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.