Online bookings aim to keep tourist dollars in city

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Fiona Suurenbroek,  chairwoman of the Rotorua Association of Motels, with Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick, at the website launch.
Fiona Suurenbroek, chairwoman of the Rotorua Association of Motels, with Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick, at the website launch.

The 50 members of the Rotorua Association of Motels have banded together to set up their own booking website to meet the increasing challenge of online travel agencies (OTA) with massive marketing budgets, such as Trivago and Expedia.

"Bookings received via our website ensure the money stays within our local community and no commissions or fees are paid to offshore companies such as third party OTAs," said Fiona Suurenbroek, chairwoman of the Rotorua Association of Motels (RAM).

"The ultimate aim is to provide an easy booking experience for our guests, one where there are no booking fees and guests are dealing directly with the motel in question."

Over the past five years the booking of accommodation had changed significantly and online booking was now the most popular way for guests to choose their accommodation, said Ms Suurenbroek.

She added that moteliers often experienced guests sitting outside their properties with their smart phone booking accommodation via a third party site.

"This often attracts either fees or a commission payable to an off shore company.

"These companies do not pay any tax in New Zealand. A considerable amount of money is leaving the economy from the accommodation sector alone."

The web site was initially acquired and set up a year-and-a-half ago, but was not meeting member requirements.

Welman Technologies in Wellington was brought in and created a new front end website, supported by a booking engine with smart search functionality that lets prospective guests search motels based on requirements including facilities and location.

RAM vice-chairman Mike Gallagher said the new website provided a "duty motel" system. At any time the site can check on motel availability and provide accurate information to guests seeking accommodation over peak periods, or for guests seeking specific accommodation requirements.

"We make sure it is always cheaper to come directly to one of our motels rather than through an OTA," he said.

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