Why is there a difference between U.S.A Inns, B&B’s and motels and Australian motels?

Why is there a difference between U.S.A Inns, B&B’s and motels and Australian motels? Even United Kingdom guests houses and hotels you can see the guests comfort is at the forefront of hoteliers minds. Has the hospitality industry changed so much overseas that Australia is still catching up? Or are the hoteliers in the USA had to reinvent themselves because of the pressure from large chain hotels.

We are about to sell our motel that we have spent the last 2 and a half years repositioning it to be a viable business here in a regional town of NSW and while we are waiting for the sale to be finalised, we thought we would have look around for our next project. We love the idea of heading to the USA and buying an inn and have been doing some research.

What I have found is there is a distinct difference in the countries within the same industry.

In both the USA and the UK I have looked at properties for sale. Guest rooms are centered around the guest comfort. The decor is lovely even the wallpaper is sometimes coordinated and the owners pride in the property can be seen throughout, so I am completely puzzled as to why when you look at Motels in Australia especially regional areas, you can only find basic bland motel rooms in many of them.

So many motels in regional Australia offer nothing more than really basic necessities. You know the type -If not then picture this.

Most rooms as soon as you enter the room, which is normally dark because curtains have been drawn closed, have a long bench type table. This table or bench is multipurpose of course. It serves as a desk, luggage rack, tv stand, it usually has the kettle and coffee making facilities on top. It will be used by guests as their dining table as well because there is usually a dining chair tucked underneath it and if you are really lucky at the end of it will be the attached wardrobe.

In the same room, you will see headboard bolted on the wall with the obligatory attached bedsides and inbuilt clock radio. The bedside lamps will be fixed and offer no advantage for extra lighting anyway. The quilt on the bed is multicoloured, heavy to lift and doesn’t match anything else in the room. It is multicoloured because then you can’t see the dirt as one owner has said to me. I asked him why is it even on the bed if it is dirty? If you are really lucky you might find a couch big enough for one or 2 chairs if not, you will have to sit on the bed for the night to watch tv.

Before Photo
Basic motel room

Curtains will be faded and old possibly only held on with a couple of curtain rings.

The probably don’t really cover all the windows anyway and when you close them they will not cover the other side of the window. If you have “fancy netting” it will be of poor quality, full of dust and possibly crunchy to the touch. Carpets are the best quality shag style carpet that crunches underfoot and possibly got cleaned back in 1972.

The air conditioner will be tucked in the window or above the door for maximum effect it will scream when you turn it on and keep you awake all night. Near the door, there will be the breakfast hatch that hasn’t been open for years.

You will find a bathroom with 1970 tiles on the wall and unco-ordinated floor tiles that are cracked in places over the years of wear and tear. The shower will have a flimsy shower curtain that will stick to you while you soap yourself down in the morning and plastic taps. The shower will offer a relaxing 8 squirts of water out of the rose so you will need to dance around the shower to get wet.

So many regional motels in Australia offer so little to the general public.

We ourselves, have a 35-year-old motel and have reinvented it to something that has character and warmth. Each room has either been fully renovated or at the least restyled and decorated to provide our guests with all the creature comforts of home. We have increased our occupancy to over 83% and have lessened our OTA bookings dramatically and increased our return guests and direct bookings.

Our guests love the different styled rooms and that is what keeps them coming back. It hasn’t been easy to rejuvenate the motel and we have spent long hours every day maintaining and improving it.

Updated Motel Room
Updated Motel Room
Rejuvenating their own motel to improve their business

It annoys me greatly that other property owners don’t see the potential in rejuvenating their own motel to improve their business. Or do they just think we won’t make things nice because guests will only wreck things or steal them? If this is the case then they need to work on changing their own clientele and more importantly learning what the definition of hospitality is.

Look at each room like a blank canvas

Looking at a room with standard motel furniture and convincing yourself this is ok is wrong. No one has set down in stone that you have to have a long multifunctional bench in your rooms. It takes no time to refurbish a motel room and make it not only comfortable but offer real value for money for your guests.

Time to get creative

I wish owners would get creative when refurbishing and think outside the box. Consider replacing the long bench with a stand-alone TV cabinet or a dresser. Offer your guest somewhere more comfortable to sit during the night in front of the TV apart from the bed. Customise bed heads, vanities and kitchenettes.

Simple fixes first

Simply replacing tapware in the bathroom and installing a rain shower is gold to guests. Get rid of the same artwork you have hanging in each room and replace it with something you have painted yourself. A refurbishment doesn’t have to cost $$$$. Have fun with it. Upcycle furniture, paint walls, replace curtains and some artwork. All easy jobs to do yourselves.

Don’t feel the need to do the whole motel at once.

Prioritise work into different categories – quick fixes like changing bed linens to white. Its looks fresh and guests can see its clean. Purchase new furniture or repurpose some old dressers from the second-hand shop with a lick of paint and new door knobs. Changing out the tapware. Then a long-term plan would be retiling or renovate the bathroom.

Bathroom renovation
Renovated Bathroom – white tiles, stone bowl and custom vanity.

My husband and I haven’t got a degree in hospitality nor have we been to a hospitality college. We both come from completely different walks of life and careers. We run our business well, work hard and have learnt by our own mistakes.’

You soon work out your guests demographic and if you put some work in to make some changes, it soon becomes easier to say no to the guests you don’t want to attract.

Offer more than basic offer value for money

Lifting your rooms from offering basic necessities to guests to offer more than just basic, add some special touches and extras that they don’t expect is easy. If you understand that when a guest stays with you whether it be for a night or a week you are motel room is their home during their stay. They will show their appreciation by becoming return guests and in reviews, which goes hand in hand with an increase in your revenue.

Special touches
Special touches

It just takes little hard work and some planning.

One room at a time.

For further reading try Need to create a boutique style motel to survive?