Friday, December 24, 2010

Night at the Novotel

Last Saturday I stayed at the Novotel Brisbane to check out their newly refurbished rooms. (note to self: I really should do this more often)

I had a meeting with one of their sales managers a few months back and saw images of their new lobby (pictured below) which was done first but they're gradually refurbishing all their hotel rooms. I was a little surprised to hear this considering their rooms aren't tired or dated. They've instead chosen to be proactive and have gone for a stylish makeover.

I actually paid for the room myself (rather than talking to sales contacts), mainly due to the fact that we hadn't done that much business with the hotel over the last year or two. I did however ring the reservations manager the day before to see if he could organise a refurbished room for me. When I checked in I was pleasantly surprised to see I had been upgraded all the way from a standard room to a deluxe balcony room. That's not just an upgrade of one level, but three!!

The new refurbishments look great, they've gone with dark brown and red tones in the room, very modern and stylish for a Novotel which are usually bright or resort-y in their feel. My iphone pictures wouldn't do the rooms justice so I'll post pics when the hotel release theirs in the New Year.

I also had breakfast in the restaurant the next morning which was very good. I love my buffet breakfasts and have been spoiled lately by the best - which is Sofitel Brisbane. Novotel was good, but they were missing eggs benedict and no ice-cream with their pancakes. In their favour however, they were also missing the Sofitel price-tag which is almost double!

Where's my Christmas card??

If you're wondering why you haven't received a Christmas card from us, we've chosen instead (like the last few years) to make a donation to the Starlight Foundation.

Thank you for all the cards and well wishes we've received.

After a very challenging 2009, this year has been a very good one here at Capital Reservations. The normal peak/event dates side of the business is steadily returning to normal but we've been lucky enough to pick up a very, very large client that has taken us to a new level.

Due to the ongoing needs of the client mentioned above, our office hasn't really shut down over the festive season. Its just me looking after things during the holidays and I have had some running around to do over the last week, so you might get the voice-mail occasionally but you can leave me a message or just send me an e-mail.

I wish you and your families a very enjoyable and relaxing festive season and we look forward to looking after you again in 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

U2, Jay-Z and the Queensland Premier

I've had some pretty awesome invites in my time but last week was definitely one of the best. As you can tell by the title, I got an invite from the Premier's Department to join Anna Bligh in a corporate suite for the U2 and Jay-Z concert. To say I was blown away when I got the call would be an understatement! Apparently the Premier's Department were wanting some fresh faces in the corporate suite and a list of generation X'ers from business, sport and the arts had been put together.

It was a fantastic night and I even had the honour to chat to Anna Bligh over dinner. It was the night after Oprah arrived in the country so we talked about Anna being there to greet her in Hamilton Island. We also discussed her "walk a day in my shoes" initiative and we were joined at the table by the orderly who worked with her at the P.A. Hospital.

The concert itself was great, even tho I'm more of a fan of Jay-Z than U2. The highlights of the night for me were "Big Pimpin" and "Encore" by Jay-Z and "Where the streets have no name" and "With or without you" by U2.

Below is a pic of myself and my friend Meagan who was my date for the evening and our view of the U2 360 stage.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Oprah House

You would have to be living under a rock not to realise that Australia is experiencing Oprah fever. For the last week, TV news bulletins have been led by where Oprah and her audience have been that day and what they've been up to.

While there is plenty of criticism (mostly on social media) from people that don't understand the fuss or why her visit is news-worthy, ask anyone in the tourism industry and they'll explain it to you. Ever since the infamous "where the bloody hell are you" campaign, Australia has been trying to find the right way to promote the country and attract international visitors. Like her or not, Oprah's visit is the perfect way to promote Australia to the rest of the world. No matter how much it cost Tourism Australia to make the trip happen, it will be worth every cent in the long-run.

I'm not ashamed to say I'm an Oprah fan. Not so much for her TV show (although I do find myself watching it during lunch), but for where she has come from and the empire she has created over the last decade or so. She's now the most powerful woman in the world and does so much good for so many people in this world. Its impressive and inspiring.

Here's a news clip from the filming of her show today at the Opera House (nicknamed The Oprah House during her trip):

Monday, December 13, 2010

You know you're busy when ...

You know you're busy when your dad is in the office helping to answer the phones!!

Its peak corporate travel season and I've had to call in the cavalry to help cope with all the incoming calls we've been getting. So if you've been speaking to an older, Scottish gentleman named Eric, yes that's my dad.

And if you're wondering what's on the paper on the front of the monitor:
"Welcome to Capital Reservations, this is Eric"
(He got a bit flustered last week, so this helps)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ashes 2010

One of the best month's of business we've ever had was back in 2006 when the Ashes was last in Australia. So not surprisingly all the talk in the Brisbane hotel market for the last few months has been how the GFC and the strong Australian dollar would effect the first test this year.

For us, the challenge was balancing expected demand verses the high prices hotels were charging over this likely to be peak time for the city. We had an allotment but it was nowhere near the size of what we had back in 2006 ... yes I was being cautious.

The week leading up to it played out pretty much how I expected. Rather than the city filling for the nights of the cricket, it was the night before and the first night of the cricket that were the biggest and most popular. It was the Wednesday and Thursday where the cricket overlapped with the normal corporate demand that were the ones that sold out. So while I didn't have enough rooms ready to go for those two nights, what we did well with was getting longer stays (at least a week) by having apartments at good rates through this period.

So while sales for November weren't what they were back in 2006, it was still the biggest month we've had in 3 years. And as mentioned, there were plenty of longer-stay bookings that will count as sales for December and January.

Brisbane is the hotel market that benefits the most from the Ashes due to the timing and the overlap with corporate demand. The other city that does well due to the cricket is Adelaide who has the second test and also virtually filled for numerous nights this week (and at very high rates). Perth, Sydney and Melbourne do benefit from the cricket, but not to the same levels as Brisbane and Adelaide because corporate travel has already died down.

Unfortunately for the Australian cricket team, they're not currently enjoying the Ashes anywhere near as much as we are right now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Perth - peak season

Its peak season for corporate travel around the country at the moment but the city that's the busiest would definitely be Perth.

I remember pre-GFC, the mining boom in WA was in full effect and Perth used to sell out week after week. There were plenty of reports in the media about it being impossible to get rooms in Perth and while they were slightly exaggerated, we're not far off that situation again. Essentially, if you don't book your accommodation a week before you travel, you may as well not go.

To give you an idea of how busy it is, the Perth hotels have essentially filled for 5 or 6 weeks straight now. Sure, not every night, but the peak nights (Tuesday & Wednesday) have been filling without a great reason. No massive conferences, no sporting events, our only excuse right now as to why its full is that this is just Perth being Perth.

This week has been one of the worst I've seen ... and again, no good reason, its just peak season. I had an allotment of rooms that I grabbed late last Wednesday night ... and there wasn't much left at that time. Most of the rooms were sold on Thursday and we were completely out by Friday morning. Its been frustrating ever since having to turn away the hundreds of enquiries we've had.

I've loaded up for next week in preparation, so let's see how long they last this time!

Morale of the story: If you're going to Perth in October or November, book your accommodation early ... and before you book your flights.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Long weekend at Hyatt Coolum

Its been a while since I've blogged. Its due mostly because we're in peak season at the moment and we're flat out but also partly due to the fact that I've been doing a bit of travel of late. The first time was the end of October for a friend's 40th birthday.

She's an ex-Brisbane girl now living in Sydney and they love to holiday at Hyatt Coolum, so to celebrate her 40th birthday they invited myself and some other friends to join them for a long weekend at the Hyatt. There were 7 of us sharing a three bedroom Ambassador's Residence and two couples with babies in a two bedroom villa nearby.

The Hyatt is a great resort and the facilities are excellent. The only disappointment from my professional perspective was that the Residence that we were in was in serious need of refurbishment. I believe our friend's villa had been refurbed and looking at the Hyatt's website, I see most of the rooms and villas have been.

The Residence we were in was in a great spot in the resort tho. It was next to the 18th tea so looked straight down towards the clubhouse and was and also just a 20m walk to the Residence lounge (for breakfast each morning and drinks & canapes each evening).

We spent the days relaxing, getting a bit of sun, swimming and reading. The nights were basically spent eating, drinking and catching up on old times.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Worlds Largest Thai Dinner

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to get an invite to an event the Brisbane Marriott was hosting, titled "The Worlds Largest Thai Dinner". In conjunction with their client appreciation week, Marriott's around the world were all hosting a Thai dinner, with the same format and menu for the evening in an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records.

I took Adam along with me as he loves his food but as we had been rather busy of late, I hadn't done much research in to the evening and was surprised to find out that it was an intimate sit down dinner, rather than the normal hotel function (ballroom, stand-up drinks & canapes, etc).

We spent most of the evening talking to Nicole the Revenue Manager at the hotel that we have a great working relationship with. Thanks to Jago, the Director of Sales & Marketing for putting us on the invite list and for hosting the dinner. It was an excellent night and the food was sensational ... and yes, the Marriott spoil me.

Here's the menu from the evening.

thod man pla
(savory fish cakes with kaffir lime leaves, thai sweet chilli sace and cucumber)
and laab gai
(minced chicken salad with shallots, mint leaves and roasted rice powder)

tom yam goong
(traditional thai hot & sour prawn soup)

Main course:
phad thai
(stir-fried noodles with river prawns)
and pla chu chi
(steamed fish in yellow curry)

kluey buad shee
(braised banana in coconut milk syrup)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Andre Rieu reschedules Australian tour

Over the last two years, one of the busiest events on the calendar each year has been the Australian tour of Andre Rieu. He was scheduled to be back again this year, so I was disappointed when Kelli text me one morning to advise that his tour had been cancelled due to illness.

Thankfully he's rescheduled and will be back here in May 2011 ... which gives us plenty of time to prepare.

Rieu reschedules Australian tour - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Violinist, conductor and composer Andre Rieu will return to Australia in May after postponing his concert dates in October due to illness.

Rieu is recovering from a viral infection of the vestibular nerve at his home in Maastricht in the Netherlands.

He says he is confident he will be well enough to perform in early 2011.

'I am so thrilled and excited to be able to come back to Australia and New Zealand in May,' he said in a statement.

'Thank you all for your support and love.

"It has been the best medicine for my recovery."

Rieu is set to visit Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Newcastle, as well as Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand.

Fans who bought tickets to the 2010 sell-out shows will be automatically transferred to the new dates in May.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Darwin trip

I'm sure most of my friends are tired of me talking about Darwin when they ask how business is going ... but what can I say, its been a LARGE part of things over the last few months. While I "patiently" wait for the main part of our business to return to normal (that is helping the travel management companies during peak dates), we've been making hay while the sun shines by booking plenty of long-stay accommodation in Darwin.

So a much needed trip to Darwin took place last week. I had been keeping an eye on the Virgin Blue happy hour specials and it paid off as I picked up flights for basically half the normal price and began planning the visit. Almost all of the accommodation we've been booking in Darwin has been at Mantra Pandanas and Mantra on the Esplanade so they were my first point of call when it came to organising a room for myself. Thanks to Angie in sales, I was given a one bedroom water view apartment (pictured below) at Pandanas which was very nice. I was lucky enough to be on the top floor so had great views, the apartment was a good size and of course fully self-contained.

Virgin Blue has only one flight from Brisbane in to Darwin and one flight out each day and they're not pretty. Land at 12:45 am and fly out at 1:40am ... ouch! I didn't mind too much as it was a really quick trip to see the two Mantra properties, say hi and thanks to the reservations staff that have been looking after us and also check out the newly refurbished Holiday Inn. It was a good trip and great to put faces to names that we've been working with so closely.

And yes it was of course pretty warm up there and it took me a few days to catch up on lost sleep ...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lunch at the South Bank Surf Club

Its been a while since I've caught up with the sales team from Mantra Hotels here in Brisbane so on Friday I was lucky enough to get taken out to lunch by Kate and Jessica (our new sales contact).

We've had a fairly strong last 9 months or so with a number of their hotels around the country (Mantra Pandanas, Mantra on the Esplanade, Mantra on Kent, Mantra Hindmarsh Square and Mantra on Hay), so it was good to get the update on our numbers and everything happening within the Mantra Group.

As mentioned in the title, we had lunch at the Surf Club in the middle of South Bank which is the new restaurant for celebrity chef, Ben O'Donoghue. Its set-up similarly to a surf club but the menu of course is a little bit more fancy and still good value.

The food was great, Brisbane turned on some beautiful weather and I could've stayed there a lot longer than we did!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

40 days and 40 nights of chocolate

The chocolate festival at Sebel Citigate King George Square is back! I'm going in 3 weeks time, mmmmmm ... chocolate

Indulge in Bistro Allure's 40 Days and 40 Nights of Chocolate, from Wednesday 1 September 2010.

Back by popular demand, 40 Days and 40 Nights of Chocolate boasts a 'Chocolate Buffet' overflowing with decadent delights to satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths.

This marks the seventh annual chocolate event which has attracted thousands of chocolate lovers. Tantalise your tastebuds in a chocolate sensation of cakes, gateaux's, slices, tarts, cheesecakes, puddings, ice-creams and complementing mouth-watering sauces.

And if thats not enough, delight in our chocolate fountain offering marshmallows and seasonal fruits.

Bistro Allure Chocolate Buffet -

$25.00 per person

Available for Lunch and Dinner

  • Lunch 11.30am to 3.00pm
  • Dinner 5.30pm to 10.00pm

Bookings essential. Call Bistro Allure on (07) 3222 1128 or email

So much chocolate and so much time....Bistro Allure's 40 Days and 40 Nights of Chocolate.

For more information, click here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Marriott luncheon at Sirromet

Earlier in the month I was lucky enough to get an invite from the Brisbane Marriott (thanks Nicole!) to attend their luncheon at Sirromet Winery. They had the same event 3 years ago so I was looking forward to it ever since I received the invitation.

The day started with coffee & juice in the lobby at the Marriott where I got to talk shop with Jago, the hotel's Director of Sales & Marketing, who I haven't seen for a few years. We then boarded the buses for the trip to Sirromet where we had bubbles on the balcony before sitting down to lunch in Restaurant Lurleen's (voted Australia's ‘Best Restaurant in a Winery').

The best thing about Sirromet is the restaurant and their food. The wine was better than I remembered it from a few years ago ... I stuck with the sauvignon blanc and the bubbles. For lunch, my date for the day enjoyed the duck sausage entree, then beef wrapped in bacon with roasted mushroom and creamy potato and then an individual lemon meringue pie. I had a prawn and avocado entree, salmon main and a chocolate pudding dessert.

It was a beautiful day finished with drinks at the cellar door (pictured below) before jumping on the bus back to the Marriott. Thanks to the team at the Marriott for the invite and for looking after us during the day.

Monday, August 23, 2010

U2 confirm tour of Australia & NZ

Great news over the weekend that U2 have confirmed that they're bringing their 360 world tour to Australia and New Zealand.

Great news, not because I'm a U2 fan (sure, I like their earlier stuff but they lost the plot with Achtung Baby & Zooropa) but its sure to be fantastic for business! Last time they were here (touring with Robbie Williams) was back in 2006 and it again coincided with the Ashes and was one of the busiest times we've seen. I'm of course hoping this upcoming tour will be along the same lines.

Dates confirmed so far are:

Auckland Nov 25
Melbourne Dec 1
Brisbane Dec 8
Sydney Dec 13
Perth Dec 18

U2 doing 360 of Australia - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Rock juggernauts U2 have announced they will be bringing their 360 world tour to Australia at the end of the year.

The band last toured here in 2006 and the latest tour dates have been announced after U2 were forced to cancel the north American leg of their show when Bono underwent back surgery.

Their 2006 tour here had to be rescheduled because of an illness in a band member's family.

They will play in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth in December.

"U2 has always been at their best when surrounded by their audience, and this extraordinary production makes that happen in stadiums, said U2's manager Paul McGuinness in a statement.

"It was important to the band that we were able to bring the whole 360 production to Australia and New Zealand so fans could experience the latest of U2's legendary productions."

U2 are renowned for their stage shows and the latest tour was called 360 because fans surround a giant circular platform complete with LED panels, a 150-foot steel structure and rotating bridges.

It was predicted to become the highest-grossing tour in history.

Tickets go on sale September 3.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bledisloe Cup - Sydney

There's not a great deal of events happening in August, which is a little strange because its usually a very busy month around the country. So with not much to prepare for this month, earlier in the week I started looking at September.

There are conferences, there are sporting events and the first big one will be the Bledisloe Cup in Sydney. There are a number of factors that will make this a big night for the city. Firstly, its on a Saturday night and they're always busy in Sydney. Secondly, its the Bledisloe Cup ... and despite the Kiwis already having wrapped it up, plenty of people will have already bought tickets and any contest between the two countries will always be a spectacle. Third and finally tho is the cross-over event that not everyone knows about ... the Reed Gift Fair also starts in Sydney on the night of the 11th.

A gift fair may not sound like much of an event but if you saw the demand and the damage that the Reed Gift Fair did to the Melbourne market two weeks ago you'll know this one is different. Combine that with the other two factors I mentioned above and September 11 is a night to beware of for Sydney hotels.

So here's the summary of how things look. With a month to go a number of hotels are already fully booked and a number of other hotels are already charging through the roof! There are however a few hotels that are still well-priced so last week I had Tara grab a few allotments to make sure we don't miss out.

If you need accommodation for the Bledisloe Cup in Sydney, I know its still a month away but now is the time to get in. As mentioned, we have a few of the best deals up our sleeve (one bedroom apartments for around $200/night, 4.5 star hotels for under $250/night) so call or e-mail us and we'll let you know what we can do.

And of course ... go Wallabies!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great Entrepreneurs Have Vision, Not Just Ideas

Thanks to Robert Kiyosaki on Twitter for pointing out the article attached below.

It raises a good point that great entrepreneurs aren't just "ideas men". To create successful businesses, its less about the great idea and more about putting a plan together and assembling a team that can turn the vision in to reality.

(Click on the title below to read the full story)

Marty Zwilling: Great Entrepreneurs Have Vision, Not Just Ideas

A popular approach for aspiring entrepreneurs these days seems to be to corner anyone who will listen with a dialogue on their current hot 'idea.' The initial outburst usually ends with the question 'How much money do you think this is worth?' In my humble opinion, ideas are a commodity, and are really not worth anything, outside the context of a vision and plan.

Over the past couple of decades, experts have perfected the art of brainstorming and other idea-generation techniques. Executives and investors are now increasingly exposed to a wealth of ideas. The result is that ideas are no longer in short supply, and no longer a differentiator in competition.

Visionary leaders, on the other hand, are not so common. A visionary is someone who can make sense out of the wealth of ideas, and weave together a plan for implementation that will make a difference in the world. Steve Jobs, for example, probably gets millions of ideas from his friends, but he seems able to focus a few of these into initiatives that show real innovation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Palazzo Versace - August Special



For August only, book our very exclusive Family & Friends rate and receive a complimentary upgrade!
For personal assistance please call
07 5509 8000 and QUOTE 'Family & Friends'.

Accommodation FROM $300
Palazzo Versace

For more information, check out the hotel's website.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Night at Sheraton Noosa

I spent the night at Sheraton Noosa on Saturday night as some friends and I went to a 30th birthday party in Tewantin.

I shared a twin room with a couple of friends and another couple had the interconnecting room next door. Due to "connections", we got an extremely good rate and somehow we got upgraded to a pool view room.

I haven't been to Sheraton Noosa for a number of years so it was interesting to note the refurbishing they've done since. The lobby has been done up and they have redone the bedding package in all the rooms.

What struck me most about the rooms is their size ... they are huge (especially compared to many city/corporate hotels)! The first thing I noticed that they haven't worked on since I was last there is the bathrooms. They really don't need that much work done to them, they are still in good condition, but the tiles look quite dated and overall it could use some TLC or freshening up. Bathrooms are usually the most expensive part of a room to refurbish so its no great surprise that these are yet to be done.

We had a discount to the hotel restaurant but since a few of my friends were feeling the effects from the night before, we decided a buffet might not be the best idea. We instead had breakfast at Bistro C on the beach. Despite being busy, the service was good and all the meals were excellent. One of the girls even went as far as to call it "the best breakfast experience she's had".

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bastille Day at the Sofitel Brisbane

I was lucky enough to score an invite to Sofitel Brisbane's Bastille Day function on Wednesday night. As Accor is based in France, the Sofitel doesn't do a Christmas party for their clients, they instead have the Bastille Day function.

Having been to the re-opening of their restaurant which was fantastic, I was really looking forward to this night. The function was held on the 30th floor which is usually their club lounge and as soon as we walked in we were greeted by the General Manager and given a chilled glass of Rose.

The hotel had gone all out, there was a cocktail bar, several wine bars, an oyster bar, ice-cream bar a buffet of cheeses, pate's and even macaroons. And if that wasn't enough ... the hotel day spa had set up a lounge and were doing head, hand or shoulder massages!

It was great to see a number of familiar faces there and as expected it was an excellent night.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Portal Hotel

Kelli and I started making bookings at The Portal Hotel in Brisbane a few months back and after a few good comments from clients, it was well and truly time I paid them a visit to have a look around.

We get along really well with the staff at the hotel so they invited me to have lunch with them after the hotel inspection. It was an offer too good to refuse so I gladly accepted.

The Portal is a boutique 4 star hotel with 85 rooms located on Astor Terrace, Spring Hill ... just behind the Novotel Brisbane. As you walk through the French iron gates to the front desk and hear the chatter from the bar and restaurant, you immediately get the feel of a boutique hotel (like The Kirketon in Sydney).

The rooms aren't what you would describe as large or spacious but they are really nicely fitted out (and I hear the beds are awesome) and they've taken care of all the little details that you need.

The hotel is only a year old and hasn't had its official opening yet as its been a work in progress up until now. As they find their place in the market, the rates are extremely good value compared to hotels of similar standard, perfect for a corporate stay midweek or as a base for a weekend on the town.

I thoroughly enjoyed my salt & pepper squid lunch which the girls described jealously as the dish of the day (it looked great and was).

I believe they're working on a new improved website but in the meantime, click here to find out more details about The Portal. Don't be put off by the Best Western affiliation, I was at first too, but after looking through the hotel its not at all what I expected and will be recommending it from now on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why we should train kids to be entrepreneurs

Its not accommodation or hotel related but its about business and is well worth watching when you have a moment. I came across it thanks to Guy Kawasaki's Twitter account.

Its funny, I always tell people I'm not the sort of person who grew up wanting to own their own business but its funny how many of the things he mentions he did as a kid that I did too (collecting cans, caddying, mowing lawns, etc). I guess entrepreneurship was always there for me ... it just took longer to fully come to the surface.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Zero Star Hotel?

Interesting story I read this morning in one of the industry newsletters about a new no-frills hotel concept from Switzerland. Zero star? Not quite what we specialise in, but certainly a different spin on things.

Swiss zero star hotel makes big break to commercial world. - swissinfo

Switzerland may be the land of luxury, but one unique no-frills hotel concept plans to occupy the niche budget sector with eye-catching venues and a butler service.

The Zero Star Hotel started off life in a disused nuclear bunker as an art project making a statement against making a fast buck. But it enjoyed such success that it will soon relaunch as a commercial venture.

The original location in Teufen, canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes, closed down a year after opening but has transformed into a museum commemorating the original hotel. The new site is shrouded in secrecy but promises to be unusual and in a city.

The idea was born when twin brothers Frank and Patrik Riklin, both artists, were asked by the local council to convert the nuclear bunker into affordable accommodation. They claim they created the world’s first zero-star hotel under the caption: “The only star is you”.

But the 14-bed low-budget hotel, charging SFr10-30 ($8.75-$26) a night, proved such a big hit that the twins and their partner, hospitality expert Daniel Charbonnier, co-founded the concept as a commercial brand.

“We had to walk before we could run, so the first hotel acted as a prototype,” Charbonnier told “Our market research showed that 80 per cent of guests would come back, but they told us they would prefer it to be in a city.”

Butler service

Charbonnier, who runs hospitality consultancy Minds in Motion, would not reveal how many guests had stayed at the hotel, but said they came from 29 countries, from all walks of life and had an age range of seven to 77.

“Many of our guests told us they would normally stay in a three- or four-star hotel,” he said. “We managed to attract customers who wanted a good quality of service but who had recently tightened their budgets.”

The austere windowless surrounding and shared bathrooms were brightened by a butler who brought tea or coffee in the morning and acted as a concierge for guests. Aside from the unique location, the unique selling point will remain the personalised butler service for guests travelling on a shoestring.

A butler may seem at first glance to be at odds with an artistic statement against greed, but Charbonnier insisted that the concept works.

“A butler has many negative connotations with luxury, but a person who spends less on their accommodation also deserves first-class service,” he said. “Our message is that making money involves hard work and that there are no sustainable short cuts.”

Expensive image

The management group even turned down an offer of financial backing from a Russian investor because they felt he did not understand the concept and that the brand’s integrity would be lost.

Urs Eberhard, a vice-director at the Swiss tourist board, was enthusiastic about the hotel turning commercial.

“Anything that differentiates itself and provides a unique experience has a chance of success,” he told “Maybe this will change people’s perception that Switzerland is an expensive place to visit.”

“There is a current trend for people to downgrade hotels or even to go camping. People are now much more willing to experience different offerings, staying in a youth hostel while hiking and then spoiling themselves in a wellness centre by a lake.”

Much of the success of the Zero Star Hotel has been put down to wide media coverage providing free publicity. The hotel has not spent a single franc on advertising.

But Christian Laesser, a professor of tourism and service management at St Gallen University, has doubts about what would happen when the media coverage runs dry.

Location, location, location

“It would then have to seek unconventional means of getting noticed on the market or rely on word of mouth so it can continue to generate revenues,” he told

In fact, Zero Star Hotel has already taken great strides to getting noticed, having been listed in the Lonely Planet travel guide for a year.

Lukas Brunner from the research institute for leisure and tourism at Bern University believes the hotel is making the right move to an urban centre because cities, particularly Zurich and Geneva, are the current prime locations for attracting guests.

But he cautioned that the hotel would need to find a location as unique as the Appenzell nuclear bunker to keep its appeal.

“This will not be easy in a city such as Zurich because real estate prices are much higher,” he told “The location is very important, but I believe the concept could be profitable.”

Charbonnier said several sites were being investigated but could not give a time scale on when the new hotel would open. But he was optimistic that the brand could expand further to include other locations, even beyond Switzerland.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The return of Tiger Woods

The great news yesterday was the official announcement that Tiger Woods will return to Melbourne later this year to defend his Australian Masters title.

His visit to Melbourne last year coincided with corporate travel bouncing back after the economic slowdown. Thanks to Tiger (and a Britney Spears concert), it was a massive week for Melbourne hotels and great for business around here as well.

While looking for one of the news reports about the announcement, I came across the news article below that 2011 will be even better! Click on the title to read the full story. Great news for golf fans, great news for us and Melbourne hotels.

Woods also set for 2011
June 10, 2010
TIGER Woods' decision to defend his Australian Masters title has guaranteed another bumper edition of the tournament that was in danger of dying two years ago. But if 2009 was big and 2010 is just as big, then 2011 should be a monster.

That's because the Presidents Cup, the biennial teams event between the United States and an International team, is to be played at Royal Melbourne in the same month, November 14-20. By piggy-backing on to that tournament, the Masters should have not only Woods playing, but a host of other big-name golfers looking for some tournament play on the sandbelt.

The Masters is likely to be held at Kingston Heath from November 10-13, the week before the Presidents Cup. Possibly the Australian Open will jump on, too, by scheduling to play in Sydney the following week, for three weeks of top-level play. It is the kind of window of access that Australian tournament golf has craved since the halcyon days of Greg Norman's fame.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hotel upgrades

Here's a decent article I came across today about getting free upgrades.

The best piece of advice from the article is also what I tend to tell our clients:

The greatest piece of overall advice is simple: Be nice. Leave the diva act to the actual divas. They can get away with it because they can leave paths of $100 bills in their wake. To win the favor of desk clerks and ticketing agents, always be polite, friendly and honest. Flight attendants can smell a fake honeymoon couple a mile away, but if you're a likable person with a specific, reasonable request, doors will be opened for you … and maybe even a curtain.

Click on the title below to read the full story.

HowStuffWorks "How to Get Hotel Upgrades"

Not all hotel upgrades are created equal. Some people only want the luxury suite, while others just want a bigger bed, a better view, wireless Internet access or the farthest room from the cacophonous ice machine [source: Mueller Shulte]. Simple as it may sound, the best tip for getting exactly the kind of upgrade you want is to ask for it. If you're friendly, polite and personable, the desk clerk might just play ball.

Of course, there are several things you can do to increase your upgrade odds. For one thing, if you're swinging for the suite, don't book the cheapest room in the hotel [source: Mueller Shulte]. The staff is much more likely to bump you up from a second-tier room to a top-level suite than to pull off a miracle upgrade from the $53 Web-only special.

Which brings us to another tip: Don't book your reservations online. A phone reservation gives you the opportunity to make a personal connection with the hotel staff [source: Klein]. This presents an excellent opportunity to mention any special circumstances that could lead to a courtesy upgrade: first time in the city, anniversary, birthday or romantic vacation. If staff members can match a human being with the name on the reservation, they'll be more likely to help.

Continue to make personal connections during your stay at the hotel, particularly with the general manager. Ask to see the manager and mention a few things you really like about the hotel. Give the person your business card and tell him or her that you hope to stay at the hotel again. Next time you plan to stay at the hotel, call the general manager directly to make your reservation, and you might end up getting VIP treatment [source: Mueller Shulte].

If you want guaranteed VIP status, you must first prove your loyalty. Sign up for the frequent stay card. Get everyone at your company to patronize the same chain of hotels. Mention your company's policy when you're making your reservations and when you check in. Hotels love frequent business travelers (and their expense accounts), so they'll be much more willing to fulfill any special requests.

If all else fails, try these proven strategies:

  • Stay on slow days (usually Sundays and Mondays)
  • Check in late in the day
  • Make a last-minute reservation at a busy convention hotel (all of the cheaper rooms will already be booked, but they might upgrade you to keep your business) [sources: Detwiler, Klein and Mueller Shulte]

Now let's look at some tips for nailing that elusive first-class upgrade.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

March ... the month that was

After the madness that was February, with phones ringing off the hook and not being able to keep up with demand, it was time to call in the reinforcements. The quiet times of 2009 seemed to have past and there was a number of events coming up in March that had potential to do good things. So with that in mind, one of my friends Kelli, came on-board to man the phones and help with the rebuilding process.

March started with the end of the AC/DC tour as they hit Adelaide and Perth. Adelaide was in the middle of festival season plus the Clipsal 500 was on. Perth had a number of large conferences that thankfully I knew about in advance. Melbourne had the Grand Prix ... but while busy, it failed to deliver the demand that it did a few years ago.

Like Sydney in February, the main demand in March was for Canberra. There were a number of weeks when parliament was sitting but one of the major reasons the city was so popular was because of the Masterpieces From Paris art exhibition. Due to this exhibition, all the hotels were full every weekend which is very unusual for Canberra. Then, there was the planned visit of US President Barack Obama ... but thankfully they was postponed.

Canberra has never had as big a month as they did in March ... so much so that our joke in the office was that "Canberra is the new Sydney".

February ... the month that was

Sure, its somewhat belated, but here's a quick review of the month that was February.

End of December, start of January is always a very quiet time around here as there is very little corporate travel happening to the Christmas/New Years' break. February tho, everything changed and the month was all about two things ... the city of Sydney and the AC/DC tour.

Sydney has NEVER seen a month like it. It began with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, then there was Top Gear Live and the Chinese New Year, AC/DC concerts, conferences, the gay & lesbian mardi gras and a large gift fair. Every week the city was virtually fully booked and every single weekend was a complete write-off. Rooms were almost impossible to find and rates sky-rocketed. It was painful how many phone calls I had for dates when the city was already full.

As mentioned, other than just calls for Sydney, February was dominated by the AC/DC tour. I got wind of it being something big when I actually got calls for rooms in New Zealand when the concerts were on. AC/DC filling cities in New Zealand is one thing ... but when they're touring Australia and doing multiple concerts in each city, no one would have imagined how big they were going to be. By the time they had filled Sydney for 4 or 5 straight nights I could at least be prepared for when they hit Adelaide and Brisbane ... even then tho, demand far out-weighed my supply.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's included in the room rate?

Here's an interesting article from an industry newsletter I read.

The honest guest’s guide to free hotel amenities

Where’s the line?

When you’re staying at a hotel, is it OK to pocket the bottles of shampoo and lotion? How about the magazines? Bathrobes? Furniture?

It depends on the traveler. A recent Travelocity survey found 86 percent of hotel guests admitted to taking toiletries, like oatmeal soap and lavender body gel. About three percent said they swiped a bathrobe or slippers, and one percent said they stole dishes, silverware, electronics and — I’m not making this up — Bibles.

Not to get all theological, but for anyone who filched God’s Holy Word from their room (at least the ones that weren’t meant to be taken), I would advise you to return it at your earliest convenience. I don’t even want to think about the punishment that awaits you now — or in the hereafter.

The point is, we can all agree that there is a line. We can’t necessarily agree where the line is.

“There are gray areas,” admits Dominique Marty, the general manager of the Millennium Bostonian, a 201-room upscale property with its fair share of swipe-able amenities, including soaps, gels, lotions, bathrobes and … TVs.

“Yes,” he sighs. “It was a smaller, flat-screen TV. One day it was there, the next day it was gone.”

In case you were wondering what happens next, Marty’s staff contacted the guest who had occupied the room during the disappearance and asked about the whereabouts of the hotel’s TV. They were polite. They were persistent. “But you can only push so far,” he says. In the end, the hotel took the loss.

I don’t know exactly where the line is, either, but I can tell you that taking TVs — and Bibles — crosses the line. I asked frequent hotel guests where they thought it was. Here are their thoughts:

If there’s a price tag on it, it’s off limits.
Seems pretty obvious, right? Hang on. The bathrobes in your room may have a price tag, but they’re also there to be used during your stay. Off goes the tag. And from there, it’s not much of a leap to your unpacked bag. Brenda Rivera, a finance systems specialist from Cedar Park, Texas, says she thinks twice before folding away a hotel bathrobe. “When you know you are going to get charged $125,” she says, “you leave it.” But she wonders about the amenities that don’t have price tags, like towels. It’s a gray area, since some hotels have given away towels as a promotion in the past.

If you can consume it, it’s yours.
“I take all toiletries every time I go to a hotel,” says Lori Brawner, an airline sales supervisor in Lutz, Fla. “This includes the shower caps and the shoe-shine cloths, too. There is no sign on them that indicates there is a fee or charge to me if I take them and something about the little basket in the bathroom brings out the hoarder in me.” My hotel sources tell me it’s fine to take something that can be used only once, like a shower cap, or that can’t be recycled once it’s opened, like a bottle of lotion. One manager even said it was OK to take the slippers. But there are a few notable exceptions. The bottled water in your room can be consumed, but unless you’re staying on the concierge floor, you’ll probably be charged for it. Ditto for anything in the minibar. So consume with caution.

Don’t take more than you’re supposed to.
In other words, hands off those carts stocked with soaps and lotions. Those are meant for someone else’s room. “I know someone obsessed with hotel shampoo and soap, and he even stalks the housekeeping carts to steal handfuls,” says Marianne Cushing, a vice president for an ad agency in Fort Myers, Fla. “I told him I think he has a problem and needs to seek professional help.” I agree with her — raiding the cart crosses the line. There’s a reason why each hotel room gets just one set of toiletries, as opposed to a bucket full of soap containers.

Card keys are OK.
Magnetic card keys may be recyclable, but no one is going to think twice if you don’t return yours. (I’ve tried, and the hotel clerk is never impressed by my honesty.) “That’s one thing I take consistently — the room keys,” says Scott Friedman, a sales manager for a pet accessory company in Muscatine, Iowa. “I have this fantasy of making a collage all out of hotel room keys. It will be huge — maybe 4 feet by 6 feet long. I envision selling it to an art gallery in Soho.” Friedman is serious. He’s even got the color of the sky selected (“Hampton Inn blue”). Friedman and others who have a key card collection are in the clear. Unless they grab a handful of card keys from behind the desk, the hotel won’t mind.

Hotels aren’t charities (despite their low rates).
Some hotel guests — not you, I’m sure — justify taking generous handfuls of soaps and lotions off the cart with the idea that at some point, they’ll donate it to a homeless shelter or some other charity. This, too, is problematic. Catherine Banks, a vice president for a travel agency in Plano, Texas, used to collect toiletries from the hotels she visited, which, as I’ve already noted, is completely acceptable. “I donated them to a women’s shelter,” she told me. However, raiding the housekeeping cart, even if it’s for a good cause, is questionable.

There are exceptions to every rule. Mark Bolster, a photographer and avid soap collector from Pittsburgh, Pa., admits to swiping “one or two” soaps from the cart for his project. Although he’s modest about it, he may have one of the most impressive hotel and airline soap collections anywhere (yes, airlines used to have little bars of soap before they switched to the liquid — I think I still have a few with the Eastern Airlines logo in my attic). His bars include extinct airlines like Pan Am, obscure ones, like Air Afrique, and hotels from Motel 6 to Ritz-Carlton.

But he always does it with permission from a housekeeper. After years of collecting, he adds, “no one has had a problem with it.”

So where’s the line? It’s there — not always clearly visible — but look hard and you might see it.

Please let me know when you do.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barack Obama Australian visit

From The Australian:

Obama to stay 24 hours in Canberra at end of Asia-Pacific visit

BARACK Obama will spend barely 24 hours in Australia as part of his rushed Asia-Pacific visit next week.

The White House today released details of the President's itinerary for a one-night stopover in Canberra that will include dinner and bilateral talks with Kevin Rudd and an address to a special joint sitting of Parliament.

A special media briefing today by the White House on the President's proposed visit to Guam, Indonesia and Australia indicates Mr Obama's departure will go ahead as rescheduled on Sunday, Washington time, after difficulties in passing health reform in the US congress forced a three-day delay.

It remains unclear, however, what the President will do if the health legislation that he rates as his number one domestic priority is not passed by the time he is due to depart.

One possibility is a further delay in the trip. A senior Washington insider told The Australian today that if Mr Obama left Washington for his Asia-Pacific trip without passage of a healthcare bill it would mean the reform agenda he values so highly was dead.

Mr Obama will visit Australia at the tail-end of a shortened Asia-Pacific trip that begins with Guam and then Indonesia. He was originally meant to bring his wife Michelle and their daughters Malia and Sasha, but now the President is to travel without his family. A proposed visit to Sydney during what was to be a longer stay has been cancelled.

The President will arrive in Guam on Monday to address the military personnel and local community living at the US base on the Pacific island.

On Tuesday he is to arrive in Jakarta for bilateral talks and a state dinner with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mr Obama will formalise a new co-operation agreement between the US and Indonesia on Wednesday. He will also deliver a speech rated by the White House as a follow-up to the President's Cairo address last June that affirmed a US desire to re-engage with the Muslim world in the Middle East. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

On Thursday next week Mr Obama will travel to Bali for a Civil Society event - an initiative of Mr Yudhoyono - that reaffirms Indonesia's commitment to democracy and human rights.

He will arrive in Canberra late on Thursday for a private dinner with Mr Rudd. On Friday, Mr Obama will fit a packed schedule into his day in Canberra before leaving for Washington in the evening.

He will meet Governor-General Quentin Bryce, hold bilateral talks with Mr Rudd, hold a joint press conference with the Prime Minister, address a joint session of Parliament, attend a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of official US ties with Australia and then depart from Canberra Airport aboard Air Force One.

The Obama administration's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, said Australia was a longstanding ally and had a model alliance with the US.

“Australia ... is an increasingly important ally in both the region and the world,” Mr Rhodes said.

“In many ways, it's a model alliance for the United States. We have very robust cooperation with the Australians on security issues, economic issues, environmental issues.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sydney - Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Sure, the Australian Open Tennis kicks off the year as far as big events for the Australian hotel market but it was nothing compared to this week in Sydney.

This week sees the Edinburgh Military Tattoo come to Sydney, an annual event that is growing by the year. Its at the SCG this year which is just on the outskirts of the CBD and the hotels are feeling the full effect of its presence.

It started making waves about 2 weeks back but by the time I returned from Melbourne and after the Australia Day public holiday, the main night February 6 was essentially sold out. It seemed to be a weekend event which usually does mean much for us because we work closest with the corporate market. Near the end of last week tho the effect of the Tattoo were spreading in to the midweek dates. Friday was a very day for us and this week has started the same way. The city of Sydney is now close to full on not just Saturday but Wednesday, Thursday as well. There are some rooms available here and there but trying to find a hotel that can do two nights in a row is extremely difficult.

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is yet another event that people would not imagine could fill a city, especially Sydney, but it certainly has.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Australia Day (non) long weekend

I'm in Melbourne from tomorrow morning (Saturday) and not flying back until Monday evening. The office will be closed on Monday and with the Australia Day public holiday on Tuesday we will return on Wednesday January 27. Sure, its officially a long weekend but we're taking this opportunity to make it one! It would un-Austraaaaalian not to ...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Golf hotels

I found this article in one of the industry newsletters I read and thought it was worth sharing. Its for all the golf fans out there (like myself) but its also about unique hotels.

Click on the title below to read the full story and check out the slideshow to see some great pics. One of the photos is of the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews which I'm lucky enough to have stayed at.

Bunker down in a crazy golf hotel -

(CNN) -- Golf is a game which lends itself to luxury stays in swanky resorts, so not unnaturally the accommodation offered in its hotels and clubhouses is often of the highest standard with cutting edge architecture and design to the fore with no expense spared.

But there is also room for the quirky and downright odd so Living Golf has trawled the world to come up with some examples of the best on offer and the most unusual.

We have discovered there is something for everyone from the classic Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews to a planned five-star underground complex as well as a run-of-the-mill motel which can satisfy the needs of both petrol heads and golf lovers.

There are falcons rising out of the desert and lodges that can put golfers truly in tune with the wilds of Africa because everywhere golf is played, architects and entrepreneurs are pushing the boundaries to attract customers to their complexes.

The spectacular entrance to the clubhouse at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Movember follow-up

Back in November, I posted about my friend Dirk who had taken up the Movember challenge. I mentioned I would show an "after" pic to let you know how he got on ... so here it is:

The challenge given to Dirk was to grow a Freddie Mercury (on the left) and as you can see he did a pretty good job given he had just one month.

Dirk raised over $400 for The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Beyond Blue. He's already set loftier goals for himself in 2010 ... but great work Dirk!