his environment to suit his needs.

We will be celebrating the life-saving benefits of an industrial civilization that is symbolised by man's ability to turn darkness into light. We reckon this is worth celebrating...

First annual Travelbug Awards 2011 announced

We noticed this week that a few of our accommodation social media friends were sporting new badges in their updates that were attributed to Trademe's first annual Travelbug Awards for 2011.

We love awards and note that Online Travel Agent (OTA) Travelbug have created their own recognition of excellent performance by accommodation operators that sell inventory on their website.

Interestingly the award winners were selected on a unique criteria that included how accommodation operators managed their inventory on Travelbug and number the of bookings received.

The quality of guest feedback was also measured and the "Best Reviews 2011" award was given to a broad range of properties that achieved 100 per cent guest satisfaction.

There are five categories of awards presented as follows:
Best in Region and Best in District awards are Travelbug’s highest accolade and were received by the top operator in each of Travelbug's geographic locations.

The Best Reviews Award is judged on guests that post 100% "thumbs up" positive feedback results across a minimum number of reviews. These hard working operators can proudly display the Best Reviewed 2011 award to show potential guests that their property is a great place to stay.

The Platinum Award is received by only the very best performing operators. The benchmark for this award is very high with only around 5% of properties being successful in receiving the Platinum Award.

The Gold Award recognises excellent achievement within the judging criteria and again only awarded to the very top performers. This award was presented to properties who performed within the top 10%.

We reckon that the awards are too inclusive with too many categories. In order to capture the public's imagination, we would like to see the criteria simplified and based solely on guest feedback that would rank a more exclusive selection of tall-poppy accommodation options.

It would be interesting to see the regional-spread and variety of accommodation options that would be ranked in a national top-10.

Hopefully the awards will prove to be a successful annual branding exercise for Travelbug.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rating Rotorua

We see that it is the season for draft budgets to be released by local councils and as expected there doesn't appear to be any hint of radical new rationalisation or fiscal restraint.

Under the dramatic headline "Motel job losses likely in airport saga" in the Bay of Plenty Times, we see that the Rotorua District Council have proposed a rates increase that will disproportionately target the business sector that includes a 5.6 per cent increase for their urban commercial residential district sector that happens to contain most of the city's motels.

Rotorua Moteliers Association chairman, Glenn Stafford has spoken out by highlighting that his local industry is already hurting and has called for a change from the current land value system to a capital value rating system.

Unfortunately councils are not often sympathetic to pleas of poverty from the business sector and tend to succumb to the far greater numbers of potential votes from private households that are also having a fiscally difficult time at the moment.

While we are indifferent to the land verses capital rating debate, we acknowledge that most mainstream business groups prefer rating systems to be based on capital values; however a change in the rating system alone will not bring equitable outcomes.

What should business groups be advocating? 

An underlying message that should be communicated to all councils is that a strong private business sector will underpin and sustain the general welfare of communities. In order to achieve this, councils should focus on minimising rates and regulatory burden as businesses are the wealth-creating institutions of society.

The "level playing field" argument that trade associations use in submissions to councils always seems to default to finger pointing at other sectors outside their sphere that are supposedly not pulling their weight. This seems to follow the woolly premise that it is acceptable for a business sector to pay an inequitable tax as long as other sectors share the burden as well. As a logical alternative, Trade Associations should be calling for councils to make a concerted effort to reduce business/private household rate differentials. This would address the anomaly of accommodation businesses charged differing differentials and businesses subsidising private households.

Rates should be based on actual use, not on the perceived ability to pay.

Councils should only fund genuine public goods and services and facilitate the efficient provision of necessary infrastructure. Following this principle would have put into serious question the folly of  the Rotorua District Council's wet-dream of pursuing the status of an international airport for the region. 

Councils should exit from all non-core activities. 

The case for councils subsidising events, tourism promotion, attractions, conference and sports facilities must be supported by rigorous economic analysis that clearly demonstrates net benefits for all ratepayers. 

There should be a concerted effort by councils to move funding of ‘club’ goods, such as swimming pools, recreation centres, libraries, museums, zoos etc to user charges.

Instead of an ad-hoc approach, business groups need to start working together in order to front-up and start demanding less government from local councils or continue to suffer from the burden of council rates continuing to escalate.

Monday, March 7, 2011

If you run a motel, you might not like what I’m about to say?

We see that a friend of the Motella Blog and founder of, Genevieve Atkinson has written a post about the changing face of (inbound) tourism. 
She offers some thought-provoking and provocative stuff - we like that! 
"If you reading this – maybe you will. Why? because your online and you’re reading a blog – both indicators that you have embraced the online world. Many haven’t and in the accommodation industry you simply must be online. 
Yes I’m sure there are a few isolated incidences of properties that get away with it, but for the 99%, if you’re not on the internet every day as an accommodation provider you’re dead in the water. 
Well that's obvious, what’s not to like about that? 
Each quarter the market share numbers come out and there is a continual shift from the Bed & Breakfast and Motel industry to the Hotel sector. Small but significant. Why? 
Well there are lots of reasons and one of the more subtle was highlighted in this news piece recently “Changing face of Tourism”. 
The type of traveller entering the country is changing. The ever present Brit in a campervan or German tourists camping, that stay for 4-6 weeks and venture to the smallest locales are not coming. Or not in the same numbers anyway – but our inbound numbers are being propped up by the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Who come in groups, on packages and tours. They stay a shorter length of time and see only what’s included by the tour leader. And some would argue a fairly sanitised version of the country – the Maori cultural show at the Chinese restaurtant.
Oh I can hear the cringes and tut tutting.

But I’ll throw that one back at you? Whose been to China? I have. Where did I eat, some Chinese places but after puking my guts our for 4 days, I can tell you I was never more pleased to see McDonalds. I saw a Chinese cultural performance – eating ” dumplings”, surrounded by Westerners – it was pretty awful, but I was on a tour. The advantages of the tour far outweighed the disadvantages of a few meals and not quite getting the “locals” experience. So let us be fair here. 

Do we like this new shift in traveller?

Of course not – it’s awkward and hardwork, we like tourists who arrive and can speak English, read the signs, make their own decisions and hire cars. (Maybe as an aside there, given the comments about ethnic drivers that are often made – are we really all that keen to have our new travelers hiring cars. Before you rip into me – I’d like to put up my little “irony”,  joking sign!”.) 

We have been spoilt. 

Many of the travellers arriving here from Europe, speak pretty good English and if they don’t at least they use the same alphabet. When I was in China, I was stunned at the difficulty of getting around. The language is so foreign that it’s even difficult to recognise the right stop on the subway. As you simple can’t regonise the symbols as words in the same way we do in French and German.
Is the Motel indsutry set up to deal with change?. Not at all. 

What does this have to do with being online.

It’s taken the Motel and B&B Indsutry a long time to embrace the internet and online sales – often they don’t like reliqnishing control of whose buying the room. Which can be understandable, but in our fast-past changing sector, it’s holding them back. Just having a website is such a minor part, now there is channel management, multiple booking channels, social media and accommodation reviews. 

Most of don’t like change – it’s awkward and hard-work, but it is the speed at which we can embrace it, work with it and see the advantages along with the negative that defines how well we survive.

If our ability to move with the times, embrace change, even we don’t like it – defines our success. Then the shift change in travellers is bad news for the Motel and B&B industry. We must prepare ourselves to deal with a different kind of traveller. One that might not speak much English. Currently they are coming on packages, which is to our disadvantage but as we venture into China independently so too the reverse.

I just wonder that if we can’t be open-minded about change in the way we sell our rooms, then how are we ever going to cope with the change of whose buying them."
Source: Click HERE

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We Are The Future

The MO was to film a bunch of self-absorbed, precocious child actors reading a prepared script laden with trendy marketing-babble on what the media landscape will be like in ten years time. The video was produced to generate debate and promote a media and marketing agency. 

The video has gone viral and has created a firestorm of negative feedback from a range of detractors; from those that scream "child exploitation" to those that think the promotion is pompous or simply badly delivered. We're in the second camp, as there are some interesting points raised in the video.

If we ignore the detractors and the voyeurism of what happens when a viral social media campaign goes bad, the content of the video is interesting and worthy of closer scrutiny. 

Those of us that are running small businesses will have an increasingly greater role in marketing and communicating to a rapidly changing market.

The look in these kids eyes scare me... 

Hat tip: Gareth Pearce

Stoic Cantabrians

Facebook friends, Jeff and Naomi are a switched-on couple that own and operate CentrePoint on Colombo Motel.

What we like about this iPhone wielding dynamic-duo is that they do not quite fit the usual stereotype of a "motella" couple. Maybe its their fresh perspective after returning home from living 18 years in Japan? Whatever it is, their positive and can-do attitude is infectious. 

For a little over a year they have been enthusiastically promoting their business and sharing a little bit of themselves on social networks. For a motel business this is not easy to do. Finding the right voice is extremely difficult and the pressure of magically coming up with engaging content while running a motel can be daunting.  In a world of emerging new communication it's a skill that the motel industry quickly needs to develop. At the moment, we reckon that Jeff and Naomi are the only examples of inspirational moteliers that have successfully adapted social networking into their marketing mix. 

Jeff and Naomi have managed to provide regular compelling content from day one, however their environment started to dramatically change late last year and the content uploaded to their social networks has reflected this. 

The CentrePoint on Colombo Motel is one of four motels operating within the Christchurch central city cordon. Their beautiful city has been ripped apart however their motel has been fortunately spared and is not structurally damaged. After sending their children away, Jeff and Naomi have courageously battled-on at the motel by rolling up their sleeves and are stoically getting through the necessities of running a business in challenging times.

In spite of the emotion of looking after family, losing fellow Cantabrians, the trauma of the quake itself and enduring the cruel torture of continuing aftershocks, it's business as usual at the front-of-house as Jeff and Naomi cheerfully host and care for others.

We were pleased when we saw that Jeff managed to make page three of the Christchurch Press with his regular quirky early-morning social networking updates. This would have given them a wee chuckle and a brief respite:
Making the MSM is social media gold. Good on-ya folks!

We suggest that you check-in to Jeff and Naomi's blog, Facebook or Twitter account and tell them that you're thinking of them...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wayne Brown - Plonker of the week

Far North Mayor Wayne Brown has a reputation for shooting from the lip, and not being shy to poke his head above the parapet.

In his latest outburst, we see that Brown has slammed as crass, a Northland accommodation promotion that is offering stressed Cantabrians "rest and recovery" at discounted prices. 

With Air NZ offering $50 airfares from Christchurch to all domestic airports in New Zealand, Destination Northland has coordinated a promotion with accommodation providers offering free or discounted rates for quake victims. Local i-Sites are processing the bookings without charging operators their usual commission.

There are many fine examples of businesses chipping-in and contributing the best they can to those in need after the Christchurch earthquake. It is a shame that Mr Brown that has a career leeching off public funding, naturally mistrusts those that contribute with their own resources. From what we can see the offers from accommodation providers are generous, genuine and in good faith. Many of the operators are giving away accommodation for free.

We reckon that Northland accommodation providers will be judged by the public favorably for making this gesture. Wayne Brown will be judged somewhat differently.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 Mateship - Part 2

On Tuesday we published a post about Aussie OTA, that has been accused of offhand treatment of a Christchurch motel "in their darkest hour." 

In our post we suggested that contact us with their side of the story...

In the interim we see that Whaleoil has tagged-teamed the story by including in a running series of posts that highlight the highs and lows of the Christchurch earthquake: "Mates and Not Mates"  

It is ironic that that reside in the blogosphere now have to share this space with unflattering remarks after allegedly treating a Kiwi motelier with indifference.

Whaleoil's blog has a greater readership than most individual MSM publications in New Zealand and we now see his post has managed to make page 1 of Google when browsing

Another Google search that brings up some interesting results is: NFWAB!

Qualmark's New Inspection By Suprise

While the British government are scrapping their national hotel star rating system we see that Qualmark NZ are forging forth with an attempt to revamp their offer with changes rolling out from 1 April this year.

In an elongated email to Qualmark licence holders, Qualmark GM Paula "Crusher" McCallum  has outlined her organisation's "New Direction."

For clarity, we will attempt to decipher and further explain the proposed changes.

Judging by the complex new pricing structure, we suspect that Qualmark has consulted with ex-Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung by adopting confusion as a theme when presenting their new matrix of fees. These include a ramped-up application fee, reduced base fee and variable fees based on number of units. Separate discounts can be deducted for both long service AND loyalty.

After crunching the numbers it would appear that motels with an existing Qualmark licence will be marginally better off as long as they elect not to apply for the separate Enviro Award (see below).

Unfortunately new Qualmark applications and those properties that wish to reapply after allowing their star grading to lapse will be penalised with what seems to us to be a rather harsh and disproportionate $650 application fee. At a time when they need them the most, Qualmark are hardly giving an incentive for new properties to join!

As is customary for a publicly funded organisation that has been given a substantial reduction in funding, valuable resource will be given to launching a new brand. We believe that Qualmark's new branding will be designed to give more prominence to the stars and this will be revealed on 1st May, 2011. It is unclear if there will be any assistance given to moteliers that will required to change lighting box panels and other roadside signage.

As we have closely followed with previous posts in this blog, it is pleasing that the politically-correct Enviro assessment will be extracted from the quality assurance criteria and offered as an optional stand alone assessment. Only token Enviro minimum standards will remain in the quality assurance assessment. Although a new, highly subsidised fee of $150 will be introduced for the Enviro Award, existing licence holders will be aware that this will push their overall Qualmark licence fee beyond what they paid last year.

While Qualmark claim that they are achieving a 5% growth of Enviro Award licence holder's month on month, it is interesting that only 1/3 of Qualmark licensed motels have bothered to apply for the Enviro Award since its evangelistic launch almost three years ago by Labour MP Damien O'Connor. After all this time road-testing the Enviro Award, most operators have come to the conclusion that Qualmark has oversold the benefits of grandstanding environmental and social credentials.

In spite of going through the motions and bolting Enviro illuminated panel boxes to their roadside signs, moteliers have soon realised that the promised mystical markets of environmental and socially conscious guests were not beating a path to their doorway.

An important aspect that Qualmark may have underestimated is that the only reason a large portion of moteliers entertained an Enviro Award was to either boost or maintain their quality star ratings. Now that the Enviro Award has been extracted and has to be paid for, we expect operators will ditch the required additional paperwork, save the $150 fee and walk away in droves. As a positive consequence, at least there will some environmental benefits with the slow removal of those insidious Enviro Award illuminated signs cluttering up the motel frontages.

While all of the above changes could be described as window dressing , the fundamental change for motel licence holders is how new assessments will be carried out. All licence holders will be required to complete a one-off "pre-assessment" that we assume will be a similar MO to the usual annual inspection by a Qualmark assessor. Once this is completed, the motelier will then be subjected to "unannounced visits" by Qualmark. Presumably these subsequent visits by ambush are supposed to be more cost effective for Qualmark and will include some form of inspection. It is unclear how frequent or how rigorous these inspections will be? 

We sense that Qualmark have adopted a dictatorial approach with an entrenched desire to police instead of getting to understand the psychology of their client base and connect with them. Sadly, Qualmark have underestimated the value that moteliers get from the existing regime of an orderly scheduled visit that allows time to plan and focus on an ongoing program of quality enhancements. In an industry where every day is a Monday motels will actively work towards and anticipate an annualised no-surprises inspection. This allows the motelier to schedule time to be part of a rigorous inspection process that encourages understanding and buy-in to the benefits of benchmarking quality.

While new assessments by surprise may appease a few gristly old blow-hard moteliers that spend a lot of time staring over the fence at their neighboring motel's imagined indiscretions, this will do little to enhance a trusting relationship between Qualmark and moteliers or improve quality in the motel industry.

We respectfully suggest that Qualmark are being poorly advised. There is a clear choice between the carrot and the stick and unfortunately Qualmark are going down the wrong path. They have been sucked in by industry fairy-tales of underhand moteliers rorting the system by making temporary enhancements to their properties in time for the annual assessment.

After the initial full property assessment we have doubts that an assessor's subsequent surprise visits to a property (that will presumably require a less rigorous inspection) will contribute to a sustainable and robust quality benchmarking model or return the substantial savings that Qualmark are required to make.    

We almost feel sorry for Qualmark's hapless assessors that will be expected to turn up at a random motel reception for a surprise inspection and then attempt to form an ongoing trusting relationship with the very motelier that they turn-up to visit without notice.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

OTA Mateship?

We received the following communication from a "Christchurch Motel."
"We have a Christchurch Motel have called today to biff us off their website booking page as "the cancellations that you are getting are costing us money."

Yep, people are canceling their motel bookings in droves which will hit us huge in the coming months. We need more advertising, not less. Cancellations are part and parcel of the booking system that they should expect.

Thanks for your support NOT during our hardest times.."
I would be very disappointed if an Aussie OTA was welshing on some Trans Tasman mateship with their alleged offhand treatment of a Christchurch motel. 

C'mon this is not a good look. What's your side of the story?

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