Friday, September 30, 2011

Motelier Man-Flu

Motel couples in a motel environment can face many challenges while working together. It's ironic that while working in the rigors of customer service industry, the harshest criticism moteliers will receive will be from their significant-other.

While working together, sometimes a little compassion and understanding is required.... in particular when the ravages of Man-Flu strikes. 

At last there's now a study that backs this up:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hospitality Employer WIN

In what appears to be a rare Employer WIN, I see that a hospitality worker has lost her case with the Human Rights Commission after claiming that she was discriminated against because of her tattoo.

We profiled a background to the case in our  post in May this year:
"We are following the story about the hospitality worker that claims she was "humiliated" by her former boss after he allegedly made her cover up a tattoo on her forearm with a staff uniform provided for her during a catering function.

The outcome of the case before the Human Rights Commission will be most interesting and will be applicable to motel housekeeping staff.

It has been reported that the worker was told by her boss to wear a three quarter sleeve uniform to cover a tattoo on her forearm. Although we respect that the tattoo may have a self-imposed spiritual significance to the employee, we reckon her employer made a reasonable request.

We feel sorry for the hapless employer that is being dragged through the courts for the sake of indulging what appears to be a somewhat precious and self-righteous former employee.

In the hospo industry it is accepted that an employee's individual expression should be left at the gate. They should look, talk and act in a way that is reasonable and acceptable to the environment they are working in. Particular attention must be taken when workers deal with or are in view of the public. In general it is accepted that staff should wear a well presented uniform, tie their hair back, and remove caps. Piercings and excessive jewellery should be removed and staff should not swear, chew gum, swear, spit, wander around clutching cell phones AND keep tattoos covered...

We hope that the former employee's case is dismissed, she is told to harden-up and not waste the time of productive members of society ....."
After enduring a lot of angst, wasted time and huge a huge financial burden, it is pleasing that hapless employer has finally been vindicated.  

Luckily, Mrs Motella does not have any similar issues with her employer as she does not find the necessity to expose her indulgent body adornment while at work...:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's up with those silly car flags?

I've mentioned the insidious creep of My Family stickers that are defacing the rear windsceens of cars and have noticed another car adornment infliction that must be called-out.

OK, I get it! It's the Rugby World Cup and we are all feeling the excitement, however sometimes in the heat of the moment some of us lesser mortals are unable to think straight. 

The last time Kiwis had a flag obsession, we were 8-years old and were attaching chopper guards to a Raleigh Twenty. Now that we are all grown-up, we should realise that those hideous, tacky flags attached to cars flapping around are just plain silly. 

Attaching a $10 flag purchased from the Warehouse does not make your 20-year old Japanese import 4x4 people-mover look cool! 

I urge all those pride-deficient folk out there to desist with all this masterbatery car flag madness immediately! 

Motel Txt2Check

I see that Jasons Travel will be launching a new innovative product on October 1 that will connect potential guests with participating advertisers' online room inventory via text messaging.

The Txt2Check™ service can be accessed by potential guests texting an accommodation property's unique 6-digit code to 244 and Jasons will send an instant reply text with the total number of rooms available and tariff for that evening.

The receiver will then have the option to book online (if web capable) or ring the accommodation provider direct.

The unique 6-digit property codes will be included in participating accommodation providers' listing details in this season's Jasons accommodation directories. It will be up to the accommodation provider to determine how they may advertise the Txt2Check™ service for their property in other advertising mediums.

What I like about the service is that it is a unique point of difference and comes out of left-field using established technology. While all the industry buzz is all about customers connecting to accommodation options via web-based apps on portable smart devices, it has to be remembered that the majority of Kiwis are armed with numerous mobile phones and are prolific users of old-school text messaging. Most Kiwis still perceive that the costs of mobile phone calls and mobile web browsing to be prohibitive and are comfortable using text messaging to communicate.

Trying to predict customer behavior is a daunting task and it is fascinating to contemplate if potential guests will be prompted to use the Txt2Check™ service. If the service can be waved in front of customers often enough, I reckon that the novelty and instant gratification of information delivered via text will appeal.

To complement the roll-out of innovative suite of mobile and online solutions, Jasons will also be launching an iPhone/iPad app that will allow users to browse accommodation and activities and book accommodation - more about this later...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Motel Best-use


The life cycle of an accommodation complex can vary according to the quality of the initial development, location, travel trends, guest expectations, frequency of refurbishment and the acumen of management.

The fall from grace of any accommodation complex is a depressing sight and seeing obvious signs of faded grandeur as a business spirals downwards makes me shudder. 

It would appear that many well positioned accommodation properties at the end of their best-use are being redeveloped into individually-owned long-term stay residences. The viability of these projects can vary considerably.

Last year we did a post on the old 1970s-era Gallop Inn Motel in Ellerslie that was up for grabs by mortgagee sale. It's a unique property with a large footprint close to central Auckland. In its final years, the property was renamed the rather lofty title of: Champion International Hotel.

I see that the property's listing details from when it was operating are still frozen in time on various outdated online directory sites:
Standard unit just cost $75 per night, family unit $118 per night. Even long team price from $180 per week (over 1 month).
We offer free and safety car park, nice and clean room.
We have nice and peaceful environment.
Good restaurant offer you delicious Malaysian and Chinese food.
The low tariff, the acceptance of long-term tenants and poor English gave an indication of the level of quality experience on offer. Not surprisingly, the owners got into financial difficulties. The complex appeared to be at the end of its cycle and looked shabby, bleak and unloved when offered for sale earlier this year. 

Barfoot and Thompson Commercial ran a tender campaign last April and I see that the freehold property was sold to distressed property speculator, David Gaze for a "bargain" price of $4.2 million. 

At the time of sale, the property had an average occupancy rate around 20%. It has been reported that the occupancy has since increased to 98% and it is interesting to speculate the quality of tenants that may occupy this type of property in its current state.

Gaze has re-birthed the property as Ascot Mews and plans to sell it to a limited partnership of investors for $5.2 million. Investors will then have an opportunity to assist with the funding of the refurbishment of the motel and increase the number of units, with a minimum $250,000 stake in Gaze's Property Recovery Partnership Limited company. The required minimum level of investment eliminates the hassle and expense of producing a prospectus.

Investors are promised a return of 7 percent p.a. that will be initially sourced from renting refurbished motel rooms and thereafter investors will share in profit (if any) with Management.

The feasibility of the project appears to require the commitment of its investors to land-bank the site and wait for the realisation of the longer term goal, to convert the complex into 45 home units on individual unit titles and offer for sale. This will be presumably occur at a time that will take advantage of the possible future lift in property values. 

It will be interesting to see if new life can be injected into the once proud Gallop Inn Motel so that it will no longer be a blight on the landscape and a reminder of past better-times.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Motel Minding

Our good friends at the Tourism Industry Blog have added an interesting new post by hospitality and tourism consultant James Hacon that recounts his recent stint at the coalface by looking after a motel for a few days.

James compares a motelier's role to hotel management and discovers the challenging differences being quite an eye opener. Click HERE to link to the post...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Will Kevin Rudd Use

I was amused that got some unexpected bonus promotion in the Australian MSM, when an Opposition MP lampooned Kevin Rudd's exorbitant overseas travel expenses by suggesting:
"We are public officials, we should be doing our best," he said. "I say to Kevin Rudd, go to and look for a red-hot special."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Motel Broker Speaks Out

I see that Malcolm Teesdale, a budding hospitality broker based in Cambridge has written an advertorial piece in last night's Waikato Times and has touched upon the state of play within the motel industry.

According to Teesdale "tough economic times have brought a switch of focus for the motel industry from a preoccupation with luring overseas tourists to the needs of repeat Kiwi visitors". I personally can't remember a time when the motel industry were targeting the overseas market and it's comical to think that motels within Teesdale's Waikato patch were once supposedly focused on overseas tourists as the domestic market has always remained dominant.
Property brokers often avoid disclosing "rules of thumb" as most commercial properties have unique qualities and regions can differ substantially. There is also the risk of raising unrealistic buyer expectations. 

I have to question some of the "averages" that Teesdale has published and wonder about the quality and scale of the data that was used. Throughout the article, it is often not clear to the reader if Teesdale is discussing nationwide trends or specific micro data occurring within his own region. While the article may stimulate buyer interest and some debate, I suspect that moteliers with property listings for sale may not be so happy. 

When Teesdale comments about the length of time for a motel property to sell, I wonder just how many "very good motel properties" have sold in "around three months" and how many "good" properties have taken six months?
I also wonder if the Teesdale's claimed return on the purchase of a motel lease of "25 per cent to 30 per cent" is rather optimistic if this is to be used as a general guide?  
The return to the landlord of between 6 per cent to 8 per cent on investment would appear to be close enough, however landlords are probably of the expectation that this should be marginally higher.

Teesdale repeats the old adage that often gets repeated within the motel industry; the third/third/third rule of thumb. This is when a motel's revenue is allocated - one third of for rent, one third for maintenance and expenses, and one third for operator income. This formula seems to have held reasonably true for many years.

A formula that gives an indication of a motel lease valuation is given by a calculation of multiples between three and five of the operating surplus, depending on location, economic climate and the desirability of the property.

Comments that "contractors were looking for room rates under $100 a night and the travelling public resisted prices of more than $115 to $120 a night" were an interesting perspective that would appear to be more specific to the region that Teesdale may operate in.

Teesdale does offer some comforting words that would appease some motel clients listing property:
The leasehold market was improving daily through a combination of the banks "cleaning up their books and perhaps getting a little realism into the vendor market at the same time".
"But the reality is a lot of people have recognised, particularly over the past two years, that having a lot of capital invested in a residential property, which is earning nothing, may be not wise."
Leasing a motel offered a combined home and business, often for not much more than they would realise on the sale of their house, he says.
"Most of your living expenses are covered by the business and a good motel provides a very good income."
I suggest that you read the article HERE, as there are many good points that are open for discussion.

Overall the article has to be taken positively and we should appreciate that someone that dabbles in the motel industry is willing to share his opinions and observations.

Motel Meal Times With Nigella

One of the frustrations of running a motel is meal times. 

Motel guests seem to have an uncanny ability to detect when a hapless motelier is about to sit down and eat. Why the phone or motel reception buzzer will inevitably demand attention whenever a hot meal is placed on the table is a great mystery that I suspect will never be solved.

There are times when sitting down for a meal at the motel can become somewhat of a chore. I have a rule that dictates that if I get interrupted more than three times during a meal then the food gets binned. 

Sometimes I would happily pop a meal substitute pill (if there were such a thing) in order to avoid the rigmarole that can occur when attempting to prepare and ingest food while being at the beck and call of the travelling public. 

So I guess there is good reason why I have never been caught up in all this obsession with food and spending time laboriously preparing sumptuous feasts as dictated by television celebrity chef idols.

Until now...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two and a Half Men scores

As a 40-something male, I greatly admire the reality-TV hedonistic life-style that Charlie Sheen has doggedly forged-out for himself. Sheen seems to have lost the ability to decipher between fantasy and real-life as his much publicised public mid-life crisis accelerates towards an inevitable train-wreck. Along the way, Sheen has been a great supporter of the accommodation industry and seems to be enjoying himself ... I like that.

So it was with interest when sitcom Two and a Half Men's season premiere, that included Sheen's replacement Ashton Kutcher, aired offshore this week.

Replacing Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men was always going to be a big ask, however as a positive, Kutcher's selection does have credibility with his previous form as a real-life womanising drunk. 

So how did the first show go down? Apparently very well - by attracting record ratings and rave reviews. It would appear that the longrunning CBS sitcom has done the seemingly impossible and pulled it off by successfully killing-off and replacing Sheen's character.

Ashton Kutcher's new character on the show, simply overlays the ousted Sheen's by continuing the self-absorbed womanising and drinking with copious sexual innuendo one-liners.

So how did the writers portray Sheen's demise? Apparently by using liberal doses of the show's trademark dark humour *Spoiler Alert* From the Washington Post:
"Charlie Harper died a terrible death, off camera, when he slipped on a Metro platform in Paris and fell in front of an oncoming train, and his body exploded “like a balloon full of meat.”

...Harper’s death scene was recounted by eyewitness Rose – Charlie Harper’s longtime stalker, played by Melanie Lynskey – who was the heavily veiled guest at Charlie’s funeral, telling family, friends, and lots of women who came to spit on the body – fooled, them, he was cremated -- that she’d gone to Paris with Charlie, he’d proposed to her, and the next few days were the happiest of her life. Only she came back one day after shopping and found him with another woman. But she forgave him, because she loved him unconditionally. Except that, in one of those unfortunate coincidences, it was the very next day Charlie took his “spill” at the Metro."
OK, before I pass judgement, I need to see the show for myself. This will probably air in New Zealand in the void "after The Rugby World Cup." For now, I can at least console myself in the knowledge that the tasteless, black-hearted humour with smutty school-boy jokes will continue in the new series with Kutcher.

Check-out Kutcher's first scene as he shows up on Alan's doorstep: 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Trust Your Hotel Room Safe?

An interesting video posted by a YouTube that has quickly attracted over a million views, infers that many hotel safes shouldn't be trusted.

Like in the video's example, hotel in-room safes may be easily accessed by entering the original default factory code if this has not been reset by the hotel when it was first installed in the room.

The video shows a guest unlocking a hotel safe by entering one example of a default factory code being all zeros (all 1s are apparently another example).

This video is a call-to-action for all hotels and motels if their in-room safes have a factory code, to ensure that this is reset to avoid negligence claims from guests.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Checking-in at the Sunset Motel

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

In an ode to those special difficult customers, Motella Productions have produced the following video that may provide just a little bit of therapy to those heroic, long-suffering accommodation providers:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Ex-Labour MP Buys A Job

Apparently, owning and operating a business is hard work?

I enjoyed an article in the Dom today about the part redemption of ex-Labour MP, Mark Peck (sorry, can't find a link).

Peck followed the usual non-productive route before becoming a Labour Party stooge with his 17-year career as a union official. He was elected as the MP for Invercargill in 1993 and a cursory Google search reveals a pedestrian parliamentary career.

When Peck retired from Parliament in 2005, he had personal demons to shun including addiction to drink and pokie machines. After the obligatory rehab, Peck was unfortunately unable to be immediately cured of his addiction for public money and telling others what to do, so ironically took a job as a director of the Smokefree Coalition funded by the Health Ministry.

A couple of years ago, allegedly looking for a new challenge, Peck decided to purchase an established Wellington cafe in Dukes Arcade. 

Suddenly the security blanket of public money was whisked away and Peck was unceremoniously exposed to the realities of the private sector.
"It's the little things that Mark Peck, businessman, finds most frustrating about the activities of his predecessor, Mark Peck, politician. The hours he now spends documenting compliance with health regulations, preparing tax returns and fulfilling his ACC obligations, the business lost through council roadworks and the impossibility of ferrying supplies from the loading zone across the road to his cafe in the five minutes he is permitted to park.

In fact it is dealing with local bodies that he finds most vexatious. He accepts the Wellington City Council's right to charge him rent for his sandwich boards, but ponders the wisdom of employing someone to check the signs are in the right place." 
At this point a Helen Clark-ism response to Peck would be most appropriate: "Diddums" 

So has Perk changed his tribal allegiance away from Labour?, No. His ongoing journey to the right has yet to be completed, however he does make some interesting observations about current Labour policy.

On the minimum wage, Peck is a little vague. He still wants the State to fix the price - just not $15 his former Labour colleagues are advocating OR above what he is currently paying some of his staff:
He pays above minimum wage to all his nine staff, although "not a lot in some cases". The critical issue is the level the wage is set, he says.

"What I've learnt  is that in an industry with low margins, wage costs are very significant. I just don't think people understand the effect a $15 minimum wage would have on businesses like this. Prices would have to go up."

And, if prices go up, customers already feeling the economic squeeze, change their spending habits. Instead of ordering off the menu, they buy cheaper pre-made food out of the cabinet. Or they eat out less. the result: less profit for the owners; less money to employ staff."
On Labour's pledge to remove GST off fresh fruit and vegetables, Peck is a little more forthcoming:
"...Mr Peck shakes his head in disbelief. The idea is "silly" and impractical. The only people who benefit will be lawyers and accountants."
I suspect that behind the secrecy of the curtain at the polling both in November, Peck will be tempted by National's Labour-lite platform.

Makes you wonder if all MPs should have to operate a cafe...(or a motel) for a few years BEFORE they are permitted to enter Parliament.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Staying At A Motel Near You?

Do you remember the flamboyant 31 year old ex-mortgage broker, Kerry Buddle that has been in the news recently accused of alleged dodgy mortgage deals.

We have been following closely the accusation that Buddle skipped from a motel without paying. 

It was claimed that Buddle stayed for six nights from in June at Motel 22 Lower Hutt and we can only guess how she may have played-out an alleged ruse of providing the motel with a useless debit card number instead of providing valid credit card details that could be processed for payment? I guess being an self-confident, well dressed lucid blond may have its benefits. 

As police continue to circle Buddle over allegations she owes clients at least $2.5 million in dodgy loans, today at the Lower Hutt District Court she pleaded not guilty to two charges of obtaining accommodation at a motel by deception .

Buddle's lawyer may need to demonstrate that his client had the intention and means to pay at the time of staying at the motel, whilst I assume that the hapless motelier will remain out of pocket?

I wonder where Buddle will be staying while she is remanded on bail before her next court appearance to defend the deception charges on November 4?

$30,000 Happy Meal?

Was the $30k spent on Happy Feet worthwhile? 


Stayed At the Dreamland Motel Recently?

Source: Click HERE

Globally Confused Hotel Booking

Great heart-warming story on the front page of The Dom this morning about a South African couple being accommodated by an empathetic Kiwi, Linda Burke after they made a hash of an accommodation booking.

In the excitement of securing Rugby World Cup accommodation online, the hapless South Africans booked a two night stay in Majestic Hotel in Eastbourne, England instead of their intended domicile, in Eastbourne, Wellington.

Guests turning up at our motel looking for assistance to trace where they have booked happens on a regular basis and we spend a lot of time with these folk retracing their steps, trying to locate the property where they hold a reservation. While it is not unusual to get dates and domestic locations mixed up, we have never heard of guests getting the country wrong.

Judging by the indifferent reviews of the English hotel on TripAdvisor, the South Africans have had a lucky escape;-)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Extreme On-line Booking

Do Online Travel Agents (OTAs) collectively sell rooms online better than accommodation providers? If the measure is rooms sold...then that would be yes!

So why is this? Do consumers trust a small collection of OTA brands more than the vast array of individual accommodation brands with their own booking mechanisms? Is there the perception that OTAs deliver better value (ie the lowest price)? Are consumers more comfortable with uniformity and making choices by comparison? OTAs that effectively display accommodation options in an easy to digest grid arrangement can make a comparative purchase decision for a consumer transparent and simple.

Recently I was talking to an OTA employee about her particular brand and she told me that a lot of R&D work goes behind the scenes to maintain the the look and feel of their website. The consumer booking process is constantly monitored by tracking visitor web paths and using feedback from regular focus groups. Small tweaks to the booking engine are often made to make the process intuitive as possible to ensure maximum conversion. A simple change of colour to a hyper-linked button can have a dramatic affect on sales conversions (here's a tip - never use red!). 

OTAs are essentially a one-trick-pony that primarily resells accommodation from willing providers online. The more they sell - the more money they make from commissions, so they have become experts in the science of this medium and are highly skilled at turning lookers into bookers.

It's a wet-dream of most accommodation providers to be able to drive the majority of online bookers to their own commission-free booking engine on their website. While some accommodation providers have claimed isolated successes in diminishing reliance on OTAs in favour of direct online bookings, OTAs are likely to continue to dominate source business in most cases.

At this time the most common successful online marketing formula for accommodation providers seems to be listing and working with various OTAs and agreeing to parity for all advertised online inventory in return for exposure and collective marketing services. It goes without saying that the accommodation provider must also have a sound online strategy that includes maintaining their own corporate website with an effective booking engine. Ironically there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that an increasing percentage of online bookings received via the accommodation provider's own website can be attributed to The Billboard Effect of listing with OTAs.

While there has been impressive increases in business flowing through OTAs, the year on year dramatic increases of the past are being replaced by more subdued growth. There is now more competition and financial uncertainty has dampened down travel - particularly in domestic markets. Costs of doing business are increasing for OTAs with marketing the biggest ticket item. By necessity, unprecedented resource is being invested into marking both online and offline.

Expedia-owned, is an OTA that is a mover and a shaker at the moment. As an example of the mega-investment OTAs are investing in marketing, are currently running a multi-million dollar campaign consisting of display ads, social media, a microsite and television commercials. 

The centerpiece of the promotion is the successful and nifty mobile app that is available on iPhone and Android. It is reportedly already been downloaded more than one million times. 

By all accounts, mobile connectivity via an app is the undeniably hot, must-have accessory item to sell travel products. I must admit that I have never booked travel via smartphone, however I'm aware from analysing my own domestic web stats, that even though New Zealand is lagging behind markets such as the United States with mobile e-commerce, guests are increasingly using mobile devices to look and book.  

By its not-so-insignificant investment, obviously reckon that mobile is one important channel that will give a return by generating an increasing flow of bookings. 

As part of's current promotion, check out “extreme athlete and stuntman” JT Holmes showing the uninitiated that booking accommodation via smartphone "on the fly" is a reasonably quick and easy process. I may give it a go myself...

Rugby World Cup Motel

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Motel Guest Idiocracy

Our friends over at the RoarPrawn Blog recently embedded a movie trailer, Idiocracy to make an opinionated point in a post about the alleged stupidity of two political figures.

I've never seen the movie Idiocracy and frankly are unlikely to in the future. The movie's ironic premise is that in spite of our supposed modern-age enlightenment and increasing access to information - humans are getting dumber. This appealed to me.

As a motelier I'm often flabbergasted by the "average" person's inability to communicate, read information without assistance, fill out a form or perform basic motor skills such as parking a car, opening a door or turning on a television. I have to keep reminding myself that one of the benefits of operating a motel is that I'm dealing with the elite of society. 99 percent of the guests that I host have a job, get out of bed most days and are reasonably motivated, professional people.

After many years in this industry, nothing much fazes me, however two guests in quick succession have made me scratch my ample forehead in amazement with examples of stupidity.

The first guest was a male sales-rep that arrived at my motel early and after the usual chit-chat started telling me his life story. I assumed my concerned psychologist meme and allowed him to talk at me. Turns out that he doesn't like being away from home - nothing unusual with that, but his concern was that his wife is having a wee melt-down after the 3rd child and is in the process of being stupidly taken-in by a cult lead by their next door neighbor. The poor disheveled sales-rep seemed to be having a small break-down himself and I actually felt quite sorry for him...(and his kids!).

If that wasn't bad enough I've got "Ghost Lady" staying at my motel again tonight. She will not stay in two of my rooms because upon previous occupations she was apparently visited by a mystic presence and experienced bad dreams. Tonight I have her booked in a room well away from the first two she previously occupied and for good measure her bed is pointing in a different direction.

Hopefully this will ward off any ghosts that may be temped to visit her in the night and disrupt her sleep. In spite of my efforts, if spirits visit her again tonight, I may have to resort to charging her for additional guests staying-over in her room.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Are We Too Easily Offended?

When John Key said all New Zealanders had a "socialist streak" he should have also mentioned that Kiwis are precious, humorless and often inflicted with mealy mouthed political correctness:

Tui's Double Down breast joke was offside 


Will The Hobbit Check-in to a Nelson Motel?

While there seems to be a void beyond the RWC, I was pleased to learn that Nelson (a city of motels) may benefit from hosting Sir Peter Jackson and his massive entourage while filming The Hobbit in November and December this year. 

Motel icon, John Gilbertson, let it slip to the media that some local motels are holding bookings for such a group.

If it all comes to fruition, hopefully some Jackson magic may keep accommodation providers' fortunes in Nelson bubbling away well into the Summer season.

...Some local moteliers may even have the opportunity to offer their services as extras in the movie;-)

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