Monday, September 28, 2009

What does Google Sidewiki mean to Accommodation Operators?

We like the idea of the Internet being an exciting, unregulated pool of interactive information with the user being able to choose content and interact freely with others. This prospect is much like the lawlessness of the Wild West where individuals needed to trust their senses and the quick and the strong rose to the top.

We know that the boom in easily accessible social media platforms has enabled legions of self appointed commentators to share opinions, observations and biased information en-masse. We all now seem to be more comfortable digitally sharing our inner most thoughts with strangers.

Accommodation providers that are spooked about customer reviews being made available via existing social media outlets may need to brace themselves for further exposure from another front.

Google has recently launched a new offering that will allow users to make a comment on most websites. Google Sidewiki is now available in beta and is embedded in the updated version of Google Toolbar. This tool will enable anyone to publish and share comments about almost any website in a side window that opens alongside web pages.

With Google Sidewiki, if someone wishes to comment on your accommodation and services offered there is no need to go through the rigmarole of using a third party travel review site. Anyone using Google Sidewiki can simply visit your own corporate website and make comment on any matter they choose without qualification. Once a comment is published the comment can be instantaneously broadcast to a wider audience on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone can write anything about your brand using Google Sidewiki by "attaching" comments to your website. However other Google Sidewiki users will be able to self-police spammers and unfounded malicious comments with the ability of rating individual posts. This will hopefully see inspired comments rise to the top and unqualified comments falling to the bottom of Sidewiki displays.

As an accommodation provider using a website for sales, promotion and credibility: are you freaked out yet?

What will the great unwashed write on YOUR website? The trouble is, you simply don't know. The comments may not necessarily be about reviewing a stay or experience with you. It could be about the look and usability of your website, a pithy comment on that staged spa pool photo on your website or even a completely unrelated subject about an event taking place in your region.

Remember folks, this is an open frontier where anything goes!

So what can you do about Google Sidewiki? Travel blogger, Steven Joyce has this to say:

 "Take ownership of Sidewiki now.  Set the tone of the conversation by being the first to comment on your site.  Invite people to participate, but set the standard and expectations in the beginning.  Add it to your daily check list of social media things to do, right after checking your brand on twitter and seeing how many new fans you have on your Facebook page.  This is just another way to engage with your audience so don’t hide from it, embrace it and make it yours.  When users leave comments, respond to them the same way you do on your blog or other blogs.  Unlike TripAdvisor where you have to post a management response, the barriers to responding are much less rigid, just go ahead and do it.  Because the visitor is already on your site, you have an opportunity to interact with them in a more meaningful way."

Sounds like good advice to us.

Will Google Sidewiki take over from specialised travel review websites such as TripAdvisor or will it just create further background noise that no-one listens to.

Before you go forth and do your own investigation about Google Sidewiki, check out their official video:

Must attend gatherings for travel industry operators

October heralds two must attend events for travel industry operators.

We have decided to make an appearance at one of these quality gatherings and will be embarking on a road trip soon.

Click on the following graphics for further information:

Get out of your comfort zone and make it happen - See you there!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Motel Gardening

I love the start of daylight saving and the promise of warmer climes. Hopefully the longer days ahead with better weather will encourage Kiwis out of hibernation and make them start thinking about taking a road trip...and staying in a few motels along the way.

It was a fantastic day here today so I made a dash for the outdoors while my wife was distracted. There was a list of gardening jobs that have been accumulating around the motel, so today was the perfect opportunity.

There is nothing like the smell and sound of a 2-stroke motor interacting with the great wilderness. First was the chainsaw, followed by the hedge trimmer and then the leaf-blower. 

To finish off any remaining unsightly greenery appearing in unwanted places, 60 litres of weedkiller was liberally applied.

Order has now been restored and once again man has  triumphed over nature.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Breaking the ice

Most people enjoy being hosted at a motel by hospitable operators that are able to second guess a simple need, make them feel at ease and offer personalised advice on aspects of the local area. But there a few people that simply need accommodation, do not wish to interact and are only focused on getting to their room and closing the door to the outside world as quickly as possible.

Part of the gig of operating a motel is that you learn to judge those that need extended verbal affirmation and those that simply wish to do the business with minimum human contact. We tend to amend our patter to suit.

One of our regular corporate guests has always been a man of few words. Over many months of retuning to stay with us, his communication has been limited to grunts and hand gestures. We respect that he is a matter-of-fact sort of a guy, however for a bit of fun, it has been a personal challenge to try and break the ice.

After seemingly ignoring our usual patter of pleasantries at check-out this morning our man of few words glanced at the newspapers on our counter and paused. He then did something that he has never done before - he engaged in conversation.

The front page of the newspaper featured the death of Sir Howard Morrison and our guest spoke eloquently about his sadness of his passing and reminisced about some of the happy memories he had over the different eras of Sir Howard's music.

I nodded and smiled in all the right places. At last we had a break-through!

In closing our guest said in a matter-of-fact way, "at least Howard Morrison lived a good and long life, unlike my son that passed away at age 23". He half smiled and left.

My son is coming home from boarding school tonight. I'm gonna enjoy the next few weeks over the school holidays.

John Key on Letterman delivering the Top 10

Hey, we think the little fella did OK. 

The golly-gee, aw-shucks, self put-down kiwi humor seemed to cross-over well. There will be a bit of stick about the "20-hour flight" comments, but we think that the over sensitivity to this will be from uptight Kiwi commentators - and not American travelers. 

See for yourself:


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will GST Be Increased to 15% ?

Our friends at RoarPrawn are on assignment in a secret location in the Bay of Plenty and claim to have stumbled upon some hot gossip:
"... the gossip running through the accountancy world is that an increase in GST is pending. - Up from 12.5 to 15 percent. We hear that some bean counters are warning businesses to get their systems ready for the increase which they think will happen pretty soon."
Hmmm...small businesses better start contemplating what changes they will need to make in their operations if they are to have a greater role in the tax collection racket. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Will take off?

The online accommodation booking space has just gotten a little more crowded.

As a media first, we can announce that today marks the "soft launch" of with an official launch to follow soon.

The Ready Rooms brand was initially launched as the online accommodation aggregator on In recent years, the brand dropped from public view and was intergrated as the "hotels" option on and

The Jetset Travelworld Group (parent company for Qantas Holidays) has today launched a new accommodation booking website. The readyrooms brand will now make a reappearance into the consumer space as

This means that accommodation suppliers already allocating rooms with Qantas Holidays will now be distributed through an additional independent online website that specialises in reselling accommodation. 

From a consumer point of view, the site looks very clean and usable. From a business perspective the new website would appear to be a simple and inspired venture that will broaden the opportunity to resell accommodation from the airline's existing database of suppliers. 
Air New Zealand announced last year its "commitment to playing a role in the wider tourism industry" and it will be interesting to see comparable developments from our national airline that also has plans to clip the ticket beyond air travel. 

In our opinion Air New Zealand has been somewhat guzumpt by today's announcement. Its Tourism Exchange product that has yet to fly is too cumbersome and too late. 

Helen puts on her best grimace for the cameras in New York

Don't they look perfectly natural together;-) Looks like a great pic for a caption contest.


Does NZ's adventure tourism industy need more regulation?

Prime Minister, John Key has announced a review of risk management and safety practices of adventure tourism operators following publicity of fatalities in river boarding last year and swing bridge operation this year.

The MSM are playing up to this story with sensationalist headlines: 'Tourism 'cowboys' face ban"

Calling for a review is the politically correct response to these tragedies, however New Zealand tourism operators will be nervously hoping that the review process will not result in unnecessary, knee-jerk regulation. 

The New Zealand Herald blog has asked the question: "Does NZ's adventure tourism industry need more regulation?" Not surprisingly the usual centralist suspects are responding with calls to regulate, however we are heartened with some well reasoned responses that are horrified at the prospect that NZ's Adventure Tourism will be turned into a sanitised Disney experience.

Follow the conversation HERE.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Motella's Bid for Tourism NZ's Top Job Fails!

In a shock announcement today it was revealed that I did not secure the top job at Tourism New Zealand (TNZ).

That mantle has been passed to current CEO for start-up Yahoo!Xtra, Kevin Bowler. 

Bowler's previous position was General Manager Consumer Marketing for Telecom New Zealand. His experience includes senior management roles in major food and beverage companies, and in the advertising industry directing accounts for Air New Zealand and Cadbury.

We predicted that George Hickton, outgoing CEO of Tourism New Zealand would be gone by the end of the year in our early June 2009 post: HERE.
"We predicted that there would be a necessary shakeup at Tourism NZ and in order for this to happen, Hickton needs to go. An industry insider has informed us that this will likely occur before the end of this year. Watch this space."
George Hickton announced his retirement late June 2009 and is to depart on 1 December this year. Hickton has been a popular face of Tourism New Zealand and has led through the last 10-years of positive growth.

Bowler has the challenge of "freshening and reinvigorating" 100% Pure NZ. The iconic branding's effectiveness
has grown to mythical proportions within the NZ tourism industry and any nessessary change will cause ripples

In order to secure future public funding streams under the current government regime, Bowler will need to move resource from the back office to the front and demonstrate clear returns on "investment." TNZ's  middle-management will have a nervous Christmas awaiting Bowler's early January 2010 commencemnt of the role.

Clearly a few challenges await that will ruffle a few feathers.

21 September 2009

Tourism New Zealand Chairman Greg Muir has today announced the appointment of Kevin Bowler as its new CEO.

Mr Bowler has extensive marketing and business leadership experience spanning fast moving consumer goods, technology and media brands in New Zealand and overseas.

He is currently CEO for start-up Yahoo!Xtra, a JV between Yahoo!7 and Telecom. During this period Mr Bowler has taken a leadership role in the digital communications industry chairing the NZ Interactive Advertising Bureau since 2008.

Chairman Greg Muir said that interest in the role had been strong with an impressive lineup of candidates. "There was a great deal of interest in this role both from within New Zealand and offshore which is a mark of the reputation that Tourism New Zealand has established."

"We were looking for someone with demonstrable leadership skills and someone who understands the value of brands, the opportunities that the online environment offers and the challenges of operating on a global stage," he said.

Mr Bowler will be based in Tourism New Zealand's Auckland office and will spread his time between Wellington and Auckland offices.

Prior to Yahoo!Xtra, Kevin spent several years with Telecom, initially leading the marketing led resurgence in mobile with initiatives like T3G and $10txt, then moving on to lead marketing across Telecom's whole consumer business.

He worked in fast moving consumer goods marketing and general management both in NZ with Unilever and NZ Dairy Foods and in the UK with Rank Hovis McDougall Foods. He also has experience in advertising account management supporting Air New Zealand whilst at HDM Mattingly and Cadbury whilst with DDB.
Mr Bowler will take up his new role in early January.

In announcing the new appointment Mr Muir acknowledged outgoing Chief Executive George Hickton.
"George and the team have done an outstanding job over the last decade positioning New Zealand as one of the best places to visit worldwide. Even this week New Zealand was, once again, voted the best destination brand."

Source: Click HERE

Saturday, September 19, 2009

BBH Attacks Qualmark NZ

BBH flicks the bird

We have been following media reports of the inaugural New Zealand Backpacking Conference with interest. The backpacker sector seems to be in good heart and has bucked the recession by attracting reasonable numbers to conference along with PM/Minister of Tourism John Key, Tourism NZ chief George Hickton and Tim Cossar head of the Tourism Industry Association.

During a conference presentation , Mark Dumble one of the directors of BBH (Budget Backpacker Hostels NZ Ltd) dared to take a swipe at Qualmark NZ, by labeling its quality benchmarking system as flawed and inconsistent.

While Dumble's comments may appear self-serving, BBH have successfully cornered the Backpacker sector with the majority of operators choosing the BBH quality rating system above Qualmark NZ. Guests that stay at a BBH property can rate their overall experience by responding to a simple question: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you enjoy staying at each of the Backpacker Hostels you've used in New Zealand?" 

Every year the responses are collated into a percentage rating to enable future guests to determine the "quality" of the experience of BBH rated accommodation. From what we can see the system is simple but very effective.

As an alternative, Qualmark NZ contract trained assessors to evaluate Backpackers in 3-4 hour stints every year using an exhaustive list of criteria. The star gradings allocated are a credible comparison between other accommodation options assessed by Qualmark, however the majority of Backpacker operators choose not to take part.

Qualmark NZ Ltd, a publicly funded Tourism NZ adjunct (with a minority shareholding by the AA) was originally set up to benchmark quality levels in the accommodation sector. This was to give consumers an easy way  to compare options available by ranking accommodation businesses on the quality of services and amenities offered.

BBH has long been a thorn in Qualmark's side by not abiding to its self-appointed official doctrine. A prickly George Hickton hit back at Mark Dumble's discouraging comments by claiming it was unfair to compare a consumer-rated scheme with an accreditation system such as Qualmark. Hicton's disregard for guest feedback is interesting.

Across all accommodation sectors there have been regular claims that Qualmark are not consistent in applying their assessment criteria. We are unable to comment specifically on the Backpacker sector, however within our own Service and Self Contained sector (that includes motels) we believe that Qualmark's assessment consistency performance has been relatively good.

However, there are other concerns common to all accommodation sectors. Qualmark NZ have been accused of focusing more on measuring back office bureaucracy within a tourism business rather than guest demands. There has been questions raised about the the cost of Qualmark to the New Zealand taxpayer and the limited amount of accommodation properties that are willing to subscribe. Are Qualmark focused on what consumers really want? And Is their further risk of political influence, especially after the recent forced introduction of their politically correct environmental criteria?

One common area of concern that should be of more interest to BBH is that Tourism New Zealand have stated that they will only market Qualmark rated tourism product off-shore. This means that Tourism New Zealand that has a majority shareholding in Qualamark NZ Ltd will only allocate taxpayer funding to promote tourism product that has been licensed by its own "accreditation system." Does this sound like a conflict of interest?

There will never be a perfect system that measures quality, however you have to admire the plucky and independent, BBH by their relative success within the Backpacker sector against the larger, publicly funded institution, Qualmark NZ.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Motivation: Life = Risk

Hat tip: NotPC

ETS Consequences for the Tourism Industry

The biggest threat that New Zealand businesses face is not from climate change or global warming - it is from government legislation.

This is why, New Zealand's accommodation and tourism industry should feel uneasy about the deal National has done with the Maori Party this week on the Emission Trading Scheme legislation (ETS).

Ignoring National's wasteful concession on providing insulation welfare for 2000 low-income Maori homes, the final shape of the onerous ETS legislation is a Labour-lite cop-out that will place unnecessary burden on tourism trade.

In preparation for staged radical international treaty negotiations to curb greenhouse gas emissions that begin this December in Copenhagen, the Government has committed New Zealand to cut up to a third of current emissions by 2020.

The economic, social and moral implications are immense, however most New Zealanders seem to be oblivious to real-world consequences and would prefer to sit back and let self-appointed "experts" like Keisha Castle-Hughes speak on their behalf.

Meanwhile the tourism and accommodation industries are happy to plod along and be dictated by institutionalised environmental evangelism at the expense of business freedoms.

Should the tourism sector in a small isolated country that relies upon fossil fuels to deliver travelers to our doors be concerned? Well, YES and thankfully others outside the fawning MSM are as well.

Popular blogger, Not PC comments:
"John (Key) has bought a pup, and if he thinks you’re going to be happy to pay for it then he’s even more stupid than he looks.  You see, John Boy still thinks that an Emissions Trading Scheme is going to “save the planet” – he really does, you know.  He hasn’t yet worked out that Emissions Tax Scams aren’t designed to save the planet, and they never will – they’re about controlling everyone on the planet."
So, what does this mean for businesses that rely on the free movement of our visitors? The HonestClimate blog is taking an interest in New Zealand's legislation from afar and claims that ETS will kill Tourism, Transport and Trade:

"But not one car, truck, bus, train, plane or ship can move without producing CO2. There is no possibility that this will change significantly before the doomsday year of 2020, just a decade away. Therefore neither Australia nor New Zealand can cut CO2 emissions by 2020 without slowly strangling all those industries that rely on moving people or goods."
Sorta makes you think...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Optimists now exceeds pessimists

Yep, NZ Ski operators sure have - Thanks Kev!

The latest Tourism Industry Monitor has released some encouraging results this week. For the first time since the monitor began in March 2009, the number of optimists have exceeded the number of pessimists.

Kiwi ski operators are extremely grateful for Mr K Rudd's $900-a-person economic stimulus earlier this year that helped subsidise the Kiwi ski holidays of many Australians. Cheers Kev!

Tourism operators have high hopes that the Australian market can continue to perform and that Kiwis will start to come out of hibernation with the warmer weather. There still appears to be less certainty with long haul markets. 

It could be said that some optimism is being generated from flattering comparative monthly tourism figures that are now being compared to a low base when tourism activity started to decline towards the end of last year. 

Tourism is a funny business that survives on eternal optimism. The mere whiff of positive numerosity within the industry seems to generate a life of its own. 

A summary of results from the Tourism Industry Monitor:
  • In the past 3 months (Jun-Aug) industry demand has fallen 1.4% while profitability has fallen 2.4%. This is an improvement in performance relative to May-Jul. 
  • In the next 3 months (Sep-Nov) industry demand is expected to fall by 0.4% and profitability is expected to fall 1.3%.
  • 44% of respondents expect seasonally adjusted demand to improve in the next 3 months compared with 38% last month and 23% the month before. 
  • 41% of respondents expect seasonally adjusted demand to fall in the next 3 months compared with 42% last month and 50% the month before.
  • The increase in optimism is being driven by three factors: 
  1. A strong and long ski season.
  2. The natural drop off in international visitor arrivals during this period which allows the growth in the domestic and Australian markets to dominate.
  3. Tourism activity began to decline towards the end of 2008; hence the predicted changes are coming off a low base.
  • The outlook for the next 3 months is neutral/mildly positive for the upper and lower regions of the South Island and neutral/mildly negative for the Canterbury RTO.
  • The pattern is reversed in the North Island with a neutral/mildly positive outlook for the central region and a neutral/mildly negative outlook for the upper and lower regions.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Government's Snail-Trail Folly

Someone in the tourism industry needs to step-up and state the obvious

We seem to be the only ones that are highly skeptical about the gushing reporting in the mainstream media about the nation's cycleway project.

Don't get us wrong - we love cycling. We love the individualism, the fitness aspect and connecting with some fantastic scenery. We may even have a secret fascination with lycra ;-) However, the initial capital cost, the inflated demand predictions, optimistic economic multipliers and the ongoing funding of maintaining a proposed network of cycle tracks simply do not stack up.

It's one thing to accept that the government provides funding for generic offshore tourism promotion, but it is a whole new ball game when the government starts picking winners and diverts public resource into speculative niche tourism markets.

Here's our predictions.
  • Less than half of the government's $50 million budget will be converted into actual cycle track.
  • The costs associated with building and converting existing routes into cycle tracks will blow out by at least 25%.
  • A further substantial government injection of funds will be needed to complete the proposed network.
  • Ongoing maintenance costs are largely unknown, however could be anywhere from $5,000 - $10,000 per km.
  • Demand will be a fraction of what is predicted.
  • Cost recovery from users will be minimal.
  • Economic activity by associated tourism ventures that will be naively lured to service cycle tracks will either be unsustainable or modest at best.
  • When dubious benefits from the cycleway are finally realised there will be a call for further public money to be "invested" into promoting the cycleway.
The idea of zero emission tourists compelled to happily peddle their way around a network of publicly funded cycleways would seem to appeal with Kiwis politically correct idealism.

In reality the majority of tourists enjoy the freedom of exploring our slice of paradise by a fossil fuel burning vehicle and interacting with privately owned tourism businesses.

For the sake of our tourism industry, it is imeritive that these Kiwi businesses are not restricted with the impost of wasteful government spending.

Monday, September 14, 2009

School holiday sale lures families

With news reports now regularly quoting the worst of the economic conditions are behind us, we wonder if this will motivate the leisure market to resume travel. have today announced their own school holiday stimulus package targeted at families.

Press Release
Embargoed until 9am Monday 14th September
School holiday sale lures families, Waipukurau based last minute accommodation website this week launches it’s School Holiday Sale with over 50 accommodation providers across New Zealand displaying exclusive deals to lure in the school holiday traveller.

The sale which started at 9am Monday the 14th of September and goes through to Sunday the 27th of September will showcase properties that offer families cheaper rates on accommodation and free inclusions such as upgrades, breakfasts or local activity passes.

Managing Director of Gareth Pearce says that the ‘School Holiday Sale’ is a great way for families to get out and travel over this September school holiday period. “The accommodation deals that our providers have made available will provide families with extra cash for other areas of their holiday like petrol, activities and attractions.”

“With all types of accommodation participating in the sale such as hotels down to motels & apartments, there is a huge variety of choice for different budgets. We know it’s tough out there at the moment so we are trying to make it cheaper & easier for families to take a break”. is New Zealand’s largest last minute accommodation website offering deals on accommodation across 3000 properties and 8 countries. To view deals associated with the school holiday sale visit

Saturday, September 12, 2009

At last some positive guest night stats!

After months of negative stats, it is pleasing to see a some positive news in the accommodation survey figures released yesterday with the motel sector recording a modest gain.

The results for July 2009 must be kept in perspective. July is traditionally one of the lowest recorded visitor night months. This year's comparison was with last year's mid-winter low guest night base that was influenced by the economic downturn. But a win is a win!

Probably of more interest to us is the relative performance of the accommodation sectors. Last year motels lost the crown to hotels as the accommodation sector that hosted the most guest nights. For the year ending 2008, hotels recorded a rise of 383,000 guest nights (4 percent). Motels had the largest decrease for the year, down 448,000 guest nights (4 percent).

This year the hotel sector has continued to dominate and solidify its dominant position. Why is that?

Total guest nights in all short-term commercial accommodation sectors enjoyed a 3 percent increase in July 2009 compared with July 2008.

When compared with July 2008, guest nights in the North Island were up 3 percent and
the South Island up 4 percent.

Eight of the 12 regions recorded more guest nights in July 2009 compared with July 2008, with the following regions showing the largest increases:
  • Otago, up 29,000 (8 percent)
  • Auckland, up 26,000 (6 percent)
  • Taranaki/Manawatu-Wanganui, up 10,000 (7 percent)
  • Waikato, up 10,000 (6 percent)
The region showing the largest decrease was Bay of Plenty, down 8,000 (4 percent).

Short-term overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand in July 2009 were up less than 1 percent from July 2008. Australia,
attracted by New Zealand ski fields, continues to boost overseas visitor numbers with a positive increase of 20 percent in July 2009 compared with July 2008.

In July 2009, four of the five accommodation types had more guest nights than in July 2008. The largest increases were recorded by:

  • Hotels, up 63,000 (8 percent)
  • Motels, up 5,000 (1 percent)
In July 2009, hotels continue to enjoy the largest share of total guest nights (39 percent), followed by motels (35 percent), and backpackers/hostels (14 percent).

Hotels had the highest occupancy rate (50 percent) of all the accommodation types in July 2009, followed by motels (42 percent), and backpackers/hostels (36 percent).

Source: Click HERE

Friday, September 11, 2009

The 12 Weirdest Hotel Rooms

One of Propeller Island City Lodge's highlights. The diamond-shaped room is completely laid out with mirrors and gives you the impression of living in a kaleidoscope. Kinky!

One of the many recessionary busting ideas for moteliers at Motella was the inspiration to create theme rooms. Now we admit that we don't intend to commence our own theme room project anytime soon, however we enjoy laughing at being inspired by some creative thinking.

We salute those select few accommodation providers that have taken theme rooms to the extreme. They have made the choice of accommodation the destination and an attraction. 

Shouldn't staying at commercial accommodation be a unique experience that begins at check-in and ends at check-out?

Click on the following links and make sure you check-out our favorite, Propeller Island City Lodge, Berlin. These folk need some serious medication!

1. Propeller Island City Lodge, Berlin
Propeller Island's collection of chambers are more like psychological experiments than holiday retreats. Although it's hard to pick just one, the upside-down room has all of its furniture nailed to the ceiling. (The Lodge's kaleidoscope room has its charms as well.) $165/night.

2. Jumbo Hostel, Stockholm, Sweden
While the stay-in-an-airplane concept doesn't quite pass our weirdness test, Sweden's Jumbo Hostel gets bonus points for actually dividing the airplane into different classes of accommodation. We say go for the cockpit. If you can't seal the deal there, you might as well give up. $460/night, with breakfast.

3. Sala Silvermine , Sweden
We were about to highlight the Kokopelli Cave in New Mexico when we came across Sweden's Sala Silvermine offering a suite 155 meters underground. (Leave your cell phone at home, their site advises.) The hotel "pool"? Deeper caverns accessible only by scuba diving. $520/night.

4. Jules' Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Fla.
This is actually not the world's only underwater hotel. (A far more lavish underwater resort is in the planning stages in, surprise, Dubai.) This former research lab, which you must be a certified scuba diver to enjoy, does offer a great honeymooner's package and a reasonable "day rate." At least you won't have to worry about the maid walking in. $375 pp/night, $250 per couple/3-hour day rate.

5. Palms Resort, Las Vegas: Barbie Suite
The Palms itself has several lavishly themed rooms -- basketball court, bowling alley, even a mini-Playboy Mansion -- but now you have a chance to stay in Barbie's Malibu dream house. (Let's just agree you're staying here to make some girl's fantasy come true.) Feel icky yet? Go take a shower ... and ignore the stripper pole. $3,000-$4,000/night.

6. Capsule Hotel, The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague is best known as the seat of many international tribunals. Perhaps negotiators could make good use of these austere, oil-rig escape pods, located along one of the city's canals. $100-$250/night.

7. The Old Jail, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Kink. Kink. Kink. Hear that noise? Must be someone banging on the pipes for room service. Mount Gambier, Australia's finest digs are in an 1866 jail. Little changed other than removing the cells' outer locks. Private cells range $38-$55/night.

8. Woodpecker Hotel, Västerås, Sweden
Treehouses are ho-hum, you say? Sure Brazil's Ariua Amazon Towers is an entire resort built into treetops, but these are 13 meters up, in the middle of a public park, and only accessible by a rope ladder. Unfortunately that may limit beer runs. Plan wisely or bring extra singles for room service. $400-$550/night.

9. Controversy Tram Hotel, Hoogwoud, Netherlands
This small "Inn" is a collection of Dutch and German streetcars turned into a funky B&B. The hotel's video library, for some reason, is one of the same "UFO" pods found at a Capsule Hotel. Yet the weirdest thing about the Controversy might be the owners, who named the place after their favorite Prince album (seriously). $250-$300 for your own car.

10. DogBark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho

The weirdest element of this cozy cottage may be its creator -- "self-taught chainsaw artist" Dennis J. Sullivan, who took his profits from selling dog carvings on QVC to build this dream home. You have to admire a man with vision. $92/night.

11. Wigwam Villages, Multiple Locations
Of the original seven, three of these unique early-20th-century motels remain in Cave City, Kent., Holbrook, Ariz. and Rialto, Calif. Far be it from us to choose one. In any event, you're staying in a frickin' concrete teepee, but the western two are both located on former Route 66. The Rialto one is near San Bernardino's McDonald's Hamburger Museum. $35-$92/night.

12. Magic Mountain Hotel, Chile
Nestled into the Huilo Huilo natural preserve with a waterfall running over it, this is the kind of hotel you come back from a changed person, even without the (practically required) controlled substances. The best part? Miniature golf on property. A magical mountain indeed. $120-$160/night.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are Motels Losing Their Luster?

Are Motels Losing Their Luster? Well in New Zealand the answer is a firm NO, however it saddens me to see once thriving motels in decline. I drove past a few of these properties on my recent travels that I can remember back in their glory days. As I drive past these motels, a chill goes down my spine.

The driveways have potholes, the paintwork is peeling, the fence is in disrepair, the once proud motel sign is faded and the gardens are overgrown with weeds. At least I can console myself that these motels are not representative of our healthy motel industry and those few motels that are obviously in decline will quickly disappear from the landscape.

One sure-fire sign that a motel is on the slippery slope towards economic oblivion is the sub $100 rate board. These tacky roadside boards scream an element of desperation and signal several years of minimal innovation and investment.

The next step to motel-hell are when motel operators start to offer rooms to long term tenants. This changes the nature of the business and will often occur after many years of neglect and little re-investment. The permanent tenants themselves will quickly ingrain themselves into their surroundings and dominate the persona of the business. This will detract from the motel's original market of short term travelers and the rate of decline will rapidly increase as further units are rented out long-term.

It will soon become apparent that the motel business renting rooms long term will soon be unable to sustain basic R and M and the property will transform itself into an unappealing ghetto of undesirables.

Thankfully this scenario seems to occur more in America than in New Zealand.
I have been following with interest the saga Seattle City vs the owners of five seedy motels that have become dens of inequity with one motel employee describing the environment: "They got crack bitches, dope-fiend bitches, pimps, pussy, crank, coke, weed; whatever you want..." Sounds tempting?!?

New Zealand motels are far removed from this scenario, however it is interesting to compare and contemplate how a hard core of American motels find themselves in an ongoing real-life B-grade movie set.

On average, New Zealand's motel stock is a lot newer than in America. New Zealand motels are traditionally situated on land of reasonable value near main arterial routes, close to amenities that dictates that the motel property will produce a reasonable ROI if it is maintained to a reasonable level.

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.

We can be thankful that the New Zealand government monopilises this niche market and the private sector struggles to compete;-)

Normal Service To Resume Shortly

We are back from a short break and it has taken a while to get back in the groove.

Many of you will know the well worn routine of leaving your business for a few days and the inevitable issues to resolve when you return.

We will be putting the acid back into News, Views and Politics of New Zealand's Motel Industry real soon...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

See you in Wellington!

I have decided to go on another road trip and my journey will start by flying into Wellington and bonding with a select group other moteliers.

Unfortunately, the car rental arrangements has been left to a gentleman that displays an unusual sense of humor by living in the deep south and owning a Honda Odssey.

It will be with great trepidation that I will be exiting the airport terminal and discovering what type of vehicle awaits.

If it's a Toyota Prius, I will be catching a cab:

New property management system to be launched

Goodness me, there appears to be a stampede of companies giving out FREE stuff to moteliers.

Nick Hill of Strait Solutions well known in the motel industry for creating the hugely popular Duty Motel and Holiday Guide is about to launch a new property management system.

Strait Solutions are offering THREE properties a FREE 5 year license to operate the software to help tweak the final version.

Sounds like a great opportunity to us.

Motella readers have the inside scoop on this announcement, so we suggest you make a move quick!

2 September 2009
Press Release: Strait Solutions Ltd

We are shortly going to launch our new strait.frontdesk property management system (PMS) / frontdesk reservation system in New Zealand.

Following in the footsteps of Duty Motel and Holiday Guide this innovative new system is really easy to use, has a low monthly usage fee with no initial purchase price and will automatically directly update all major online booking websites.

This new system has been in development for over a year now and has been designed to address the high level of dissatisfaction from the NZ accommodation industry that we have heard about in the last couple for years.

It is clear that the industry is no longer willing to put up with expensive, functionally limited and poorly designed, difficult to use packages.

To help with our final testing and fine-tuning of functionality we are looking for THREE properties to assist us. We will provide those properties with a FREE 5 year license when the product is finally released as a thank you.

Please email us directly at if you would like to help us.

Please watch out for further details of this exciting new product on our website

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tourism Industry Association wants to "Start a Group"

The Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA)to the Review of the Holidays Act 2003

The terms of reference for the review included:
  • the calculation of relevant daily pay
  • trading annual leave for cash at the employee's request, and
  • transferring the observance of public holidays

Act can be made easier to work with and reduce compliance costs.

We would have thought that Employment legislation would have been an ongoing focus and work in progress well before submissions were called for. The TIA should have been able to present a clear business friendly call to action with the support of the majority of its members on this crucial piece of legislation.

Thankfully the TIA manged to form an opinion on some aspects of the review by supporting the trading in the fourth week's holiday for cash and not supporting addition of further public holidays. Unfortunately the TIA did not support the flexibility of transferring the observance of public holidays.

Overall this is a somewhat disappointing submission that lacks firepower.

Maybe the TIA have become somewhat stodgy after indulging in too many sausage rolls on the endless circuit of Rugby World Cup committee meetings?

1 September 2009
Holidays Act Must Be Simplified, Says Tourism Industry

The Holidays Act is complex and time-consuming and needs to be simplified to make it easier for tourism businesses to work with, says Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) Chief Executive Tim Cossar.

In its submission to the Review of the Holidays Act 2003, TIA says the Act affects every single tourism business, and in 24/7 industries where many part-time and casual workers are employed, the rules and regulations governing holidays are critical.

"It is vital that Holidays Act legislation is clear in its interpretation, for example around the calculation of relevant daily pay, but at the same time flexible enough to take account of the vast number of individual employment agreements that exist because of the seasonal and part-time nature of jobs in the sector," says Mr Cossar.

TIA is recommending the Department of Labour convene a working group of tourism and hospitality representatives to discuss potential options for making the Act easier to work with and reducing compliance costs.

Mr Cossar notes that while the tourism industry is seeking more clarity from the Holidays Act review, the diverse nature of the industry means a "one size fits all" approach is not always going to be the right one.
"What works for a large tourism entity, all of whom have computer based payroll systems, won't necessarily work for the many small to medium sized enterprises that characterise this industry."

TIA's submission also supports trading in the fourth week's holiday for cash, provided it is a flexible negotiation and the employee's rights are protected by legislation.

"A lot of part-time and casual workers and those in lower paid full-time employment would prefer trading in the fourth week for cash. While it certainly is better for employees to take a break, there can also be genuine hardship where cash is preferred over a holiday," says Mr Cossar.

TIA is also calling for public holidays to be retained as they are currently listed in the Holidays Act. Mr Cossar says its members are evenly divided on this issue, however TIA is concerned that transferring public holidays could be cumbersome and create extra compliance issues for businesses.

"The tourism industry acknowledges the increasing diversity and multi-cultural nature of New Zealand society, however we believe with four weeks annual leave provided to all employees, there are ample opportunities for people to take leave if they wish to observe their own days of national, religious or cultural significance."
He says TIA hopes the review will recognise the significant and sometimes adverse outcomes the Holidays Act has for the tourism industry, a major employer in New Zealand, and one where businesses often need to run seven day a week operations.

A full copy of the TIA submission is available on the policy section of the TIA website:

Source: Click HERE

"Must attend" tourism technology expo in Christchurch

These days you don't get too much for FREE, however there is an exciting gathering in Christchurch that accommodation and tourism operators need only invest their time.

We urge you to put a ring around 6 October 2009 in your diary to attend "TourismTech" a one day tourism technology expo in Christchurch.

As business owners, we spend a lot of time working IN our business. We are experiencing difficult trading times, the world is rapidly changing, the consumer is looking to trade and communicate with us differently.

Motella supports this bold initutive that will allow operators to up skill and connect with the latest technology trends. We suggest that you get off the ride on lawn mower and set aside some time to work ON your business!

Seekom and Systems for Business, are bringing together a variety of tourism technology providers and speakers. Technology providers will include:
  • Property Management System (PMS) providers
  • Online booking and sales channel distribution systems
  • Sales agents
  • Website designers – including content managed website solutions
  • Search engine optimisation specialists
  • Online video providers
  • Financial solutions – online accounting and transaction processing
  • Internet solutions and broadband billing
  • Telecommunications providers – including VOIP solutions
Press Release
1 September 2009

TourismTech 09, a technology expo and information day for the tourism industry, is being held for the first time at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Christchurch on October 6th. It is being organised by the industry for the industry.

Simon Casey of Seekom, one of the organisers of the expo, says, “TourismTech is free for tourism operators to attend where they can meet industry experts in one place, have their technology questions answered, see the latest products and services being offered by leading technology companies, and network with each other.”

Mr Casey said that the expo is based on a similar model to the Travel Technology show in London earlier this year that he and his partner Nicky attended.

“We have been very pleased with the enthusiastic response from technology companies to participate in this exciting event. We have several companies from Australia participating and if it proves to be popular with tourism operators, it could well be held in other centres in the future,” says Mr Casey.

Colin Kelly of Systems for Business, a co-organiser, says, “An important part of the expo will be educative seminars on the use of technology and these will be presented by industry experts. Topics include social networking, online bookings, content managed websites, etc., which tourism operators need to understand if they want to successfully grow their business in an online world.”

Two keynote speakers will be talking on the very popular topic of social media. One is Jack Yan from Jack Yan Associates who presented a “standing room only” seminar on this topic at the Small Business Expo in Wellington recently. The other is Steve Wilson of Social Eyes Consultancy who as part of his PhD research is looking at the emerging trends in social media tracking and marketing.

Although registrations will be accepted on the day, those that register online will have an express check-in on the day and go in the draw for a number of spot prizes.

Information on who is attending and presenting at the expo can be found at Free tickets can also be created there for attendees.

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