Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is Your iPhone Tracking You?

Are you confused by allegations in the media about Apple devices secretly tracking the movements of users? 

It's a good thing that those quirky folk at Next Media Animation have given us a clear overview of the situation:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Planning Easter Travel On-line

The Easter period is generally regarded as a Kiwi last-blast domestic leisure travel opportunity before hibernation for the cooler months.

While we anticipate that there will be be mixed trading results for accommodation providers throughout the country over the Easter weekend, we will need to wait for guest night stats to be published before we can authoritatively learn what actually occurred. 

What we can determine is the websites that many Kiwi consumers were browsing as they kept a wary eye on the weather forecast and contemplated the last-minute possibility of travelling over Easter.

The top-10 rankings for destination and accommodation websites in the graphic below is for the week ending 23 April 2011 according to Experian Hitwise.

Touring NZ By iPad

Interesting article in USA Today that was written by an American tourist that recently took a trip to New Zealand equipped with an iPad2 and used the impressive movie making functionality to record his experience. (Hat tip to John the Bavarian).

We would hazard a guess this recent intrepid traveller to our shores is fairly typical of the gadget distracted overseas visitor that we host on a regular basis.

The videos he has created used the iMovie app that is incredibly intuitive, cheap and the results can be very professional. Our "Motella Intro" video on the top right of this blog was made using iMovie on an iPhone 4 and uploaded to YouTube in less than 15-minutes (OK I admit that this is not the best example to the prowess of iMovie).

So as we enter a new digital age along with the economic realities of necessitating austerity, here's a bright idea: Close all overseas offices of Tourism NZ, cut the vote tourism budget in half and at the main New Zealand entry points start renting devices and/or incentivising overseas guests to digitally capture their New Zealand visit. Some of the mass user generated content will prove to be compelling viewing and will sell New Zealand as a visitor destination....

Can we foresee a time when our visitors will become our advocates and public funds will be deemed unnecessary to promote New Zealand as a destination?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PSA's One-Way Social Media

We see that after receiving a thrashing from VRWC bloggers and licking their wounds over the mandatory Easter shut-down, Labour's marketing arm the PSA have managed to get their FAILED "Nice To Have" social media campaign back on track.

Like most of their comrades, the PSA do not appear to understand what social media really is. Social media is a platform to create two-way-conversations, it is NOT shouting heavily moderated one-way messages.

Further Rugby World Cup Accommodation Hysteria

We saw yesterday's New Zealand Herald's front page scream yet another indignation of an accommodation provider raising tariff over the Rugby World Cup. We decided not to respond on ANZAC Day...

This type of shabby story seems to be a regular favourite amongst journalism hacks. The same story can be dragged out every now and again by merely changing the date, the accommodation provider's name and including the latest outraged and bewildered punter that believes that goods and services should be evenly distributed according to need.

Maybe we shouldn't be too hard on journalists that churn out these stories, as they are merely appealing to Kiwi's mistrust of market forces and entrenched totalitarianism.

So back to the front page story that howled that the modest Bond Street Motor Lodge in Kingsland had allegedly raised their nightly tariff by up to 1000 per cent over the Rugby World Cup period. Other accommodation providers in the area were reported to be raising tariff below 300 per cent.

So are we able to remotely critique with certainty the value of the strategically located Bond Street Lodge's offer of a single room with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities for alleged $350 a night?

Apparently we can! The Herald reporter managed to obtain a soundbite from Motel Association chief executive Michael Baines that said: "$350 for a room without a bathroom was clearly unreasonable, but didn't reflect accommodation rates during the cup."

An historical quote from chief executive of tournament organisers Rugby New Zealand 2011, Martin Snedden was dragged-out for effect: "Irresponsible profiteering within any aspect of hosting the event as a nation and we'll suffer badly."  

A musician, Joe Walsh played the role of an outraged consumer that generously indicated willingness to pay only $70 per night for a room over the peak Rugby World Cup period.

In order for the successful operation of an accommodation business it is necessary for providers to manage yield. It is often misunderstood that the nature of selling room-nights is that an accommodation business is offering a fixed inventory of rooms that are highly perishable "goods." Room-nights are unable to be stored, if unsold at a specific point in time.

These goods are marketed to a variety of customer groups with different purchasing behaviour. They are typically sold at different tariffs under different booking conditions to different market segments, through a variety of distribution channels to cope with demand swings and market trends.

Put simply, tariff can change according to market demand - get over it!

While some accommodation providers may initially set tariff somewhat wide of the mark over peak demand periods, the market should and does dictate tariff levels.

It was reported that the Bond St Motor Lodge allocated 10 of its 60 rooms with a tariff that was deemed appropriate for the Rugby World Cup period. Appropriately, the last word should go to the consumer that to date have booked 9 of those 10 allocated rooms.  In an  open market they have willingly accepted the value offered.

We reckon that the Bond St Motor Lodge that is a venue five minutes walk from a world-class event have probably set their tariff over the Rugby World Cup about right.

Monday, April 25, 2011

We Will Remember Them

It's been a busy Easter weekend at the motel and it's good to see Kiwis travelling around the country enjoying themselves before the cooler months are upon us. It's a time when we are supposed to recognise a mystical religious fable, Earth Day and ANZAC Day. I'm fairly nonplussed about the first two....

I can remember many years ago one evening reluctantly sitting in a functional, stackable chair at an old formica table, eating deep-fried food and swilling from a pint glass at a shabby RSA in a provincial wasteland, desperately wishing I was somewhere else. 

All of a sudden the lights were dimmed, the music was cut and the chatter instantly ceased. The silence was broken with the clear baritone voice of an RSA official on a mic:

"Ladies and Gentlemen: The Remembrance Ceremony" 

All stood and then *silence*

The silence was broken by the official:

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them"

Then all present responded: "We Will Remember Them"

As we all sat down the lighting was restored, the music and the chatter recommenced.

After first witnessing this ritual repeated nightly in RSAs across the country the photos and the names faithfully recorded on the walls of an RSA situated in the middle of nowhere suddenly became significant. My initial reluctance of my situation that evening was washed away - I felt honoured I was there.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eagerness in Travel

Travel Insanity

Those of us that regularly deal with travellers can appreciate that they are often distracted and tend to leave their sanity behind when they are away from their familiar surroundings.

While most folk still seem to have the pioneering spirit and can cope with the rigors of  travel, there seems to be a growing group that constantly need to be spoon-feed and reassured.

We appreciated the following video of a flight attendant's inner thoughts finally said aloud while dealing with an annoying passenger (Beware the F-Bomb):

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is this the world's worst guest?

We have had all sorts of odd items left behind by guests at our motel.

We've had a life-like doll that sent one of our poor housekeepers into a blind panic, a shotgun, large wads of cash, a dealers bag of dope and various adult toys to name a few... We  assume that most of these items were left in error, however I was amused read about a comedian seems to have a fetish about sending housekeeping staff into orbit by purposely leaving disturbing surprises behind. 

I've never heard of comedian, Bert Kreischer, but I will sure to look out for him if he happens to make a reservation at one of my motels.

Images of Kreischer's creepy creations that are ritualistically left in guest rooms at hotels around the world are regularly posted on his Twitter page.

While some may believe that Kreischer's art form is a sad cry for help from a perverted, sadistic madman; we are simply amused and will be following his exploits with great interest.

Here are some our our favourites:   

Friday, April 22, 2011

Motella via Smartphone

Judging from our blog stats a many of  our dear readers are accessing Motella on their iPhone.

While most of you are relaxing at home away from work and the nation's retail stores this Easter, our geeks have been beavering away in the basement of Motella HQ on a new mobile blog template.

The next time you are out-and-about and visit Motella on your smartphone you will be able to view our blog in a smart new mobile format that's easier to read, navigate, make comments and watch videos on the go. 

Give it a test-drive and tell us how it goes.

Think twice before nicking a towel

One of the many differences between hotels and motels is that guests are more likely to pilfer from a hotel than a motel. 

There are many reasons for this. Maybe guests feel a little more relaxed about souveniring items from a large corporate hotel entity than a smaller Ma and Pa motel? 

As with any rule of thumb there are exceptions and unfortunately motels that insist on placing tacky rate-boards on the curbside outside their property with sub-$100 tariff offers are targets for pilfering. Subliminally rateboards send out a message to potential guests that the offending motel is cheap, desperate, a little bit seedy and nicking amenities are commonplace (in fact it is almost expected!).

We were interested to read an article about hotels losing millions of dollars each year from guests walking away with items like robes, towels and bed linens. We were surprised to read that losses in any given month for a hotel, can be 5 to 20 per cent. An average motel in comparison would be unlucky to make a loss within that range over a year. A Honolulu hotel at the extreme end was reported as losing 4000 pool towels at cost of over USD$30,000 a month!  

A US company has invented a washable microchip that can be embedded into linen items. Individual items can be identified and tracked with a scanner that detects a radio frequency emitted from the chips.

While this technology is cool, it is frustrating that the articles does not give us a likely scenario of how guests are sprung?

Are hotel guests now required to walk through an airport style scanner before departure?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Have a great Easter folks!

Labour's social media FAIL continues...

Oh dear. Instead of doing the right thing by snatching some sort of dignity from the jaws of defeat, Labour are now defending their  Stop Sign cam­paign.

We are amused that Labour's social media FAIL has now hit the MSM. It is reported that Labour party leader Fail Goof is defending  the placement of simplistic slogans on stop signs

Unfortunately Labour appears to be ignoring the helpful advice from VRWC Bloggers that they should desist  from flouting road transport regulations dictating that roadsigns should not be duplicated and placed near a road.

There is a delicious irony that a party that thrives on telling others what to do, continues to believe that they are above the law. 

Managing Eco-hysteria

By now, most of us are aware that one of the world's largest oil companies, Petrobras has been awarded exploration rights for oil and gas offshore from the East Coast.

We are following this developing story closely and aware that the MSM are giving more than enough column-inches to flat-earth, uninformed iwi and environmental organisations. After all, their extreme narrow views regurgitated by sympathetic media make enthralling reading.

So what about the tourism industry? Will New Zealand by actively participating in oil and gas exploration put-off tourists that are supposedly looking for a 100 per cent clean-green nirvana? According to the hundreds of tourists we host and a recent reasoned study, that would be NO.

Many tourists are attracted to New Zealand's natural resources, however lasting impressions are more often than not made with human contact and man-made infrastructure. A vibrant economy is an important part of ensuring that our visitors value their Kiwi experience.

Up until now, the Nats have relied upon the smile and wave of a charismatic leader with little opposition. How the Nats will be able to politically quash the growing levels of silly eco-hysteria amongst naive Kiwis will be interesting to follow.

If Kiwis wish to enjoy the trappings of a first-world economy and continue to attract tourists, we have to start producing stuff and it is concerning that New Zealand is running out of productive businesses that are required to prop-up the unproductive masses.

By granting exploration rights for oil and gas, New Zealand stands to gain 20 percent of the accounting profits made, without any investment or financial risk. Further gains are made by an international company paying corporate tax, GST and ETS costs. In addition, all employees pay PAYE, and all companies associated with oil and gas developments and servicing the industry pay taxes on their profits.

In the unlikely event of an oil spill, the explorer has the responsibility to insure themselves and pay the full cost of any clean up. That's why New Zealand needs to deal with large scale international companies like Petrobras that have the experience and capacity to carry-out their responsibilities. 

While there probably wouldn't be too many locals working on an offshore drilling rig parked off the East Coast, in the event of the discovery of viable reserves there would be a very significant number of local jobs created.

Isn't ironic that East Coast iwi are the ones at the forefront of opposing the future prosperity of their region.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jasons CEO Resigns

We were surprised and saddened to learn that Jasons Travel Media CEO Matthew Mayne has resigned today.

Jasons blended the shock revelation in a market announcement on the NZX.

Mayne commenced his role with Jasons on 28th October 2008 following on from former CEO, Stephen Joyce that left the position to pursue his high profile political career. Mayne was a bold appointment that had a different look and style to Joyce and iconic company founder John Sandford.

Mayne is an experienced General Manager in the online media sector and took on the role at a challenging time as Jasons continues to take a dynamic journey as a travel print distribution company into an increasingly digital focused era.

This year under Mayne,  Jasons introduced a new and innovative offer for its 1600 motel accommodation providers for the 2012 season.

Motels will be aware that Jasons reps are on the ground now and well into their campaign of selling new combo deals of directory, online and mobile marketing for the 2012 year. New products have been launched that include: Freshening-up their online booking offer, iPhone/iPad app, Txt availability and a series of six webinars exclusive to moteliers that list with Jasons.

The way product was packaged and presented to advertisers was a radical departure from previous years. We acknowledge that parts of the offer are controversial for some and in hindsight could have been communicated to advertisers better. Time will tell if moteliers are "getting it" and are taking up the offer as expected.

Overall we think the Jasons offer is courageous, offers potential value to advertisers and has a distinct point of difference with their main competitor, AA Travel. 

We see that Jasons Chief Financial Officer, Michele La Riviere has been appointed interim CEO.

Further from the NZX market announcement:
"Jasons The company is currently reviewing the effect of the Christchurch earthquake on its Christchurch clients. Although there will be loss of revenue and profits as a result of the earthquake, the company anticipates that the full year to 31st March 2011 will still be in line with the previous year’s results.

The company has commenced a Strategic review of the business. The review will consider shareholding structure, alternative capital structures, organisational structure and management requirements to carry the business forward as we build online capability. An update on progress will be given in June, at the time of the full year announcement, along with expectations for the coming year."

Measuring Facebook

So your business has its own unique Facebook page. You're going through the routine of posting a few pithy updates and accumulating fans. So what now?

Measuring The Impact Of FaceBook from the designists on Vimeo.

Motel Indecision

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is This Another Social Media FAIL For The Left?

Goodness me, those scalawag VRWC bloggers are poking fun at yet another left-wing social media campaign that has all the promise to follow in the footsteps of the PSA's recent experimental FAIL. 

Labour have launched a Stop Sign cam­paign that involves placing simplistic slogans on stop signs to ensure that they are able to effectively communicate with their dwindling special-needs followers.

Whaleoil is leading a mischievous counter-campaign to encourage folk on social networks to change their avatar and then go and “like” Labour’s Facebook page.

Being a serious blog, you wont see us recommending that others join VRWC's counter-campaign for the sake of agitating a few pinkos. It would be a boorish and childish thing to do...

However here are a few ideas just in case:

Motel Beds

Monday, April 18, 2011

Motel Managers Wanted?

I received a broadcast email today that was sent to moteliers containing the details of a "motivated, proactive management couple" seeking a motel management position.

This is not unusual, but the names looked strangely familiar...

While I am not personally seeking motel managers, my curiosity got the better of me so I interviewed Google and very quickly all was revealed.

It would appear that one half of the prospective motel management couple was until recently the co-owner of an infamous, well-known motel with her husband. The other half used to be engaged as a notorious manager at the same motel.

Obviously there has been some some positional changes and the ex-motel owner and the ex-motel manager have now come to together to offer their services. While there is nothing wrong with that per se, it is unfortunate that Google points to several serious accusations of judgment lapses by the ex-motel manager.

Today's valuable lesson is: if you are looking for a suitable couple to fill a vacant motel management position and wish to avoid possible future angst - Google is your friend!

Saying It With Video

We've done a post or two on accommodation properties using video in their marketing mix and have recently featured one of our favourite accommodation chains, Wego Motels that have taken this art form to an extreme new level. This quirky and crazy Taiwanese accommodation chain have taken the hottest trend in online marketing and ramped it up to another level by producing obscure, soft-porn mini-movies... 

Back in the real world, most travel marketers aren't pushing the envelope to that extreme and are successfully using 90-second video grabs to feature the attributes of motels and hotels. Some efforts are better than others and the trick is to capture the unique points of difference of properties that are appealing and will hold an audience's attention.

Video has the ability to deliver that "storytelling" aspect to marketing that can positively influence booking decisions. Consumers are basically lazy and if compelling information can be delivered with a touch of a play button, this puts accommodation providers with video at a distinct advantage.

How do we know? Because 89% of travel shoppers stated that travel related online video influenced their travel purchase decisions (PhoCusWright, 2008).

We see that our Facebook friends, Copthorne Hotel Commodore that are situated near the Christchurch Airport have just launched a new innovative promo video for 2011 that we reckon works very well for them.

One unwritten rule in the accommodation industry is that you never advertise that you are "old" You are always supposed to be up-to-the-minute, fresh and never look back. So why would the Copthorne Hotel Commodore incorporate flash-backs to the 70's; an era where fashion died?

The home movie style flashbacks show that the hotel is up-front about being an established property that opened in the early 70s and as the haunting soundtrack suggests "we've seen many worlds since then."

The video engages the viewer in a unique story of an iconic Christchurch hotel by selling the message that the Copthorne Hotel Commodore has moved with the times and can deliver modern day expectations of product and service.

This video promo gets the Motella thumbs-up for taking a risk, being understated and very cool.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Motel Insurers Take A Dive

Some moteliers may be aware that the motel industry's "preferred insurer", Western Pacific Insurance Limited was placed into receivership earlier this month.

With a lot of Christchurch earthquake claims reportedly yet to be assessed, Western Pacific currently has creditors and unsettled claims worth $5.8 million against assets of less than $4.7 million.

Like us, moteliers will be currently receiving unsolicited phone calls from insurance agents that are kindly inquiring if they can be of any assistance.

The phone call that I received this week (I will not name the insurer) was quite up-front and wanted to know if we had the misfortune of being insured with Western Pacific Insurance. The caller seemed to be disappointed when I said we were not and was surprised when I took over the line of questioning.

Until recently, Queenstown based Western Pacific were targeting motel businesses and we can only second-guess that a hard core of moteliers were lured into purchasing cover. Many moteliers were introduced to Western Union via their trade association and were attracted by the offer of  low premiums and monthly payment options to smooth out cash flow.  

Western Pacific's "preferred insurer" moniker may have provided a measure of comfort for those moteliers that may not have carried out the necessary due diligence before transferring insurance cover.

During the sales process with Western Pacific, moteliers were often pleasantly surprised after they faxed through their rates schedule from their existing insurers by being consistently quoted fees that were substantially lower than their current insurer.

Was the demise of Western Pacific the victim of unfortunate circumstance by a series of "unpredictable" natural disasters or was the company a train-wreck waiting to happen by mismanaging risk?

With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to find reasons why the motel industry shouldn't have been associated with Western Pacific.

For the last 3-years, Western Pacific Insurance Limited had only achieved a poorly "B" claims paying rating as issued by the Standard and Poor's rating agency. Why would anyone wish to have their risk covered by an insurer that was assessed as "weak?"

We were unable to find the required disclosure of the Standard and Poor's "B" rating on the Western Pacific website, however much is made of the company's unrelated agreements with "A" rated reinsurers. The level of this cover is not disclosed.

After the fact, insurance industry insiders have been reported as claiming that they were wary of Western Pacific's risk due to their low rating and their MO to "buy business" by offering below market premiums. It has also been claimed that brokers were encouraged to sell Western Pacific's cover by being enticed with high commissions.

In addition there are the rumours that the Insurance Council rejected two applications from Western Pacific to join its association and it is interesting to speculate why this may have been?

Could one of those reasons have been accusations of Western Pacific director Jeffrey McNally being accused of dodgy dealings in his former insurance career in Australia?

Hindsight is all very well, however we feel the pain of those moteliers that have been exposed and are experiencing a period of worry and uncertainty. We trust that they are being well advised and supported.

I guess there have been valuable lessons learned; however a few questions remain unanswered...

Atlas Shrugged

We've been following with interest the cinematic release in the US of the movie based on Ayn Rand's epic doorstop of a book, Atlas Shrugged.

In a struggle that is worthy of a novel penned by Rand herself, Atlas Shrugged Part 1 has been adapted onto celluloid by a small independent production company using their own resources after the story was shunned over many years from left-wing Hollywood producers.

The movie is claimed to hold true to the book's philosophies such as the advocacy of reason, individualism, capitalism and the failure of government coercion that seem even more relevant today than when the Atlas was first published over fifty years ago. And what a great day it was to release the movie adaptation on 15 April 2011 - American Tax day! 

Without Hollywood backing the movie does not have the benefit of the mainstream publicity machine and it has been interesting to follow how social media has been used to generate interest.

So how did the movie rate?, not so good. According to the Rotten Tomatoes website, mainstream critics panned the movie with 19/20 giving it the thumbs down:

"About to lose his long-held rights to Ayn Rand's novel, and perhaps to cash in on apparent Tea Party interest and support, producer John Aglialoro ... rushed this film into a low-budget production and it shows in every frame" Boston Globe.

"This movie is crushingly ordinary in every way, which with Rand I wouldn't have thought possible" Chicago Tribune. 

"Ayn Rand's monumental 1,168-page, 1957 novel gets the low-budget, no-talent treatment and sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal" Rolling Stone. 

"The first in a proposed trilogy, "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" is nearly as stilted, didactic and simplistic as Rand's free-market fable" Washington Post. 

"Don't hold your breath for parts 2 and 3" Wall Street Journal. 

The sole positive review came from the New York Post: "Though a bit stiff in the joints and acted by an undistinguished cast amid TV-movie trappings, this low-budget adaptation of Ayn Rand's novel nevertheless contains a fire and a fury that makes it more compelling than the average mass-produced studio item". 

Although the mainstream critics were brutal, it was pleasing to note that 85 per cent of over 7,000 audience attendees that voted "liked" the movie. 

Reading between the lines it would appear that the movie's reported US$15 million  investment was only enough to produce a reasonable qualty made-for-TV adaptation. 

It doesn't seem that even credible Kiwi actor, Grant Bowler that played Hank Rearden after having to endure playing opposite Socialist-hugger, Robyn Malcolm on Outrageous Fortune could lift the quality of production.

The odds of this independent low-budget movie becoming a cinematic mainstream success and that parts 2 and 3 will be even made now seem slim.

What is more important is the much needed debate that this movie has the potential to create. Pinkos will hate and despise the movie and the book's loyal devotees that will struggle with any necessary artistic license used in the film. Hopefully the noise they will generate will be a major force in promoting its manta to the masses. 
And is this happening already with the search terms, "Atlas Shrugged" that have recently made it to the top of Google Trends and "Ayn Rand" in the top-10?
Many business owners say Atlas Shrugged influenced their lives more than anything else they have read. You probably haven't got too much time left to go buy the book and read it before Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is released on DVD.

We note that book sales of Atlas Shrugged has surged to #4 on the Amazon bestseller list.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm outta here!

Off on a road trip today to pick up my boy from boarding school to bring him home for the school holidays.

Really looking forward to restoring the gender-balance of our household over the next 2-weeks and of course spending some quality time bonding with our teenage son;-)

TripAdvisor 's Augmented Reality

We see that TripAdvisor have updated their Apple app this week that now includes a new augmented reality function.

We just had to pause the routine at the motel and download the update to our iPhone to give it a test-drive.

We first encountered augmented reality with AA Travel's nifty XplrNZ app last year that also uses innovative location based service technology. This interactive feature makes the user experience very personalised.

Users of the updated TripAdvisor app now have available "Live View" functionality on the go by viewing a live picture of their immediate surroundings through their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad 2's camera. Users can view TripAdvisor’s reviews and opinions of hotels, restaurants and attractions superimposed over what they see through their mobile device's camera. 

One feature that we thought was an especially cool point of difference was the "Virtual Tours" feature that allows travellers to take a virtual walk around their travel destination with TripAdvisor reviews and opinions superimposed over Street View from Google.

Accommodation can can be booked in both the Live View and Virtual Tours mode via TripAdvisor's OTA partner sites. 

Would we use it? Probably not, however we should never assume that our future guests will act like we do!

Get the full story at the TripAdvisor blog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Motels Off To A Slow Start

The first accommodation survey results for 2011 have been released today by Statistics New Zealand. The eagerly awaited January stats have been delayed due to the impact of the February earthquake on Statistics New Zealand’s Christchurch operations.

Not unexpectedly, guest nights fell 2.3 percent in January 2011 compared with January 2010.

The hotel sector continue to buck the trend by achieving a gain in guest nights for the 14th consecutive month. For us, the inequitable allocation of guest nights between the accommodation sectors continues to be the major theme of these surveys.

Domestic guest nights fell 2.6 percent, accounting for two-thirds of the overall drop, while international guest nights fell 2.0 percent.  

Eleven of the 12 regions recorded fewer guest nights compared with January 2010 with Auckland enjoying the only increase. Bay of Plenty and Otago showed the largest falls (down 7.1 and 3.6 percent respectively), largely due to fewer domestic guest nights.

The hotel sector's stellar performance of 2010 continues into 2011 with an increase of 3.6 percent in guest nights for January 2011 compared to January 2010. 

The backpacker sector managed to hold-their-own with a modest 0.3 percent increase while holiday parks were down 4.6 percent and motels lagged behind the pack with a 5.6 percent decrease.

January is a critical month where the majority of accommodation operators fill their tanks and set themselves up for the year ahead. We predicted that the fickle domestic market would be spooked over the 2011 January school holiday period and it would appear that we were correct. Unfortunately the domestic market's indecision has hit the motel sector the hardest.

While we are aware of many pockets of strong motel businesses, the worrying trend of the motel sector bleeding market share continues. 

It remains to be seen what affect the February Christchurch quake will have on guest nights.

Source: Click HERE

Should we follow Greenpeace on Twitter?

That would be a "No" then...

Will Dropping Consumer Booking Fees Drive-Up Agent Commissions?

Earlier this year after axing consumer fees, US travel company Expedia launched a multi-million dollar marketing and advertising campaign in New Zealand and Australia that challenged their competitors that were charging flight and accommodation booking fees.

It's difficult to second-guess if  Expedia were able to get a sufficient hit from this campaign, however the US giant appears to have the resource to play a long-game. The "no fees" campaign had the simplistic message: "book with Expedia and put your money towards where it matters the most - your holiday." This would have hit a nerve with the travelling public as no-one likes to pay those pesky fees.

While Expedia are competing in a competitive and increasingly crowded environment, Australasia's largest Online Travel Agency (OTA), are hitting back with the line "...on a total cost basis, (Wotif) is cheaper in the majority of cases."

Like most OTAs, charge a 10 per cent agent commission to accommodation providers on room sales. also charges the consumer a flat credit card fee per reservation regardless of the number of nights booked and in New Zealand this is NZD$5.00.

While there may be pressure on OTAs to drop consumer fees, we should be mindful that any reduction in charges imposed on the end user is likely to put pressure on agent commissions charged to suppliers.

As an accommodation provider, we can see value in paying OTAs a 10 percent agent fee for performance, however we would not like to see a trend of this ceiling being raised.

We are keeping a wary eye on how this plays out...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sexy Housekeeping

Have you ever wondered why so many motelier men wear Dolce and Gabbana glasses....?

Monday, April 11, 2011

PSA's "Nice To Have" The Gift that keeps on Giving

After a mandatory weekend of rest and relaxation, we trust that it won't take long for those hard working folk at the PSA to to fix the "temporary glitch" that took down the FAILED "nice to have" website last week.

We just can't wait...



Sunday, April 10, 2011

Booking A Room With A View

I have always been quick to criticise moteliers that insist on over-describing their inventory by listing every single room in their complex on booking engines. My rationale of not recommending that every room is laboriously listed is based on not wanting to confuse the consumer with an extended, randomly repeated matrix of rooms, when concise and easily understood room types can be used. And besides, guests booking specific room numbers can provide inflexible roadblocks on accommodation operators' reservation worksheets...

We note with interest that while all mainstream Online Travel Agents list room types, a new reference website Room 77 provides a database of accommodation providers that describe every individual room including the room number, in-room photos, room layout, floor level, distance to the elevator and even gives a picture of the room's unique view.

We like the concept and the website can provide endless fun for guest-room voyeurs.

The database doesn't seem to contain motels so far, however there is no reason why not, as even the same room types within a smaller property can vary by their location.

The background of how Room 77 founder, Brad Gerstner came to realise the potential of setting up the room database makes an interesting story:
"Brad Gerstner would maintain a running list of his favorite hotel rooms on his BlackBerry. Friends got wind of the list and started asking for copies, and Gerstner started thinking about the larger problem, a problem of information asymmetry: Hotel front desks have all the information on rooms, while the consumer has nothing.
It took years — and countless hours with Gerstner and friends walking through hotel hallways and gathering floor information — for the full Room 77 concept to materialise into a functional hotel room database and search engine. Today, travellers can turn to Room 77 to get the run-down on nearly half a million hotel rooms in 18 different cities."
The site has the obligatory companion iPhone app that we found buggy and difficult to use before we lost interest. 

It will be interesting to see if the concept of booking specific rooms by room number will grow in popularity?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Travel Freaks

As we slide into the cooler months I've planed a few breaks away from the motel in order to escape the monotony of running a 7-days a week business in the provinces. I intend to spend a bit of time lurking about in airports and have found the perfect digital accessory that will increase the entertainment value.

It's called Freakjet:
" is your hub for airport freakspotting. It was founded by four guys in a bar complaining about the drudgery of airline travel. FreakJet's purpose is to give you something to keep you entertained while you wait at your gate for a flight that is probably oversold and delayed. You'll get to see, vote on, and even upload the freakiest people you can find at airports.
Two rules: first, don't bother sending us photos of individuals who are physically or mentally challenged. It's mean, won't get published, and will guarantee you a first class ticket to Hell. Have a soul, willya? Second, no hate speech or profanity. There's way too much hate in the world and we're not going to add to it. Other than that, we'd love to see your pics of "interesting" people who pass your way on the jetway.
FreakJet is not in any way affiliated with or endorsed by any airlines or airports. We're pretty sure they're glad we're not...
So come sign up and fly the freaky skies! Invite your friends too and build your own flight crew!"
I've downloaded the obligatory iPhone Ap: HERE.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PSA Social Media FAIL

We are amused that the one aspect of the blogosphere that the left are unable to cope with is the the inability of control and censure.

So it was with great surprise that Labour's cheerleaders, the PSA decided to open up a digital network that allowed non-card carrying members of the general public to gatecrash.

In a radical gesture of inspiration and blind assumption that everybody thinks anti-government sentiments like they do, the PSA set up the "nice to have" website where the it was assumed that the public would assemble in an orderly queue to poke fun at the government by generating ironic Tui Style posters.

Thanks to a few spirited VRWC bloggers publicising this brave new initiative, non-PSA members and other unscrupulous folk were directed to the website to share their own views of the world that were a little different from the PSA's narrow centralist outlook.

In a social media FAIL, we see that the PSA have quickly responded and disabled the site so that no further "objectionable" views can be shared.

We have no doubt that the small collective of PSA employee boffins that were responsible for authorising an open market forum where folk were are able to freely share ideas better have their whanau-support and councilor teams on standby for tomorrow's disciplinary meeting.

Jami-Lee Ross Maiden Speech

Keep an eye on this man.

As New Zealand's youngest MP, Jami-Lee Ross's achievements are already impressive. Statistically, the boy raised by his grandmother in South Auckland should not be where he is today. His journey into parliament has been inspirational.

Any man that stands to the right of the Nats, attacks socialism, quotes Reagan and Thatcher is a friend of the Motella Blog.

We hope that Ross does not fade into political mediocrity like many of his colleagues and we will hear much more from him.

Motel Stripper "No Show"

Moteliers all know the frustration and angst of a "Now Show" so it was with some satisfaction that I read a news story about a motel guest's brain explosion when a reservation he made with an in-room entertainment service didn't bother to front. 

A man checked-in to a Wisconsin motel with the expectation he would be joined later by a pair of strippers for a freebie performance after spending $1,000 on lap dances at the On The Border gentleman's club. Arrangements were made with two women to visit the man in the privacy of his motel room for complimentary lap dances, however they neglected show-up. 

Not being one to take it lying down, the indignant motel guest, called the police to claim that he had been cheated.

While it doesn’t appear that police took his complaint seriously, the story did leak to the press, so we can all get a good laugh about it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Extreme Motel Video 3

So far, it's been another busy week at the motel and the day-job has distracted me away from my therapy blog. Today seems to be the perfect opportunity for a "short-time" visit to one of our favourite accommodation chains, Wego Motels. 

This quirky and crazy Taiwanese accommodation chain has taken this hottest trend in online marketing and ramped it up to another level. While most accommodation marketers are content with a 90-second video grab, Wego Motels have produced a series of obscure, soft-porn mini-movies that capture the essence of their brand.

The creepy "Scentless Soap" is aimed at young men, to advertise that Wego Motels offers many small touches to help them avoid difficult situations eg: suspicious wives who might pick up a strange soap smell on their man...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Level Playing Field?

We see that the Motel Association's complaint to Wellington City Council about the unfairness of a section of the region's accommodation providers paying residential rates instead of commercial rates is progressing with the council conducting a witch-hunt of over 1,900 properties. 

We would second-guess that this would be warmly welcomed by the majority of our motelier brethren, that would derive some smug satisfaction that those nasty "free-loading" accommodation businesses such as B and Bs and unit-titled apartments are being given some stick. We've always felt uncomfortable with this course of action and not surprisingly take a slightly different outlook.

Here's a Motella reality-check - Putting the blowtorch on nondescript, non-commercial accommodation operators will not increase custom for motels, it will not allow motels to increase tariff or reduce their rates burden.

If moteliers are honest with themselves, berating another sector will do nothing to change what's happening in their own back yard and will not address the real concern of an inequitable and increasing rating burden.

The "level playing field" argument that trade associations use in submissions to councils always seems to default to finger pointing at other sectors outside their sphere that supposedly are not pulling their weight. This seems to follow the woolly premise that it is acceptable for the business sector to pay an inequitable tax as long as others share the burden as well.

The "level playing field" argument is a simplistic populist response that may score points, but avoids striving to make a positive difference.

Along with advocating rationalisation and fiscal restraint, trade associations should have a clear objective to urge councils to eliminate business/private household rate differentials. This would address the anomaly of  businesses being charged higher rate differentials for no apparent logical reason, other than a perceived ability to pay.

Not surprisingly, Positively Wellington's David Perks seems to be supporting the level-playing field argument for businesses in central Wellington in order to widen the opportunity to extract further levies imposed by the city council for the benefit of his organisation.

We maintain that the targeted tourism levies are inefficient. The wider community should be given the opportunity to scrutinise the value of tourism marketing expenditure while bearing the full financial impost. This would ensure that any necessary tourism marketing project taken on by a Regional Tourism Organisation that is unable to be funded by private sector should be supported by rigorous economic analysis that clearly demonstrates net benefits for all ratepayers.  

Legendary Motel

Source: Motivator Motel

Monday, April 4, 2011

Defending the Stars

Pete Blackwell has a lot on his plate at the moment. The charismatic travel industry figurehead is the GM of AA Tourism in New Zealand and Club Tourism Publishing that is a partnership between AA Tourism and Australia’s AAA Tourism.

We are interested to follow how Pete will be steering the revamped accommodation star rating system in Australia by AAA Tourism that will come into effect on 1 July 2011. Could some of the changes occurring across the ditch have implications for New Zealand's accommodation rating system currently managed by Qualmark?

As the economy tanks, the validity of high maintenance accommodation star rating schemes are being closely scrutinised and are under threat from online guest reviews and self-rating mechanisms. We note that the British government looks likely to scrap their national hotel star rating system while back home, Qualmark NZ have been instructed to pay their own way and have been given substantial funding cuts.

Guest review based systems are becoming increasingly more relevant as a means for the travelling public to compare options and for accommodation providers to benchmark their performance in real-time. It is ironic that AA New Zealand with a 40 percent shareholding in Qualmark have embarked upon their own guest review program. 

Jasons Travel Media have developed their own guest review system, Paid, Stayed and Raved and in a provocative move will be allowing their advertisers to self-rate themselves online later this year. We predict that this will provoke some positive debate on market driven rating systems, particularly within the motel industry.

In difficult economic times, AAA Tourism's new star rating system in Australia is being overhauled to focus on three core categories of cleanliness, facilities and quality/ condition. Minimum requirements will be dumped and replaced with a percentage score for each of the three core areas that will be weighted towards the final star rating.

Like any new system there will be collateral damage inflicted upon some accommodation providers  and it will be interesting how this will be managed.

We recently virtually attended the No Vacancy hospitality technology conference in Sydney. From live blog updates and Twitter feeds, Pete's address to the conference introducing AAA's new star rating system to travel industry attendees was interesting to follow.

The address was understandably somewhat biased towards the concept and validity of a recognised national assessment scheme that relies upon regular physical assessment from trained assessors. With guest speakers from review sites, TripAdvisor and in attendance, the validity of guest reviews were politely played down.

From our perspective, here's a few interesting snippets from Pete's address: 
  • Research has revealed that cleanliness was by far the top requirement with consumers, followed by room facilities and their quality.
  • Non-business consumers tend to stay at 3.5 to 4 star rated properties. Business consumers that "spend others money" will stay at 4 - 5 star rated properties.
  • Pictures are the most influential thing when making a booking and these must be up to date. Followed by star rating.
  • Up to 80% of people thought star ratings were useful and were consciously or unconsciously using them as the third step after choosing a location and researching hotels, to identify where they did not want to stay.
  • Consumers are happy to accept a 3 star rating at face value, however a property with a 5 star rating is more likely to be accepted if validated by a recognised star rating system.
  • To achieve 5 stars in the new rating scheme, properties have to get 93% in all categories.
  • One star does not mean dirty.
  • 57 percent of consumers want guest reviews in a star rating system. Currently less than 21% of guests are doing reviews.
  • Consumer ratings will be introduced over time. Technology is an issue and guests need to be verified that they have stayed at the accommodation that they review. Guest reviews must have an added value to the accommodation industry. To establish a guest review system will be big investment  for AAA.
  • AA New Zealand are monitoring the effectiveness of their Been There traveller reviews that have been introduced as an added value for their Kiwi online accommodation property subscribers.
  • There is a risk that by putting everyone down a star, properties will all self rate and sidestep AAA.
  • It is important for New Zealand and Australia to align ratings, more so than rest of the world.
  • There will be some realignment of star ratings. We will see some 4's go up, and some 5's go down. This will not happen right away, some have had warnings for a long time. AAA will be giving 6 - 12 months to fix up issues.  
After reading Fossick founder Genevieve Atkinson's informative blog comments, one important point I missed was the question raised about the price of getting rated. Peter Blackwell was made to repeat the answer twice to a largely hotel audience… on average between AUD$300 - 350 dollars! 

There seems to be a large disparity with the cost of being assessed between NZ and Australia!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Motella Sunday Quiz

What has Cameron Diaz And Shane Jones Got In Common?
Give up? 
For the answer: Click HERE

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