Managing Motels

Tuesday 9 March we pulled up at Bella Vista Blenheim; motels owned and operated by Wendy and John – my sister and brother-in-law. The plan was for us to spend a few days working with them learning the ropes and then for them to head off for a few days and leave us to run the place. I’d managed the family motels in Dunedin for 18 months about 30 years ago but this was a new challenge for us both. Things are computerised these days, and there’s a lot to learn with everything. Our hope was that they’d want us back for spells in future and that we can find work relieving for other motels. It’d be a change from packing fruit.

So we rolled up and moved in to their spare room. Living in was going to be the only way and we later took Suzi out to the Racecourse to park her. There wasn’t room at the motels and there was lots of room at the Racecourse. We didn’t realise that there was a 4-day limit and there was nobody around to ask about things. We left a note and went back every couple of days but couldn’t find anyone to check up with.

Tuesday was settling in day and then Wednesday we were into it. I started getting to grips with the office side with John and Wyn with the housekeeping side with Wendy. There are 18 units and the ones staying on are serviced each day and they were running at 100% so it was all go. They get a lot of corporate guests and they have to be charged back and then there’s travel agents and EFTPOS and credit cards with chip things and laundry to count and order. The days go very quickly. Thursday we went out for tea to the Clubs Marlborough – maybe the Rolls Royce of chartered clubs in NZ. It’s a fabulous resource for Blenheim, including a view of the river and a carvery with an $18 roast meal and desert deal. And only 5 minutes walk from the motels. Mind you – everything is only 5 minutes walk from the motels. They’re only a block away from the shops and downtown Blenheim. There’s a supermarket across the road – and a SaveMart. It’s a great location for the guests so they’re relaxed and nothing is too much bother. Wendy and John went out for dinner one night, leaving us in charge on our own. Nothing bad happened so that was good. The weather was good and tea was often a BBQ eaten outside – in between interruptions.

The week starting Monday 15th March looked like a quieter one with plenty of gaps in the bookings until a big group was due in on Thursday. So the plan was for Wendy and John to head away on Monday to return on Thursday. Getting away took them a while, there was lots to do to make sure everything was right. But finally they got away early in the afternoon and we were managing solo. The afternoon got busy and eventually we were full and the first phone call to Wendy and John was at the end of the day to report business was good and there was nothing to report. Wyn was then busy Tuesday morning with a full turnover for the housekeeping. The empty slots filled up on Tuesday and the pattern was repeated on Wednesday. So instead of a quietish initiation it was full-on. We coped well which was very satisfying. We had a number of problems of varying degrees of crisis which we managed to sort out; only having to refer to John and Wendy once. And our knowledge of Blenheim improved in leaps and bounds.

Thursday was another big day, with a big group coming in early; needing to be picked up off the train at 11.45am. So Wyn was busy organising the cleaning and getting everything checked. Wendy and John were back after 11am and John and I went off down to the Railway Station to pick up the guests. There were 24 of them and we had the motel van and 4-wheel drive. A number of them had bikes and were happy to bike over to the motels so there were only a few for the second trip. Wendy and Wyn did the processing as they arrived and eventually they were all settled in and we were able to catch up with Wendy and John. We handed over the reins and started to relax. We stayed on that night and spent much of Friday packing up and handing over things that had arisen. We decided that a weekend at the beach sounded enticing. There is a DoC camp at Marfells Beach near Lake Grassmere south of Seddon south of Blenheim. The afternoon was almost done by the time we finally hitched up the car and pulled out of the motels and headed south.

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