Mike's Road Report: Don't Worry Be Happy

Date Added: 13/07/2012 by Mike Phipps - Mike Phipps Finance

For those of you who study such things this will come as no shock. It turns out the name Rebecca, loosely translated, is ancient Hebrew for Born Under a Bad Sign. I kid you not and should there be any doubt I’ll introduce you to my daughter, innocently christened by that very name. Yes, it is true that as an infant she was truly beautiful of mind and spirit but as the teenage years approached the awful truth became clear. The thousands of dollars on private school fees translated to numerous false starts at a variety of jobs, an ill-fated attempt at law, a pretty good sun tan and a love of the beach and Facebook.

After much pressure from mum and dad the lovely Rebecca started making serious attempts to get off the couch recently and actually tidied up the resume and went job hunting. She also did some TAFE training in accommodation management and scored a part time gig with a Hastings Street resort. Didn’t last long but those managers (thanks Woodsy, I owe you a beer) gave our Bec enough of an insight to know she liked working in accommodation. She also scored a great reference which always helps.

Anyway, one of the jobs applied for is as a guest services officer on Daydream Island. Go for it Bec, there’ll be hundreds of applicants, you have limited experience but if you score the job I’ll drive you to Airlie Beach and put you on the boat personally. What are the chances ? Just to spite me she gets the gig so the Managing Director and I hit the road with the devil child in tow. First night stay with clients in the motel industry in Rockhampton is an eye opener. I know this part of Queensland is booming but you really need to go there to appreciate the scale. What’s really interesting is that Quest are constructing a serviced apartment building at Rocky and those guys don’t go anywhere that hasn’t been extremely well researched with strong long term prospects. Needless to say the moteliers and apartment operators are all saying that most weeks they booked solid with a need to book up to 4 weeks ahead to get a room.

Next stop Airlie Beach with a stay at the magnificently positioned Airlie Reflections. I really had forgotten how beautiful the views at Airlie are and how fantastic the water colour is. There are a few more places to eat since last I was there but it still feels like a backpackers town surrounded by luxury accommodation. My clients in Airlie tell me it’s been tough since the GFC although some are saying that there’s some demand from people in the resource sector coming to Airlie for a bit of R and R. Let’ hope that continues as it would be great to see the leisure accommodation sector benefit from the resources boom.

So, we put her ladyship on the boat, wave goodbye with a few tear s from the MD and head west. If you are thinking of travelling in this area book well ahead. When I was little bloke living in Clermont you could shoot a cannon through the place and not hit anyone. Now you can’t get a room. It’s even more difficult in Emerald where I’m told 2 month ahead bookings are not uncommon and motels are running at over 100% occupancy due to pre-paid but unused rooms. We hit Barcaldine late in the day and find lodgings at a motel just on the outskirts of town. The motelier greets us in bare feet with an open shirt and impressive girth. No need to go to town to dine, we have a restaurant here. Turned out the wife was a great cook and the restaurant exceeded our admittedly limited expectations. The room was dated but very big and comfortable. I couldn’t help thinking how close and yet how far this operation was from being a really good motel but why bother when the miners are desperate for rooms.

We leave Barcaldine reflecting on the birth place of Labour and the magnificent monument that now commemorates the Tree of Knowledge. Seemed like a waste of tax-payers money when I read about it but you need to actually stand under it and reflect on the history of the place before coming to a conclusion. Not sure my grandfather, a former ring barker who worked hard and ended up shire clerk (now known as CEO) of the Barcaldine Shire would have agreed but either way he would have had to be impressed with the progress in the bush. Next stop Mitchell just west of Roma. We score the last bed in town and the motelier almost dances to the footpath with the No Vacancy sign. What is it about blokes in accommodation and No Vacancy signs ? The motel car park is virtually empty at 4pm and full of Toyota four wheel drives by 5pm. Judging by the sort of vehicles I’m guessing a combination of sales reps, mining industry employees and tourists. A quick survey at the pub that night confirms my observations and also confirms that demand for motel and serviced apartment accommodation shows no sign of abating if the general views of the patrons are anything to go by.

Onward to Toowoomba via Roma, Yuleba and Dalby. I’m sure you’ve heard of two of these places so please forgive me if I give the little town I first grew up in a quick plug. It used to be a one horse town but I think even Ned has now left. Having said that I couldn’t help noticing the pre-fab motel accommodation now attached to the pub. Seems all you need to fill a room is proximity to water, steak and beer. When my dad was shire clerk here (yes, it’s a miracle I’m not working in local government) the pub was still of the old school variety with rooms upstairs and the bar at street level. It burnt down in interesting circumstances just before we moved to Toowoomba. Rumours of a small boy with matches lurking that night are completely unfounded.

So, what have I learned from all this ? Well, I think the governor of the RBA is right, the glass in most areas is certainly half full and if you want to get inspired in terms of the possibilities this great country offers go west and have a look. If you run a resort and can figure out a way to entice the R and R resource sector dollar I think you’ll go well. And, if you’re already going well, don’t take off your shoes, unbutton your shirt and take it all for granted. Plan B is always a good idea.

PS : Any stories of me dancing on the jetty at Airlie are pure fabrication!

PPS : R and R (Rest and Recuperation)…..not a free plug to you know who.


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