Tina Villis

Move over, Motels – the Accommodation Share Economy is Rolling Through

I recently read an amusing article in the SA Weekend by Australian Columnist Susie O’Brien, titled “Why my kids would prefer I’d book an Airbnb”. The content really got me reminiscing about my experiences staying in motels with my parents, when the only alternative option to accommodation in hotel, was the motel. Situated usually in locations on the outskirts of a town suitable for passing traffic, including holiday makers on the way to their holiday destination or the overnight stay for the business rep coming into town for the monthly visit.

I smiled and sniggered as I read Susie’s article remembering a one-night stay on the west coast of South Australia, on my way to Perth with my father many years ago.  My dear Dad helped me drive over to Perth to commence a 12-month Midwifery course in my second hand 1960’s Hillman Hunter.

Getting back to the night’s stay at the Ceduna Motel, having a shower in the early hours of the next morning to get going onto the next leg of our trip, I remember to my dismay not being able to get a lather up to wash my hair even though I used half a bottle of shampoo – no chance as it was salt water!

The typical style of motel has not changed since those days – usually a row of numbered rooms, with the front door opening onto your car park creating ease of access. Inside you will find a bed covered with a patterned bed bedspread attempting to match the décor of the room, the art work, usually the one piece that has hung there for years with no connection to the ambience of the rest of the room. A bar fridge with a few long-life milk capsules (difficult to open, spilling more in the saucer than in the cup!) Then you have the glasses covered in individual paper bags portraying hygienic practices, a few cheap brand coffee sachets with options of granules or powder. You may also be fortunate enough to find a decorative animal wrapped towel on the end of your bed, with individually wrapped bath soaps strategically placed and the paper sash on the toilet seat to suggest it has been hygienically cleaned and ready to go. The TV (colour these days) is placed on a teak modular unit which has the fridge located underneath and the kettle, cup, spoons (also wrapped in a utensil paper bag if you are lucky) along with the sachets of tea, coffee and sugar on a tray in close proximity.

Unfortunately for the motel industry, guest expectations have changed and as motels become more outdated they will eventually become a relic of the past. In the last few years we have seen disruption in the accommodation world where people are offering their spare room or whole of house for short term accommodation. This industry has captured the Airbnb-inspired phenomenon of providing luxury in-house stays for holiday makers or travelling professionals. We are seeing property owners ‘doing their own thing’ often with little understanding of the business and companies popping up at every turn to provide professional expertise on ‘how to do it’, offering services such as photography, furnishing and styling, pricing management and fee maximisation, guest ‘meet & greets’, housekeeping and linen services, providing financial reporting and visibility for guest bookings and reviews.

Guests are rightfully no longer content with a bed with the option to have a cup of coffee and take a shower; they are now expecting at least:

  • complimentary fast Wi-Fi – almost more important than running water!
  • cleanliness and comfort standards on par with hotels
  • a coffee maker with variety of flavoured options
  • luxury bedding, plenty of towels & bathroom toiletries
  • Smart TVs
  • Foxtel, Netflix
  • New age sound systems
  • a welcome basket of ‘goodies’ on arrival
  • access to a mini bar
  • 24-hour check-in and late checkout

Maybe the current younger generations will reminisce in time and think about their experiences staying in accommodation as it is today, as I did looking back to motel accommodation of the past. Maybe their reaction will also be one of a giggle and a smile thinking ‘my, how things have changed!’  One thing is true – change is a given and very much driven by our needs and wants. Welcome to the new era in short term accommodation – it has been around for many years, but it is only in the last few years that the concept has captured the core of the general public. The next trend may well be underway quietly somewhere…

I agree with Susie O’Brien and see this transition as a nostalgic experience and leave you to ponder, was the past better than the present?