Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas and New Year's break

We are now closed for the Christmas and New Year's break and the office will re-open again from 9am on January 4, 2010. If you need urgent assistance during this time please leave a message on the voice-mail or e-mail me.

As we have done over the last two years, instead of sending out Christmas cards, we have made a donation to the Starlight Foundation.

Thank you so much for your support through a challenging year and we look forward to bigger and better things next year. We hope you have a very merry Christmas and look forward to working with you in 2010.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dalai Lama fills Sydney

Last month it was Britney Spears and Pearl Jam that filled Sydney hotels, but they weren't as big a drawcard as the Dalai Lama.

I noticed a week or two back that Sydney was filling quickly this week and did some research to find out why. It was then that I found out the Dalai Lama was going to be in Sydney from the 1st to the 4th. Combine this with the end of corporate travel season and I knew it would be a busy week for the hotels.

With this in mind, I loaded up on rooms for this week and thought I had judged the demand fairly well but when I completely ran out of rooms on Monday afternoon I knew it was trouble. Sydney was close to filling on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. From Tuesday onwards, each morning I managed to find only a handful of "affordable" rooms. If you hadn't got in early and needed last minute accommodation, you had to pay over $500 for a hotel.

Its getting busy again on Wednesday and Thursday next week in Sydney but I'm sure it won't be anywhere near as crazy for the hotels as it was this week when the Dalai Lama came to town.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November - Peak Corporate Travel Season

November tends to be one of the busiest corporate travel months of the year as everyone tries to get business done before everything shuts down over the Christmas holidays.

Obviously this year has been a rough one for corporate travel so exactly how busy November would be was anyone's guess. Corporate demand keeps cities busy at this time of year, but its the events and other things happening that fills the hotels and brings our service in to demand.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the month got off to a great start thanks to Tiger Woods playing in the Australian Masters in Melbourne. I didn't give Britney Spears much credit for just how busy it was but it seems I may have been mistaken as the weak after when she was in Sydney, along with Pearl Jam, demand was through the roof. The same week there was a large rail conference in Adelaide that made it crazy busy.

The only frustration with both events was that I knew they were coming, I just didn't imagine the demand for rooms would be to the level it was. The phones rang off the hook and while I had some rooms ready to go, it was nowhere near enough and it was disappointing have to tell so many people that a city was full.

This week, Britney Spears and Pearl Jam came to Brisbane, in the same week that Hulk Hogan was in town and the first cricket test match of the summer is at the Gabba on Thursday. Thankfully I was prepared, grabbed plenty of rooms but they still didn't last too long. Tomorrow (Wednesday the 25th) is the absolute worst of it and so many people have needed that one night. I ran completely out of rooms this afternoon so my fingers are crossed that there are some cancellations overnight and I can find availability in the morning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Movember - Changing the face of men's health

One of my friends is taking part in Movember and has been challenged to grow a Freddy Mercury-esque mo. I might post some progress pics if he doesn't mind ... but I made a donation to this worthy cause today and if you don't know anything about Movember, see below.

I just made a donation to Movember - the men's health charity raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer and depression in men.

What many people don't appreciate is that close to 3,000 men die of prostate cancer each year in Australia and one in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime - many of whom don't seek help. This is a really important cause that has long been neglected and I ask that you join me by making a small donation at:

The funds raised go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and beyondblue: the national depression initiative.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia will use the money raised by Movember to fund research into the causes, detection, diagnosis and improved treatment of prostate cancer.

beyondblue will use the money raised by Movember to fund the beyondblue info line and to increase community awareness about depression and reduce the stigma associated with the illness.

For more information on the outcomes of Movember go to:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tiger lands in Melbourne

Tiger Woods may have only arrived in Australia yesterday and had his first practice round today but his legend definitely preceded him.

We started getting calls last week and had an extremely busy afternoon on Friday doing nothing but bookings for Melbourne hotels. Sure, its not just Tiger in town that has the city full, Britney Spears also has concerts this week ... but we all know who the real draw-card is.

The demand for Melbourne continued on Monday but unfortunately by mid-afternoon the city was essentially full. I only found a few more rooms this morning but they didn't last long and unfortunately nothing really changed throughout the day. There's nothing I hate more than saying we can no longer find rooms but that's what happened today.

Being a golf fan, I'm a huge fan of Tiger Woods. Anyone still needing accommodation in Melbourne this week may not feel the same right now.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dynamic Pricing Across the Accommodation Industry

I came across an interesting article about the Australian accommodation market and what will happen after the GFC (Global Financial Crisis).

Its a good read for those in the hotel industry and there are a few key points brought up by Quest Chairman Paul Constantinou that I couldn't agree with more:
  • "Four to five years before the GFC hit, the industry had been under-supplied. The strong demand for accommodation caused bigger players to get greedy and introduce dynamic pricing to the market.
  • "It's about looking after your customer, driving loyalty, and not treating them like they're a commodity. There's no use giving a customer a loyalty card if you have no loyalty."
  • The clear lesson for accommodation providers is to focus on the long-term and build genuine relationships with its corporate customers, through thick and thin.
Click on the title below to read the full story.

Dynamic Pricing Across the Accommodation Industry | News Archives

For the last 12 months the GFC has forced travel operators to offer more competitive pricing, but in the wake of a recovering economy, one leading industry player says consumers should brace themselves for price hikes once more.

Dynamic (or variable) pricing was in full swing just 18 months ago, with large accommodation providers charging the corporate world up to three times more for its rooms during peak periods.

The GFC reversed this dynamic, causing average room rates and occupancy rates to decline dramatically.

Will the accommodation industry continue to suffer, or will the much maligned dynamic pricing model re-surface some time soon with the improvement of business confidence?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Brisbane's most luxurious hotel rooms

I came across a good article about some of the best rooms that Brisbane hotels have to offer. While I've visited all of the hotels mentioned, I'm yet to stay in any of the suites listed. Will have to work on that!

Oh what a night: Brisbane's most luxurious hotel rooms

Looking for a night at the height of Australian hotel luxury without the hassle of chartering the private jet?

Don't fret. Brisbane has you covered but don't think you'll save much coin. A night in the city's best room is comparative to the top suites in the country.

With rates starting from $4000 per night, the Stamford Suite at the Stamford Plaza Hotel is Brisbane's most expensive space and shares price parity with the Royal Suites at Sydney's Sheraton On The Park and the Sofitel Melbourne.

Not bad for a city less than half the size of its southern cousins, though even this premium pales in comparison to one night spent in the "invitation only" Georgian Manor Villa at Melbourne's Crown Towers, which comes in at a cool $27,500 a night.

But how far does four grand go when it comes to luxury living?

Well, it gives you a room literally fit for a queen, with Queen Elizabeth II famously shunning traditional lodgings at Government House for a stay at the Stamford suite during her visit to Brisbane in the 1970s.

Featuring a private foyer, butler's quarters and grand piano the top floor suite has sweeping river views and opulent furnishings updated through the Stamford's recent $10 million makeover.

Of course if this suite offers little more luxury than you'd bargained for the Presidential Suite at the Marriott offers high style at just over half the price.

Here around $2500 buys you 131 square metres of turndown service, marble bathroom, separate lounge and dining areas, king-sized bedding and access to complimentary canapes and drinks served in the executive lounge.

Or there are the two levels and spiral staircase of the Opera Suite at the recently refurbished Sofitel available from $885 per night, where guests have ample space in which to entertain the envious.

However, price is not always indicative of quality and a number of relatively new boutique hotels amply answer the burgeoning demand for premium accommodation without the lofty fee.

Brisbane's Emporium Hotel, which opened in June 2007, was announced Best Boutique Hotel at the Queensland Hotels Association (QHA) Awards for Excellence recently, beating fellow finalist Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge.

Touted as the first true luxury boutique hotel in town, the best rooms at the glitzy hotel are the new Corner Suites which, from $495, come with separate sleeping and living areas, kitchenette, king-sized bedroom and furnishings drenched in rock star sex appeal.

And competition among the boutique market is set to heat up as more players come online with the newest contender, the Urban Hotel, housed on the former Terraces on Wickham site and offering $10 million worth of refurbished rooms.

The Urban joins the Portal Hotel, opened in March, and the celebrated Limes Hotel which, since its June 2008 launch, has became the city's first member of the exclusive, international Design Hotels group.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Queensland praised on Oprah

After my earlier post about the Best Job in the World contest, its great to see that a tourism campaign has gone so well (considering the "Where the bloody hell are you" mess).

Here's the latest update about Ben being interviewed on the Oprah show:

Best Job winner sings Queensland's praises on Oprah

Tourism Queensland's Best Job Island caretaker Ben Southall has hit the big time, with a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Queensland's popularity as a world-renowned holiday destination is sure to skyrocket following Ben’s interview with the Winfrey.

"Ben recently spoke to Oprah by satellite from Hamilton Island and I know he has been singing the praises of our beautiful state," said Premier Anna Bligh.

Bligh sees Ben’s Oprah appearance as a major tourism coup, which will directly promote Queensland to more than seven million US TV viewers and 145 countries around the world.

"Oprah has been the number one US talk show for 23 seasons and Ben's appearance will deliver an unprecedented level of publicity for Queensland.

"This is another major coup for Tourism Queensland during what has been a very challenging time for operators."

The Premier said Ben was more than half-way through his six-month stint as Caretaker for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

"He is doing a great job and everyone's primary focus now is on harnessing the excitement he has generated to motivate viewers to act on their desire to visit Queensland," he said.

Tourism Minister Peter Lawlor said that as part of the Best Job promotion, an audience member of the Oprah Winfrey show will win a trip to Queensland.

"During Ben's five minute chat with Oprah he was able to give a first-hand account of what it's like to have the Best Job in the World and enjoy a range of fantastic Queensland experiences, such as snorkelling, diving and bushwalking," he said.

Tourism Queensland acting CEO Steve McRoberts said Ben was the perfect tourism ambassador for Queensland.

"Since arriving as the Island Caretaker on July 1, Ben has continued to fuel the buzz surrounding the Best Job in the World and sustain interest in Queensland," Mr McRoberts said.

"In addition to his guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, since arriving in Queensland Ben has fielded more than 150 media interviews from prominent outlets around the world such as the BBC, Le Parisien, CCN, Shanghai Morning Post, The UK's Daily Telegraph, CBC, Sky News, Germany's RTL and Israel's Yedoith.

"He has also hosted documentary crews and celebrities from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Hong Kong around his 'office' - the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

"More than 8.4 million visitors have logged on to since the Best Job in the World campaign was launched in January and Ben has approximately 3500 followers on twitter."

Mr McRoberts said the Best Job in the World promotion has delivered an unprecedented level of exposure for Queensland and it has also helped convert awareness into tangible sales for Queensland tourism operators.

"German travel wholesaler FTI recently commented that while overall bookings to Australia were slow compared with this time last year travel to Queensland out of Germany was still up by nearly three percent," he said.

"Austravel and Travelmood in the UK also reported that Queensland had maintained a healthy share of Austravel's overall room nights, helping to secure more of the company's passengers than any other state in Australia.

"A recent comment on Ben's blog from a Kansas family also proves that Ben's experiences are converting into more visitors to Queensland - Our family began following your blog several months ago, long story short we booked a 10 day holiday cruising the Whitsundays so, if anyone is wandering if the marketing efforts are playing off let them know a family from Kansas, USA are the newest fans of Australia and the Islands."

Ben's guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey show aired in the US on Thursday 22 October, an Australian air date is yet to be confirmed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hotel Urban sale

I came across this really good special/sale today:

Urban Hotel Group Throws One-Week Summer Sale

With the first days of summer only one month away, designer hotel group Urban is throwing a seven-day sale with its luxury hotel rooms available for just $99 per night.

Starting this Sunday 25 October, and running for one week until Saturday 21 October, travellers can book rooms at any of the three Urban Hotel locations during the period of 18 December - 18 January 2010 (at the Sydney and Melbourne properties) and 18 December - 14 February 2010 (at the Brisbane property) for the half price rate of $99 per room per night (average full price room is $199).

Urban Hotels are the contemporary choice for the country's leisure and business travellers elegant locations, chic interiors, independent gourmet restaurants, unique little touches, and some serious customer service together create a trio of hotels that are the perfect place to lay your head away from home.

Urban Brisbane's art deco exterior features a Manhattan-style pool terrace and the team have just added the finishing touches to a top floor penthouse suite for intimate functions. Urban St Leonards lies on Sydney's North Shore, a favourite with business travellers thanks to the soothing surroundings, on-site putting green, and organic restaurant. And Urban St Kilda is a funky haven in the heart of Acland Street, complete with the popular 'round bedroom' and Suger cocktail bar.

The Urban Summer Sale applies to king, queen or twin rooms and is subject to availability. Visit for more details.

Andre Rieu is back!

After wreaking havoc on the accommodation market when he was here at the end of 2008, I had been counting down to his concert tour this year. No, not because I wanted to go, but I really hoped he would have the same effect on the demand for city hotels.

Adam and I discussed it last year and because he wasn't bringing the same level of show that he put on last year and was performing at Boondall rather than Suncorp Stadium, our expectations were lowered. Thankfully tho, I was pleasantly surprised at what ended up happening.

As well as Rieu in town there was also a large science conference at the convention centre and this was what first drew my attention. I then remembered the concerts were on at the same time so I knew it had to be a busy few nights for the Brisbane hotels and prepared accordingly. I was disappointed at how late the actual demand came but when it happened it delivered!

I was at the Sofitel Brisbane Central for a breakfast meeting on Wednesday and as I was leaving I actually saw Andre Rieu in the lobby. (For me, the highlight of the morning was definitely the breakfast buffet tho!) When I got back to the office there were a LOT of messages on the voicemail and the enquiries didn't stop for the next day and a half. The well of available rooms eventually ran out yesterday at 4pm and unfortunately I was unable to assist the last couple of enquiries.

I haven't seen the Brisbane accommodation market that full for a long, long time. So once again, thank you Andre!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sir Richard Branson interview

I came across this interview earlier in the week with Sir Richard Branson. Most people know that I'm a big fan of Sir Richard so I thought it was worth sharing. Surprisingly, he tells a couple of stories I hadn't actually heard before. Not surprisingly, he doesn't miss a chance to mention his rivalry and "getting one up" on British Airways.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chateau Royale Maroochydore

I spent last weekend with friends up the coast at Maroochydore. Not surprisingly the accommodation was given to me to arrange at late notice. Availability was limited and we needed a three bedroom apartment to cater for our group (5 of us).

For our corporate clients we tend to use Sebel Maroochydore and the Horton Apartments but neither had suitable bedding so I came across Chateau Royale. It was available and without pushing for an industry discount (because we needed 2 nights on a weekend) we paid just $40/person/night which is a steal for a three bedroom ocean view apartment.

Its not as modern a place as I'd normally book but the price and the location were right. Chateau Royale is in Cotton Tree just 20 metres from the beach. Our apartment didn't have aircon (which is normally a must for me) and having only seen the property online I talked it down to my friends before we arrived to make sure expectations were managed. Thankfully tho I was pleasantly surprised as the apartment was in good condition, had a large kitchen & lounge room, a wrap around balcony and great views.

I had hoped to spend a bit of time on the beach because I'm so white but due to the weather that didn't happen. It was blowing a gale when we arrived on Saturday afternoon and Sunday was raining and overcast. However, Monday when we left was perfect ... surprise, surprise. So instead, we spent the weekend playing cards (not poker believe it or not), eating and drinking.

The property is undergoing renovations at the moment but it didn't affect us as the work was being done midweek.

Mantra on Queen refurbishments

I ducked out of the office yesterday afternoon to have a look at the recently refurbished Mantra on Queen. Pre-GFC (global financial crisis) we used to make a lot of bookings at this hotel but it had been a while since I've actually seen the rooms.

Mantra on Queen has always been good value and great for longer stays but some of the furnishings were starting to date and I'm glad to see they've done a nice job of updating them. The main changes in the apartments are the TV's, beds, bedspreads, bedheads, paintings and some of the furniture.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rooftop movie at Limes Hotel

Susan had been a couple of times when it first started but I was yet to experience a rooftop movie at the Limes Hotel until this week. When the hotel first opened Adam and I met with the owner, had a look around and on other occasions I've had a few drinks in their bar.

On Tuesday, Limes had a giveaway of tickets to Slumdog Millionaire which I loved the first time I saw it so jumped at the chance to enjoy it in their rooftop cinema.

After picking up my date for the evening we got stuck in some serious traffic on the way to the hotel but thankfully the movie didn't start on time so we had a chance to grab a glass of wine and order some food.

It was a great night, the outdoor movie experience was excellent and the highlights of the food we ordered were the grilled haloumi cheese and the home-style chips.

We finished the night by running into Lime's owner Damian who had obviously been working too hard and was grabbing a late dinner at the bar.

Tickets for the rooftop cinema are normally $12 and can be purchased through their website which also has the schedule for upcoming movies.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Travel funnies

I've been a bit slack in reading industry newsletters of late, but I found some funny travel stories in one of them today. The first appeals to me because I spend so much time online and the second is funny because one, I used to work for Starwood and two, the crooks had to be drunk or stoned when they first thought of the idea.

1. Whoever devised the acronym for the Wisconsin Tourism Federation clearly isn’t a twitterer and doesn’t frequent Internet chat rooms. Not unreasonably, the Wisconsin Tourism Federation called itself WTF. But anyone who is au fait with pop culture will probably know that WTF isn’t generally translated as Wisconsin Tourism Federation but a more robust phrase, “What the f***”, in case anyone didn’t know.

2. Colin Bennett, former gm for Starwood Hotel Group, recounted the most brazen theft he had ever seen. “I walked into the lobby of one hotel and immediately realised something was missing. It transpired that three people had strolled into reception, dressed in overalls, and had wheeled the grand piano out of the hotel...never to be seen again.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What hotels guests want ...

Media Release – September 28, 2009

Hotel Guests Want Value and Quality, Not Just a Room: Survey

Hotels take note: a majority of guests say exorbitant mark-ups on mini-bar items are the most annoying aspect of a hotel stay, followed by sub-standard room amenities and inferior service and expensive food in hotel restaurants, according to a survey by Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor.

The survey, conducted online and through questionnaire forms in guest rooms in June, July and August this year, attracted 1,411 responses.

Asked to select the three most annoying aspects of staying in a hotel:
• More than 55 per cent of respondents selected the cost of mini-bar items;
• Over 26 per cent said sub-standard amenities, such as shampoo, tea and coffee, and towels and bathrobes; and
• 25.6 per cent selected poor service and expensive food in hotel restaurants.

Other annoying or disappointing aspects included: cost of in-room movies (22 per cent); cost or in-room dining (21 per cent); impersonal service (more than 19 per cent) and the cost of internet services (18 per cent).

But in some good news for the sector, 34 per cent of survey respondents said they intended to spend the same amount in the coming 12 months as in previous years on travel and holidays, despite the economic environment.

And, reinforcing the overall survey findings that travelers expect quality and value for money, more than 28 per cent said they would be planning to up-grade to a better standard of room or hotel given that many hotels have lowered room rates in response to economic conditions and 11 per cent said they would increase their travel spend as prices drop.

Hotel Windsor CEO and general manager David Perry said the survey showed consumers expected far more from a hotel than simply a room.

“Obviously, hotel guests look very closely at the full range of services and facilities that combine to make a hotel stay memorable and that deliver real value,” he said. “They are strongly disappointed when their stay is undermined by second-rate, highly-priced room amenities and hotel food. Every hotel general manager knows many of their guests walk out of the hotel and around the corner to a convenience store to pick up chocolate, a can of soft drink or beer, rather than pay hotel prices. We have to ask if we want to continue to encourage this behaviour rather than provide incentives for guests to fully enjoy everything a hotel can offer.”

The Hotel Windsor has acted quickly on the survey feedback. From 1 October 2009 it will substantially lower the price of all mini-bar items to align them as closely as possible with retail prices and will review the success of this move at the end of the year. It has also introduced a new range of quality teas, Madame Flavour, to its suites and deluxe rooms.

According to Mr Perry, The Hotel Windsor is already ahead on a number of other fronts. It recently partnered with Primus Telecom to install a dedicated high-speed fibre-optic connection to ensure guests enjoy the best-value and best-performing internet in town. As well, feedback forms from diners at the hotel’s signature 111 Spring Street Restaurant in August show 83 per cent rated their meal as very good or outstanding.

“The survey results show hotels need to look closely at all areas of operation and constantly identify areas for improvement and innovation in order to deliver a quality hospitality experience,” Mr Perry said.

The 180-room Hotel Windsor was built in 1883, pre-dating some of the world’s leading grand hotels including the Savoy in London, which was built in 1889, the Waldorf Astoria in New York which dates back to 1893, and the Ritz Paris which opened in 1898.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grace Hotel Sydney - technical difficulties

Here I was earlier in the month complaining about the technical difficulties that Telstra inflicted upon us. Well, that has been put in perspective now by one of the hotels in Sydney.

Last week I was trying to contact the Grace Hotel in Sydney to check availability. I tried their 1800 number, I tried their land line, I tried getting on their website ... nothing. I then rang the mobile number of the sales manager from the hotel ... it was the middle of the day but it sounded like I woke him up. I found out shortly after that he was travelling in Europe on business and it was about 3am in the morning, woops. I asked him if the hotel was still open and he hadn't heard anything about the technical difficulties yet.

I received this e-mail from them yesterday ... a whole week without telephone, e-mail or internet, OUCH!

Grace Hotel Sydney Telephone and Internet Service Outage

Please do not respond to this email.

Dear Business Partner,

You may have heard on the news recently, a set of fibre-optic and copper cables used for telecommunication have been severed, affecting parts of the Sydney CBD.

The Grace has been without telephone, email and internet service since Wednesday 16th September. The hotel website and general phone line have been restored and some email addresses are operational.

The general hotel line has recently been diverted and is temporarily available. Please call +61 2 `9272 6888 for any urgent enquiries.

Thank you for your patience and understanding while we wait for telecommunication services to be restored. At this stage we have no definite information on when communications will be restored but as soon as this happens we will advise accordingly.

Kind regards
The Grace Hotel

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good signs ahead

A number of my posts over the last few months have been about the gloomy state of the Australian hotel market due to the economic slowdown. Thankfully, things start to be looking up again. We're not seeing the full flow-on effect as yet and we have a looooong way to go to get back to normality but some positive signs are there.

Events are starting to fill cities again and a number of cities are back to being busy on a regular basis. Canberra has been pretty steady thanks to a number of sittings of parliament. Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth have been slowly picking up again while Darwin is always very busy at this time of year.

One of the biggest frustrations over the last few months has been that we are still getting some really great enquiries (groups, long-stays, etc) but just haven't ended up booking any of them. Whether its just companies "kicking tyres" or they aren't getting the rates approved by their accounts, its disappointing to get the enquiry and not be able to close the deal. The group bookings and the long-stays are the cream for our business as they take the same time to do as a normal reservation but are obviously worth a lot more.

So it was nice last week to finally close a really good booking and one that I didn't expect to. I had one of the travel agent's we look after call me needing help with accommodation in Geelong. Sure, not a capital city and not somewhere we normally look after but for the right enquiry I'll definitely make an exception. Surprisingly, Geelong is extremely busy over the next month or so with a number of events and the agent needed to find 6 rooms for roughly 6 weeks each. Thankfully one of my friends is the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Four Points by Sheraton Geelong and he was able to work his magic, squeeze them in and give me an excellent rate.

I was actually down in Geelong a month or two ago for my birthday weekend and thanks to my friend we stayed at the hotel. Its in a great location overlooking the bay and I had a nice room overlooking the water (pictured below) ... and paid very little including breakfast and drinks. Two months later, a very good booking for them (and us) ... it obviously pays to have me stay at your hotel! :-)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Drinks at Oaks Lexicon

I got an invite to have drinks & canapes at Oaks Lexicon last night to check out their refurbished apartments. I stayed at the property a few years ago shortly after it opened and wasn't sure it really needed a refurb yet.

When we arrived I ran in to an old friend who now works at the Convention Centre so I caught up with her on the way in. I needn't have worried that I might not know anyone because some regular function attendees were of course there ... Jason (also from the Convention Centre) and of course Saskia from Wotif.

Its the first function I've attended recently but I'm glad I did. A glass or two of bubbles, some excellent canapes and catching up with some industry colleagues. It wasn't all just socialising tho as I did of course have a good look around the apartment. They've done a good job with the refurb and the apartments look great, plus being an Oaks they're also great value. This property has good sized balconies and some excellent views/aspects of the city, despite being right in the middle of town.

Here's the press release about the refurbishment:

Celebrate a brand new look at the Oaks Lexicon!

Spring into the Oaks Lexicon for a fresh new look this season, offering the perfect affordable accommodation close to the CBD, central station, and Fortitude Valley.

Spacious, sophisticated and self contained, Oaks Lexicon is one of the cities most contemporary and stylish buildings. A recent make-over has refined interiors, added a new edge to the modern d├ęcor and ignited a sleek ambience that will delight those looking for a classy place to stay at a great price.

The cities most popular restaurants and bars are just a short stroll from Oaks Lexicon, or choose the added convenience of self-catered dining with gleaming gourmet kitchens fitted with quality stainless steel appliances. Generous sized apartments are perfect for an intimate dinner party but cosy enough for a romantic rendezvous too!

Balconies boasting city views, a heated swimming pool and BBQ podium area with a Tuscany feel, gymnasium and undercover parking on site ensure Oaks Lexicon is the savvy choice for discerning travellers who will love the quality, and also delight in Oaks Lexicon’s supreme value.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Technical difficulties

Moving is never fun and rarely does it go smoothly. We moved out of The Shop last month and other than the normal pains of moving the only real dramas came from the phone lines.

Firstly, the phone lines were set to get switched over on the Monday morning so the week prior I rang to book in the move of the phone system. Much to my horror I was informed that the official Telstra people couldn't do it until the Monday after. Not surprisingly, that wasn't going to work. Thankfully I have another company that has helped me out previously and although I couldn't get in touch with the right person until Monday they were able to squeeze us in on Tuesday afternoon.

Unfortunately, the lines were switched over earlier than expected and we weren't informed so we weren't able to divert calls to my mobile. I rang Telstra to get them to organise a diversion but that didn't happen, so we essentially had two days without phone lines ... not ideal. When the phone system was moved and everything was set up, the diversion kicked in the next morning, great work.

We had a week or so of no problems until I came in to undivert the phone on Monday only to find out that two of the lines weren't working and we were only receiving half of the calls. I tried everything I could to fix it but the next day found out it was an issue with the Telstra network. Wednesday morning they came and fixed it but it was another two days where a number of people couldn't get through to us.

So, if you have been trying to call us over the last few weeks and haven't been able to get through I sincerely apologise. We're still alive and well and hoping this is the last of our phone dramas.

Telstra, you are well and truly not on my Christmas card list this year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pink wreaking havoc in Brisbane

Its nice to be able to blog about particularly busy dates again! After a relatively quiet few months I'm starting to see signs of things picking up again (fingers crossed). Parliament sitting in Canberra is filling the city again, Adelaide surprisingly went nuts over the last couple of days and tonight is close to fully booked in Brisbane.

The reason for it tonight ... sure there is your normal corporate component, but the main reason seems to be the last concert of Pink. She's no Andre Rieu and she's done 150 concerts (ok, not quite that many but it seems like it) so I'm not sure why this particular night is so busy ... but I'm not going to complain.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chocolate dreams

I posted on FaceBook yesterday that I'd had a dream about a chocolate buffet the night before. Yes, I have some strange dreams ... and I do love chocolate. Anyway, today I received an e-mail saying that Sebel King George Square is bringing back their "31 days of chocolate". A sign ... I think so!!

I went last year for lunch with some friends and it was great so I'm definitely looking forward to going again soon. For more details about what's included, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Australian travel market

I found a couple of articles about the state of the Australian travel market this morning. Hopefully the first one is on the money and relief is indeed on the way for Australian hotels.

Click on the titles below to read the full stories.

It's been hard for hotels, but relief is on the way

Carolyn Cummins
July 18, 2009

IT'S been a tough 18 months for the hotel sector with sharp declines in tourism, but the latest figures for the March quarter show businesses have weathered the decline.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the accommodation sector continued to perform steadily, even though hotel occupancy levels eased.

Michael Thomson, the national director for hotels and leisure at Colliers International, said the best performing markets were Perth and Canberra, which showed strong room rate and growth in revenue per available rooms. He said most Australian cities experienced moderate room rate growth in the 12 months to March this year. While the Sydney hotel market was comparatively weak with lower room rates and declining occupancy, the Melbourne market remained resilient with slight improvements in average room rates in a period of weakening demand.

'In the first quarter of 2009, the deterioration in the global economy translated into cutbacks and fewer bookings in the corporate and leisure markets, and this was felt across most accommodation markets,' Mr Thomson said.

Business travellers benefit from bargains

Airfare wars and room-rate promotions are usually aimed at recreational travellers, but airlines and hotels are using similar tactics to entice their traditional cash cow - the business traveller.

Corporate travellers, who pay more to sit in the front cabins of planes or book close to the date of travel, are flying coach more often, or not travelling at all during the recession.

Employers are booking fewer banquet halls and blocks of rooms, leaving many hotels pining for the sizeable and reliable revenue that business meetings used to generate.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Having a Travel Problem? Share It on Twitter

"Social networking" has been the buzz phrase in marketing circles over the last few years. First there was MySpace, then FaceBook and more recently Twitter. I stood my ground for a while refusing to join the crowd but eventually relented and signed up to Facebook. I do spend a bit of time on there, but I have drawn the line and am not getting involved with Twitter.

Saying that tho, I came across an interesting article (excerpt below) about Twitter in an industry newsletter. Its interesting to see how these social networks are being used in the travel industry and it seems that there is some benefit for travellers. Click on the title below to read the full story.

Practical Traveler - Having a Travel Problem? Share It on Twitter -

As hotels, airlines and other travel companies line up on Twitter to promote their brands, customers who voice their grievances in the form of tweets are getting surprisingly fast responses for everything from bad airplane seats to poor room service.

Take Tony Wagner, 34, a new-media director for an academic group in Washington. When he found out he wasn’t seated next to his wife and 2-year-old daughter on a JetBlue flight to San Francisco over the Memorial Day weekend, he first called up customer service. But the agent told him to take it up at the gate. So Mr. Wagner indirectly sent JetBlue a message, by posting a plea for help on his Twitter account: “@jetblue Advice to get both parents and 2 yr old seated next to each other on flight later today? Right now only one parent. Full flight.”

Exactly 19 minutes later, JetBlue tweeted back, suggesting they correspond privately, using Twitter’s “direct message” feature: “@tonywagner Please follow us so we may DM!” After a brief exchange, JetBlue flagged his tickets as a priority concern.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

8th birthday

Yesterday, Capital Reservations officially turned 8 years old!

During these tough economic times, there was no champagne, no cake, no celebrating until the corporate accommodation market starts to pick up again.

We celebrated 5 years in style and enjoyed a slightly less formal 7th birthday last year, so going on that record we should celebrate again next year.

In the meantime, my sincere thanks to all of the staff I've had over the years, thank you to all our customers, supporters and suppliers. Your support is truly appreciated.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Emporium Hotel - Executive Stays Package

In these tough economic times, there's nothing more frustrating to me than hotels that don't adjust their rates or packages accordingly (State of Origin anyone?). That's why I was SO pleased to see this latest package from the Emporium Hotel in Brisbane.

24 hour free broadband internet AND a light breakfast for just $15 ... fantastic value!

Here are the details of the package:

Brisbane: Emporium Hotel announces Executive Stays Package for the Corporate Traveller

Brisbane’s stylish and multi-award winning Emporium Hotel has announced a custom-designed package created specifically for the corporate traveller – introducing Executive Stays.

The Executive Stays Package has been specifically designed for the corporate traveller, and includes luxury accommodation in a King Suite, free 24hr broadband access, an Executive Continental Breakfast enjoyed either in the comfort of the suite or packaged up to takeaway on the run, and a complimentary morning newspaper.

General Manager of the Emporium Hotel, Mr Peter Savoff said the needs of corporate travellers were always changing. “Today with tighter budgets, the corporate traveller has to fit even more into what is an already packed meetings schedule. Because of this we have tailored a package which includes exactly what they need – 24 hour internet access, breakfast packaged up on the go if required, newspapers and of course the King Suite so they can rest easily,” he said.

“In addition to the Executive Stays package, guests also receive the very best the Emporium Hotel has to offer – exceptional concierge services, gym and pool facilities, meeting facilities and much more. As a corporate traveller myself, I understand what guests expect, and this is why we have created this package.”

The Executive Stay package is only an additional $15 on a King Suite rate and is available from Sunday to Thursday nights inclusive, valid through until September 30, 2009. It is subject to availability and conditions apply.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

State of Origin accommodation

With just two weeks to go until State of Origin 3 in Brisbane (July 15), I thought I'd give you a quick update on accommodation for that night.

A number of the hotels require pre-payment or have a 7 day cancellation policy in place.

Starting at the top, almost all of the 5 star hotels have availability still, prices start from around $400 for the night of the 15th.

The 4 and 4.5 star hotels, some have availability some are sold out already. The best value accommodation now starts at $350 but is within walking distance of Suncorp Stadium.

There are a number of apartments still available. Of course, the longer you stay the cheaper the per night rate becomes. Based on a two night stay, the night of the State of Origin would be just under $350 and the other night would be under $200.

Even 3.5 star hotels in the CBD are almost $300 and the only one we'd use has a two night stay in place.

If you need State of Origin accommodation in Brisbane, e-mail or call us and we'll let you know what the best available option is.

Michael Jackson's funeral and grave major travel destinations

I came across this article in an industry newsletter and its an interesting (travel-related) thought regarding the passing of Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson's funeral and grave major travel destinations

Macabre though it may seem to talk about it, tourism officials in California are looking at one of the biggest possible potential boosts to the State’s tourism, with millions already travelling to Los Angeles filling hotels and planes while doing so, to pay their respects to Michael Jackson,.

According to in the USA, celebrity funerals and graves have always attracted legions of fans who travel from all parts of the globe, with Rudolph Valentino the first, but hardly the last and once the funeral is over, the pilgrimages reallybegin.

Tourists will travel thousands of miles to visit the gravesite of their favourite celebrity, for example, Elvis Presley's grave at Graceland is the biggest example, drawing tens of thousands of fans annually.

Jim Morrison's grave in Paris and Princess Diana's final resting place in Althorp, England, are also other examples of how popular celebrities can be even in death and how far tourists are willing to travel to pay homage.

The gravesite of Michael Jackson, who died suddenly last week at 50, will undoubtedly be the next great destination for celebrity worshipers who have the time and money for a long-distance cemetery trip and while Jackson's funeral plans have not yet been announced he is likely to be buried in California.

So, while some people might consider celebrity grave visits to be a bid macabre, it's actually an intriguing niche in the travel world, with a number of groups around the world specialising in locating and publicising celebrity graves, or arranging visits, with these groups stressing respectfulness, encouraging fans to say goodbye to a favourite star with dignity and a sense of peacefulness.

If you can't actually travel to a celebrity grave, there are Web sites that post photos and provide precise details about noteworthy graves – check some of these out:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sofitel "$100 reasons why" special

While reading one of the industry newsletters I get each day I came across the following package announcement from Sofitel. For the quality 5 star hotels that Sofitel are, its a great deal!

Do you think the hotels are a little quieter than normal?

Special offer - $100 reasons why packages with Sofitel Australia

Proving that luxury can still represent great value, Sofitel Luxury Hotels is now offering travellers 100 good reasons to stay at a Sofitel hotel or resort in Australia this winter.

Guests who book to stay on this package at one of Sofitel’s five great destinations in Australia until 31 August 2009 will receive a $100 hotel credit each night of their stay, which can be used within the hotel for a wide range of dining options and services.

Sofitel rates start from just $250 per night* (inclusive of the daily credit).

Sofitel Luxury Hotels offer five brilliant destinations along the east coast of Australia: Sofitel Brisbane Central, Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, Sofitel Melbourne On Collins and the majestic Sofitel Werribee Park Mansion Hotel & Spa just 25 minutes from the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stupid inquiry

While catching up on industry news, I also came across the following story that made me laugh. Its been a while since we've had a really stupid inquiry, although I did have to sort out a bit of a mix-up this morning when a traveller that we booked on behalf one of the Travel Management Companies turned up at the wrong hotel and wondered why they didn't have his booking.

He may be living in New Zealand, but poor Jake Morgan has had to put up with an unfair amount of mind numbing questions during his time in the travel industry. While this one isn’t exactly a stupid inquiry, it is perplexing to wonder who is the more intellectually challenged – the agents who booked the trip, or the customers for not realising. Bless.

From Jake Morgan, PREVU Corporation Ltd, Auckland, NZ:

From my time working on a cruise liner in the Caribbean, and later in Grand Cayman, I
was blessed with almost too many stupid inquiries to mention. Here is one of my favourites:

Me: “How are you enjoying your vacation, folks?”

Them: “Lovely, but not what we expected.”

Me: “How so?”

Them: “When we went to the travel agent, we thought we had booked to go to the Grand Canyon.”

Umm, this doesn't look like the Grand Canyon??

Qantas points from Woolworths

Sure, its not about hotel accommodation but I saw this story in one of the travel industry newsletters I read and thought you might find it interesting. I'm sure both companies will be promoting the news over the upcoming weeks.

Woolworths customers to earn Qantas points while shopping

Australians shopping at Woolworths will soon be able to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points due to a unique loyalty partnership announced by the Australian carrier today.

Customers must link their Everyday Rewards and Qantas Frequent Flyer accounts and present their Everyday Rewards card upon purchase of goods.

After doing so, they will earn one point for every $1 spent over $30 in one transaction.
The loyalty program will be available at Woolworths Supermarket and Liquor from 22 June and to BIG W from 16 July.

BWS, Dick Smith and participating Caltex Woolworths co-branded fuel outlets will join the loyalty program later in the year. Dan Murphy’s will not be included.

Purchases over $30 will still grant the four cents per litre fuel discount and customers shopping with a credit card that earns Qantas Frequent Flyer points will still be valid in addition to the $1 points above $30.

Points can be redeemed for flights on Qantas, Jetstar and 23 partner airlines or alternatively, online at the Qantas Frequent Flyer store.

Simon Hickey, Chief Executive Officer of Qantas Frequent Flyer said the partnership was a way for customers to know they were getting value for their money every time they shopped. “Qantas is committed to ensuring the program remains the best way to accumulate points for great value rewards”

Hickey told reporters during a teleconference today that the partnership had not yet revealed what purchasing terms would apply to BWS, Dick Smith and Caltex Woolworths as a part of the loyalty scheme.

Customers can join Everyday Rewards by taking a dedicated card from any Woolworths Supermarket and register at

Qantas said Everyday Rewards members not members of Qantas Frequent Flyer program would be waived of the $82.50 joining fee if they joined Qantas Frequent Flyer through Woolworths.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dinner at Thyme2 - Sofitel Brisbane Central

I took Adam out for dinner last Thursday night to Thyme2, the restaurant at Sofitel Brisbane Central. Adam and I both love our food and the buffet/interactive dining experience gives you plenty of options. Plus I have a discount card that gives me 2 for 1 so its extremely good value.

We virtually always get seated in the same spot, against the window overlooking the clock tower (pictured below) and I had one of the girls (Aurea) I used to work with looking after us, so that was nice.

Food wise I had: oysters, sushi, salads (the best was the crab noodle salad), roast veg (honest I did mum), tandoori chicken, lamb korma, naan bread, dim sims, roast beef. Then it was time for dessert which was cheesecake, strawberry mousse, chocolate tart, chocolate ice-cream, strawberry ice-cream and of course some marshmallows dipped in the (dark) chocolate fountain.

Adam and I both agreed that the lamb korma was the highlight of the experience. Not surprisingly, I was hurting by the end of the meal and didn't eat again until midday the following day!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Australian hotel market ... struggling

A couple of signs that show you how much the Australian hotel market is struggling right now.

1. Adelaide didn't fill for the Clipsal
Usually this is a can't miss event for Adelaide hotels. They can charge what they like for rooms, they can enforce a 4 night minimum stay and they usually fill with a few weeks to go. This year, with a week to go almost all of the hotels still had plenty of rooms so they dropped their rates and their minimum length stay requirements. But it was too late and the city didn't get close to filling.

2. Melbourne didn't fill for the Grand Prix
Again, this is usually a very good event for us and the Melbourne hotels. They charge full rack rates and have a 3 night minimum stay. Some of the hotels filled this year but in the lead up to the Grand Prix you could've got a one night stay on the Saturday night (usually the biggest/most popular night) for less than $200 at a 4.5 star property.

3. Canberra didn't fill for Budget
This was probably the most surprising. Canberra has a lot less 4, 4.5 and 5 star hotels than most of the other cities and usually fills at the drop of a hat when Parliament is in session or there is any sort of event happening. Budget is usually the busiest night of the year for Canberra hotels yet this year most of the 4 star hotels and above didn't fill.

Its clear that hotels aren't making adjustments to the current state of the economy. Companies are being a lot stricter with their corporate travel and aren't willing to pay the exorbitant prices that hotels have demanded in the past. Adelaide and Canberra not filling for their biggest events is evidence of that. The motels and the cheaper hotels that don't add massive event surcharges are still filling, its the top end of town that isn't and needs to make adjustments accordingly.

The next big event on the calendar is the State of Origin. I hope the hotels don't expect to get the rates they have been able to in previous years and start to price their hotel rooms more realistically. Looking at what's currently being asked, I'm afraid they will realise this way too late again ...

Small business ignored in the Budget

I got an e-mail last week from Brisbane Business News after the Budget was announced commenting on the article below. I couldn't agree more with Steven's thoughts, the tax breaks and boosts really don't do much for SME's. I mentioned it to friend's before the last Federal Election that if I never again heard the phrase "working families" it would be too soon. The Labor government certainly hasn't done anything to support small and medium businesses.


It should come as good news to Brisbane’s struggling SME sector. But shadow small business minister Steven Ciobo has taken a swing at what he calls a ‘failed budget’ and that access to capital and cash flow are the real barriers facing SME.

“The fact is that the small business Tax Break is a mirage,” he says.

“Only 30 per cent of small business owners expect to make capital investments in their business over the next six months, as stated in the MYOB March 2009 Australian Small Business Survey.

“Labor does not understand (that) small businesses must have a dollar to be able to invest a dollar. That’s why it was important for Labor to assist small business cash flow. Where are small businesses going to get the money to go and buy new equipment and machinery if they are under cash flow stress? This is the problem the Coalition has been trying to highlight to the Rudd Labor Government for months.”

Speaking of which, a few months ago I received an e-mail from a friend talking about Kevin Rudd and the financial crisis. It relates to small business and I thought it was spot on and worth sharing.

A Boss Who Tells It Like It Is

Date: Sat, 03 Jan 2009

To All My Valued Employees,

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job; however, is the changing political landscape in this country.

However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interests.

First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Subaru Outback outside. You've seen my big home at last year's Christmas party. I'm sure all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealised thoughts about my life.

However, what you don't see is the back story.

I started this company 28 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 2 bedroom flat for 3 years. My entire living area was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.

My diet consisted of baked beans, stew and soup because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a wonky transmission. I didn't have time to go out with women. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business -- hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50,000 a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the David Jones for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the discount store extracting any clothing item that didn't look like it was birthed in the 70's. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don't. There is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child. You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden -- the nice house, the Subaru, the vacations... you never realise the back story and the sacrifices I've made.

Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn't. The people that overspent their pay suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for.

Yes, business ownership has its benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds.

Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don't pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire an accountant to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a cheque to the Australian tax Office for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my "stimulus" cheque was? Zero. Zip. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare cheque? Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.

The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your pay you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? That's nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.

Here is what many of you don't understand ... to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had the government suddenly mandated to me that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Canberra black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don't defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of Australia and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. But the power brokers in Canberra believe the poor of Australia are the essential drivers of the Australian economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep.

So where am I going with all this?

It's quite simple.

If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your 4WD and your child's future. Frankly, it isn't my problem any more.

Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I'm done. I'm done with a country that penalises the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

So, if you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a politicians that swept through this country changed its financial landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about....


Your boss

Thursday, May 7, 2009

British man Ben Southall wins Best Job in the World competition

Other than the swine flu which I mentioned earlier in the week, the other talk in the travel world (other than the economy) has been the "Best Job in the World" competition.

In conjunction with that, Hamilton Island has just released the "Best Holiday in the World" package. Details are below, and click on the second title to find out more about the competition and the winner of it.

Only 74 hours to buy the ‘Best Holiday in the World’ -
Thursday, 7 May 2009

Hamilton Island released a ‘Best Holiday in the World’ package today which will be only be on sale for 74 hours from now until this Saturday, 9 May at 5pm.

The package costs $965 per person and includes 4 nights accommodation with full daily breakfast, Fantasea Cruise to Reefworld on the Great Barrier Reef, a scenic flight over Whitehaven Beach and a 3-course dinner.

Guests will also have access to catamarans, snorkel gear, paddleskis and windsurfers and receive a massage at the Relaxation Centre.

For flights, Jetstar is currently offering a ‘Take a Friend for Free’ sale which applies to all direct Jetstar destinations including Hamilton Island.

The package is in celebration of the winner of Tourism Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ who is most likely smiling himself to sleep.

British man Ben Southall wins Best Job in the World competition | The Australian

BRITISH charity fundraiser Ben Southall has won the Best Job in the World competition.

Picked from a pool of 34,000 applicants from across the world, 34-year-old Southall was one of 16 finalists for the $150,000, six-month Great Barrier Reef island caretaker job starting on July 1.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced the winner's name at a ceremony on Hamilton Island today.

Southall told the audience at the announcement that the campaign, which has generated about $100 million in tourism publicity, had been an “enormous worldwide success”.

“I hope I can sell the reef as much as everybody is expecting,” he said.

He will start his new role as caretaker of Hamilton Island on July 1, being paid $150,000 to sail, snorkel and scuba dive while promoting the island and the Great Barrier Reef to tourists through an online blog.

Among his perks are a three-bedroom luxury villa and buggy to explore the island.

Ms Bligh said the competition had been the “most successful tourism marketing campaign in history”.

Ben Southall, no wonder he's smiling ...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Swine flu quarantine hotel

With talk about the "swine flu" at the moment dominating the news, I came across an interesting article this morning about a hotel that has been quarintined because of the virus.

I had a look at the website of the hotel and I can think of worse places to be locked up for a week or so.

Hong Kong's Metropark: the swine flu quarantine hotel
May 5, 2009

Claims of botched business deals and an endless diet of rice -- guests trapped inside the only hotel in the world quarantined because of swine flu are struggling through their seven-day ordeal.

Hong Kong's Metropark hotel has become a bizarre tourist attraction since it was sealed off on Friday following the discovery that a Mexican guest had tested positive for swine flu.

Passers-by grab pictures of the team of health workers coming and going from the four-star hotel in full protective gear -- unusual garb in a district better known for its strip bars.

But behind the police guards and the sealed doors, the monotony of seven days stuck in a hotel room was beginning to wear on some of the 300 guests and staff.

"Once you have had breakfast and washed, it is back to counting the spots and black marks on the wall again ... before twiddling your thumbs," British businessman Leslie Carr told AFP. He was originally due to leave on Saturday.

Carr has filled the time by blogging about his lunch -- "the choice of rice, rice or more rice with a dash of pork, chicken leg" -- and has even posted videos from inside the hotel on video-sharing site YouTube. One shows how he has used an extension cable as a makeshift washing line.

Others showed more signs of frustration.

One Korean businessman, who gave his name as Jimmy, said he was losing out on a huge business contract because of the confinement. "I am signing contract with (business partners). If I cannot go there (on Monday) the whole contract will be cancelled," he told local broadcaster RTHK. "If I tell them I am in here, then they will never ever see me ... I am a businessman. I don't want to die in this lousy hotel."

But despite the frustrations, some guests were enjoying the attention. "Yesterday's routine was to surf the Internet, and take calls from French media for me and Belgian media for the two other occupants of the room," said French businessman Olivier Dolige via email. "The time passes a bit more quickly as a result."

The city authorities have repeatedly thanked the guests for their understanding and said they have tried to make their stay as comfortable as possible. They have also insisted the measure was the best chance of containing the disease after the Mexican stayed there for around seven hours on Thursday night before going to hospital.

The Mexican remains in a stable condition. There have been no other positive cases in the city.
Cleaning services in the hotel has been stepped up and Hong Kong's health secretary has sent each guest a box of chocolates to thank them for their patience, a government spokeswoman said.

As for money, the cost of the room and expenses would be covered by the Hong Kong government. "They would have been hard pushed to get a credit card out of me after this," said Carr.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canberra "Budget" accommodation

No, I'm not talking about cheap accommodation, in fact far from it. Its one of the biggest nights of the year for Canberra and not surprisingly the rates and availability reflect that.

With just a week to go until Budget night in Canberra (May 12), I thought it was worth updating you on the accommodation situation for that night. Last minutes websites have hotel rooms starting from around $300, but we still have:
  • 3.5 star hotel rooms for under $200/night
  • 4 star hotel rooms from just over $250/night
  • 4.5 star hotel rooms for under $300/night
Don't waste your time ringing around or checking websites, simply call us on 1300 305 997 and we'll make sure you get the best available options to choose from. Get in quick before they sell out ... and priority will be given to stays of more than one night.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mantra Sierra Grand

I was down on the Gold Coast again last weekend for a friend's birthday. The itinerary for the weekend included Dracula's on Friday night and then the casino on Saturday night and of course yours truly was in charge of booking the accommodation.

We wanted to be within walking distance of both so I checked availability at Meriton (where I stayed last time) but came across a fantastic deal at Mantra Sierra Grand. Part of the Stella Group, they had a special "stay 3 pay 2" deal and this even applied to industry rate!! We stayed in a two bedroom and it worked out to be sensational value.

Sierra Grand is a 4.5 star apartment style resort in Broadbeach and it was the perfect location, just a short walk to Dracula's, Conrad Jupiters and Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. The resort even has a theatre room you can book (for free) to watch DVD's or sporting matches!

The weather wasn't great so the only time I saw the beach was from the balcony of our apartment, so my "tan" will continue to stay a whitey shade of grey.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

(Hotel) Prices tumble, so live it up

One of my friends sent me the link to this article (below). He didn't have to tell me tho, with the hotels being hurt by the economic slowdown it means that there are some great hotel specials available at the moment.

Hotels cutting room rates to lure customers

Hotels are cutting room rates to lure customers and beat the credit crunch, writes Paul Edwards.

Australian luxury hotel chiefs broke into a cold sweat when they read that luxury hotels in London had slashed accommodation prices, with room rates for some five-star establishments below those of the budget chain Travelodge.

Five-star prices in Britain are 24 per cent lower than a year ago and there are signs that hotels are locked in a fierce price war.

Could it happen here? Already global giant Accor has cut room rates to $79 in its latest showpiece, the five-star Olympic Park Pullman in Sydney, and there are rooms at Melbourne's venerable Windsor for $150 a night.

Industry insiders say two of Sydney's largest hotels have slashed their rates to lock in major corporate accounts.

Accor spokesman Peter Hook says the top end of the hospitality market is in the hands of company accountants who control corporate travel budgets.

"A firm which last year had good profit figures might have been happy for employees to book into five-star hotels. Now, they can still stay there - but only if the rates are attractive enough," he says.

Accor, which has a raft of brands including Sofitel, Novotel, Grande Mercure and Ibis, recently announced price cuts in more than 100 of its Australian properties from April to the end of July.

"This decision was most definitely influenced by the projected market softness in the first half of the year across Australia and the Asia Pacific region," Hook says.

In Melbourne, David Perry, general manager of the Windsor Hotel, says the outlook is by no means gloomy despite decisions to postpone a planned $45 million refurbishment and to cut room rates, made necessary by the tough economic conditions

"Hotels need to be exceptionally creative and if that means value-adding or tariff-discounting, that's what will happen," he says. "It's certainly happening at the Windsor - as an example we're selling rooms for $150 a night over Easter. That's one-third of the going rate.

"But the future is bright. If there is one place in the world where one can feel confident about five-star hotels, that place is Melbourne.

"Unlike London's grand hotels, which rely on international business, Melbourne's luxury establishments make most of their income from Australians. And with airfares at record lows it makes sense for executives based in other capitals to visit Melbourne to meet their customers. For Sydney visitors the flight could cost less than the taxi to and from the airports."

Megan Magill, the brand manager of online booking agency Wotif, says unlike London, the price-cutting trend here is across the board.

"We've seen that while the five-star hotels are lowering their prices, so too are the three-star places, so they still have the edge on our website," she says. "The credit crunch is seeing cuts in market segments such as corporate, inbound and wholesale. In general, rates have decreased this year but not as drastically as in the UK - there is still differentiation between star-rating categories."