Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm Back!

I'm finally back at the motel after spending some time camped in the middle of the "Coolest Little Capital in the World." I reckon that Wellington is a worthy participant of this moniker with its vibrant inner city life supported by its fashionably-dressed army of bureaucratic non-producers.

So what's been happening while I've been on leave..?

We see that air travel with Aussie Airlines continues to be disrupted with volcanic ash, however the good news is that Winter appears to have finally arrived and this will allow hoards adventure tourists to travel in order to exercise their skiing prowess.

It's never a positive experience for a motelier when one of their guests goes feral. We see that a guest staying at the Dalma Court Motel in West Auckland had a man that was known to a female motel guest, force his way into her unit and ended up hiding in the motel's roof cavity when police arrived. 

After a two hour standoff the villain was apprehended and later charged with unlawful entry to the premises and some drug-related charges.

In testament to the motel industry seriously requiring the services of a PR consultant, I note that various regional motel branches are hitting the MSM with ad-hoc comments about the prospect of trade around the Rugby World Cup period.

Under the dramatic headline, "World Cup looks a fizzer for motels," Hamilton moteliers are openly stating that they "might actually do worse this year because of the tournament."

Interestingly the Waikato Motel Association's bizarre agreement amongst its members of setting a tariff that is unable to be increased by more than 50 per cent has again been openly reported. 

Bay of Plenty accommodation providers have also provided sound-bites in the MSM under the heading "Hoteliers wary of hiking prices" that gave an uninspiring forecast of lacklustre trade over the RWC that will reflect modest tariff increases.  

In a sad story that would invoke rage amongst my fellow motelier brethren, Unruly Teens Cause Motel Chaos exposed uncouth Invercargill teenagers causing accommodation providers in Queenstown much angst by vandalising property and disturbing the quiet enjoyment of hapless guests. 

By way of comparison, the stupidity and arrogance of youth was again on display in West Virginia, USA  when it was reported that  suspects between the ages of 16 and 23 were arrested, after photos of them destroying a motel room and spa area at a South Charleston motel were posted on the Twitter social networking website. Two of the "men" have been charged with felonies and four have been released from jail on bond. Meanwhile back in NZ, we trust that the Invergcargill youths after causing havoc and wrecking private property have recovered from their mild slap with a moistened bus ticket....

And finally, it is common knowledge that if taxi drivers and barbers were swept into political power, the world  would be a better place. The modern version of this commonly held belief is that self-opinionated bloggers could also run the country a lot better than those vested in power. So I was delighted when popular blogger, Cathy Odgers (Cactus Kate) finally put an end to speculation and announced that she will be putting her name forward to be a candidate for the ACT party at this year's election.

I hope that Cactus will be putting some cred back into a party that has been punching well below its weight for some time. This blog will be naturally swinging behind Cactus and wishing her well... 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Holiday...

Mrs Motella and I have decided to depart the motel and are camping in an inner city lair for the next week. It's great getting on the other side of the hospo counter for a while and so far we have been impressed with the service we've received.

We'll keep you updated with a few pithy mobile updates along the way...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Motel Marriage


Air Travel in 2050

Air travel is plagued with frustration at the moment with travellers stranded as volcanic dust particles whirl overhead.

I love the irony that a 1940s DC3 has been dusted off and is providing a valuable low-flying link below the dust plume as modern jet engined aircraft are grounded.

Hopefully air travel will not be held hostage by nature in the future and according to Airbus, their futuristic 2050 aspiration will be worth waiting for:
Airbus has released details of its "cabin of the future" design, which it hopes to make real by 2050.
The new plane has an extraordinary see-through cabin, which will open up the skies - and cities and landscapes thousands of feet below - to passengers.

The "intelligent" wall membrane of the cabin becomes transparent at the wave of a hand and could also change according to light conditions.

New seats are sensitive to passengers' body shapes and needs, offering massages, drinks and even a sea breeze or the aroma of a forest.

Holographic pop-up gaming displays and in-flight entertainment will be powered by the heat of passengers’ bodies.

The aircraft will be built using a bionic structure that mimics the bone structure of birds.
"Bone is both light and strong because its porous interior carries tension only where necessary, leaving space elsewhere," the company said in its website.

"By using bionic structures, the fuselage has the strength it needs, but can also make the most of extra space where required. This not only reduces the aircraft's weight and fuel burn, but also makes it possible to add features like oversized doors for easier boarding and panoramic windows."

The cabin's bionic structure will be coated with a biopolymer membrane, which controls the amount of natural light, humidity and temperature, providing transparency on command and eliminating the need for windows.

Airbus has compared the cabin's electrical system to that of the human brain, with "a network of intelligence pulsating through the cabin".

Materials used in the cabin would be self-cleaning and even self-repairing. 
Unfortunately there is no official word if this aircraft will be able to operate through volcanic ash cloud.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Situations Vacant

Needing a career change?

Are you an expert in herding cats, receiving hospital passes, drinking from a poisoned chalice and working with rapidly depleting resources?

Are you able to transform a "nice to have" public-good adjunct with a million dollar-a-year public money habit into a lean and mean organisation that needs to be groomed for sale within 2-years?

And most importantly, are you able to understand the turgid incoherent wants, needs and desires of the motel sector?

We have found the job for you!

Job Position Description: General Manager - Qualmark


Monday, June 13, 2011

Sky City Takes a Gamble on Convention Centre

For some time there has been a myth that New Zealand was missing out on substantial tourism dollars by not having the facilities to host large conventions. Up until now there has been an expectation that public funding will be required to erect a "nice to have" edifice and this was supported by tourism industry groups along with an optimistic publicly-funded feasibility study supporting a Government-planned international-sized convention centre. 

Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration from the University of Texas, San Antonio that has been researching convention centres in the United States for over twenty years, makes a profession of questioning the overstated conclusions of self-masterbatery convention centre feasibility studies. A longtime critic of publicly financed projects, Sanders scoffs at the flawed "build it and they will come" concept and claims that convention centres are generally built and run by public money because of the poor economic returns. "They routinely overpromise, and they never do what they're supposed to do. The question is how badly they perform."

So it is tremendous news for hapless Auckland ratepayers and central government taxpayers that SkyCity have announced that they will be risking their own capital with plans to build a $350 million convention centre in Auckland's CBD. 

So should Sky City shareholders be worried? Maybe: In order for Sky City to extract a decent return on their $350 million investment and cover the substantial running costs they will need to rely on the new convention centre generating extra traffic through their hotels, bars, restaurants and casino. What seems to have tipped the scales for Sky City is the apparent agreement from the government to increase its capped number of gaming tables and machines and extend its licence beyond 2021.

So does this mean that the tourism industry should prepare ourselves for the expected 101,000 additional guest nights from overseas high-worth individuals that will be flocking to Auckland to and a large convention?, probably not; while the facility will attract some new business, the bulk of the business will come from cannibalising existing conference trade of a more modest scale.

While it is optimistically forecast that the convention centre will attract 800 new jobs after completion, the net result after job loses from competing convention suppliers has not been considered.

What we like about this deal is that ratepayers and taxpayers will not be saddled with the initial capital cost and more importantly will not have the risk of ongoing losses. As an added bonus, the pinko social responsibility crowd will be outraged with Sky City's expansion.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Qualmark Announces Split.

Only a month after introducing new branding, we see that Qualmark NZ have announced today that they intend to split the existing self Contained and Serviced accommodation category into two new sector categories in order to differentiate "Motels" from "Apartments."

The existing Self Contained and Serviced category includes motels, motor lodges, motor inns, motel apartments, serviced apartments and serviced holiday cottages.

It appears that the two new accommodation sector categories will be most likely named "Motel Apartments" and "Serviced Apartments" from the 1st of September. 

While for years unable to provide clear advocacy in the elongated Self Contained and Serviced criteria review, the motel industry has devoted a lot of time and wasted emotional energy into what trade name Qualmark should use to describe the "motel" accommodation sector. Many moteliers consider the generic term, Serviced and Self Contained having little relevance with an accommodation category that is largely made-up of motels. There is a sensitivity about the perceived poor recognition the odd time the term Serviced and Self Contained is presented to the travelling public. Many moteliers have also long harboured a wet-dream to promote and separate themselves apart from those pesky apartments. 

I'm not totally sold on the concept of separation.

Many moteliers have an unhealthy inferiority complex to their perceived flash-harry apartment sector cousins and will be celebrating the removal of apartment businesses from "their" sector. I suspect that the old-school seasoned campaigners that have long since advocated separation will be under the illusion that with the competition removed, motels will somehow now have a fairer crack at the stars. 
Moteliers are quick to point-out the perceived unfair operating advantages apartments enjoy with differing ownership structures, council rating and Building Act interpretations etc, however this can be played out on a different stage. While motels and apartments started off life in very different camps, the two sectors have a lot in common and in time I can see them morphing together. 
Purely from a guest perspective the main difference between apartments and motels would appear to be that most apartment units are built on top of one another while motel units are built alongside one another. This is of course not strictly true and guests would find it difficult to tell the difference between the two sectors and more importantly they probably don't care.
I can see that there are more advantages keeping motels and apartments under the one sector group that is benchmarked under a common quality criteria as it is now.
In my opinion the motel industry will be the loser in the proposed separation and there is a risk that they will quickly become the poor second cousin to the new Serviced Apartments sector. 

Should Crappy Accommodation Be Regulated?

I was interested to read about a Kiwi expat family of four that checked into an Auckland airport property and checked-out in disgust soon after...

The synopsis of the story repeated in the New Zealand Herald this week was that a family paid $99.00 for a studio with a double bed and two singles and it quickly dawned on them that they had made a horrible mistake. While tolerating an hour at the hotel they accumulated a shopping list of alleged defects that included:
  • Rubbish on the balcony
  • A shelf black with grime and dirty glasses
  • Poor quality bedding
  • Only 2-small bath towels were provided
  • The floors had not been vacuumed.
  • Shower with no hot water
  • The hotel spa pool was out of order.
On the face of it, the hotel seems to have some serious quality issues, however we are conscious of the tendency for some guest's to lose relativity and context with complaints.

Right from the get-go the family seemed to be confused what a "Studio" unit constituted and were quoted: "Our room wasn't a studio; it was a small room crammed with double bed and two singles." Reading between the lines, we suspect the family may have had an expectation of a family style unit with multiple bedrooms. However a studio is a smaller unit with an open-plan configuration that sounds exactly what they booked and paid for.

We admit that in all probability the family may have had good cause for complaint as we note that previous guests have endured unsavoury experiences at the same airport hotel and have used websites such as TripAdvsor to broadcast their dissatisfaction.

It is unfortunate that the obscure website mentioned in the article, that aggregates various online travel agency sites is frozen in time and still lists the Auckland airport property at a lofty four-stars. While we agree that an accommodation provider needs to ensure that their property is correctly presented on the web and has a duty of care to ensure that they do not over state their offer, we can understand that it is sometimes difficult to control historical content that may be displayed by 3rd party websites. 

In spite of one website incorrectly advertising the hotel's star rating, we note that a casual internet browser should've become quickly informed that the hotel is what it is - a no-frills budget property with most mainstream websites pulling no punches about the spartan offer.

We hope that the family that initially wanted to save some dosh by seeking out the cheapest property in an area peppered with dodgy accommodation options have learned a valuable lesson that I can summarise for the benefit of bewildered travellers:
If you are looking for accommodation for a family of four for less than $100 that includes free breakfasts, free broadband, free local/national calls and a free airport shuttle service - then sadly you will be subjected to a harsh reality. The hotel that you will end up in will have the odd bit of rubbish blowing around the grounds, the quality of the bedding and amenities will be suspect, there will not be an endless supply of hot water available and sadly the room will not be cleaned to a high standard.
What is interesting to me is the inevitable inane debate that will follow this story. Newspapers are playing up to the over sensitive nature of Kiwis with the Rugby World Cup looming as we are all anxious to put on a good front.

Should budget accommodation properties be banned or restricted? Should we bypass an open market and regulate a minimum standard for all accommodation properties?

We didn't have to wait long and sure enough a stern letter to the editor followed in yesterday's New Zealand Herald:
"If New Zealand had legislation that made it illegal to operate an accommodation service, unless a basic 3 standard was issued by Qualmark, low grade places would not be able to open their doors..."
What amuses me is that the strongest advocates for compulsive centralist solutions to control accommodation businesses are those within the accommodation industry itself. 

Even the Motel Association of New Zealand (MANZ) has openly advocated introducing a new layer of bureaucracy and regulation for their members. In a briefing paper to the incoming National-lead government in 2009, MANZ promoted the notion of Local Authorities imposing a mandatory "licensing regime" of all properties that offer short term traveller accommodation.

We do not share the mistrust of an open market and believe that consumer demand should be allowed to determine the outcome of accommodation businesses that are offering a less than satisfactory product and service. As long as an accommodation provider is upfront with their offer, they should be allowed to operate to whatever level of quality they choose. In this digital age with the advent of consumer review sites, the customer has every opportunity to assess accommodation before they arrive and will receive the quality level that they deserve (ie: are willing to pay for).  

We hope that common sense will prevail and any talk of regulating the accommodation industry is thwarted. In the interim, the turkeys wishing for an early Christmas should be treated with the disdain that they deserve.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Car Passion

As someone in the business of hosting travellers, out of blatant self-interest I've often thought that there is a need for a campaign to get the public passionate about cars again. We need them to fall in love with steel objects of desire, get behind the wheel more and enjoy the journey...

The AA touched on this theme last year with their tactical domestic tourism campaign, Great Kiwi Road Trips. It is ironic that many car companies that should be promoting car-passion are in fact feminising their brands with political correctness. 

The car is the ultimate prize of commercialism, we need to rid ourselves of senseless guilt and celebrate the benefits of living in a modern, mobile society while burning carbon.

Cars are a magical combination of ego, beauty, sex, form and function AND as an added bonus, cars happen to carry 99.9% of guests to the doorstep of my motel where I have the opportunity to sell them a room! 

For someone that suffers from an the affliction of SPS, my personal must-haves in a car are relatively simple:
  • Rear wheel drive
  • Large wide wheels
  • Twin exhausts the size a drainpipes that extract copious amounts of carbon
  • 8-throbbing cylinders
  • Sue Kedgley would want to ban it!
After a long emotional and mystical journey, I've managed to tick all of the above boxes and are excitedly awaiting the delivery of the new Motella-mobile later this week!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Regulating Motel Sex

As the Rugby World Cup looms we have commented about the Commerce Commission that are scouring online travel agency sites to ensure that motel operators are not displaying "misleading or deceptive conduct, false representations and unfair practices in trade."

We now see that another government department is committing resource to crack down on those mythical unscrupulous moteliers.

Immigration New Zealand is threatening motel operators with huge fines and imprisonment if they inadvertently let their rooms to foreign prostitutes. Apparently Immigration New Zealand will be allowing a surge of overseas sex workers to flood into the country to meet the increase in demand from testosterone fuelled Rugby World Cup supporters. Immigration New Zealand will be closely monitoring sexual services offered by visitors working illegally and allegedly staying in motels.

According to the Prostitution Reform Act:
No visa may be granted under the Immigration Act 2009 to a person on the basis that the person:
(a) has provided, or intends to provide, commercial sexual services; or 
(b) has acted, or intends to act, as an operator of a business of prostitution; or 
(c) has invested, or intends to invest, in a business of prostitution.
It is therefore illegal for visitors that have been issued visas, such as tourists and students, to work in the sex industry and Immigration New Zealand have suggested that motel operators should be checking the immigration status of their guests.

The bizarre situation of moteliers being required to suddenly apply the blowtorch to their guests by checking their immigration papers and by insinuation asking if they will be operating commercial sexual services from their unit is hilarious. Maybe guests should be required to tick Yes/No boxes discretely added to motel guest registration forms and online booking sites to ascertain if a guest has permanent residency status and if they will be charging for sexual activity performed during their stay?

As a motelier I consider myself to be in the hospitality industry and will not be burdening guests with silly questions that includes querying their residential status. 

Like most motels, we take the view that we simply do not wish to host working girls that solicit their services to the masses. I respect that they are using a lot of initiative and are serving a valid demand - after all this is capitalism 101 in action here. However I am more than happy for them to ply their trade...somewhere else. Like most motels, we take the view that we do not want the unsavoury reputation as it is not a good look, the comings and goings of clients in the night can create disturbance to other guests and the clean-up afterwards is not worth it.

Some motel operators can sometimes slip-up from time to time and once it becomes obvious that a working girl has managed to sneak-in after a regular stream of nervous looking visitors come calling, she is asked to go usually without any fuss. 

In a typical situation I can't imagine that the average motel operator could breach the Immigration Act unless they are knowingly and habitually hosting foreign nationals specifically for the purpose of providing commercial sexual services from their property.

These scare tactics by Immigration New Zealand directed at moteliers is yet another example of a government department that appears to have too much time on their hands by creating a crisis where there is no cause or victims.

In these austere economic times, Immigration New Zealand seems to me to be a worthy target crying out for a budget cut...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Queen's Birthday

Queen's Birthday Weekend is upon us!

In talking to a few accommodation providers around the country and looking at a few accommodation booking websites, there seems to be large pockets of accommodation still available.

It's a perfect opportunity for punters to celebrate the monarch's milestone by indulging themselves with a road trip to explore a whole different world within 2-3 hours drive from their front doorstep.

We naturally suggest that they book into a motel for the weekend - there's plenty to choose from!

Frivolous Friday

According to Motivator Motel the importance of choosing the right motel for that special occasion can't be overstated enough!

Air New Zealand's New Uniforms

We have long had a fetish for airline uniforms, so it was with great excitement when we saw that Air New Zealand have finally started issuing their long awaited new corporate wardrobe.

We see that larger-than-life designer Trelise Cooper has been used to design and help roll out the new uniforms that commenced with overseas cabin crews from 30 May.

"Colours of New Zealand" have been used in the accent garments with cartoonish bold Kiwiana prints of koru, fauna, clouds, wings and the Air NZ brand.  The accent of Godzone Green is our least favourite colour and will be used by ground staff. The controversial Twilight Pink accent colour will be used by cabin crew that includes the trolly-dolly shock-frock that will pose a challenge for fuller figured body shapes. We are pleased that our favorite accent colour, Teal (Blue of the Sky and the Sea) will anchor the airline back to its roots and this will be worn by ground and in-flight managers. 

As always, most comments and controversy will be directed at the woman's attire. I am unsure about the woman's hats as they look to me like a baggy French berets and while I like the Thunderbird-inspired insignia, I prefer the military-style hat of the previous Zambesi design. 

Most comments will be reserved for the busy patterned Barbie-pink uniform that I hope the subtle interior lighting in the new fleet of 777-300 aircraft will tone down somewhat. The darker hued gay male trolly-dollies on the other hand will look fabulous in their dark pin-stripped attire accessorised with pink accents.

Travel is about self indulgent fun, the allure of the exotic and the promise of sex. The uniforms are an important part of this theatre and add to the desirability and excitement of travel. We like that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Modest March for Motels

We see that Statistics New Zealand released the latest accommodation survey results for March 2011 a couple of days ago. 

Guest nights fell 5.4 percent in March 2011 compared with March 2010 and much like February, these results have been largely influenced by disjointed figures out of Canterbury. Once again the region returned significantly lower response rates from accommodation providers and capacity has been significantly reduced due to the earthquake on 22 February 2011. These stats should be viewed with caution. 

The North Island recorded a modest 1.9 percent increase in guest nights in March 2011 compared to March 2010 with the largest increases:
  • Auckland up 8.0 percent
  • Wellington up 4.4 percent. 
Interestingly this was the eighth consecutive month Auckland has achieved the largest guest night rise of any region and this was again largely due to domestic guest nights in hotels.

Not surprisingly, all South Island regions continue to take a hit with an overall 11 percent decrease in March 2011 compared to March 2010. Regions with the largest decreases were:
  • Canterbury down 30 percent
  • Otago down 3.1 percent.
Canterbury's dramatic decline has been due to loss of capacity and a drop in international guest nights since February's earthquake. The lower demand for Christchurch as a tourist gateway is having a ripple effect throughout the South Island.

Christchurch clearly has a perception problem with overseas tourists that are dropping the region from their itineraries. Another problem that will continue for some time is the accommodation roadblock caused by workers staying in commercial accommodation that are involved in Christchurch's painfully slow "5-day-a-week" reconstruction program.

International visitor guest nights across New Zealand in March 2011 decreased by 13 percent compared with Marc 2010. 

It was again good to see Kiwis are still out-and-about with domestic guest nights recording an increase of 1.7 percent in March 2011 compared with March 2010. 

The allocation of guest nights between the accommodation sectors is always interesting to follow and it is significant that March 2011 was the second month in a row 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 March 2011 than in March 2010:
  • Hotels, down 11 percent
  • Backpackers, down 8.2 percent
  • Holiday parks, down 1.4 percent
  • Motels, down 1 percent
After a stellar run, the hotel sector has had a dramatic fall from grace in March, while the motel sector managed to achieve a comparatively better result by only recording a modest decline.

Hotels had the highest occupancy rate (63 percent) in March 2011, followed by motels (60 percent), and backpacker accommodation (51 percent). 

As winter starts to bite, the challenge is to encourage Kiwis to travel domestically in the shoulder season before the Rugby World Cup. Hopefully there are plenty of events and the weather is kind over the Queen's Birthday weekend!

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