Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ousting Duds

As a micro-managing parent that has devoted a lot of energy separating hopeless dud teachers from our kids, outsourcing after-school tuition to fill the gaps and is now paying twice for high school education, I particularly enjoyed reading Damien Grant's opinion piece in today's Herald on Sunday:
"Hekia Parata, the new Minister of Education, has an agenda. She appears to want to tackle the problem of poor teachers.

It is time, she announced to principals, for them to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Teachers are important. Last month, Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf referenced an OECD report that confirmed class size matters less than teacher quality and improved education has an impact on GDP.

He also made the point that in New Zealand, social-economic background has more of an impact on education results than in most other OECD countries, which is a polite way of saying our education regime favours white and Asian students at the expense of the brown and poor.

Parata is talking about performance pay for teachers and publishing league tables for schools based on National Standards. This is, as Sir Humphrey would say, courageous.

Teacher unions are opposed to both policies. To bolster their argument the NZEI recently brought Australian academic Professor Margaret Wu to our shores. Wu was quoted in the Otago Daily Times as saying that "we need to look at education more broadly than just students' academic results".

It is hard to imagine a more incredulously stupid comment. We pay teachers to teach - not to eat their lunch. We can and should assess success by comparing what the class knows at the end of the process from what they knew at the start. A competent principal will know which teachers are effective and which are not.

A system that does not reward success encourages failure. Poor performers stay, talent leaves, children remain uneducated. Our education industry has become a sheltered workshop for useless teachers and a frustrating workplace for good educators.

The problem with the NZEI and the PPTA is that they are unions masquerading as education think-tanks. Unions exist to advance the cause of their members. This is honest work in a free society and teacher unions have been remarkably successful at shielding their members from any form of performance scrutiny. They are so good I suspect they have convinced even themselves that it is not possible to tell a good teacher from a bad one and that students learn by osmosis rather than by anything a teacher actually does or does not do.

Thirty per cent of students leave school without passing Year 12, or NCEA 2. This is a shocking result and it is worse for Pacific Island and Maori students. We are condemning a third of our students to low-paid, unskilled futures to shield lazy teachers.

Rumour has it Parata harbours grander ambitions. If she can tackle and defeat the teacher unions she should invest in a set of pearls and a black leather handbag."
Source: Click HERE

BDO's Apoligetic Plastic Bag

One of the advantages of being biased and opinionated is that you can easily ring fence entire groups of people that you can adopt a default healthy skepticism with anything that they they do and say.

Whilst you can never take anything for granted, any communication from school teachers, councilors, politicians, Green Party supporters and other non-producers should always be given extra scrutiny.

Another sub-set that we need to be wary about are those that identify themselves

Whilst basic accountancy should underpin most business decision making, it has to be appreciated that socially inept accountants offering opinion have a tendency to suck creativity and fun from any space that they are permitted to inhabit. The worst thing imaginable is to have more than one accountant on a board that governs a private company. Any more and the company will soon loose its edge and customers will inevitably evacuate in droves after becoming disconnected...and bored.

The trouble with accountants is that they take everything so literally. Everything to them is in black and white and they have a natural desire to overcomplicate, over analyse and never trust natural business instincts.

As an example, have a look at the plastic bag (pictured below) that has been supplied by accountants, BDO that turned up at our motel this week.

This plastic bag has been obviously produced after a group of BDO accountants locked themselves away in a darkened room for 48-hours and tried to come-up with the perfect client giveaway. After discounting the more obvious branded calculators, pens and card holders they decided a client gift should prove to be practical and they unanimously agreed on a branded plastic bag so their clients could bundle together important financial paperwork and effortlessly carry it around.

The trouble is that plastic bags may be seen to be politically incorrect and BDO that promotes mumbo-jumbo new-age triple bottom line accounting amongst its services, decided that they would need to exhaustively explain themselves. In red lettering printed on both sides of the bag.

The end result is an hilarious abomination of silly hand-wringing, eco-apoligist, corporate responsibility bullsh*t.

 Click to enlarge:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Surge In Baby Boomers Going Mobile

The latest findings from a British Hotel Guest Survey has some interesting revelations that will be relative to consumers in the New Zealand market.

In 2012, the growth of smartphone ownership amongst business guest users has plateaued with just a 2 point increase, following a surge from 58% to 73% in 2010-11.

There has been a dramatic surge of leisure travellers with 61% in 2012 that are now wielding smartphones, up from 36% and 47% in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

And surprisingly it is the Baby Boomers (Aged 48 - 66) that are leading the pack, with the growth of ownership in that segment now being double that of Generation Y (aged 19 - 30). 

Searching for hotel contact details and locations via GPS are ranked as first and second most common uses, with ‘booking’ trailing behind in fifth place.

For accommodation providers, the tools that customers are using to research and book travel are changing at a rapid pace and it is imperative that properties ensure that they have a prominent mobile web presence. 

Baby Boomers are the most prolific users of commercial accommodation and it is important to acknowledge their rapid rise in smartphone ownership when considering marketing initiatives.

With the rise of connected guests travelling with smartphones, properties offering a free internet option to guests is now a gimmie, however it is worth noting that guests are now becoming discerning about the quality of their internet experience. For property owners, this may mean changing internet plans to increase data caps and bandwidth. Continued investment in guest internet networks is also required to ensure guests' ease of use, security and reliability of internet services.

And of course, some knowledge of technology by accommodation providers is required in order to have empathy and provide free-tech advice when bewildered Baby Boomers are unable to connect to the motel's WiFi.

Banning Unverified Online Reviews

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have a balancing act by trying to appease consumers and their accommodation suppliers that provide room inventory. 

I looks like Travelbug has reacted to feedback from its suppliers that were receiving uncomplimentary "unverified" reviews on their Travelbug property listings from anyone that was willing to leave a name and an email address. 

Gather a group of accommodation providers together and start talking about "unverified" online reviews and it doesn't take long for the rage to escalate. For consumers, it's not an issue as they seem to easily decipher unverified accommodation reviews before booking an appropriate accommodation choice.  

Travelbug announced that they will now only allow "verified" reviews sourced from responses to email prompts sent to customers after their accommodation stay and presumably from customers that use the same email address that they provided when they booked.

It is questionable if the unverified reviews gave an overall slanted view on accommodation experiences on Travelbug, however it is sad that their easily accessible feedback system may have been abused. 

Will the removal of the ability for members of the public to post an unverified review disconnect some users and take away an element of compelling content from consumers browsing Travelbug? Maybe - so that's why it was a brave decision for Travelbug to make.

In an email to suppliers on Friday, Travelbug states:

Since we launched Travelbug in 2007, one of the most common queries we have had about reviews from operators has been, "why do you let people comment who didn't even book on Travelbug?!"

Well, good news! This week we have changed the review system and the only reviews that will now appear on Travelbug are from those that we can verify as having booked through our system. All reviews that meet the criteria will receive the 'verified review' badge. We want to have a site where travellers keep each other informed, but that information needs to be from as reliable source as possible. This change should make all reviews more reliable.

You can read a little more of the background to the change on our blog here.

Some operators will see a drop in the number of reviews on their Travelbug page due to the removal of old unverified reviews. Some will notice that their rating has improved due to the removal of old unverified thumbs down reviews and some may see the opposite. This change is better for the site as a whole and you can now be sure that you will never see a review placed on your page by someone who didn't book through us or from someone who is seeking out review sites to vent their spleen.

So, there are three ways in which a review will be badged as "verified" on Travelbug:

1. A traveller makes a booking on Travelbug and comments on Travelbug

2. A traveller makes a booking direct with you if you are a using BookIt in your website, and comments when prompted by BookIt via email

3. A traveller makes a booking on a BookIt reseller (eg your local RTO site) and comments when prompted by BookIt via email

If you have any questions, please let me know, and have a great weekend.

Cheers - Daniel & the Travelbug Team 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Motel Sex Injury

Last year we asked the question: Does a sex accident that occurs in a motel while on a business trip count as a work accident?" 

Finally, we can now categorically answer this burning question, that many corporate travellers frequenting motel rooms have often asked themselves. 

The answer is....YES!
An Australian public servant injured on a work trip while having sex with an acquaintance at a motel is entitled to compensation, a court has found.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was denied a Workers' Compensation claim for facial and psychological injuries suffered when a glass light fitting came away from the wall above the bed as she was having sex in November 2007.

She took ComCare, Australia's federal government workplace safety body, to the Federal Court over its decision to reject her claim.
Today, Justice John Nicholas, ruled in her favour, saying the injuries were suffered in the course of her employment.

The woman's employer had sent her to spend the night at a NSW rural motel before a departmental meeting the next day.

During the hearing, the woman's barrister, Leo Grey, said sex was "an ordinary incident of life" commonly undertaken in a motel room at night, just like sleeping or showering.

Grey referred to previous cases, including when compensation was granted to a worker who slipped in the shower at a hotel.
Grey said there was no suggestion the woman had engaged in any misconduct and noted the absence of any rule that employees should not have anyone else in their room.

But Andrew Berger, for ComCare, said sex was not "an ordinary incident of an overnight stay like showering, sleeping or eating".

While sexual activity was an ordinary incident, it was not necessary, he added.

In his statement, her sexual partner said they were "going hard".

"I do not know if we bumped the light or it just fell off," he said.

"I think she was on her back when it happened but I was not paying attention because we are rolling around."

In May last year the woman was granted a suppression order on her name after she told the court she would withdraw her suit if she was publicly identified.

Justice Nicholas ruled "the administration of justice would be prejudiced unless an order is made protecting the identity of the applicant".

He took into account evidence the woman was suffering depression and anxiety.

"I am satisfied that this is not a case where the application for [non-publication] orders is motivated by simple desire to avoid embarrassment or ridicule," he said. 
Source: Click HERE

"Nice To Have" Convention Centre

I've been following the SkyCity convention centre story with some interest.

Armchair experts, including the Tourism Industry Association have been long-time cheerleaders of the myth that New Zealand was missing out on substantial tourism dollars by not having the facilities to host large conventions.

Up until recently, there has been a will and expectation that public funding will be required to erect a "nice to have" edifice and ironically this has been blindly supported by various tourism industry groups.

The announcement by SkyCity that they will risk their own capital with plans to build a $350 million convention centre in Auckland's CBD seemed to be good news for hapless Auckland ratepayers and central government taxpayers that were being lined up as reluctant investors in the dynamic loss-making convention industry.

SkyCity's deal with the government is dependent upon an agreement to increase its capped number of gaming tables and machines and extend its licence beyond 2021. It is expected that this will generate sufficient income to compensate for a convention centre that even a wildly optimistic mayor Len Brown claims will only break-even.

And as for the alleged social cost, I'll leave the hand-wringing to the pinkos to worry about the consequences of a small element of the public that are unable to cope with the responsibility of personal choice. Gambling is a legal and legitimate activity and as far as I'm concerned the less regulation and controls for all businesses, the better.

While increasing consumer entertainment choice and relaxing regulation has to be seen as positive, the concept of a government adopting crony capitalism by picking winners is harder to accept.

So should Sky City shareholders be worried? "Brokerage Goldman Sachs last month estimated SkyCity would need 350 to 500 extra machines to profit from the deal, generating as much as $46m of revenue in the first full year of operation." 

In order for SkyCity to extract an acceptable return on their $350 million investment and cover possible operational losses of a convention centre, they will need to rely upon their new gambling facilities to perform. And the new convention centre will also need to generate extra traffic through their hotels, bars, restaurants and existing casino facilities.

The  consequences of  the government giving special favours to a private company will be interesting to gauge as SkyCity distort the New Zealand market by building an entity that a free market would not normally allow. On the plus side there will be new inbound business that are attracted to a new facility, however a large share of additional income will come from cannibalising existing domestic conference and gambling/entertainment trade.

SkyCity will need to work its new facility hard in order to minimise losses and this will have unintended consequences for competing businesses throughout New Zealand. 

Maybe the tourism industry should have been more careful what they wish for?  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tracking your customer?

In recent post, Who is your customer? we briefly reflected upon the differences of priority that New Zealand's two main Travel Media companies place upon advertisers when comparing them to the growing scrum of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

Pete Blackwell, CEO of AA Travel has suggested that their priority is their tourism business subscribers; for the OTAs, it is the consumer. Jasons Travel Media appear to be singing from the same hymn-sheet.

A couple of reader comments that were made on the post, questioned the outcomes of advertising with Jasons and AA when compared with OTAs. This view is a nagging irritation to both AA and Jasons that are pitching their advertising combos as valid sources of referral business.

The response from Kevin Francis - CEO, Jasons Travel Media (pictured) is worth repeating here:
"Unsurprisingly, I don't have the same view. There has been considerable research undertaken by a number of organisations, including Google, about the purchasing behaviour of online consumers and where they actually first come across a property or other travel related entity.

All the research shows that less than 40% of these online consumers even actually purchase online, in NZ the number is closer to less than 30%.

I'd think it would be important to understand where your online bookings actually originated, Google call this the Zero Moment of Truth. OTAs do not feature highly in this, whereas travel media sites feature very strongly. In fact, in the government's official visitor monitor survey RVM, was visited by 26% of all visitors arriving from outside NZ/Au researching on NZ, OTAs did not feature.

At Jasons, we've been undertaking research through Colmar Brunton and online specialist research companies to seek to understand the behaviour of consumers both online as well as offline, particularly print.

Our research shows that not only is print very much still used, over 20% of the people that found a property in the Jasons Motel, Hotel and Apartment Guide then booked though an OTA.

OTAs are not just freeloading from us though, the single biggest threat I see is how aggressively OTAs are bidding on an operators own brand name, thus cannibalising a booking or visit that would have come to the operator regardless. OTAs are not going to be paying good money to Google for search marketing unless they are turning these brand queries into bookings and making money. Every booking made on a brand term through an OTA is one you should have had anyway, even worse, it takes the consumer away from you and presents a whole slew of competitors to you in an easily comparable way, hardly what I would recommend.

Having spent five years leading a digital search marketing agency, I'm very familiar with the landscape and it's not good enough to just look at the last click and make assumptions.

Attribution and Signals of Intent are the buzz words and there will be a lot more work undertaken to help operators understand where their customers are really coming from, this is not just a local NZ issue.

I'm always happy to have a discussion on this hot topic as it's a quite misunderstood landscape out there."

Motel Housekeeping

Some days, the option of contracting out our motel's housekeeping services to an outside provider seems to make sense.

Further to our last Resignation via Text Message episode, I thought I'd share another text received last night from one of my housekeepers that was rostered to work today:

 *Sigh* I've yet to reply...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Who is your customer?

It seems that New Zealand's two main Travel Media Companies, AA Travel and Jasons Travel Media are tag-teaming one-another in a war of words against those pesky Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

In the midst of a campaign, to win the hearts and minds of Kiwi accommodation advertisers, Pete Blackwell, CEO of AA Travel continues along the theme of dissing OTAs, including recent TripAdvisor spinoff, in today's latest advertiser newsletter.

OTAs offer a one-trick-pony platform by reselling room inventory from consumer focused websites and are rewarded by performance (ie: commission).

The AA & Jasons offer a multi-media referral service across print and digital platforms where advertisers are required to pay most fees upfront.

With two distinct platforms - one focused on consumers and the other on its advertisers, it's interesting to contemplate what will prove to be the more successful? 

In AA's latest advertiser newsletter, Pete Blackwell comments:   
"I think one of the challenges in this online world is defining ‘who is your customer?’ I get into discussions with accommodation businesses who feel AA Tourism and Jasons have the same function as the commission-earning online travel agencies (OTAs). You know who the big OTAs are and it seems more are popping up every day. The big difference to me, between us and them, is who these companies think their customers are.

For us, our customers are you, the tourism businesses of New Zealand; for the OTAs, it is the consumer. Understanding the difference is vital.

With the recent launch, by a major OTA, of a website which guarantees the lowest price, (and will reimburse consumers if the price drops), the OTAs have demonstrated that they are willing to do whatever it takes to win consumers, and that means lower prices and lower yields for you. They also don’t care about your business future. They take your commissions and reinvest it in their own marketing, not to help you or grow your destination, but on Google AdWords on search engines, so they can further separate you from a potential customer. Their eyes are on the consumer and you are their product.

I know many of you see the ‘pay for performance’ model as appealing, but it is very dangerous to consider OTAs as your friends. They are an easy way to do business, but all they are really doing is competing with you, hiding your phone number and contact details and commoditising your business by making the price the most obvious differentiator to your competitor.

We see our job as getting the consumer to talk with you, to transact with you through your most profitable channels, (your own website, your telephone and reception) and to invest in growing the market. There is little point in just slicing the pie… someone has to grow the pie. You are our customer and we must drive you solid business at the best possible yield and also promote your unique value, your unique experience, not your discounted price.

See you on the road.

Motel Credit Card Guarantee

A story in today's Dom should be a heads-up to those of us that are whinging about the new credit card security measures that merchants are required to endure.

Moteliers taking a credit card number to guarantee a reservation is a necessary business process, but it does carry responsibility.

A South Auckland motel was lucky that they weren't named-and-shamed in an emotional charged story of a critically ill pensioner that had his credit card account emptied apparently due to a motel not securing his credit card information. 

Allegedly the pensioner's credit card number that he disclosed to a motel in good faith to secure a reservation was discovered by low-life thieves that broke into the motel.
"A terminally ill former Waikato man is questioning credit card security after his plans for a final trip home were almost scuttled by fraudsters.
Peter Holmes, a 67-year-old pensioner now living in Grafton, Sydney, had sold his prized camper trailer to gather up the funds for his last trip back home to the Waikato to see his son after being told he did not have long to live because of severe heart disease.
Mr Holmes, born in Cambridge and brought up on a farm near Matamata, said he had given his credit card details to a car rental company and two Auckland motels as part of bookings for his stay in the country from early May.
But despite selling a camper trailer to boost his credit balance to $3000 on his card, it appears thieves got there first, spending the lot, plus adding another $700 in debt.
Mr Holmes was unaware until he was denied a tank of gas at his local Sydney service station. "It was quite a shock for [a] poor old pensioner like me, it's the last thing you expect.
"I've got quite a severe heart disease and I'm running out of time and I thought before I get too advanced I'd better get to New Zealand and spend a bit of time with my son, Matthew, and I've got two older sisters there, too."
Up until yesterday, he was unsure if he'd still be able to make the trip, but Commonwealth (Australia) bank had since confirmed Mr Holmes would get his money back.
Constable Marian Evans of Whangarei police confirmed staff were investigating the case and two people had been arrested, when caught driving a stolen car after they allegedly stole a television from an Auckland motel, and were found with Mr Holmes' credit card details.
Perplexing the family was news that the majority of transactions were made at motels, apart from a new cellphone from 2 Degrees, a rental car company, and a Hamilton car wreckers.
The brazen thieves had also made several phone calls from their motel rooms to landlines – including Rainbows' End – and several cellphones.
It appears the fraud was too complex for it to be a simple case of bed-hopping as there had been several bookings made in a variety of motels around Auckland and Whangarei over an eight-day period.
Mr Holmes' Cambridge-based son, Matthew, was horrified and angered by the theft.
He also worried it would cause even more stress on his dad's frail heart.
"The doctors have told him it will be his last trip and they don't expect him to last out the rest of the year. He's had six or seven heart attacks going on 15 years now. He's got a pacemaker."
Source: Click HERE

Host Accommodation Social Media

I see that those quirky folk at Host Accommodation have released a new marketing video that is doing the rounds of social networks at the moment. Check it out and see if you can recognise the Host properties and operators featured:

Going Mobile

It is apparent that New Zealand travel websites aren't keeping pace with the consumer trend of researching via mobile devices. 

It is concerning that online services commonly used by travel businesses (including booking engines) don't include a mobile option. This means that content designed for desktop websites is being bypassed by an increasing amount of internet users.

After researching available mobile options for our own businesses, we found that the costs associated with building and managing a multi-platform mobile application was too prohibitive. In order to get in front of mobile consumers, we quickly concluded that the mobile website is the new must-have killer app! 

A common held prediction is that by 2014, the number of people browsing the web on their smartphones will exceed desktop visits. Even if this prediction falls short, there is no denying that there is currently an explosion of consumers using mobile devices to browse content. If you're not offering mobile content, you're missing out...

A mobile site is different from a business's main corporate site, so simply mobilsing an existing website is not the answer. A separate customised mobile website needs to be built with just the right amount of crucial information to motivate customers to make positive buying decisions on-the-go.  Consumers browsing on a mobile device require different information compared to those that are using a desktop computer:  

At their computers, users are:
  • Sitting at a desk
  • Frequently in an office environment
  • Often working
  • Sometimes randomly surfing the web
  • Often creating content
  • Focused on the computer, not so much on their environment
On a mobile device, however, users tend to be:
  • Sitting on the couch at home
  • Walking around, inside or outside
  • Queuing for something
  • Waiting for a bus, train or plane, or travelling
  • Looking for a specific piece of information
  • Mostly consuming content
  • Easily distracted by their environment
We have been working with NZ Mobile Web that offer a very cool and cost competitive mobile web solution. We are happy to promote their services and have added them to the family of supporting sponsors for this blog.

We suggest that you contact them for a free appraisal of building a customised mobile website for your business.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Monorail 'most effective initiative' for tourism


As long as Riverstone Holdings, the company behind plans to build a multimillion-dollar Fiordland monorail doesn't receive any tax/ratepayer favours or corporate welfare - we say bring it on!

Hopefully the inevitable failure of this project won't be blamed on bureaucracy or hysterical environmentalism. 

While I applaud any private company showing initiative, with dubious demand; the economics of this project if it ever gets off the ground appears to be a bit thin. Maybe economic success of this project is dependent upon low initial capital costs by using unwanted equipment from Sydney...or maybe even Springfield:

Friday, April 13, 2012

The scurge of silly signs

Front page story in the Dom today caught my attention. A Kiwi barista hung a sign at the counter of a cafe urging that his customers show some common courtesy by removing their phone from their ear while ordering coffee.

The Kiwi business displaying the sign seemed to get inspiration from a UK coffee trader that also hung a sign in their business earlier this week with a similar message directed at customers that don't adhere to cell phone etiquette while placing an order at the counter.

Many accommodation providers can empathise with the motivation behind the signs.

We have all encountered distracted guests that have communicated their needs by mouthing and erratic hand signals while they scream into a cell phone. I can remember checking-in one such fellow one evening and having to endure the same comical wordless charade performance when he checked-out the next morning. I'm not too sure if he was on the same phone call or not, however it was amusing that he was able to register, stay with me and pay without looking me in the eye or uttering a legible sentence.

Probably the worst example of cell phone arrogance was an extremely self-important sales rep that parked outside our reception with the engine running while yelling into his cell phone that was connected to the car's bluetooth. The phone call was obviously of national importance, as the rep was unable to excuse himself and extract himself from his car to check-in. Several blasts of his horn was a signal that I was to perform a motel check-in McDonalds style while he continued with his phone call. Unfortunately the process fell down when it became apparent that the EFTPOS pinpad was unable to be stretched far enough.

....One thing struck me about the UK and NZ coffee shop stories were the differences in the signs that were erected in anger.

The barista in the UK took the time to type his message on a computer and print it. The sign is hung with some forethought and if I'm not mistaken, it has also been laminated. OK, the sign is still tacky, but at least there has been a bit of effort.

Meanwhile in NZ, I see that there has been a rushed amateurish hand-written attempt at a sign that has been crudely hung and is curling away in the steamy cafe environment.

While customers can be frustrating when they leave their manners at home, a scurge that needs to be immediately addressed in NZ is hospo/accommodation providers that insist on erecting silly unprofessional looking signs!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Verified vs unverified reviews

Our good digital friends at Travelbug appear to have a bit of a quandary. 

Should they continue to allow an open feedback policy, where any member of the public can upload reviews on Travelbug's accommodation subscriber listings? Or should they restrict this function to consumers that have experienced a stay after making a reservation via the website?

At the moment Travelbug differentiates the reviews on its site as "Verified"  - reviews prompted with an email sent to bookers AND "Unverified" - reviews that can be posted by anyone willing to leave a name and an email address.

Interestingly, Travelbug have been crunching the numbers and by using 12 months of data they have concluded that unverified reviews are over twice as likely to post a negative review. From verified reviews, only 6 percent are negative compared to 14 percent of unverified reviews.

Should we be suprised by these results? Would it be fair to assume that guests that receive a personalised email prompting a review on their previous stay would be less likely to respond negatively than someone that is self-motivated? 

Is it naive to assume that there is some skullduggery from the collective source of unverified reviews, because the percentage of "negative" reviews are higher than verified reviews? Would we expect unverified reviews to have a higher proportion of negative reviews? Is 14 percent excessive?

In a study on consumer online feedback behavior, Spain-based ReviewPro decided to look at every one of the 90 million online reviews it had on its system to establish whether travel-related reviews left all over the web are generally positive, negative or somewhere down the middle.

From this massive data-mining exercise, the reviews, including those in ten different languages from around the world, came in as follows:
  • Positive – 60%
  • Neutral – 28%
  • Negative – 12%
The data was analysed from 65 review sites including the dominant accommodation review site,  TripAdvisor that dwarfs all others. Interestingly this has given some insight as to what the likely breakdown of reviews that are posted on TripAdvsor that have have simply maintained the line that the majority of its reviews are positive.

Although they don't allow "Neutral" reviews, Travelbug's stats to me look like they are about industry standard and in my opinion the current regime is probably painting an overall reasonable picture of the guest experiences at their accommodation subscriber properties.
Travelbug are letting its social media followers decide if unverified reviews should be dumped, by running a poll over on their Travelbug Facebook page and the results will be interesting to follow.

Like many OTAs, Travelbug's quandary is to satisfy the end consumer by providing compelling content AND accommodation providers that provide room inventory.

This can be a difficult balancing act.

Motel Crime

There's nothing more dastardly than a low-life "skipping" from a motel or hotel without paying. It was gratifying to read that the authorities in the UK take this heinous crime seriously and managed to track down an offender using DNA on clothing he left behind.
"A CONMAN who travelled up and down the UK ripping off guesthouses was tracked down after he left DNA behind on clothing.

Guesthouse owners in Llandudno, Amlwch, Barmouth and Tywyn were among those who fell victim to Alexander Carne Hewitt.

The 56-year-old loner had a novel way of sorting out his accommodation problems – by staying at small hotels or B&Bs, then moving on without paying.

Described as distinguished looking, and with a beard, Hewitt has also taken in business owners in the Lake District and Cornwall – and is now wanted in Scotland.
This weekend Hewitt, of no fixed abode, was jailed for six months at Flintshire magistrates’ court in Mold, after he admitted six charges, four of making off without paying for accommodation in North Wales –and two of stealing hotel keys.

Hewitt admitted that between August and October of last year he left without paying at Monfa, Pier Road, Tywyn; The King’s Head Hotel at Salem Street, Amlwch; The Bron Orme Hotel in Church Walks, Llandudno, and the Bryn Teg Hotel at Barmouth.

To avoid suspicion he would keep the key and say he was coming back, or he would leave an item of clothing behind.

Prosecutor Susan Duncombe said that was how he was traced – police got a DNA hit off his clothing.

He was “gate arrested” last week when he was released from a prison sentence imposed at Lancaster for exactly the same thing.

It was clear that he did not have any money to pay when he booked himself in and he then moved on without paying.

“That is how he lives. That is what he does professionally,” she said.

Bench chairman Alastair Williams said he had not seen such a consistent list of previous convictions.

“You have travelled the length and breadth of the country staying in hotels and making off without payment,” he said.

Defending solicitor Gary Harvey said that his client intended to put a stop to it.

He was getting older and he found prison tougher.

“It is ruining his life,” Mr Harvey explained.

The defendant believed that he could stop offending without the assistance of the probation service.

“If his previous convictions are a barometer then that might suggest it is not possible,” he said.

Hewitt had lost both parents and did not appear to have any close family or friends.

“He knows business people are trying to make a living in these hard times and he had cost them.

“Hotels and B&Bs in North Wales, Scotland, Truro, The Lakes have all suffered the same fate as he travels around.”
Source: Click HERE

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Motel 6 Celebrates 50 Years

It's debatable if it was wise to name a motel chain after the standard tariff of the day. The Motel 6 moniker was inspired from the nightly single rate of $6.60 charged by their motels when the chain was first formed in 1962. The Motel 6 chain is a name that is now synonymous with the motel industry in America. 

Probably the best known advertising catch-phrase for any accommodation chain is the  bi-line "And we'll leave the light on for you" by Tom Bodett a man that has injected his deadpan delivered, irrelevant humour into the voice of Motel 6 for over 25 years.

With the economy still in the doldrums, there is a trend for companies to promote their strength in longevity and consistency. Anniversary campaigns are worth celebrating and can connect with consumers.

According to the New York Times:
"Anniversary campaigns are part of a trend inspired by the economy that could be called comfort marketing, as advertisers invoke misty, water-colored memories of the past to woo consumers into buying products in the present.

A major aspect of comfort marketing is what brand managers call authenticity: reminding shoppers who seek value in the provenance of merchandise to suggest a product is worth buying because its quality has been tested for decades.

“Understanding the value of a dollar has rushed back to the forefront” of consumer considerations, said Lance Miceli, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the Accor North America division of Accor, which owns Motel 6.

As a result, he added, the brand’s promise of “a clean, comfortable room for the lowest price of any national chain” has become “as valued today as it was in 1962.”
Tom Bodett that started off promoting Motel 6 in radio commercials in 1986, is the voice behind their latest multi-media campaign of Motel 6 that celebrates "Fifty years and the light’s still on.” 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Motel Easter Weekend

Sunday Stay Times Cartoonist, Al Nisbet seems to have aptly captured the mood of Kiwi travellers this weekend.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Google's Project Glass

One of the most watched videos on YouTube at the mo, is Google's Project Glass. The opportunity to wear geeky glasses that embed a barrier of augmented data between yourself and the real world appears to appeal to the masses.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Chinese Tourist

I see that newly re-branded, are reaching out to their vast network of accommodation suppliers across the globe with a request to take part in a survey.

This is something that doesn't happen often and it is interesting that have realised that their own suppliers that directly interact with travellers can share valuable commercial insights.

So what is the immediate future focus of 

It's how Chinese tourists are changing the dynamics of the global tourism market.
"According to China Tourism Academy (CTA), there were approximately 70 million trips overseas from China in 2011, an increase of more than 20% from the 57.4 million trips in 2010. During the last decade, China has become the second largest economy in the world and is now the home to an ever-growing number of affluent and/or influential Chinese, who have developed a very keen taste for travelling overseas. WTO (World Tourism Organization) estimates that there will be 100 million Chinese outbound travelers within this decade, making it the largest outbound market in the world."
It is interesting to contemplate the NZ accommodation industry‘s readiness and what potential plans (if any) are being made to cater to a Chinese tourism opportunity.

Will motel rooms in New Zealand be soon adding woks and rice cookers to their inventory of self-catering facilities? And will the traditional motel breakfast soon include popular Chinese breakfast selections such as warm bowls of congee that is a watery rice gruel that bears a marked resemblance to porridge and crullers that are deep-fried twisted strips of dough? will be sharing the aggregated results of the survey that will determine "how this influx of Chinese tourists is changing the dynamics of the global tourism market" with those suppliers that participate. The results will be interesting to follow.

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