Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Whale Oil Joins The MSM

The way we choose to receive our news is changing rapidly.

A couple of weeks ago our region experienced a reasonable sized earthquake (apologies to Christchurch residents as this was a tiddler in comparison to what you have experienced). Instead of  adopting the wussy "drop, cover and hold" technique, I instinctively reached for my iPhone to check-out Twitter. I was instantly gratified with fellow tweeters' pithy comments confirming that I wasn't alone. After adding my own enlightened comment to the Twittersphere I was able to extract all I wanted to know about the quake including the exact location, magnitude etc.

Only a few days ago we were greeted with news of pending doom in the United States (No, this time it wasn't poll results showing Obama's likely re-election). Deadly cyclone Sandy was about to gatecrash into the US East Coast. My first reaction was to head for Google and was soon directed to a selection of  live cyclone web cams that included views from the top of the Statue of Liberty to a desolate looking Times Square being lashed with rain to the bemusement of a few hardy camera wielding tourists. 

Newspapers aren't dead yet, however for many they serve as a quaint tactile headline summary of events that have already been viewed online or on television the day before.

Newspaper companies are creating some quality and timely content online and are even starting to regularly point readers of newspaper print to their online channel for the latest on evolving stories or for more in-depth detail and supporting media.

Blogs have encouraged the crowd sourcing of news and opinion and are now regularly becoming the first to publish breaking news. Blogs are also written by real people that unashamedly have opinions and political bias - unlike the MSM that have a pretense of being unbiased, while emphasising certain facets of a news story to guide opinion.

Just how media companies are going to manage the decline of print, source/shape content and monetise online content is yet to be made clear.

Maybe the man behind New Zealand's number-one blog, Cameron Slater from Whale Oil has some ideas?
Internet shock jock goes mainstream

“Wellington, you’re on notice – be afraid.”

New Zealand’s number 1 news and opinion blogger Cameron Slater has today been appointed Editor of the Truth.

Truth is New Zealand’s last remaining Kiwi-owned national newspaper which this year turns 125 years old.

Slater has been brought on board to fundamentally change the way newspapers deliver to their audiences. Newspapers worldwide are in decline, due, Slater says, to a tired old business model that no longer works.

“We’re not going to spend $4 million on a paint job and then deliver the same tired old paid-for shit.

“Most of the media in this country is weak, and it’s paid for. The integrity in news went ages ago.”

Slater is adamant that the backbone of New Zealand – the people who work – are not getting a fair shake from government or the system. He aims to change that.

“Each and every one of us has got an investment in NZ Inc, and the majority of the people in charge of the place are taking the piss out of our investment.

“We’re going to keep the buggers honest. There’s no better disinfectant than sunlight.

“To use a tired phrase – if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, so Wellington, you’re on notice – if you’re having a lend, we’re coming for you!”

Changes will be rolled out over a period of months and will include both print and a 24 hour news website to support the paper. Slater aims to alter the approach to news presentation significantly.

“We took the pulse of the nation, and it had nearly bloody died.

“No bastard wants to read old news – they can get that online. We’ll be more of a views-paper that promises to deliver REAL news, REAL opinion.

“The people are numb from the eyes down with the diet of PR’d crap they get now. I will not do it to them anymore – it’s not right.

“I assure you – the little paper that could still can!”

There will be further announcements regarding contributors and editorial direction.

Slater’s first issue will hit newsstands on Thursday 8 November 2012.

Jasons Unboxed

The folks at Jasons Travel Media have responded to our post, Jasons - First To Hit The Streets.

Jasons point out a few changes they've made to their accommodation guide that is being unboxed and distributed by accommodation advertisers at the moment.

The Jasons Team said...
It's fantastic to read that you are as excited about opening a box of new books as we are, and that you welcome the publication of the new Jasons Motels, Hotels and Apartments guide.

This year we’ve spent a lot of time listening; listening to our advertisers and listening to travellers about how to make this guide an even better resource for everyone. It means that the guide has had a number of changes (some of which you’ve mentioned, but I hope you don’t mind us taking this opportunity to point out a few things you didn’t).

  • Advertising templates have been designed to be easier to scan for our bold listings and the template ads.
  • Design and editorial overhaul for the regional and town editorial. This includes a chance for people in the industry to engage with the reader with the Regional Highlights contributed by advertisers, Jasons staff and our social media 'likers'.
  • We’ve gone from an alpha-organised guide to a regional-organised guide.
  • Photo-based front cover – which you’ve mentioned. We surveyed over 400 travellers to help us find the cover layout that is more likely to get picked up by the right people.

We love it, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it's already getting a strong and welcome response from those who’ve found it at the display stands at the airport.

If any of you would like to add helpful tips for your region for next year’s edition, please let us know here:

Best wishes for a busy summer season to all!

The Rugby World Cup did not make us richer

Shock, horror! This will come as a big surprise to accommodation providers throughout the country - Apparently the orgy of feel-good public expenditure on hosting the Rugby World Cup did not make us richer! 
NZIER said major international events tended to "suck in" visitors from before and after the time they are held, creating a displacement effect. It said most event analysis doesn't stack up because it missed the displacement effects.

It means the benefits are often far smaller than people think....

The displacement effect meant the net number of visitors an event generates is much lower than the visitors to the event, and NZIER said the Rugby World Cup 2011 was a good example of this.

"We estimate there was little overall boost to visitor arrivals because there were fewer visitors before and after the 133,000 international visitors that came to New Zealand for the tournament," it said.

"Crucially, domestic tourism is displaced expenditure that would occur elsewhere in the economy. This significantly reduces the overall benefit from the events. "Simply put, major domestic events do not make New Zealanders any wealthier," it said.

Increased spending at the major event is mostly offset by reduced spending elsewhere. This might take the form of reductions in other holidays, spending on takeaways and eating out, or spending on household items such as TVs.

NZIER said most event analyses used multipliers to capture second rounds of spending from the profits and wages captured by local events.

But the multipliers used to capture second round spending also needed to be applied to the reduction in spending that cannot now occur elsewhere in the economy.

"Regional events are more likely to only reallocate spending across regions. They are likely to benefit the region, but at a national level let's be clear - little additional income is generated by these events," it said."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

More Motel Hell...

Goodness me! Roving reporter, Michelle Sutton from the Nelson Mail has caused a bit of a stir amongst Nelson moteliers after her syndicated Fairfax newspaper article was published last week (covered in our previous post below).

The article painted a bleak picture for Nelson's motel sector by claiming that there is a trend for hard-up local motels to offer long-term accommodation to offset reduced visitors. The article identified three examples of properties offering long-term accommodation: a former motel that now operates as residential flats offering rooms for $200 to $250 a week and two operating motels offering weekly rooms for $260 and $280.

While two operating motels offering long-term accommodation is hardly a trend, it was reported that "other Nelson moteliers said they took long-term residents in winter, but normally for up to a month only."

Adding to the cringe-worthy publicity,  a follow up story published yesterday headlined local social groups giving Nelson Moteliers a back-handed compliment by praising them for offering furnished long-term accommodation to the great unwashed:
"Salvation Army Nelson community manager Major Jill Knight said long-term, furnished rooms rented out by motels and backpacker hostels were helping to ease demand for urgent accommodation.
The situation was on track to be the same as last year, when more residents became homeless, living in cars and garages, she said."
In her latest article, Michelle Sutton claims to have been issued an eviction notice from one of the motels featured in her newspaper article. Does this mean her breaking story was mainly sourced from interviewing her x-landlord?

It has also been reported that some fellow Nelson Motel Association members angered by the weekly rates reported in the article wanted to have one of the the featured motels offering long-term accommodation banished from their local branch.

Nelson moteliers can be be forgiven for a collective face palm moment. Leading into a busy Summer period, they would be over-sensitive to negative publicity that incorrectly paints their industry as down-at-heel and offering knock-down rates.

Hopefully this type of regrettable publicity will serve as a real-life lesson in dealing with media and only provide short-term titillation for readers.....However, does this also signal potential problems ahead for the entire motel sector across New Zealand.
  • Just how does the general public perceive the overall quality and value that motels offer as a collective accommodation option? 
  • How can the motel sector raise the bar and improve an image that is probably taking a hit as properties age, quality levels spread and alternative competitive accommodation sectors emerge?
  • Who is going to take responsibility?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Motel Hell - Long Term Tenants

There are many pathways to Motel Hell and we've seen a few motel casualties over the years.

As I come across these sad examples of Motel Hell from time to time, a shiver runs down my spine - The motel driveway is riddled with potholes, the paintwork is peeling, the fence is in disrepair, the once proud motel sign is faded and the gardens are overgrown with weeds.

Often the point in time when a motel sets off along the agonising pathway to Motel Hell is when the tired motelier places a sandwich board on the curbside outside their motel offering sub-$100 tariff. These tacky roadside boards scream an element of desperation and signal several years of minimal innovation and investment.

Soon after the sub-$100 sandwich board is installed as a permanent feature, the hapless motelier will start to offer weekly rates and rooms are let to long term tenants. Overnight the nature of the business dramatically changes as the motel's hard-core market of short term travellers quickly bail out for a more appealing environment.

The long term tenants will quickly ingrain themselves into their surroundings and dominate the persona of the business. Washing starts appearing on make-shift clotheslines, multiple dingy cars are haphazardly parked, tenants will be visited by numerous undesirable acquaintances that will regularly outstay their welcome.

Long term tenants will quickly develop a swagger, assumed ownership and overstated entitlement. It soon becomes apparent that the motel business is unable to sustain basic R and M from weekly rentals, the motel's lease payments fall behind as the property transforms itself into an unappealing ghetto of undesirables.

Thankfully the unappealing sub-standard motel seems to have a short life-span in New Zealand and is soon obliterated from the landscape as the motel buildings are replaced or redeveloped for better economic use.

Probably the main reason that New Zealand does not have the same problem of long term tenanted motels as in America, is the competition from the country's largest landlord of substandard slum housing: Housing New Zealand. We can be thankful that the New Zealand government monopilises this niche market;-)

It saddened me to read the following newspaper article recently on the plight of a few selected Nelson motels that in times of hardship are taking on long term tenants:
"Residents are living in motel rooms rather than renting a property as Nelson motels are battling to survive a drop in visitors.
In a new trend several Nelson motel operators confirmed they were offering long-term accommodation to offset reduced visitors, but many were reluctant to comment publicly.
Blue Waters Motel in Tahunanui has stopped operating as a motel and is instead offering long-term accommodation, while a few others are also offering long-term rooms at cheaper rates until summer.

Blue Waters Motel owner Wayne Black said he stopped offering overnight accommodation for guests at the end of February after the Golf Rd motel struggled to make enough money to survive the quieter winter months.

He and wife Fiona put the motel up for sale as they were also looking to leave the hospitality industry, but found they could make a better return renting the one and two-bedroom units to long-term residents. There had been constant demand for the 12 furnished units rented at $200 to $250 a week. They also rented the four-bedroom home that was part of the motel complex.

It made more financial sense to offer long-term accommodation once the extra expenses of running a motel were added - advertising and time spent working in the business.

"The last couple of summers bookings have dropped off and forward bookings were abysmal," Black said.

Four Seasons Motel and Saxton Lodge in Tahunanui are among other motels that this year offered long-term accommodation to tenants in winter - $260 a week and $280 a week respectively. Both offers included utilities, but were only on offer until the end of the year when prices increased to summer rates.

Four Season Motel managers Sascha Schwarze and Michelle Rutherford said demand for the long-term units had exceeded supply, but they were available only until December 15.

"On the first day we advertised them they were all taken and we had a waiting list. It's gone really well because in Nelson, tourism just disappears in winter," Rutherford said.

Most of their units were still used by short-term visitors, but occupancy had been more consistent throughout the year after a few rooms were made available to long-term working residents. For most tenants it was a short-term solution after relocating to the city or until they were able to find something else, Schwarze said.

Tourism figures show the number of guests staying at Nelson motels dropped by 24 per cent in August compared with last year, while all accommodation types dropped 20.4 per cent in the same period. This was in line with a nationwide drop for motels and backpackers.
Motel Association of New Zealand Nelson branch administration officer John Gilbertson, who owns Arrow Motels on Golf Rd, was reluctant to comment because of concerns it would cause rates to drop even further, when many motels were only just covering expenses in the off-season.
He was aware long-term accommodation was offered by a few motels, but said some had permanent contracts with employers for seasonal workers.

Nelson was known for being a one-season town, meaning sufficient income had to be made in summer to survive a quieter winter, Mr Gilbertson said.

Developer Brent Ennor, who is behind several Nelson motels, said he had never heard of any other motels in New Zealand offering long-term accommodation. Ennor, a Christchurch-based developer, is building a 15-unit motel on the corner of Wainui and Trafalgar streets, due to be finished by the end of this year.

He was unconcerned about building additional motels.

The problem was, for some motels, that travellers these days were unwilling to pay for accommodation unless it was modern, in a central location and with the latest technology. Meeting all of these factors made it harder for many Nelson motels built in the 1960s and 70s, located on the city's fringe, to compete, he said.

Other Nelson moteliers said they took long-term residents in winter, but normally for up to a month only"
Source: Click HERE

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

iPad mini Xmas

What I admire about Apple is that they produce goods that we don't know we need.

The fact that Apple is so dominant and successful that it can afford to outrage eco-zelots by shunning Green Electronics Certification from its products in favour of design makes me love them even more...

Cue the release of the new iPad mini. It's like an iPad - but smaller. And like an iPhone - but bigger. I bet you didn't know you wanted one of these...but you do now!

Every Xmas at our motel is marked with what portable consumer items our guests turn up with. Last year it was definitely the iPad. In previous years its been remote controlled cars, skateboards, scooters etc.

I predict that this Xmas will be remembered for the iPad mini.

Hip mothers will be reading the Xmas edition of 50-Shades on their iPad mini by the pool, kids will be inside their unit using their iPad mini to online game with their mates, while Dad finds somewhere quiet to check his emails and reads the newspaper using his own iPad mini.....It looks like I'm going to have to raise the motel's internet data limit again ;-)

Jasons - First To Hit The Streets

An idiosyncrasy with the motel industry is that the majority of marketing spend is still allocated between two main travel media companies, Jasons Travel Media and AA Travel that are often affectionately referred to as the "The Ugly Sisters".

October is the time when both companies release their traditional door-stop accommodation guides.

I must admit that for a motel-phile like myself, it used to be an exciting occasion when the courier van pulled up outside my reception and delivered the first boxes of guides for the season. Work at the motel would come to a standstill as I hurriedly pawed through the freshly printed pages to see what was new and how fellow moteliers were marketing themselves.

This year the boxes sat around for a few hours before I opened them... after all, the content of the guides is a snapshot of advertising decisions made many months ago. The immediacy of the web has largely replaced my voyeuristic motel fix and I suspect that printed guides have less importance for many end users as well.

It is always interesting to see who can hit the streets first and this year the winner is.......Jasons!

Soon after opening the box, the first thing I noticed was that Jasons have continued their slimming program with the guide over 100 pages lighter than last year.

After having a rest last year, it's good to see that Jasons have continued the tradition of placing a picture of people on the front cover.

The title of the guide has also changed: from Motels, Apartments and Motor Lodges to Motels, Hotels and Apartments. The phrase "Motor Lodges" has been dropped (this was always just another term for motel) and "Hotels" have been included to reflect the fact that a selection of this sector have been included in the directory listings for some time.

In this year's edition there is plenty of opportunity for the reader to connect with Jasons online products particularly with the Mothership website, & the Jasons (booking) App.

One missed opportunity is underselling the Jasons unique TxT2Check product that doesn't seem to stand out as it should.

There is still a place for printed guides as they remain a valid part of many customers multi-media decision making process - particularly in the domestic leisure market. I just wonder for how much longer...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Family Stickers Continued...

Hot on the heels of NBR's article, Women now cheating as much as men - thanks, in part, to social networks, I see that with a little bit of ingenuity, those insidious My Family stickers can now be put to good use:

 Hat tip: The Controversial KIWI 

Morgue Motel

I'm all for breathing life into existing buildings...but is this going too far?

Apparently, the developer is dead serious:
A Tasmanian developer wants to turn an historic morgue into a motel, complete with pull-out fridges for beds.

Developer Haydn Pearce is hoping to create what he believes would be the world's first morgue accommodation experience at a former psychiatric hospital in Tasmania's Derwent Valley.
Pearce says guests will be able to sleep on the autopsy table and on bunks in the old pull-out storage refrigerator.

"We want to keep the experience as close as possible to a 1950s morgue," he told AAP. 

"I figure there's enough crazy people out there that want to do something different in their lives.

"If you don't try it now it's going to be too late when you end up doing it, going to a morgue."

The development is planned for the historic Willow Court property in New Norfolk, 36km northwest of Hobart.
Retro furniture and even some of the original autopsy tools will be part of the interior design, along with the flat screen TVs.

"It will just be like another motel room I guess, just with some creepy bits and pieces," Pearce said.
He expects the four-room extension to his current motel inside the old hospital grounds will have broad appeal.

"I suspect we'll be getting Goths and we'll be getting Emos and we'll be probably getting some pretty funky mums and dads," he said.

Pearce hopes to open the rooms next year if he can get council approval.

"I suspect they're probably up in arms," he said.

"I guess they can come up with a moral problem. Can they stop people with moral problems? I don't know."
Source: Click HERE

Wi-Fi Entitlement

I see that hotels have been given a serve for "charging exorbitant rates for Wi-Fi".

Rightly or wrongly, the consumer seems to have an embedded entitlement to FREE Wi-Fi access as the internet becomes an engrained habit into our day-to-day lives. I've had folk standing at my reception with a crazed look in their eye and the very first utterance has been: "have you got Wi-Fi". If this request can be adequately satisfied, the conversation about the room type and tariff can often become of passing importance. Up until recently the customer has been focused on Spa Baths and Sky TV - now it's all about Wi-Fi.

The motel industry is probably doing a reasonable job of delivering their guests Wi-Fi. A hard core of motels offer some element of "free" Wi-Fi and this is usually capped with a daily limit. More often than not, Wi-Fi with a higher (or unrestricted) cap is charged for, however motels generally don't charge to the extent of their hotel cousins.

Contrary to popular belief, if an accommodation provider wants to maintain a professional, robust & secure Wi-Fi system for public use - this is expensive! An accommodation provider, buying a router from a local Dick Smith and getting a family member to hook it up doesn't cut it any more.

The hardware should be able to handle modern protocols and have quality coverage to all wireless device types including the proliferation of handheld devices. As a basic guideline, if an accommodation provider installed a Wi-Fi system several years ago, this should be ripped out and new modern gear installed.

The software should monitor and identify usage, have up-to-the-minute security protocols and offer an intuitive interface for easy public use. And with the average consumer's internet downloads doubling every year, the accommodation provider should have plenty of data on tap from their friendly internet provider and nerves of steel to cope with continually escalating monthly internet bills.

Another consideration for the accommodation provider is that they are now required to take on the responsibility for their customers use. If you're a small business and a customer users your Wi-Fi, you're liable for everyone using your internet connection. Under the SkyNet law that came into effect on September last year, the accomodation provider can get three warnings if their guests illegally download files. After that you can be taken to the Copyright Tribunal where offenders face a maximum fine of $15,000. Nice! Another good reason to check out (and pay for) specialist commercial Wi-Fi management software available.

While for some accommodation providers, Wi-Fi may be a modest profit centre, it's inevitable that Wi-Fi will quickly become yet another cost, due to public expectation. For some reason, user pays doesn't seem to apply to Wi-Fi - "Somebody else pays" rules!

That's all OK as long as tariff can be bumped up to cover the expense....with New Zealand accommodation continuing to offer some of the cheapest tariffs on the planet, that probably isn't going to happen anytime soon....

Monday, October 22, 2012 Increase Commission

As we predicted, earlier this year in "The Motella 2012 Predictions"
OTAs will attempt to raise commission rates. OTAs are experiencing a declining growth in demand along with increased competition. Fickle consumer behavior is necessitating an increase in the ratio of staffing levels per transaction. For OTAs to remain visible, increasing investment in marketing is required (Google is the big winner here) and the cost of new and improved technology is increasing. While traditional agents operating from bricks and mortar on high streets have been able to maintain commission levels for many years, there seems to be an irony that web based agencies may not be able to sustain the same levels.
A leading OTA for many New Zealand accommodation businesses, have announced to suppliers today a progressive rise in commission rate from 10 to 12 percent.

Have Kiwi accommodation providers become too reliant upon Wotif to sell rooms to consider pulling inventory from this popular site?

A further prediction is that Wotif's CEO, Robbie Cooke's inbox is going to quickly fill with angry comments from accommodation providers (see email address below;-))

Dear Partner,
At we take a lot of pride in being the leader in online accommodation in Australia. With 5 million plus customers visiting our website monthly we are able to drive bookings to you at the lowest commission level in the market. Our success comes from the trusted partnership we have developed with you and, and like partners, over the last 13 years. We live and breathe partnership and are always striving to do the best we can to drive more bookings.
It is a reality of life, however, that we operate in a truly global marketplace today, where the much higher commission levels of some of our competitors allow them to market themselves more aggressively.
With this in mind, we are taking a number of steps to ensure that we have the financial firepower to ensure that we can deliver more for our accommodation partners over the coming years. One of these steps is making the very difficult decision to increase our low 10% commission model by one percentage point with effect from 1st January 2013. This will be followed by one further lift of the same amount on 1st January 2014.
This will still see remain as one of the world’s lowest cost online travel agencies but it will also allow us to increase the reinvestment in our business to drive sales performance for you.
We have not made this decision lightly and we understand that this will also have an impact on your business. I want to take this opportunity to reassure you that we will be reinvesting this extra commission into activities that will allow us to drive an even better sales outcome.
I would welcome you to contact your product manager if you wish to discuss this and we will be reaching out to you over the coming weeks to answer any questions and concerns that you may have.
As always I am available to discuss any aspect of our business if I can be of any assistance.
Kind Regards,
Robbie Cooke (

Mitt Romney Style

If we are to believe the media, Romney has surged to a slender lead ahead of Obama...that's great news for folk that are happy to live with the consequences of Romney, for the sake of decelerating the creep of socialism.

But being ahead in the popular vote doesn't get you the top job in the White House - it's all about the Electoral College vote. On a state by state basis, Romney is considerably behind and needs a massive boost to get himself home.

I'm really looking forward to the final debate in the early hours this morning. Romney needs to OWN Obama Gangnam Style.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Family Stickers - The Revenge!

A dear reader that's just as enthusiastic about My Family car stickers as I am, allegedly snapped this photo in a motel car park this morning...

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rydges

Following on from our previous post on social media and people with the same name as a well known brand.....I see that Rydges Wellington have been having a bit of fun parodying the reality TV series, The Ridges.

Much like the TV version, Rydges Wellington haven't manage to attract a huge audience with this campaign, so we thought we'd give them a boost. Here, the team faithfully follows the script of this week's final climatic episode

Travel Company's Social Media WIN

A cheeky opportunist posts a request on Thomas Cook UK's Facebook timeline. Thomas Cook respond with a bland textbook response and quickly get OWNED by competitor,

Does this make Thomas Cook look bad...nah, probably not. Most people would see Thomas Cook's namesake as trying to game the system, however have managed to supercharge their profile for little investment and have struck social media marketing nirvana by the story being featured in the MSM.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Standing Up For The Car

As a recipient of travellers that mainly use a car to get to me, I've got a vested interest in car-culture and are prickly towards anyone that threatens the sanctity of the automobile as an object of desire and the principal mode of transport that should be revered and freely enjoyed.

Cars are a magical combination of ego, beauty, sex, form and function and there's been a couple of thing's that have been p*ssing me off by threatening the status of the car in our society.

Firstly there's Greg Murphy. The man when behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar is a feisty god-like figure, however his enviable hero-status is shattered when he starts shrilling the MTA's self-interest of trying to buck the government's proposal of extending the time between warrant of fitness checks.

The time and effort of attending a 6-monthly WOF check in a cold and drafty concrete structure situated in the middle of an industrial subdivision is an excruciating hassle. And besides, even the fuddy-duddies at the AA reckon the compulsion of 6-monthly visits should be relaxed.

The other issue that is causing me angst are those wowsers that are shrieking opposition about the government's long delayed decision to close  mothball the Napier/Gisborne railway line. This quaint, outdated mode of transport that started bleeding money soon after its inception should have been put to bed many years ago.

It is idiocy to maintain an expensive and inefficient rail route that goes through more tunnels and bridges than any other, to irregularly service a few customers on-demand while alongside is a "highway" that has one of the lowest traffic counts in the country.

And finally there's the release of the Holden Volt in New Zealand. This is the car that even threatens the Toyota Prius as the most nauseatingly gayiest car...ever.

This is the car that has neutralised any sex and passion that still remains in the car industry.

The car picked as a winner by Obama that nobody wants. Demand has been so underwhelming that GM (Government Motors) have recently stopped its production - for the second time.

The car that needs tax payer rebate just to move it off the caryard, so that high income prima-donnas can show the world how they are buying American while saving the planet.

The car that moochers rely on others to subsidise and expect even more privilege such as express lane passes, government assistance to rewire their houses in some circumstances and rebates from electricity companies.

I'm almost looking forward to analysing the type of person that is stupid enough to turn up at my place behind the wheel of this NZD$85,000 car that simply doesn't add up.

Habits of the Kiwi Connected Consumer

Roy Morgan NZ released a study yesterday that gives us a valuable snapshot into the habits of the Kiwi Connected Consumer.

Anyone with a vested interest in short-term accommodation should take special note. Of the 5.6 Billion Kiwis spent shopping online in the last 12-months, travel is the largest industry.

The Digital Universe                                                            

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Magic Motel Fingers

Back in June 2009, we breathlessly reported the passing of a motel industry icon, John Houghtaling aged 92.
"Who was John Houghtaling?!?

Well, he was the man who made the earth move for millions of motel guests with his ingenious invention, the Magic Fingers vibrating bed machine. For a mere 25 cents inserted into an inconspicuous metal box screwed to the bedside table, guests could be spirited away by a vibrating rocking motion of their motel bed.

In 15 minute sessions of therapeutic pleasure, guests were able to forget that they were booked into a cheap motel. However others that used the vibrations as a giant sex toy with the partner of their choice, may have been focused on other endeavours.

The Magic fingers device was marketed under the slogan, "It quickly takes you into the land of tingling and relaxation and ease." In the early 1960's, Magic Fingers could be found in 250,000 motel rooms across America and a few of these devices made their way to New Zealand.

Inevitably the fad of Magic Fingers slowly waned and the businesses was sold in 1980. Magic Fingers lives on with a new focus on home consumers.

Mr Houghtaling, you have left a tacky, kinky and fun motel legacy that is now a distant memory. We salute you!"
I see that there is a motel that claims to have the only remaining Magic Fingers machines installed in their guest rooms, the classic Flamingo Motel, Idaho.
"Another of our unique guest amenities is provided by Russ, a fellow from nearby Spokane, who still removes quarters from the Magic Fingers boxes attached to the beds. It was his father, so he says, that partnered with the inventor of the original Magic Fingers, a tiny motor attached to the bed frame that gives welcome vibrations to the mattresses for the road weary guests."
An article this week, Magic Fingers still alive, but nearing its finale features the Flamingo Motel and the interesting history of the Magic Fingers phenomenon.

While the Magic Fingers machine probably contributed to the American motel industry's unsavory "dens of inequity, rent-by-the-hour" reputation, it also provided a point of difference and fascination to travellers of another era.

With the explosion of consumerism in more recent years, I wonder what motels are now offering as a point of difference that travellers are unable to experience at home?

And I wonder if it is possible if one of these bizarre machines could still operating in a inconspicuous New Zealand motel room that has been lost-in-time?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Are Accommodation Businesses Missing Out?

Owning and running a small business can be like being trapped on a small island. From when you are first are first incarcerated, you assume the outside world stands still as you busy yourself reacting to the day to day requirements of running a small business. But the world outside your bubble is changing and this change is occurring at a rapid pace.

A couple of recent articles caught my attention.

Statistics New Zealand now claim a milestone that over half of Kiwis are now using their mobile phones to browse the internet. Incredibly, mobile broadband users increased by more than a third in the past year to over 2.5 million.

New Zealand doesn't seem to be too far behind Google's often touted claim that by 2014, it is estimated that the number of people browsing the web on their smartphones will exceed desktop visits.

Another news story claims that almost half of New Zealand are on Facebook with 2.2 million accounts domiciled in this county. From a Herald DigiPoll, more than half use Facebook less than half-an-hour every day - It is difficult to ascertain how many of these accounts are simply lying dormant or if respondents were wanting to appear as if they have a life by claiming low use?

Over 450,000 hard-core Kiwis claim to spend more than an hour on Facebook every day.

From previous studies, the tipping point of more Kiwis accessing Facebook using a mobile device rather than a desktop occurred sometime last year. For many, the mobile Facebook habit has probably accelerated the growing phenomenon of making consumer choices via mobile phones. 

At the moment, a hard core of Kiwis own a smartphone that are always with them, always on and always connected. Global research from Google has found that a within any week, 81 percent of smartphone users have browsed the internet, 77 percent have used a search engine, 48 percent have watched a video and 63 percent have connected to a social network.

So where are upwardly mobile smartphone users gazing into their glowing small screens? The short answer is ...almost anywhere you can imagine. Google tell us that 39 percent are using it when they go to the bathroom and 33 percent while watching TV. Have you noticed newspapers providing online prompts such as QR Codes around their news stories, well apparently 22 percent now use smartphones while reading a newspaper.

While changes in social activity are interesting, from a business perspective the rapid change in how consumers make buying decisions is an opportunity.

According to Google, 79 percent use a smart phone to help with a shopping decision with 70 percent actually using a smartphone in-store to compare prices, read product reviews etc.74 percent of shoppers make a purchase as a direct result of the information they got from their smartphone.

So how many accommodation businesses offer a mobile consumer experience?

The answer is less than 5 percent...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Can Anyone Assist Richy Raw?

I received the following email from "Richy Raw". He is obviously a discerning gentleman that after much consideration has chosen my establishment for himself (and a couple of his pals) to come and stay.
From: Richy Raw []
Sent: Friday, 12 October 2012 9:25 p.m.
Subject: Booking
Importance: High
I wish to book reservation for three adults staying for eighteen nights (18), in three rooms.
It will run from 2nd December 2012 to  20th December 2012.
Therefore, calculate the total bill including breakfast and send to me swiftly so that I can make the payments and make the travel plans accordingly.
I also hope that you have credit card machine for billing. I will send the billing or payment details as soon as I get the total cost which will be in your reply. That is if the reservation offer satisfies my desire.

Best Regards,
Richy Raw,
31-33 Guildhall Street,
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 1QD ,
United Kingdom.
After using Google Maps and cruising down the stark narrow streets past Richy's modest abode in Suffolk, I soon understood why he must be keenly anticipating a pre-Christmas 18-day stint in the heart of provincial New Zealand.

Richy must get about quite a bit, as Google informs me that he often corresponds with other accommodation establishments requesting long-term stays for himself and his entourage across the globe. And after seeing copies of his other email accommodation requests posted all over the the internet, I note that jet-setter Richy seems to change his place of residence quite a bit as well?

One of his numerous other addresses he regularly uses in his emails is a car park for the Atlanta Braves Home Park stadium USA:


Unfortunately I find my self too busy to correspond with Richy, so knock your socks off....why not write your own response by offering Richy and his mates accommodation at your place. If your don't have a motel or hotel - no worries! I'm sure Richy and co won't mind bunking in your underutilised sleep-out, spare room or garden shed.

So drop Richy a line using his Philippines email address: - He'll be anxiously be awaiting your reply...and don't forget to send me any amusing email trial that will ensue.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Are The Consequences Of Skipping From A Motel?

In Wellington District Court this morning, a lightly moistened bus ticket was unceremoniously waived in the direction of Kerry Buddle when she appeared for sentencing. 

You may remember this larger than life, plausible blonde (pictured above) that appears to have traits of overestimating reality. It is alleged that Buddle owes about $2.5 million after persuading clients to lend her money after encouraging them to mortgage their properties. Five people say they have had to sell their homes when Buddle did not repay their money.

While police continue investigating these serious accusations, we've been following Buddle's criminal charges of obtaining accommodation by deception (ie: skipping from motels). 

"A motel owner, skeptical that alleged loan scammer Kerry Buddle was ever going to pay for accommodation, learned through a television programme that she was wanted on fraud-related matters.

Marie Ann Hickey, of Motel 22, Lower Hutt, said she had been pressing Buddle for a $722 payment in June last year. 

The transaction was declined when she tried to bill the credit card of which Buddle had given details when she booked the motel. 

In her court statement, Ms Hickey said Buddle booked a motel unit for June 4. On June 5 she asked to extend her stay. Buddle was asked to pay, but still had not done so by June 10, when she said she would pay the next day. Ms Hickey noticed a male visiting Buddle's unit each night.

That evening Ms Hickey watched a television news story and realised it was about Buddle who was wanted on "fraud-related matters". 
It would appear once the heat went on Buddle, she simply checked-in to another motel that was only 2km away, but this time used an alternative method of avoiding payment.
"Angus Inn front office manager Arvin Singh said Buddle booked into the hotel on June 10 and stayed for 10 nights.

He became concerned that she would not pay and she gave him a credit card number in the name of Shane Storey, who she said was her business partner who had given her authority to use it.

Mr Singh charged $1289.44 to the card.

Shane Storey, a Palmerston North accountant, said he had previously had a business relationship with Buddle. In February 2011 he gave her his credit card number to sign up for an internet phone system she was selling.
In late June his credit card statement contained entries he had no idea about. After speaking to the manager of the Angus Inn, he texted Buddle to find out why she had been using his credit card.

She responded repeatedly by text, and eventually by email, saying she had made a mistake with her records and would sort it out.

She asked why she would do something like that "with all the media coverage I have at the moment".
After pleading guilty to the four charges of obtaining the motel accommodation by deception, a District Court judge has this morning sentenced Buddle to to 100 hours' community work and to pay just over $2000 reparation.

Buddle, that has found time to distract herself from pending legal issues and frustrated creditors by giving birth to a wee baby girl in July this year is now described as a bankrupt beneficiary. Her lifestyle continues to be subsidised by others and the pathetic reparation order of  $10 a week doesn't seem like an appropriate consequence after ripping off trusting business owners - in fact it makes skipping from a motel almost appealing...

I guess we are going to have to continue to wait for reality to catch up with Buddle.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Print More Money...Another Boost For Tourism?

The Tourism Association of New Zealand has a habit of backing most populist ideas that would allegedly give tourism businesses a boost. According to the TIA, imposing more Statutory Days upon small businesses would be a small price to pay in order to stimulate domestic tourism by unleashing struggling workers that are apparently unable to manage a break away from existing entitlements of the odd weekend, existing Statutory Days, minimum 4-weeks holiday & the occasional sneaky sick day.

So based upon this fuzzy logic, we are front footing with a prediction that the TIA will be backing The Greens latest fanciful policy ejaculation that calls for the Reserve Bank to print money that will unfortunately further devalue the dollars Kiwis have in their wallets.

However, one the the many "benefits" of printing money is tourism will receive instant gratification of increased overseas arrivals that will be attracted by a more favorable exchange rate...

Thanks to Whaleoil, John Clarke gives us a clear explaination of the economic concept of printing money (Quantitative Easing) as a means of stimulating the economy.

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