Monday, May 23, 2011

Wellywood - We love it!

OK, I'll admit it - In spite the overwhelming howling from folk that are giving Wellington Airport's newly announced "Wellywood" sign the thumbs down - We love it!

Admittedly this has been a PR Fail and we question the wisdom of a private company spending several hundred thousand dollars on this project, however as long as no public funding is involved,  we say bring it on.

Does the growing public backlash give us an insight into the Kiwi psychology? Do we take ourselves too seriously? Are we not able to laugh at ourselves? Are we too insecure about what others may think and not understand irony?

Although the Wellington Airport is stooping to the level of the whingers by getting all politically correct suggesting the sign is "designed to celebrate the capital's creativity" and "a salute to the capital's film industry," we take the proposed sign at face value: It's simply taking the p*ss and we can see nothing wrong with that.

Scutinising Motel Tariff

For accommodation providers, the seemingly simple task of managing yield through different distribution channels ain't what it used to be. Media are slamming operators that are applying dynamic tariff over peak periods, consumer law regulators are increasing their scrutiny while Online Travel Agencies are demanding rate parity.

Accommodation pricing seems to be a regular topic of fascination in the media as the Rugby World Cup looms. The value of accommodation that may or not be packaged with Rugby World Cup fixtures are openly debated by media from the curbside of hapless accommodation properties that have the cheek to apply dynamic pricing according to demand and supply.

While the value of what accommodation providers are providing will be judged sight-unseen from a reporter's keyboard, the Commerce Commission will also be applying the blowtorch to operators by using their interpretation of the Fair Trading Act and The Commerce Act. Interestingly accommodation listings on Online Travel Agents (OTAs) will be getting some special attention to ensure that there is no evidence of "misleading or deceptive conduct, false representations and unfair practices in trade."

While the media love to paint a picture of unscrupulous accommodation providers manipulating innocent consumers en masse (in particular during the RWC), in reality operators have a vested interest in keeping high levels of guest satisfaction. Accommodation providers that endure the daily scrutiny of the travelling public are well aware that consumers now have the tools of a new digital age at their fingertips to tell the world if they are not completely satisfied. From what we can observe this self-regulation works extremely well!

Interestingly there are trends elsewhere in the world that may have an affect on how accommodation providers apply tariff via different distribution channels. The Office of Fair Trading in the UK has recently started an investigation into alleged price-fixing by hotels and travel agents. The article HERE seems to question an accommodation provider's right to dictate what tariff is applied to rooms sold by 3rd party agents. This practice is commonly referred to as “rate parity.” The Office of Fair Trading's final ruling could be a game-changer and curb this widely used and accepted practice in the accommodation industry.

So should an accommodation provider have control over their pricing and offer rooms at identical (or minimum) prices via different agents? Is this really price fixing?? Surely there is a big difference between a single supplier dictating rate parity and suppliers colluding with their competitors to set tariff. It will be interesting to see what the courts decide...

In Australia we see that Expedia are getting tough by demanding rate parity with their accommodation suppliers that were offering deals on's recent heavily promoted  three day sale. Non-compliance from Expedia's suppliers have resulted in offending property's inventory listings pulled from the Expedia website. is Australasia's biggest accommodation retailer and like most other OTAs they demand pricing/deal exclusivity as a condition of properties listing room inventory on their website. As an example,'s supplier agreement states:
"The Booking Price and each other term of offer on the Sites will be at least as favourable to users of the Sites as offered on other online channels (including your own website) for the same Accommodation and period"
So basically an accommodation provider that lists inventory on and takes advantage of their marketing investment must agree not to advertise a better online offer. And this is why most accommodation providers, while applying dynamic pricing according to demand will operate a policy of rate parity with its 3rd party suppliers that will often include the tariff displayed on their own corporate website.

We have had discussions with several Kiwi moteliers over the last few weeks that claim "randomly selected" their property for a mystery shopping call. This involved a representative from telephoning the accommodation provider posing as a prospective guest.

If the property offers the mystery shopper a rate cheaper than the rate they have advertised on, an email from the Wotif Group Product Audit Team is generated that contains the following familiar paragraph:
"We value our partnership very highly and continue to provide exposure to more online consumers than any other website in Australia and New Zealand for your free listing and the free promotional spots we offer. As we provide the connection between you and our customers, we need to be able to give them the best possible price, which is why we ask you to provide us with your best rates which must be at least as favourable as the rates you would offer a customer direct."
So does this mean that are now demanding that their suppliers shouldn't be offering better offers offline as well?

While many operators balk at OTAs dictating online pricing, in our humble opinion OTAs  insinuating that they can dictate off-line tariff as well is definitely going too far.

After past impressive growth figures, most OTAs now flat-lining. They are aware that travel has been squeezed, the growth in online bookings has subdued, competition has increased and the cost of doing business has risen along with the necessity to invest more in advertising. OTAs are increasingly aware of the "Billboard Effect" that their websites are creating and are not happy to bleed market share, particularly by guests booking direct with the accommodation provider!

Times may be tough, however we suggest that OTAs putting pressure on their suppliers and pushing the boundaries of rate parity may not return long term benefits for them.

Meanwhile, accommodation providers that are stuck in the middle of all of this will be wondering who will be coming after them next?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Postal Service Recall

As a public spirited blog, we are happy to bring you advice of an urgent product recall by New Zealand Post:
"New Zealand Post created a stamp with a picture of Maori Electorate, Hone Harawira.

The stamp was not sticking to envelopes.

This enraged Hone, who demanded a full investigation.

After a month of testing and spending of $1.5 million of tax payers money, a special commission presented the following findings:

1. The stamp is in perfect order.

2. There is nothing wrong with the adhesive.

3. People are spitting on the wrong side of the stamp"
I guess we can give "Honest" Hone credit for poking fun at himself by adding this joke in his weekly newsletter ramblings. 

We still reckon this joker should be kicked to touch and although it pains us - We still say: Go Davis!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Demand v Supply

There is a perception that consumers of travel are obsessed with price. Many conversations about travel and written travel monologues will often faithfully catalogue the price of everything from the cost of a cup of coffee, price of accommodation and everything in between adnausm. Naturally folk often make price comparisons with what is supposedly on offer back 'ome and this is often misaligned to make a point.

Unfortunately many Kiwis seem to be inflicted with the inability to sit back and appreciate a travel experience without nasally banging-on about what stuff costs. The motel industry in New Zealand that relies on domestic trade the most, faces an ongoing challenge of convincing an unsophisticated market the value of their services.

UK ex-pat, Peter Bills hasn't helped Kiwi's price aversion by writing a provocative column in the New Zealand Herald last year titled: New Zealand - 100% Pure Rip-off that critiqued a carefully selected shopping list of prices paid on his New Zealand travels. In his column, Bills acknowledged that petrol was much cheaper than back 'ome, however he claimed that in just about every other field, hotels, car hire, restaurant food, wine, clothes or whatever, we are the victims of massive overcharging. Many naive Kiwis would have nodded knowingly and hung-on his every word. 

We see that Bills has given a back-handed apology for last year's 100% Pure Rip-off tirade by bursting into print with a further travel consumer watchdog opinion piece in today's New Zealand Herald: I'm sorry, NZ - Britain is a far bigger rip-off. 

Price obsessive Bills seems to have difficulty determining the difference between price and value and he continues with his focus on his view of travel costs in a separate article with: South African hotelier warns on RWC price hikes. 

In this article he quotes "a top South African hotelier" claiming that few South African hotels managed to break even during the Fifa World Cup last year. There is an inference that the lower than anticipated visitor numbers were due to South African businesses supposedly charging over-inflated rates during the tournament.

We somehow doubt that there was such a direct correlation as the majority of travellers can appreciate value and the rationale of dynamic pricing over times of peak demand. One lesson that we agree needs to be taken seriously is that the backers of speculative world events that use copious wads of public money will always over-state projections.

The fact that is never taken into consideration is that a hard core of travellers will go out of their way to avoid a destination that is hosting a large scale event they do not have a primary interest in. At this stage it is difficult to speculate if New Zealand's hosting of the Rugby World Cup will turn-on more travel decisions than it will turn-off.

With New Zealand, projecting a $500 million loss on hosting the Rugby World Cup, there is a real risk that the legacy this event will leave behind a large bill and empty commercial accommodation room nights before and after the tournament.

In spite of what Bills will claim, operators in New Zealand that briefly charge market rates over the Rugby World Cup will not be to blame when visitor numbers do not live up to expectations.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Desire Love Motel

Thursday, 12 May was a very special day in the motel industry.

This was the day when the Desire Love Motel finally opened it's doors on the Auckland's North Shore!

Yes folks, this is a brash and brassy new motel concept with a few kinky twists thrown in.

Since a brothel licence for the motel failed a year ago, council planners have been finally satisfied after an elongated battle and the concerns of neighboring businesses and nearby residents have been largely overcome. 

The motel's backers have consistently downplayed the motel's prostitution angle throughout their trial by media. They have insisted that the motel's core business will cater for couples that require a private rendezvous to bond and spend time together in themed guest rooms that are let by the hour - Just like the successful Love Hotels in South America and Asia.

From the outside the Desire Love Motel doesn't use flashing red neon or gaudy signs and discretely blends into a bleak Glenfield light-industrial culdesac.

Step inside through the main entrance (or via the obligatory discrete rear entrance) and you will be taken into another world of glitter balls, coloured flouro and strategically placed mirrors. There are 6-themed rooms that are"tastefully decorated to deliver a luxury fantasy experience like no other" and a separate space specially designed for parties.

It is unclear if it will be compulsory to check-in to the Desire Love Motel with a partner. It was earlier reported that if a single gentleman turned up at the motel after forgetting to bring along a partner, the motel would conveniently keep a few spare ladies for such occasion. Presumably these ladies could be kept in the motel storeroom with the spare light bulbs, cleaning materials and linen supplies. 

When times are tough (we're talking financial here) there is a school of thought that entrepreneurs should be shifting their money into liquor stores, gambling, cinemas, video games, DVDs and the the sex industry.

As a motelier dealing with a fickle public that often struggle to recognise value, the published room rates at the Desire Love Motel really turns me on!

Will the Desire Love Motel get off the ground and become a leading groundbreaking new spin on commercial accommodation? If it does, those 6-rooms are going to be working hard!

We welcome our naughty new motel-cousins to the industry and wish them all success in their venture!

For a walk-through of the Desire Love Motel, Click HERE.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In a shock move...Motella backs Labour!

We see that Hone Harawira has resigned from Parliament today committing the hapless taxpayer to a large bill in order to stroke his narcissism.

In a rare showing of efficiency, Labour have already primed MP Kelvin "Little School" Davis to stand against Harawira in the Te Tai Tokerau by-election.

Davis is Labour's spokesman for Special Education, Associate Spokesperson for Māori Affairs and shadows John Key in the Tourism portfolio. As is usual with a Labour MP, Davis has yet to step outside the security blanket of state funding and has no experience running is own business. 

In an unprecedented move, we see that right-wing bloggers are crossing over to the the dark side and are joining forces to back Davis in order to block Harawira's self-absorbed wet-dream of using the parliamentary system to fund his muddled mandate.

We reckon that Harawira may have overestimated the appeal of his confusing political brand of radical racial entitlement coupled with extreme socialism. Without Maori Party endorsement, Davis should push Harawira hard.

Although it pains us to back a typical Labourite that hasn't produced anything in his life, the prospect of the alternative toxic candidate wrestling his way back into the trough would be unfortunate. 

*Choke* We say, go Davis! 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

PC Virus Phone Scam

Unfortunately regular contact with unscrupulous folk that are out to scam you is now part of normal life.

For the sake of populating Google with a warning, here's a brief rundown of our latest unsolicited phone call from an offshore scammer that we hear is actively targeting hapless Kiwis at the moment.

The phone rings and the caller ID unit flashes the unusual number: 123456. The call is from Lyna, an Asian woman with English as a second language claiming that she is from "Microsoft Windows." 

There is an air of urgency as Lyna bursts forth at a frantic pace in broken English claiming that she has identified that my computer is under attack! There is no time to waste. She asks if I'm in front of my computer and fortunately it's close to hand.

I'm instructed to press the Start Button, right-click My Computer and select the Manage option in the drop-down list. From the Computer Management window I'm instructed to click the event viewer and scroll down the information where I am instructed to look out for some ominous icons that will apparently confirm that my computer has some trojan horses roaming around and could crash at any moment. I report that there is indeed worrying icons with exclamation marks and crosses! (NB: these icons are normal).

Luckily for me, Lyna from "Microsoft Windows" is there for me and I am instructed to go to a website to download free remote access software. Up until this stage I had been playing along trying to figure out what the sting would it was becoming more obvious. 

I've used Teamviewer software before and it's a simple and nifty way to remotely connect computers. Teamviewer is a legitimate solution, however Lyna from "Microsoft Windows" wanted me to use the free software download to allow her to take control of my computer and have a bit of a ferret around. Yeah Right! 

Before I was able to press Lyna for further information the day-job started to make demands, so I had to ring off. Before I hung up I was given a phone number to urgently call back: +61280033463.

Interestingly the phone number connects but no-one answers and it appears on a website Liveservice4pc, a computer diagnostic company. The domain name has been registered 9-months ago by an Indian entity where we suspect our unsolicited phone call originated from. 

While interviewing Google, I can see that this rouse has been going on for some time. Who knows what the scam artist will do after being invited to be connect to a victim's computer. There could be all sorts of information available to them, like credit card and internet banking details or a key stroke logger could be easily stored to stealthily record future sensitive information. 

We suggest you give these dodgy folk a wide birth!

Hospo Employer Rights Challenged

We are following the story about the hospitality worker that claims she was "humiliated" by her former boss after he allegedly made her cover up a tattoo on her forearm with a staff uniform provided for her during a catering function.

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

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

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

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

We hope that the former employee's case is dismissed, she is told to harden-up and not waste the time of productive members of society - we are not holding our breath.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sex in self-storage

Even in hard economic times the humble motel has always been the default option for those unscrupulous cheating cads that want a discrete time with their lover.

For motels, it would appear that this titivating market is now sadly under threat.

Hard times have apparently hit the adultery industry and cash-strapped cheating couples are now looking for cheaper digs. The latest trend in Briton is to shun the allure of a cheap motel for the economy of self-storage units. 

Cost has apparently become a major concern. With self-storage units running at around £60 a month, cold concrete floors and spartan conditions doesn't seem to turn off those miserly Brits if it means saving a few quid.

Maybe the motel industry needs to keep ahead of this trend and should start clearing their back sheds of cleaning chemicals, carpet off-cuts and those old toasters that no longer work. The practicality of renting out a baron shed and simply hosing-out between rentals has a certain appeal.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Qualmark's Head Resigns

We started hearing rumours yesterday and later today our Auckland spies have confirmed that in a shock move, Qualmark NZ's GM, Paula McCallum has resigned.

McCallum's previous position was General Manager, Auckland and Northland for Fastway Couriers. She has operated two of her own businesses and held a significant channel management and marketing role with United Networks in Auckland.

We were looking forward to the influence that McCallum would add to Qualmark with her experience in the private sector. Her tenure has sadly lasted less than a year and McCallum is to leave at a critical time leaving behind plenty of unfinished business.

McCallum commenced her position on 1 September 2010 with bold plans to take the quality benchmarking organisation in a new direction.

Last year we commented on the new appointment:
"Hopefully, Paula McCallum's appointment will not prove to be a hospital pass. She will have an exciting ride over the next couple of years as Qualmark goes through the pain of evolving from a government funded social adjunct to a lean and mean business unit that will be privatised in the National led government's second term."
Has the GM's position at Qualmark become a poisoned chalice? It will be a difficult task for McCallum's replacement to continue managing a major culture change, a reduction in public funding, coping with outside interference from Qualmark's shareholders and communicating with high maintenance tourism businesses. Understanding the dyslexic personality of the motel sector will continue to be a major challenge.

In hindsight, maybe it wasn't a such a good idea for Qualmark to divert attention and resource into a new brand?

Motel Harsh Reality

Guest Nights Fall in February

We've been a bit sidetracked with the day-job and see that the the latest accommodation survey results for February 2011 were released a few days ago by Statistics New Zealand.

Guest night stats for commercial accommodation are generally released six (or so) weeks after the reporting month and it looks like it may take a little longer for Statistics New Zealand’s Christchurch operations to get back into their usual routine following the February earthquake. 

Guest nights fell 1.5 percent in February 2011 compared with February 2010 and this result has been largely influenced by figures from Canterbury. The region returned significantly lower response rates from accommodation providers due to the earthquake on 22 February 2011 and Statistics New Zealand have stated that these stats should be viewed with caution.

In the battle of the two islands, the North Island recorded a modest 1 percent increase in guest nights while not surprisingly the South Island achieved a 4.6 percent decrease in February 2011 compared to February 2010.

Seven out of the 12 regions recorded fewer guest nights in February 2011 than in February 2010.

The regions showing the largest decreases were:
  • Canterbury, down 14 percent
  • Northland, down 6.4 percent
  • Southland, down 8.9 percent.
The regions recording the largest increases were: 
  • Auckland, up 6.1 percent
  • Otago, up 5.4 percent.
We note with interest that this is the seventh consecutive month that Auckland has had the largest regional guest night rise compared with the same month of the previous year. These rises were due largely to more domestic guest nights in hotels.

International visitor guest nights across New Zealand in February 2011 decreased by 4 percent compared with February 2010. 

It was good to see Kiwis holding firm with domestic guest nights by recording an increase of 1 percent in February 2011 compared with February 2010. 

The allocation of guest nights between the accommodation sectors is always interesting to follow and it is significant that February 2011 was the month when the hotel sector surprisingly didn't record a gain in guest nights after achieving increases in 14 consecutive months prior. 

All four accommodation types had fewer guest nights in February 2011 than in February 2010:
  • Backpackers, down 3.3 percent
  • Holiday parks, down 2.1 percent
  • Hotels, down 0.9 percent
  • Motels, down 0.9 percent
Hotels achieved the highest occupancy rate (69 percent) of all the accommodation types in February 2011, followed by motels (64 percent), and backpackers (56 percent). 

The year is now well under way and accommodation providers are nervously counting-down to the Rugby World Cup. This event will dramatically disrupt historical trading patterns and it will be interesting to discover where guest nights will be lost and gained.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Exclusive - Qualmark's New Branding

We love branding and it is with some anticipation that we have been looking forward to attending Qualmark NZ's launch of their fresh new branding collateral that was to be revealed on 1st May, 2011.

As the time has now marched-on with no sign of an invite or any media release from Qualmark, we decided to find out for ourselves what the new branding could possibly look like. In particular, we were curious what was in store for the motel industry.

We enlisted our spies in Auckland to have a delve around the vast recycle paper bin at the rear alleyway of the Tourism NZ offices under the cover of darkness. They came across the following branding mock-up.

Is this really Qualmark's new branding for motels?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Favourite Wedding Pic?

Being a serious and authoritative blog I guess we are obliged to mention the wedding...

Motel Paradise

Most moteliers are often just as relieved as many of the nation's parents when school resumes after an imposed school holiday break. In motels, often more trade from the corporate and rep market is lost than is gained from the family market travelling over a school holiday period.

After enduring a period of family bonding, travelling businessman are now returning to their usual calling cycles. We see that Motivator Motel has provided us with a timely image that we see on a regular basis:


Kids Stay Free?

There seems to be a growing phenomenon of parents not including children when they make accommodation reservations - In particular when they make reservations online.

Are parents genuinely ignorant and assume that accommodation providers will magically produce additional complimentary beds for children, in any room type when they only reserve a room for themselves? Or are parents blinded by saving a few bucks by not entering all persons staying when making an online reservation?

After enduring the school holidays, a usually mild-mannered, good friend of the Motella Blog contacted us and pointed out this annoying trend:
"Can someone please, please tell me why suddenly New Zealanders are no longer including children or toddlers in their head count when booking units on line -- It used to be this practice was confined to a small number of overseas visitors...It does seem strange in this day and age when our over liberal society has all but given the vote to children, that they are not to be considered at all when booking a motel unit. We prefer to charge extra for anyone under 3 foot, (not offer free accommodation)as we have noted they create far more work for our cleaning staff. Come on Mum's and Dad's you dont mind your wonderful prodgeny ruining a perfectly decent night out to dinner, but you dont feel them worthy of including in your family head count on holiday.


Motelier clearly in need of holiday!!!!"

Click the "Get Widget" link below to place this widget on your website or blog!