Sunday, June 30, 2013

Motel Fraud - The Saga Continues...

I see that another chapter of the convicted fraudster and ex-motel manager, Steven Francis Younger's turbulent life, played out in the New Plymouth District Court on Friday.

It would appear that jail-time has yet again been dodged.

Earlier this year, Younger was bailed to an Auckland address after being convicted of five fraud charges involving more than $50,000 in the New Plymouth District Court.

It was reported that charges included changing the names on cheques paid by sports teams while managing a Taranaki motel and ripping off elderly folk.

Younger initially pleaded not guilty to 16 fraud charges, then changed his pleas to guilty midway through the trial after charges were condensed from 16 to five.

Younger seems to have some extremely passionate support, including persistent blog posters that have made bizarre comments and counter-claims in reaction to our post: HERE.

The Taranaki Daily News reports on Friday's court appearance: 
"Younger's claim that he did not have a problem with gambling - while ploughing $150,000 into the TAB during 12 months with losses of $31,000 - was "nothing short of farcical", the judge said.

While working for Antonio Mews motels, Younger took cheques for his own ends presenting them at the TAB, the judge said.

In a statement to the court, the motel owner said the impact on him was significant. His health suffered.

The failure to settle accounts resulted in loss of business and he had to deal with people searching for Younger to get their money back."
Younger was sentenced to four months community detention with a night-time curfew and 250 hours community work.

It couldn't be confirmed that a final payment of $7000 had reached an elderly victim and Younger has been granted more time to settle the outstanding amount. If this is not not paid within a month a jail term will be considered.

While the courts appear to be showing leniency to Younger to give him the opportunity to pay back money he ripped-off victims, the consequences to date of his numerous premeditated criminal actions and his audacity to drag-out court time by defending the charges appear to be disproportionate and lightweight.

Source: Click HERE

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Motel Friendship Request

By their nature, motels have their contact information scattered far and wide across the interweb and this can attract a lot of email spam.

I was somewhat attracted to the plight of "Mercy Clinton" that personally emailed me this morning with the above accompanying photograph.

This poor lass is struggling to find friendship in her home country and has personally reached out to me to alleviate her sad situation.

Looking at her picture (above), I can't immediately fathom why Mercy has few friends. I can tell there is great sadness behind those eyes and assume that she must spend a lot of time dressed in small-patterned-colourful frocks, aimlessly wondering alone through grassy meadows.

After a very brief conversation with Mrs Motella, it was decided that I'm not available to assist, so I've shared Mercy Clinton's email (below) with this blog's dear readers to see if someone else can step up to the challenge of offering friendship:
"From: Mercy Clinton []
Sent: Saturday, 29 June 2013 2:52 a.m.
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Mercy

Hi, I am Mercy Clinton I would like to be your friend. It takes two to TANGLE and make a trail of friendship. I would have to know more about you and i am sending a picture of my self to you already. I would love to receive an email from you, telling me more about yourself and some photos of you as well. I am HONEST and PASSIONATE, NICE and FAITHFUL as well. Love hearing from you.

We can then pursue this further on through email:"
Judging by the email's I.P. address, Mercy is living in Santiago:
Received: from ( [])

Obviously a wee bit of funding may be required to stimulate a friendship with Mercy and agencies such as Western Union can be used to magically extract funds from your bank account into "hers".

Please feel free to contact Mercy directly and share with us how you get on :-)

More Motel Lost Property

When many dear travellers are away from their natural environment, they tend to act very differently.

For many, once the security blanket of familiarity of their usual surroundings is removed, the resulting angst and uncertainty can make an intrepid traveller unable to perform simple tasks that include keeping track of their personal possessions.

As we have become increasingly distracted in the modern world, the instances of guests leaving items behind in our motel rooms has increased.

We dutifully bag/tag/record all items left behind and tactfully attempt to contact a guest if we deem the item left behind is of value.

We have a rule at our motel that any unopened alcohol or pornography found by our housekeepers is to be immediately taken to reception. Being socially responsible, I believe it is my duty to personally look after these items and keep them out of harms way.

These are of course not the only items that are left behind, with cell phone chargers being the most common. Over the years, there have been many memorable lost property items:

Our housekeeping staff were once horrified to find a shotgun hidden under a bed. The previous occupant was a keen duck shooter and didn't want to leave it in his car overnight so he tucked it under his bed. He forgot to take it with him when he checked-out and was somewhat embarrassed when we contacted him.

We once found a large sum of cash and cheques amounting to several thousand dollars that were made up ready to be banked hidden under a bed pillow. We tried for days to contact the owner. After leaving several messages on his cell phone we finally managed to contact him. With little emotion and absolutely no gratitude he simply instructed us to bank it and hung up.

One of our housekeeping staff once rang me in a distressed state from a guest room and demanded that I come immediately. When I arrived she nervously pointed towards the bed where a baby was lying. As I slowly made my way towards the bed I could see that the baby was not breathing. This was definitely one of those OMG moments.

Standing over the bed I reached down and touched the baby's arm. Sure enough it has cold - latex cold! This was the most realistic doll I have ever seen. The housekeeper needed a several cups of tea and a few smokes before she could stop shaking and return to work. I scurried back to reception trying to keep a cool demeanor, relieved that I have still yet to live every motelier's nightmare and discover a real body.

One of our housekeeping staff once came across an enormous bag of weed in one of our motel units. Work came to a standstill as all staff gathered around to inspect the bounty. I ended up ringing the police to come and uplift the bag. Upon arrival, we were informed in a matter of fact way by the officer that the the bag was a "dealers bag". Essentially this meant that it was so big that it must have been for supply.

I can still remember the reaction of one particular staff member that could not take her eyes off the bag and the look of sorrow and despair as the policeman drove out the motel driveway with the contraband safely stowed away. 

One of the funniest sights we have seen was the look of shock and horror of one of our motel housekeepers when we explained to her what a large battery-operated, pink, torpedo shaped item was that she found discarded in a guest room. Unfortunately before we spoke to her, she dutifully presented her find to us after nonchalantly entering our reception area waving the object in the air as we were checking-in a bemused guest.

Lost property curious left behind in motel rooms seems to be a templated article that regually appears in the MSM. Waikato Times reporter Corey Rosser spent a bit of time safely behind his desk phoning around various motels and soon came up with some great examples of items guests leave behind: 
"Curious lost property left behind

Expensive French underwear, a chainsaw and a pair of matching his and hers wigs - not everyone's idea of a good time but some of the bizarre things that have been left around Waikato accommodation over the years.

A recent survey by travel website found 68 per cent of respondents admitted to leaving something behind in a hotel room.

The research pointed to Auckland as the place where most New Zealanders left behind both embarrassing and irreplaceable items, but the Waikato may produce a strong challenge to that title.
Every local accommodation business spoken to reported finding the usual suspects of clothes, books and cellphone chargers, which Karen Lyman, owner of the Tudor Motor Lodge in Hamilton, said were left behind in such numbers that you could almost start a business selling them on the side. "We find phone chargers for Africa," she said.

There were, however, some more obscure items found lurking by cleaning staff.

"We have had a chainsaw, a completely unwrapped pair of French ladies underwear with a price tag of around $500 on them and a couple of bottles of French champagne," said Murray Woofe, who owns the Ascot Motor Inn Taupo.

The underwear was reclaimed by the sheepish guest, as was the champagne before the motelier had the pleasure of enjoying it.

"We also had female and male wigs which we found together on mannequins in the wardrobe."

Adult items ranked highly on the list of forgotten belongings, with most red-faced punters usually calling back to reclaim their property according to Brent Cederman, from Raglan's Sunset Motel.

At the Frankton Hotel, duty manager Trish David-McBeth couldn't recall any strange items being left behind, but had experienced some out-of-the-ordinary things when cleaning rooms.

"There was a time around seven years ago when there were three single beds that had all been tipped up and made into a tepee. I'd love to have known what they were doing there."

Most establishments held lost and found items for three months and if they remained unclaimed were then donated to charities such as the Salvation Army."
Source: Click HERE

Friday, June 28, 2013

Top Travel Nightmares

A great way to generate brand awareness is to create media that will be widely shared and Hotspot Shield have made a nifty retro infographic on Top Travel Nightmares.

In spite of the modern tendency to sanitise and over-plan travel, its almost comforting to know that it's still possible for the intrepid traveller to create a unique Facebook moment by being struck down by a rouge Hippopotamus.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trip Advisor just got sexy!

When the good folks at Tomahawk submitted the following guest blog post, they wondered if it was "controversial enough" for this blog.

Well, the author managed to mention TripAdvisor AND their love for staying in holiday homes in the same informative article.

In motel-world, that's more than enough controversy ;-)
So the race is on.

Will Google’s new Hotel Finder or Trip Advisor’s recently upgraded rate comparison metasearch be the ultimate travel search and book website?

In my humble opinion, Trip Advisor’s is certainly the current winner. Their new functionality is just damn sexy and makes the customer experience enjoyable while giving the confidence to book appropriately.

Why I love it.

Trip Advisor offers superior functionality that allows you to search not only on existing customer reviews but also on price and type of travel, for example business travel, family or romance.

And then it gets even better and makes the experience personal with their integrated Trip Advisor Friends functionality. Throughout your search it allows you to see if any of your Facebook friends have visited the destination and accommodation. A recommendation from a friend is the booking ‘golden ticket’ and worth ten reviews from people you don’t know.

Another reason for my current Trip Advisor infatuation is because in New Zealand we love staying in holiday homes and this new functionality includes holiday rentals listed on Flip Key.

“We can do it too”

TripAdvisor has taken a feather from the Google headdress and is offering properties the option of pay-per-click advertising around rate comparison. With Trip Advisor being the number one travel website in the world, it will be interesting to watch where properties will be spending their online dollars in the future.

The downside
Small operators who are not distributing on OTAs (online travel agents like and Expedia) could potentially be left behind.

Both Google Hotel Finder and Trip Advisor’s metasearch functionality pull the rates and availability from OTAs. Many small properties can’t afford or still haven’t come to terms with the need for an online booking system and Channel Management. This may see their online bookings drop as bookings are being driven to properties that distribute on OTAs.

And yes, for accommodation providers that use OTAs they can complain and say the downside is that they have to pay the OTAs commission because the traveller is booking on Trip Advisor and not their website. Suck it up, it is the reality of doing business online now. If it makes you feel any better, the OTA has chosen you and is paying Trip Advisor to have their calendar displayed on your accommodation listing so be flattered and enjoy the bookings.

The winners

So as Google and Trip Advisor battle each other to create the best customer experience it ultimately means the winners are the travellers. They benefit from better functionality, more relevant and personal data enabling them (us) to book with the assurance that they got the price, quality and style desired to ensure a great holiday.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

8 Steps to Marketing Success

After a bit of reflective time away from the motel, I've now returned refreshed.

I've been thinking about how multi-media marketing campaigns should be managed and have written a handy check-list:

1. Write Down Your Objectives
Engage your current customers/clients, build brand recognition and exposure.
2. Know Your Target Market
It's always better to be laser focused than a broadly focused.

3. Look at What Your Competition is Doing on Social Media
Gauge what works well and not so well for others. Try and find a new space that no one else is exploiting.

4. What Are You Going to Say?
Develop content that is timely, engaging, entertaining, thought provoking, educational and worthy of sharing on other networks including the MSM.

5. Choose Your Sites
Stake your claim via Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and Pinterest.

6. Find a Good Support Site
Manage your accounts with free sites such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, SocialOomph, IFTTT and others that allow you to track, search and schedule profile updates on the fly.

7. Create a Form of Measurement
Website/blog hits, likes, comments, messages, leads, etc.

8. P*ss off Family First
Looking for an intolerant, prissy political lobbying organisation that are easy to wind-up? Look no further than Family First that will latch hold of your promotion, be suitably outraged and gift you more publicity than you've ever dreamed of. Refer: Streisand effect.

Tourism New Zealand's latest destination campaign that included a gay marriage competition has followed all of our 8 Steps to Marketing Success :-)
Tourism Board 'wastes taxpayer funds on marriage stunt'
"Family First is slamming the NZ Tourism Board for wasting taxpayer money on a stunt which is politically motivated. It also discriminates against couples who are of the opposite sex.

New Zealand’s tourism promoter is offering to fly two Australians to NZ and pay all ‘wedding’ expenses for them to become the first same-sex couple to wed under the redefinition of marriage laws, which come into effect on August 19.

"The Tourism Board is using a highly controversial law change which was rejected by more than half of NZ’ers to push a political agenda - and using taxpayer funds in the process. It is also disrespectful towards the Australian public who are currently debating the issue," says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

"Not only is the offer discriminatory against a man and a woman who want to marry, but it fails to take in to account Australia’s marriage laws where less than a week ago, attempts to recognise gay couples who tie the knot overseas were shot down in the Australian parliament."

"Did the Tourism Board make a similar offer to prostitutes when the decriminalisation of prostitution happened, or to students when the interest free student loans were introduced, or to families when the Working for Families package was announced?" says Mr McCoskrie.

"The Tourism Board should stick to promoting the country for its scenery and tourist attractions - rather than entering in to the culture war around the definition of marriage."

Family First will write to the Minister of Tourism expressing their concerns. They will also consider laying a complaint with the Human Rights Commission."
Source: Click HERE

Monday, June 17, 2013

Taking ownership?

Publicly listed Jasons Travel Media have released their trading results to 31 March 2013 and it's not pretty reading.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that AA Travel, that offer similar travel media services are also feeling the pain, but their trading results are not publicly available for comparison.
Jasons Chairman, John Sandford qualifies his company's disappointing result by painting a gloomy picture of the leisure and travel industry. Admittedly these comments have been been amplified in MSM reports that tend to focus on the negative.
Interestingly, Sandford has also been reported as running a similar diversion that MANZ regually promotes by placing blame on the "unregulated" short stay accommodation sector that includes the rise in popularity of private holiday home rentals. Jasons has resisted thus far in offering media services to this industry.

While Jasons pointing the finger at an alternative accommodation sector may give some in the motel industry sort-term comfort by qualifying their own pedestrian performance in recent years, fostering a victim mentality amongst moteliers is not helpful.

Much like Jasons, the motel industry need to take ownership of their own poor performance.
The motel stock in New Zealand is aging and some older leasehold motels have become past the best economic use of the land well before their time. This is frustrating for both the landlord and the leaseholder and can be predominately due to an inadequate schedule of repairs, maintenance and chattel upgrades undertaken by a revolving door of past leaseholders that have stripped value.

While the motel industry look warily at the scrum of alternative accommodation sectors such as bed and breakfasts, apartments, private accommodation etc, the real competition has come from the hotel sector. In spite of continued hard economic times, the hotel sector have retained up-to-date skilled management, reinvested in their product, operate well in the online environment, offer value and effectively deliver and communicate to the public stratas of consistent quality brands.

All is not doom and gloom as the motel industry is still a valid product that offers value to the travelling public. Large pockets of motels that are run by switched-on moteliers have managed to keep ahead of the game and operate profitably. They have been able to maintain or increase the value of their leasehold investment by keeping up maintenance, increasing tariff, growing occupancy and buying additional lease years at reasonable prices. 
"Jasons Travel Media chairman John Sandford says small operators in the leisure and travel industry are struggling despite a record high number of tourists coming to the country.
Jasons reported a loss of $1.5 million for the year to the end of March but says it has a turnaround plan aimed at returning the company to profit next year.
The business which specialises in travel, tourism and leisure says the loss compares with the previous year's profit of $96,000.

Mr Sandford said revenue has been difficult to maintain for Jasons and its competitors because of the highly fragmented market.

He said the company is also affected by the tough trading conditions facing small and medium business clients, despite the high tourism numbers.

Mr Sandford said commercial accommodation operators are being challenged by the non-commercial sector, particularly in accommodation where there has been massive growth in the use of holiday home rentals.

"Because the holiday home people don't have to comply with a whole stack of local authority rules, taxes, regulations, central government taxes."

For example a holiday home operator can have a Sky TV subscription which is used by the guests who the home is rented to, but a motel owner must pay for Sky television subscription for every unit in the motel - so the costs are enormous.

He said more people are coming into the country but their dollars are being spread across a wider range of people.

Mr Sandford said good operators are continuing to grow and improve their business, but the ones that are weak for whatever reason are struggling."
Source: Click HERE

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hold Your Breath

I'm receiving a lot of requests to promote various products and services on this blog. Most emails are ignored as they don't interest or amuse me, however an email received today from the bright-young hipsters at caught my eye...

They are making a short film, Hold Your Breath and need your funding help.

I like the Film's synopsis
"This film is about one woman's attempt to make the most of her last two days of freedom.
It’s all about our heroine's desperate adventure to make the most of the little time she has left before she goes to prison for assisting the death of her long-ailing father; we think the story is perfectly aligned with film as a capture format, which is, like our hero, running out of time."
I like that the film will be a road trip with the backdrop of some spectacular South Island scenery - what a great tourism destination promotion!

I like that the film will be funded by donations and crowdsourcing.

I like that the liberal elite at the NZ Film Commission have not tainted this project.   

Go to it! Check out the PledgeMe website to claim your stake in this slice of Kiwiana celluloid.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Motel wake-up call

The next time you ask for a wake-up call at a motel, you may get more than you've bargained for...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wotif squeeze supplier margins?

I see that has announced to its suppliers by email today that they will be launching a new virtual credit card payment method over the coming months.

OK, what does this mean?

Accommodation providers when notified of a new reservation will be allocated a unique virtual credit card number that they are authorised to charge for the net amount of the booking via their EFTPOS terminals.

Virtual credit card payments are becoming more popular and are made possible by the OTA setting up “Single-use ghost accounts” (SUGAs). Here’s a quick run-down:
  • SUGAs are transaction-specific, and are used only once per transaction.
  • They include controls, or credit limits for the exact payment amount.
  • Each purchase request, such as a hotel reservation is first electronically evaluated against a company’s pre-specified controls, including spend limits, merchant restrictions, acceptable usage dates, etc.
  • The transaction is then assigned a virtual credit card number with which vendors can process payment using existing POS credit card networks.
  • When the transaction completes, the credit card number expires and the account closes–never to be used again.
While larger hotel operations may see the advantages in improved accounting efficiencies, improved cash flow and guaranteed payment - smaller operations such as motels will be solely focused on bearing the new impost of credit card commissions when processing Wotif payments.

OTAs such as Wotif are being squeezed with declining growth in demand, increased competition and increased costs in doing business. Accommodation suppliers will be aware that these pressures are being passed-on and margins of online business are being chipped away.

Along with the rise in commissions announced last year, will Wotif's new payment method be more likely to improve their balance sheet, more than their suppliers'?

For accommodation providers, the art of setting appropriate tariff and yield management has never been so crucial. 
"Great news! We´ve listened to your feedback and Wotif Group will be launching a new virtual credit card payment method over the coming months. This project has been in the pipeline for quite some time and we are pleased to be able to offer a payment process that is secure, convenient, and more efficient for our supplier Some of the great benefits include:
* Faster payment – You´ll be able to take payment at the time of check out.
* Less hassle – Streamline your accounts receivable process. With virtual credit cards, there's no need to submit an invoice for payment or wait for our remittance advice to balance your books.
* Guaranteed payment – Wotif Group Virtual Credit Cards are 100% guaranteed to have the full funds for payment.
* Support – As always, our Accounts team will be on hand to help you with any payment enquiries you may have.
You don´t have to do anything to start receiving virtual credit card bookings and we will contact you closer to the launch date to make sure you´re ready for when virtual card payments are rolled out.
How does it work?
* When a customer makes a booking for your property on one of our sites (,,, or the Booking Details on the Supplier Extranet will include a unique virtual credit card number that you can charge directly just like any other credit card. We will also include these details on your booking confirmation email. NOTE: Major channel managers will be advised of these changes. If you use a channel manager, please contact them directly if you have any questions regarding the delivery of your booking information.
* The funds available on the card will equal the NET amount of the booking (the advertised rate minus our commission).
* The dates you can charge the card will also be highlighted.
* Simply charge the virtual credit card using your point of sale terminal in the same way you´d charge any other credit card.
Every booking you receive from the launch date onwards will contain virtual credit card details. You will still need to invoice us for any Wotif Group bookings that were made up until this date as normal. (You can easily check which bookings were made before the launch date using the guest list on the Supplier Extranet. Once you´re in the Guest List, click on the Latest Bookings link to narrow your search).
We also wanted to take this opportunity to respond to some recent industry commentary about the financial security of dealing with some online travel agents.
Wotif Group is an established, robust, publicly-listed company. We present audited public financial statements twice a year. Our strong financial position is one of the key strengths we offer to both suppliers and customers. If you would like to see financial details relating to Wotif Group, they can be found in our most recent annual report.
As always, your Wotif Group Product Team is here in New Zealand to answer any questions you might have. Please get in touch with them as soon as possible if you have any concerns about the virtual credit card process for any reason.
The Wotif Group Product Team"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Air NZ go black & white

Air New Zealand has now adopted the official New Zealand Fern brand across the fleet to mark a $20 million, marketing partnership with Tourism New Zealand.

It is with some sadness that the iconic Pacific Jade (Teal) along with the Global Dark Blue corporate colours will be resigned to favour of black and white.

The distinctive koru will remain.

Kiwis still feel passionate about the majority government owned airline and will have a strong opinion about a change of branding - Any brand that evokes such a passionate following must be doing something right.

Public reaction to the evolution of the promotional All Black livery introduced since the Rugby World Cup would have been closely monitored by Air New Zealand.

The airline needed to freshen-up its corporate look and painting it black seems to be a safe and tested option that is likely to attract favour with the New Zealand public.

I've got mixed feelings about the new "less is more" style. There seems to be no middle ground with the use of black as a style statement - it can either be refined and elegant or plain and boring.

It will be interesting how Air New Zealand's new black and white livery will compare when parked on an airport tarmac amongst other airlines that have a rainbow of multi-coloured designs,
"This new look will be rolled out in stages from later this year. It will be painted on to its 103 aircraft starting later this year and take 18 months to roll out across the fleet. Its “koru” logo stays on the tail but airline’s historic teal color will disappear. For plane aficionados, if this new design looks familiar, that because Air NZ has gone for a fern design before, when it sponsored the national rugby team All Blacks for the world cup in 2011 and rolled out an all black themed aircraft.
This comes as the airline also announced a tie up with Tourism New Zealand to undertake joint marketing activity to promote the destination to key international markets (and here we thought it always had a deal there). Both of the orgs will invest more than $10 million over the next 12 months to promote NZ in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, North America, the UK and Europe."
Source: Click HERE

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