1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne

It has now been 60 years since the Olympic Games were held in Melbourne.

The Olympic Games are one of the world’s largest international sporting events, with thousands of athletes representing almost every nation on the planet competing against each other.

Australia has hosted the Summer Olympic Games twice. The most recent was Sydney in 2000, and the first was Melbourne in 1956.

Olympic Games – 22nd November to 8th December 1956Olympic Games

In 1949, Melbourne was successful in its bid to host the 1956 Olympic Games. It was a close contest, with Melbourne winning by just one vote from Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was to be the first time that the Olympics would be staged in the southern hemisphere, a fact that some felt may be an inconvenience to northern hemisphere athletes, as the Games would be taking place during their usual off-season.

Initially, there were some organisational worries due to problems obtaining financial funding and for a while it was looking as if Melbourne would not be ready by the scheduled start date. A couple of years before the Games were to be staged, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) even considered moving them to Rome, which was to host the 1960 Olympics and which was progressing well with its preparations. However, Melbourne’s early problems were overcome and by early 1956 all was on track.

The Melbourne Olympics wasn’t without its share of political turmoil. Several countries decided to boycott the Games due to problems overseas. Shortly before the Games began, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary. This saw the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland withdraw from the Games in protest. Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon withdrew due to tensions between Egypt and Israel over the Suez Canal, and the People’s Republic of China also withdrew because the Republic of China (Taiwan) was being allowed to compete.

The Olympic flame was lit at Olympia on 2nd November 1956. It was carried to Athens, Darwin and Cairns, then down the east coast of Australia, arriving in Melbourne for the Opening Ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on 22nd November. The honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron fell to distance runner Ron Clarke, and the Games of the XVI Olympiad – as the Melbourne Olympics were known – had officially begun.

Of the 19 sports in which competition took place in the 1956 Olympics, 18 were held in Victoria. The equestrian events were staged in Stockholm, Sweden in June of 1956. This was because Australia’s strict quarantine regulations did not allow the entry of horses into the country. This was the first time that Olympic Games events had been held in more than one country.

More than 3300 athletes attended the 1956 Olympics, with 67 nations competing in Melbourne, while a further five countries competed only at the equestrian events in Stockholm. The Olympic Village, in which the athletes were housed in Melbourne, was located at Heidelberg West. Today, these buildings are used for public housing.

Events were held at various venues. The MCG was used as the main Olympic stadium and was the venue for the athletic events. It also hosted soccer and hockey finals, and demonstrations of Australian rules football and baseball. Other soccer events were held at Olympic Park, while the Olympic Pool hosted the swimming, diving and water polo competitions. Both of these venues are now part of the Melbourne and Olympic Park complex.

Festival Hall was the venue for gymnastics, boxing and wrestling events. Today, it continues to be an entertainment venue, hosting events from music concerts to boxing matches. Sailing events were conducted on Port Phillip, and rowing, canoeing and kayaking competitions took place on Lake Wendouree at Ballarat.

For the most part, the Games were conducted in a relaxed manner and became known as the “Friendly Games”. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case in the men’s water polo semi final match between Hungary and the Soviet Union. It became know as the “Blood in the Water” match due to the violence that erupted between the two teams. The Hungarians won the match 4-0 and went on to win the gold medal.

The conclusion of the Olympic Games saw the Soviet Union at the top of the medal table with 37 gold, 29 silver, and 32 bronze medals. The United States finished second with a total of 74 medals, including 32 gold. Australia filled third place with 35 medals – 13 gold, 8 silver and 14 bronze.

As continues to be the case today, Australia’s most successful sport was swimming, winning a total of 14 medals, including 8 gold. In the men’s events, Australia won five of the seven races, with Murray Rose winning two individual golds plus another in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

The women’s events saw Australia successful in three of the six races, with Dawn Fraser and Lorraine Crapp winning an individual gold and silver each, and another gold in the 4x100m relay. In both the men’s and women’s 100m freestyle events, Australians filled all three placings.

Australia also had considerable success in track events, gaining 12 medals including 4 gold. Betty Cuthbert won gold in the 100m and 200m, while Shirley Strickland took out the 80m hurdles. Both women were also part of the winning 4x100m relay team.

Other highlights of the Games included Vladimir Kuts from the Soviet Union winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m running events; American runner Bobby Joe Morrow equalling Betty Cuthbert’s success, taking out the men’s 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay; the Indian hockey team taking the gold for the sixth consecutive time; and Hungarian boxer Laszlo Papp winning his third gold in the light middleweight event.

The 1956 Melbourne Olympics concluded with the closing ceremony on 8th December. Following a suggestion by a Melbourne teenager by the name of John Wing, instead of marching at the closing ceremony with their nation’s team, athletes from different countries were allowed to mingle, as a show of world unity. This became a closing ceremony tradition that continues to this day.

For further information about the Olympic Games, see www.olympic.org.

2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne

It has now been 10 years since the Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne, so let’s reflect back on one of the city’s greatest sporting events.

The Commonwealth Games are an international multi-sport event for athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, consisting mainly of countries who were part of the British Empire.

First held in 1930, the games have been hosted in Australia four times – Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962, Brisbane in 1982 and Melbourne in 2006. They will be held in Australia for a fifth time in 2018 at The Gold Coast in Queensland.

Commonwealth Games – 15th to 26th March 2006

Commonwealth Games sign
Signs announcing the Commonwealth Games lined many of the main roads into the city

Fifty years after staging the 1956 Olympics, Melbourne won the honour of hosting the 2006 Commonwealth Games. With Melbourne’s strong sporting culture, venues including the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, and Melbourne Park were already established. As with the 1956 Olympics, the MCG was again the main stadium and underwent a refurbishment for the 2006 Games.

The mascot for the XVIII Commonwealth Games was Karak, a red-tailed black cockatoo. It was his job to spread the word about the Melbourne Games all around Australia and, once the Games began, to help educate visitors about what Melbourne has to offer.

A Commonwealth Games tradition since 1958 has been the Queen’s Baton Relay. The relay for the 2006 Games commenced in England on 14 March 2005, a year and a day before the Games opened. The baton is a symbol of unity of the Commonwealth nations and contains a message to the athletes from Queen Elizabeth II, which is read at the Opening Ceremony. Originally, the baton only travelled between England and the country hosting the Games but since 1998 other Commonwealth nations have also been included in the relay. 2006 was the first time that the baton visited all 71 Commonwealth nations, travelling over 180,000 kilometres. The baton arrived in Australia on 24 January 2006 before being relayed around the country, visiting all states and territories. It arrived at the MCG for the opening ceremony on 15 March.

The opening ceremony was a spectacular event that took in not just the MCG main stadium but also featured a sound and light show along the Yarra River. There was also a collection of giant water creatures on the river, one representing each country of the Commonwealth. Back at the MCG, features included a flying tram, filled with performers, which landed in the centre of the arena. Victoria’s indigenous culture was also highlighted. The Commonwealth Games were officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Each of the Commonwealth’s 71 nations was represented at the games. Athletes and officials were housed in a specially built village at Parkville, only a few kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD. The Games Village had the capacity for 6,000 residents, and since the completion of the games has become commercial housing.

Once the competition got underway, there were 16 sports contested. Swimming, diving and synchronised swimming were officially grouped together as “aquatics”, with different formats of cycling, shooting and gymnastics also regarded as a single sport. Four of the sports were also contested by elite athletes with a disability (EAD). These were athletics, powerlifting, swimming and table tennis, with the events being integrated into the general competition.

Events were conducted at ten venues around Melbourne. Some of these hosted more than one sport. The Melbourne Exhibition Centre hosted badminton, boxing and weightlifting events. The Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre was home to aquatics, squash and table tennis. The Multi-Purpose Venue at Melbourne Park staged basketball and netball finals and track cycling. The State Netball Hockey Centre staged netball preliminary matches and hockey. Preliminary basketball matches were played at four regional centres – Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Traralgon. Other sports contested were lawn bowls, held at Thornbury, and rugby 7s, staged at Telstra Dome (now Etihad Stadium).

Longer, outdoor events took place at various places around the city. Walking events were held around the Docklands precinct. Highlights of the marathon course – which started and finished at the MCG – included Beaconsfield Parade beside Port Phillip, Albert Park Lake, and the Royal Botanical Gardens, which was also the site for the cycling road race. The triathlon and cycling time trials were held along the St Kilda foreshore. The mountain bike competition took place at Lysterfield Park in Melbourne’s outer south-east, while shooting events were held in three locations – Port Melbourne, Lilydale and Bendigo.

The 2006 Games were a great success for the Australian team. After the eleven days of competition, they were at the head of the medal table with 84 gold, 69 silver and 68 bronze medals; a total of 221 – twice as many as England in second place. England’s total of 110 medals included 36 gold, while Canada, in third position, won 26 gold in their haul of 86 medals.

As is often the case, Australians performed extremely well in the pool, especially the women. There were 54 medals, including 19 gold, won by Australia’s swimmers. The best-performed swimmer was Libby Lenton, who collected a total of seven medals, including two freestyle and three relay golds. The most individual gold medals in the pool, however, were won by Leisel Jones, who made a clean sweep of the three breaststroke events and also won a relay gold. Three other female swimmers also took two individual gold medals each. The only Australian male swimmer to win gold was Matthew Cowdrey, who won two EAD freestyle events.

Other top Australian athletes were Nathan Deakes, who won both the 20 km and 50 km walks; Ryan Bayley with two golds and a team bronze in cycling events; Joshua Jefferis with a total of four gymnastics medals, including two gold; and Lalita Yauhleuskaya, who won two shooting events. In team events, Australia was successful in both men’s and women’s basketball and hockey.

Other outstanding performances of the Games were those of Canada’s Alexandra Orlando – who took five gold medals in rhythmic gymnastics and also helped her country win the team event – and Indian shooter Samaresh Jung, who won five gold, one silver and one bronze medal. He also set three world records and won the David Dixon Award for the most outstanding athlete of the Games.

In addition to the sporting events, another highlight of the games was Festival Melbourne 2006. Events such as music concerts, street performances, exhibitions, a circus and indigenous culture all featured in the twelve-day festival. Entertainment was free and held at venues such as the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Federation Square and the Alexandra Gardens.

The Games closed on the night of 26th March, following the completion of competition earlier that day. The closing ceremony saw performances by some of Australia’s top musical acts. An upside-down globe, depicting Australia as being on top of the world, was also a feature. For the first time, games volunteers were invited to be a part of the closing ceremony, in recognition of their efforts throughout the event. The official closing of the games was performed by His Royal Highness Prince Edward, after which there was a city-wide fireworks display.

Re-live the 2016 Melbourne Commonwealth Games at m2006.thecgf.com.

Commonwealth Games flags line many of Melbourne's streets, including Batman Avenue with the MCG (Commonwealth Games stadium) in the background
Commonwealth Games flags line many of Melbourne’s streets, including Batman Avenue with the MCG (Commonwealth Games stadium) in the background

 

Gardens around Melbourne feature colourful flowers in the Commonwealth Games theme, including the Marquis of Linlithgow monument on St Kilda Road Gardens around Melbourne feature colourful flowers in the Commonwealth Games theme, including the Marquis of Linlithgow monument on St Kilda Road
Gardens around Melbourne feature colourful flowers in the Commonwealth Games theme, including the Marquis of Linlithgow monument on St Kilda Road

 

 Federation Square and the Melbourne Visitor Centre are decorated in Commonwealth Games theme colours Federation Square and the Melbourne Visitor Centre are decorated in Commonwealth Games theme colours
Federation Square and the Melbourne Visitor Centre are decorated in Commonwealth Games theme colours

 

Water creatures representing nations of the Commonwealth are anchored to pontoons along the Yarra River with the MCG (Commonwealth Games stadium) in the background
Water creatures representing nations of the Commonwealth are anchored to pontoons along the Yarra River with the MCG (Commonwealth Games stadium) in the background

 

Work continues along the Yarra River which will extend the opening ceremony beyond the borders of the stadium with light and sound literally spilling out across the city
Work continues along the Yarra River which will extend the opening ceremony beyond the borders of the stadium with light and sound literally spilling out across the city

 

Closer view of the sea creatures set up along the Yarra River
Closer view of the sea creatures set up along the Yarra River

 

View north-west along the Yarra River and towards the city centre skyline with the sea creatures situated on the river
View north-west along the Yarra River and towards the city centre skyline with the sea creatures situated on the river

 

 Work continues along the Yarra River near the Swan Street Bridge to hook up floating platforms in the shape and colours of each competing country's national flag Work continues along the Yarra River near the Swan Street Bridge to hook up floating platforms in the shape and colours of each competing country's national flag
Work continues along the Yarra River near the Swan Street Bridge to hook up floating platforms in the shape and colours of each competing country’s national flag

Caravans and motorhomes in Victoria

CaravansSome travellers seek holidays where they can truly charter their own destiny and who want to take their accommodation with them as they travel around Victoria. Caravans, campervans and motorhomes are an ideal option for this purpose.

Caravans

A caravan is a mobile home on a trailer, towed behind a vehicle. It is equipped with bedding and cooking facilities and many also feature a shower and toilet.

When travelling in Victoria with a caravan, you can stay overnight at designated camping areas with basic facilities, or pull into one of the state’s hundreds of caravan or tourist parks. These parks vary widely in their facilities, but all provide, as a bare minimum, electric power connections, communal cooking and bathroom facilities. Some provide ensuite sites where your van is parked beside a private bathroom reserved for your use only.

Many caravan parks have developed into fully-appointed resorts set within landscaped grounds that also offer luxury cabin accommodation, a huge range of family-friendly recreational facilities and onsite activities for guests.

Locate caravan parks in Victoria by going to accommodation search and selecting caravan park in the preferred accommodation style box.

Campervans and motorhomes

Campervans and motorhomes are vehicles which provide transport and accommodation all in one.

A motorhome is typically built on a truck or bus chassis and provides fully self-contained and reasonably spacious accommodation including kitchen and bathroom facilities. A campervan is generally a smaller vehicle in the style of a van, a bit tighter on space, which is fitted out with basic living facilities.

Motorhome and campervan rentals range from budget to luxury and can sleep between 2 and 6 people. Motorhomes usually do not require anchor to a caravan park-type facility because they are fully self-contained, whereas some of the smaller campervans are more suited to the traveller who expects to end each day in a caravan or camping ground spot where they will find toilet and shower amenities that are not contained within their campervan sleeper.

Some campervan and motorhome hire companies which have depots in Victoria are:

If you’re thinking about planning a campervan holiday, have a read of 101 Campervan Tips.

Accommodation in Victoria for disabled or mobility impaired travellers

DisabledIf you or your family have mobility impairments, there are a number of accommodation options throughout Victoria that may suit your needs.

Hotels and motels are often able to cater for disabled and wheelchair-bound visitors thanks to their modern layout, lifts and the use of ramps instead of stairs.  A growing number of larger hotels, motels and apartments will have certain rooms designed to accommodate those who may need extra space or aids.

One of the biggest issues for those seeking suitable accommodation is the huge variability in what is classified as “disabled access”, “wheelchair accessible”, or other similar terms. As such, it is always advisable to contact these establishments prior to making a booking to ensure that the facilities are suitable for your level of mobility and requirements.

When enquiring about room suitability, you may want to ask about:

  • Doorway widths – both internal and external
  • How easy doors are to open
  • The height of door handles and light switches
  • The height of the bed – some may be too high
  • Whether there is enough space on the side of the bed to permit you to easily get into it
  • Easy to reach hanging space in closets
  • Hand rails in the bathroom
  • Shower chairs and raised toilet seats

As well as enquiring about the suitability of the room you plan to stay in, you may also need to ask further questions about the property as a whole.  For example:

  • Is there suitable parking close by or designated disabled parking spots in a convenient location?
  • Can you access the reception area easily?
  • Are there automatic opening doors at the entrance and throughout the property?  This may be an issue for those who are travelling alone and don’t have someone on hand to help them with heavy or large doors.
  • Is there elevator access to all public areas in multi-storey properties?  You may be able to easily get to your room, but you may not be able to easily get to some of the facilities if access is poor.

To find accommodation in Victoria which offers facilities for those with disabilities, go to accommodation search page on the Travel Victoria website and in the facilities section select disabled access along with other requirements you may have. This will list all establishments which can cater, to some extent, for guests with mobility impairments.  Don’t forget that when enquiring or booking your accommodation, it is important to make mention of your specific access requirements to ensure the establishment is able to meet your needs.

 

Car hire in Melbourne and Victoria

Car hireVictoria is a diverse state with a multitude of attractions in both Melbourne and the state’s regional areas. When it comes to getting around, public transport isn’t always able to take you everywhere, and it may not always be convenient.  So if you come to Victoria without your own vehicle, hiring a car is a good option to get the most out of your visit.


Arriving by air

Most people coming to Victoria by air will land at Melbourne Airport which is located around 20 kilometres north-west of the city. This is Victoria’s only international airport and a major hub for domestic flights.

The major international hire car companies of Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty all have booking desks inside the airport terminal buildings, along with Australia’s own Redspot.

Compare car hire at Melbourne Airport

 

Car hire depots are also located at several smaller regional airports in Victoria:


Arriving by boat

If you are coming to Melbourne by sea, you will dock at Station Pier in Port Melbourne. Most arrivals will be aboard the Spirit of Tasmania which is a passenger and car ferry that runs services to and from Tasmania on almost every day of the year and sometimes twice a day during peak season.

While there are no car hire depots located at Port Melbourne, cars can be hired from depots nearby which are easily reached either by taxi or public transport.

Car hire near Port Melbourne

 


Arriving by train

There are two interstate passenger train lines that enter Victoria and extend to Melbourne. The Overland service runs between Adelaide and Melbourne while the XPT runs between Sydney and Melbourne. All these trains terminate at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.

Car hire depots for Avis, Budget and Europcar are located at Southern Cross Station, while depots for other car hire companies are located very close by, either walking distance or a short tram or taxi ride away.

Car hire near Southern Cross Station

 


Getting the best deal

Most people don’t have too much loyalty to car hire brands, so whoever offers the best deal which matches the renter’s requirements will usually get the deal.

To save individually comparing rates between all the major car hire companies in Melbourne and Victoria, simply use the comparison tool below. Using your specified pick-up location and hire dates, it will display car hire availability from all the major providers.

Compare all car hire in Victoria

 


Should you pick up a hire car from the airport or elsewhere?

For those arriving by air, obviously the most convenient option is to pick up your hire vehicle at the airport. Car hire check-in desks are located within the terminal building, and the car you book is waiting for you at one of the closest car parks, usually just a few steps away.

Airports are regarded by most car hire companies as premium locations, so you will end up paying extra for the convenience of picking up your vehicle there.  If you want to save a bit of money, compare the cost of picking up your hire vehicle at the airport with a location that is either convenient to where you are staying or easily accessible by public transport.  Particularly for long rental periods, the savings can be quite substantial, even when you factor in the cost of transport between the airport to the depot.


Will others be driving your hire vehicle?

It is important to consider whether people other than yourself will be driving the rental vehicle. This may be relevant if you are planning a trip away with your partner, family, friends or business associates.

Some hire car companies allow you to nominate additional drivers at no cost, while others will charge extra fees.

Hire car company Fees for additional drivers Exemptions from fees
Avis None
Budget None.
Europcar $5.75 for each additional driver, capped at $28.75 for the whole rental period.
Hertz $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $27.50 for the whole rental period. Immediate family members, employers or employees.
Redspot $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $33.00 for the whole rental period. If the rate level you have selected is the “top dog” all inclusive rate.
Thrifty $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $27.50 for the whole rental period. Corporate club and auto club members hiring vehicles pay no additional driver fees.

What sort of insurance should you take?

All cars you hire are insured against accidents. They also include roadside assistance for use in emergencies.

If your vehicle is involved in an accident, you will need to pay an insurance excess fee, which can be several thousands of dollars depending on the type of vehicle and if it was a single vehicle accident.

As well as accidents, any damage you cause to the vehicle that requires repairs, such as windscreen or tyre replacement, will also need to be paid for.

Hire car companies usually offer add-ons whereby you can pay an extra daily charge to reduce or completely eliminate the cost you would normally occur in the case of an accident or vehicle damage. These add-ons can inflate the daily hire charge by up to 50%, so it is important to consider some economical options if you wish to avoid paying out large sums of money in the event of an accident or damage to the vehicle.

If you only have the vehicle for a day or two, the simplest and cheapest way may simply be to accept the hire car company’s offer of paying more to eliminate excess charges.

If you are hiring a vehicle for more than a couple of days, a cheaper option is to take out independent travel insurance.  Most general travel insurance plans include hire car excess charges, although you will need to verify they will cover the full amount as they usually set a limit. In fact, you may already have travel insurance arranged for your trip, so why not take advantage of all its features, including coverage for hire car excess fees.


How to pay for toll roads

In Melbourne there are several toll roads which you may use during your travels. Fortunately you shouldn’t have to worry about paying those tolls as vehicles hired through most hire car companies are registered with toll road operators.  This ensures you will be automatically billed for toll road usage.  This billing process will differ between hire care companies.

For Avis, Budget, Europcar and Thrifty, as well as incurring the actual cost of using a toll road, there is also a $3.30 daily service fee which is charged only on the days you use a toll road.

Redspot simply add a $1.43 fee to every toll charge you accumulate.  For a single trip in a day this is good value, but it can end up getting expensive if you make multiple toll road trips within a day. Note that when booking a vehicle, if you select the “top dog” all inclusive rate, then all toll road usage is covered an no additional cost.

Hertz operate quite differently and offer unlimited toll road usage with a fixed daily charge of $14.30 which applies to every day of rental period whether you use toll roads or not.  Alternatively, you can opt for an arrangement whereby you pay an upfront $16.50 administration fee and then you are automatically billed only for usage. This is recommended for longer term hiring or when you don’t expect to use toll roads every day.


Fuel options

When picking up the vehicle, it will have a full tank of fuel. Three options are usually available when returning the vehicle.

  1. Pay for a whole tank of fuel. This mean the hire car company assumes you will return the vehicle with an empty tank, so you will be charged for a full refueling, no matter how much is left. In reality, it is impossible to return a vehicle with not one drop of fuel left in it, so this can be an expensive option, particularly if you have a significant amount of fuel left in the vehicle, although usually the cost charged for a whole tank of petrol will be very competitive.
  2. Pay a “fill up” charge.  You can return the vehicle with any amount of fuel left in the tank, and you will only be charged to fill it up. While this may seem an attractive option, the cost per litre and fill up charge will be much more than what it would cost for you to buy fuel yourself.
  3. Return the vehicle with a full tank.  This is the cheapest option if you have the time, and if a petrol station is located not too far away from the car hire depot. That way you only pay for exactly the quantity of fuel you use.

Are you guaranteed to get the car you booked?

When looking at types of cars offered by the rental companies, they will tend to classify cars by their size, style, number of seats and luggage capacity by using terms such as “compact”, “intermediate”, “standard” or “full size”.  They usually provide an illustration of an example car that fits that size.

It is important to note the clause that says “or similar”. Car hire depots usually have various models within each category, so depending on availability, you can’t be guaranteed to get exactly the model advertised.  If you do have a specific preference for a model or a vehicle colour, make the hire car company aware of that at the time of booking and they may be able to arrange it when you pick it up.

There are some vehicle models which you can be guaranteed to get when booking, but these are usually if you hire prestige or sports vehicles.

The background behind the major online accommodation websites

When searching on the internet for accommodation, it can be quite a daunting task with many options available, particularly in large towns and cities. So a quick way to get an overview of these many options is to use an online travel website. They can display availability and pricing for many hotels at once, so at a glance you may be able to find something suitable without individually going to each hotel’s website.

There are many online travel websites which feature listings for accommodation in Australia and throughout the world, but most belong to either one of two large groups.

Online hotel booking brandsThe Priceline Group runs a number of websites including:

Expedia Inc is the owner of these popular websites:

It is important to realise that searching for accommodation within a specific accommodation group will yield the same results. So, for example, search for somewhere to stay on wotif.com, and you will get exactly the same results as if you had searched on expedia.com. What may be different is the layout of the website, the search mechanism, loyalty reward schemes, and the ways guests can get customer support.

Between the two major groups listed above, there may be price differences between individual accommodation properties. However, in general, they are limited to special offers or campaign sales. For example, we did a search for a one night stay at a specific hotel in the popular Melbourne inner northern suburb of Brunswick on several websites within these two major groups. For most room types, the tariffs were identical. But within the Expedia group, they were promoting a sale at the hotel of our choice on deluxe queen rooms, which resulted in the nightly pricing dropping from the standard $145 down to $108 on all the websites within that group.

Based on that, one could conclude that best way to get the lowest pricing when using online travel websites is to pick one from each of the two major groups and search those.

Another option is to use what is known as a meta search engine website. These gather pricing for accommodation through a large number of booking websites and present the combined results.

Meta hotel searchSome major meta search engines for hotel bookings are:

A few years ago, using meta search engines was really the way to go. That was because many of today’s popular online travel booking sites were actually independantly owned and managed, with their own arrangements between suppliers of accommodation. This meant there were many instances of wide variability in pricing and the presence of some hotels across those sites. But in the last few years, many popular online travel booking sites have been bought out by big groups, including Australia’s Wotif which was acquired by Expedia in late 2014. What exists now is basically a duopoly between the websites that are part of Priceline Group and those that Expedia Inc runs.

Is this the end for hotel meta search engines? Yes and no.

While Priceline and Expedia control many of the world’s most popular accommodation booking sites, there are a few smaller ones out there which are still independant and do offer unique deals, so using a hotel meta search engines can easily sniff these out for you.

Australian-based HotelsCombined is an interesting meta search engine. Like Trivago and Kayak, it searches websites belonging to the major online travel groups and combines the results. However, it also has arrangements in place with some hotel chains, like Best Western for example, such that it can get pricing directly from the hotel, rather than through the major online travel websites that the hotel has listed itself on. While this sounds good in practice, it may not actually mean you get a room cheaper when booking direct.  There is usually a rate parity arrangement in place which prohibits a hotel from advertising a cheaper rate on its own website than through the major online travel groups that it distributes room availability through.

Careful with Victoria Tourism & www.victoriatourism.com.au listing renewals

A number of accommodation managers in Victoria have been receiving unsolicited emails requesting that they renew their listing on the Victoria Tourism website at www.victoriatourism.com.au.

Before going any further, it is very important to note that Victoria Tourism is in no way related to the official government tourism organisation of Tourism Victoria.  In fact, the company behind the confusingly named Victoria Tourism website is Accommodation Find Pty Ltd – one of several companies based in Queensland who have a long history of false billing scams.

Instead of their past practice of sending out what resembled bills in the mail for advertising on their websites, their tactic has now changed to sending emails requesting authorisation for continuing an apparent existing listing.

A copy of a typical email sent out by Victoria Tourism (Accommodation Find Pty Ltd) is shown below, with the personal details of the recipient removed.

Victoria Tourism bill

The email is rather strange, being a screenshot of a letter which isn’t very clear and is not easy to read.

Notable features of the email are:

  1. It is issued by Victoria Tourism (not Tourism Victoria), with a green and blue “V” logo
  2. The company behind the website is listed as Accommodation Find Pty Ltd
  3. The ABN on the email is 18 086 159 195
  4. The contact phone number is 1800 199 863 which also relates to the companies Special Days Pty Ltd and Internet Find Pty Ltd – all based in Queensland
  5. The cost to advertise is specified as $95 for a 12 month listing

Many accommodation providers who receive this email never signed up for a listing on the Victoria Tourism website and may be unaware that they even had a listing on there.

The email implies an existing business relationship by stating:

“It has come to my attention that your listing on our Victoria Tourism website is due to expire…”

Also:

“Please forward through your authorisation for its continuation for the next 12 months.”

This implies that the recipient of the email has already authorised and paid for at least one 12 month advertising period and is being asked to pay $95 to renew it for another 12 months.

However, these implications are false. The Victoria Tourism website has only been running in its current form since the end of 2015.  How can all these accommodation providers who are receiving this renewal email be at the end of their 12 month advertising period in March 2016?

The organisation behind the Victoria Tourism website also created the Vic Tourism website at www.victourism.com.au. Read about the history of the Vic Tourism website for further information.

While the Victoria Tourism email does not resemble a bill like other letters that Accommodation Find Pty Ltd has sent out in the past, all accommodation owners that receive it should not submit their authorisation to renew without careful consideration.  Keep in mind that:

  1. The email is an unsolicited offer to continue a service that was not ordered in the first place
  2. The email implies a past business relationship and existing advertising authorisation
  3. The website title of Victoria Tourism is an exact reversal of the two words which constitute Victoria’s official government tourism body of Tourism Victoria.  Such word tactics are a common method used to try and confuse people into thinking they are dealing with an official or more popular brand or organisation.

If you have inadvertently provided authorisation to Victoria Tourism to bill you for an accommodation listing that you thought was with Tourism Victoria, you can lodge a report with the ACCC by visiting their report a scam page.  Specify “false billing” as the scam type in your report.

The Wotif grid is back

Wotif was established during 2000 in Australia as an online hotel booking service. It was bought by United States travel giant Expedia during late 2014.

Up until recently, what set Wotif apart from other online booking and comparison service was its grid or matrix of hotel prices and availability.  Many other competing services required a traveller to provide their exact check-in date and duration of stay before they were presented with a matching list of hotel availability options.  In striking contrast, Wotif simply presented an availability and pricing grid across all hotels so travellers could see at a glance their options. This particularly suited people who were flexible with their travel arrangements or who were hunting for the best deal.  See the example below.

Wotif availability grid

At the time, Wotif’s executive general manager underlined the difference between Wotif and other online booking services by these quotes in regards to its availability and pricing grid / matrix:

  • “It’s one of those things we know has a big fan base…and continues to provide an easy way to compare rates for price sensitive travellers who have flexibility about when they want to travel.”
  • “The grid layout is now also somewhat unique. On most sites, customers would have a hard time knowing if the next or previous day or week offered a better deal.”

In early 2015, Wotif changed their availability display style to match the theme of Expedia which meant travellers needed to specify specific dates and stay durations before they could search for availability. This caused the following issues:

  • If someone was wanting to find availability or the best rates for a weekend stay, but had flexibility about which weekend, it would require them to conduct a separate search for each weekend and write each one down to compare. With the Wotif availability grid, a traveller could see instantly the availability across a range of hotels, and simply flick the calendar forward to get to the next weekend
  • Someone with flexibility in regards to the duration of their stay would now need to conduct separate searches with different durations to see the availability and tariffs.  Whereas with Wotif’s former matrix, travellers could see, at a glance, whether they could change the length of their stay and which hotels could accommodate them.

Many people have some degree of flexibility when it comes to their travel plans, particularly if it is for leisure purposes, so having to go through a time consuming process of trying various combinations of check-in dates and stay durations can seem very cumbersome with Wotif’s new Expedia interface than simply casting one’s eye over a availability grid which covers a range of accommodation properties, dates and prices.

Like many others, we here at Travel Victoria missed the Wotif availability grid.  So we did something about it!

As an official Wotif affiliate partner, we had the opportunity to request access to the Wotif API through Expedia, which would allow us to extract availability and pricing from their live database without having to go through the web interface.  This meant we could build a customised table of availability across a range of hotels. Thus we were able to recreate a simplified version of the much loved Wotif matrix, as shown below for our St Kilda accommodation list:

St Kilda accommodation

We do have a few limitations:

  1. It is not a real-time availability matrix as it actually takes a few hours to build up the matrix of availability for the several hundred hotels in Victoria we have chosen to feature in the grid.  At the moment, it is automatically updated once a day, with this process concluding in the late afternoon.
  2. It only covers 3 months. People looking for accommodation more than 3 months into the future will still need to do a traditional (and cumbersome) search by date.
  3. It only shows availability for stays which have a minimum duration of 3 nights or less, as testing for longer minimum stays would slow down the database update significantly.
  4. It only shows the base or minimum rate for the cheapest room.  To get the rates for all room types and numbers of guests, people will still need to go through the regular Expedia style interface.  Wotif actually had a second level grid which would open up if you restricted your search to a specific hotel, thus showing all room types and rates.

So the Wotif grid is back, alive and well, although in a much simpler form,  now on the Travel Victoria website!

Some accommodation owners in denial about the internet

Internet
The internet has changed the world

We received an interesting phone call a few weeks ago from a motel in Lakes Entrance, in Victoria’s beautiful Gippsland Lakes area.

This motel had been advertising  on our website for the last 5 years.  In fact, when their annual renewal was due last year, they paid their subscription and sent us an email thanking us, including this comment:

“Travel Victoria is excellent value”

It’s always nice to receive positive feedback from clients, particularly when they feel the return on their small investment with us is good. After all, how many times do you hear people instead complaining that fees are too high!

Anyway, the caller from that motel announced that he had recently taken over ownership of the property.  He said that he was unhappy with how the former owners were paying for all this advertising with multiple websites on the internet, and that he was going to change all that.  While he said our $70 annual fee was not large, he said all these small internet advertising expenses do add up.  Therefore we were told that our services, along with a number of others, were no longer required.

Today we did a search for that motel on Google, and found that the new owner had pulled it off virtually every single website that the motel used to have paid advertising on.  Some of the search results Google currently shows are to websites the motel has been removed from, but those those pages are now non-existent, so Google will eventually stop showing those listings.  So all that is really left is the motel’s own dedicated website, a range of free listings on low quality directory websites, and of course it can be found on TripAdvisor.

If potential guests wanted to do further investigation on the internet about that motel, they could be easily forgiven for thinking it had closed down.  The last review on TripAdvisor was 6 months ago, and so the only thing of any significance left for that motel on the internet is its own website, which people may assume hasn’t been updated for a long time.

One possible theory we have is that the new owner is someone that has little faith in the usefulness of the internet.  Perhaps one of those old school of motel owners who always placed advertising within magazines or in brochures that you see at a local visitor information centre, and still believes that’s the only useful way to promote accommodation.  The world has changed, and these days people of all ages, from all over the world, use the internet as their preferred method of planning travel and browsing accommodation to stay in.  Sure, there is a place for advertising in print media, but accommodation owners are living in the past if they think the internet can simply be ignored as a fad or purely an entertainment medium.

Another theory we have is that the new owner may have knowledge and appreciation of the internet, but not about internet marketing.  So they may simply assume is all they need for their motel is a website to cater for those people using the internet. The problem with this way of thinking is that unless someone does a specific search for this motel by its exact name, its website will not be found.  People will tend to do more general Google searches, like Lakes Entrance accommodation or motels in Lakes Entrance, and thus it is extremely unlikely the motel’s small website is going to feature anywhere near the top of the search results returned.  In fact, the Google results for those search terms will be dominated by some of websites which this motel has specifically withdrawn from advertising on!

Another point to consider is that more and more accommodation providers are offering potential guests the convenience of instant, real-time online booking facilities, either via their own website or through a third party agent.  A motel owner, such as our former client from Lakes Entrance, who is actively reducing their internet presence, is bucking the trend of consumer demand for online information and booking facilities.

When it comes to promoting an accommodation business, the internet should be embraced, not dismissed. We live in a changing world, and businesses need to keep up with the times.

 

 

Fined and convicted – Amanda Stichbury & Special Days Pty Ltd false billing scam

Over the years, a significant number of businesses in Australia, including accommodation and tourism operators, have received unsolicited bills in the mail for advertising they never ordered.   This is known as “false billing” and its aim is to trick businesses into paying money.  It is similar to someone unexpectedly turning up at your door with a bag of goods and requesting that you pay for it, even though you didn’t place an order.

A group of companies that are based in Queensland – Special Days Pty Ltd, Accommodation Find Pty Ltd and Internet Find Pty Ltd – have set up a large number of Australian travel tourism websites, as well as websites covering industries such as child care, education, churches, clubs and entertainment.  The director of those companies is Amanda Stichbury and a large number of business listings featured on her company’s websites were never ordered by the business owner.  Many business owners first learn about their listings on those websites when they receive a document that looks similar to a bill, with payment instructions.  Due to the fact some businesses are listed without their knowledge on multiple websites, there are some business owners who end up receiving many separate documents that resemble bills, causing them confusion and even distress.

Special Days Pty Ltd and Accommodation Find Pty Ltd have published a number of websites that specifically  relate to the tourism industry in Victoria including:

  • VicTourism – www.victourism.com.au (see our post about VicTourism)
  • AccommodationVIC – www.accommodationvic.com.au (see our post about AccommodationVIC)
  • Holiday Great Ocean Road – www.holidaygreatoceanroad.com (see our post about HolidayGreatOceanRoad)

The Checkout is a consumer affairs show produced by the ABC.  It aired a segment on 11th June 2015 about false billing scams, including those perpetrated by Special Days Pty Ltd, Accommodation Find Pty Ltd and Internet Find Pty Ltd. A video of the relevant segment (from series 3, episode 9) can be viewed at https://dl.dropbox.com/s/06ecfueoibuyv8y/FUTube.mp4 which also includes an interview with a recipient of an unsolicited bill sent from their Church Find website.

In terms of prosecution for these sorts of activities, Special Days Pty Ltd, and its director Amanda Stichbury, were fined $18,000 for breaching Australian Consumer Law in regards to an unsolicited invoice issued to Griffith University EcoCentre for advertising on the “Education QLD” website .  The laws breached include:

  1. Assertion of right to payment for unsolicited goods or services (Australian Consumer Law, section 162(3))
  2. Making a false or misleading representation that the person making the representation has a sponsorship, affiliation or approval (Australian Consumer Law, section 151(1)(h))

As well as the monetary fine, Amanda Stichbury was ordered to pay almost $1,600 in professional and court costs.

The Department of Fair Trading also gained recorded convictions against Amanda Stichbury and Special Days Pty Ltd in relation to that matter.

While this is a good result for those businesses who keep receiving unsolicited requests for payment in the post or via email, it doesn’t appear to have impacted Special Days Pty Ltd and its director Amanda Stichbury, as their network of websites are still running.

The accommodation industry publication, AccomNews, published a special report today, strongly warning businesses to beware of being scammed by bogus invoices. Their special report includes a detailed analysis of the false billing scam perpetrated by Amanda Stichbury and her companies using their network of websites.

Amanda Stichbury, Special Days Pty Ltd
Beware of being scammed – Amanda Stichbury and Special Days Pty Ltd fined and convicted under Australian Consumer Law

 

This is a timely reminder for businesses not to blindly pay any advertising bills they receive, and ensure they really have ordered what they are being invoiced for. It is important for all businesses to maintain a careful record of all advertising arrangements in place and to check all incoming renewal invoices with their records to verify the authenticity and authorisation of those bills.

Businesses also need to carefully look at who is issuing the invoices, as many of Amanda Stichbury’s websites have very similar names to organisations with well-know names, creating confusion between them.  For example, a number of business owners have reported they thought bills from Amanda Stichbury’s Vic Tourism website were directly related to Victoria’s official government organisation Tourism Victoria, and that is certainly not the case.

References and related false billing reports:

Unsolicited emails being sent to industry
Visit Canberra
“…a company by the name of Internet Find Pty Ltd is once again sending unsolicited emails to tourism operators…”
http://tourism.act.gov.au/industry-link/2015/09/unsolicited-emails-being-sent-to-industry/

Important notification for tourism operators
Visit Canberra
“…tourismcanberra.com (is) sending an email to an ACT tourism operators requesting payment of a 12 month subscription fee…”
http://tourism.act.gov.au/industry-link/2013/01/important-notification-for-tourism-operators/

Why do I keep receiving invoices from Special Days / Internet Find / Accommodation Find / Travel Guide / etc asking for payment?
Australian Tourism Data Warehouse
“…these are scam invoices and should be discarded immediately…”
http://www.atdw.com.au/atdwonline/faq/#scam

Special Report: Beware of being scammed
AccomNews
“…invoices for unauthorised website and advertising listings…”
http://www.accomnews.com.au/2015/08/special-report-beware-of-being-scammed/

Unauthorised website listings worry resorts
AccomNews
“…complaints have been made to the Department of Fair Trading…”
http://www.accomnews.com.au/2014/03/unauthorised-website-list-ings-worry-resorts/

Important Notice to all Operators – Be Careful
Australian Tourism Accreditation Program
“…tourism operators are receiving letters from victourism.com.au, together with an invoice asking for payment…”
http://www.atapvic.net.au/thetraps/?p=833

Information about Vic Tourism email
Tourism Victoria
“…victourism.com.au and Vic Tourism are not related in any way to Tourism Victoria…”
http://www.tourism.vic.gov.au/tourism-industry/industry-news/past-editions/662-edition-105-march-2013.html

Vic Tourism scam
Travel Daily
“…a dodgy letter and invoice…seeking payment for a 12-month listing on a Vic Tourism website…the letter is a scam…”
http://www.traveldaily.com.au/news/vic-tourism-scam/149814

Dodgy invoices in Qld
Travel Daily
“…shonky invoices are being sent from Queensland Tourism… payments for an annual website listing on QLDTourism.com are sought, which are not legitimate…”
http://www.traveldaily.com.au/news/dodgy-invoices-in-qld/172163

South Australian Tourism Commission invoice scam alert
Travel Daily
“…unsolicited bills for a listing on southaustraliatourism.com.au…which come from a business confusingly called South Australia Tourism…”
http://www.traveldaily.com.au/news/satc-invoice-scam-alert/215638

Scams and Frauds
Hosted Accommodation Australia Ltd
“… the listings were not authorised…this is a fraudulent practice…”
http://www.hostedaccommodationaustralia.com.au/news/Scams-and-Frauds.aspx

Warning Notification to NSW Tourism Operators
Destination NSW
“…carefully check any invoices relating to instances of this domain,
www.accommodationnsw.com.au…”
http://www.destinationnsw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Digital-FAQs-2013-14x.pdf

Important update – warning notification
Destination NSW
“…have received several complaints…requesting payment for product listings featured on www.newsouthwalestourism.com…(it) is not part of the Destination NSW greater distribution network…if you have received an invoice from this company, simply disregard it…”
http://www.portstephenstourism.com.au/important-update-warning-notification-nsw-tourism-operators/

Important Advice
eTourism
…an email requesting renewal of a subscription for etourismaustralia.com…
http://www.etourism.com.au/news/important-advice-etourismaustraliacom/20

Special Days Pty Ltd – scammers
Alligator Creek Bed & Breakfast
“…alerting you to a scam…received a letter and tax invoice for $99…”
https://www.facebook.com/alligatorcreekbandb/posts/444330738965127

Received a remittance advice from Internet Find Pty Ltd
Adrian’s Autos
“…never requested to be on this site (Internet Find)…be careful you don’t pay invoices you never requested…”
https://www.facebook.com/adriansautos/posts/804666259631467

Another scam invoice from QLD Tourism
Sandgate Historical Society
“…Amanda Stichbury, please note that we will not be paying this one either…we hope the QLD Department of Justice and the ACCC come calling very soon…”
https://www.facebook.com/sandgatehistorical.soc/posts/500520660004764

Be wary of SouthAustraliaTourism.com.au
The Original Open Market Inc
“…that web site is duping people by the almost exact name…(we) fell for it and got billed for a listing on their site…”
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=906162669405971&id=201248466564065

Scam alert – beware!
Hahndorf Hill Winery
“…please note that this (request for confirmation and payment for a website listing) is NOT from the South Australian Tourism Commission…”
https://www.facebook.com/HahndorfHillWinery/posts/1213582885335063

Warning
Queensland Tourism Industry Council
“…industry operators received hoax invoices from ‘Qld Tourism’ website…”
https://twitter.com/TheQTIC/status/687502431924674560

Warning: Hoax Email From Qld Tourism
HiRUM Software Solutions
“…using unapproved photos and content…”
http://www.hirum.com.au/blog/hoax-email-qld-tourism/

False billing scams
The Checkout – ABC TV
“…deliberately misleading and designed to look like an invoice to get people to pay…”
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/thecheckout/episodes/s03ep09.htm

Accommodation Gold Coast – 1300 656 789
Reverse Australia

“…these people are frauds…you get these bills in the mail for advertising you never signed up to…”
http://www.reverseaustralia.com/lookup/1300656789/

Warning to all small businesses
Books Alive Bookkeeping
“…there is a company that is putting businesses onto a website without legal permission and then invoicing them for this privilege – www.accountantfind.com.au – it is hard enough with budgeting dollars as it is with companies like this acting illegally…”
https://www.facebook.com/BooksAliveBookkeeping/posts/1145148798842557

Important News from Tourism Victoria
Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism
“…some Victorian tourism operators are receiving a letter from victourism.com.au, together with an invoice asking for payment of a 12 month listing…the letter from Vic Tourism is not from Tourism Victoria…”
http://industry.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/NewsEvents/LatestNews/TabId/618/ArtMID/1589/ArticleID/14/Important-News-From-Tourism-Victoria.aspx

Thoughts from us at Travel Victoria. A range of content for either travellers or visitors to Victoria and Melbourne, and for those working in the tourism industry.