Categories
Accommodation Bookings Holidays Web technology Websites

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!

Categories
Accommodation Advertising Bookings Business Search engine optimisation Web promotion

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.

 

 

Categories
Advertising False billing Fraud Scams

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, accountancy and entertainment.  The director of those companies is Amanda Stichbury and a significant 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 appears that Special Days Pty Ltd and its director Amanda Stichbury are still operating their network of websites in question.

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…(for listings on) acttourism.com.au and tourismcanberra.com… Amanda Stichbury, the director of these companies, was fined almost $20,000 earlier this year for breaching Australian Consumer Law…”
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…other State/Territory Tourism Offices have reported similar communications being sent to tourism operators either via email or post…”
http://tourism.act.gov.au/industry-link/2013/01/important-notification-for-tourism-operators/

Warning to A.C.T. tourism operators – Special Days Pty Ltd
Visit Canberra
“…tourism operators across several states and territories are once again being targeted with unsolicited emails requesting them to claim their business listing on a number of directory listing websites…Accommodation Find Pty Ltd, Internet Find Pty Ltd and Special Days Pty Ltd…(we) strongly advise against paying any fees to companies you are unfamiliar with…”
http://tourism.act.gov.au/industry-link/2017/02/warning-to-act-tourism-operators-special-days-pty-ltd/

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…Special Days Pty Ltd operate under a variety of names and continue to make contact with ATDW members seeking payment for having a listing on one of their many websites…”
http://atdw.com.au/tourism-operator/operator-support/faq/

Special Report: Beware of being scammed
AccomNews
“..a number of accommodation providers have…(received)…invoices for unauthorised website and advertising listings…complaints have been made to the Department of Fair Trading and it has gained convictions of Special Days P/L and Amanda Stichbury…”
http://www.accomnews.com.au/2015/08/special-report-beware-of-being-scammed/

Unauthorised website listings worry resorts
AccomNews
“…receiving invoices for unauthorised website listings…invoices, overdue notices and reminders for one accommodation provider dating back to 2009…letter of demand that threatened legal action if the amount claimed was not paid…complaints have been made to the Department of Fair Trading…”
http://www.accomnews.com.au/2014/03/unauthorised-website-list-ings-worry-resorts/

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…victourism.com.au and Vic Tourism are not related in any way to Tourism Victoria…”
http://industry.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/NewsEvents/LatestNews/TabId/618/ArtMID/1589/ArticleID/14/Important-News-From-Tourism-Victoria.aspx

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
“…invoices…seeking payment for the amount of $99 for listing on websites which started with the word accommodation…the listings were not authorised…this is a fraudulent practice…lodge a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading…”
http://www.hostedaccommodationaustralia.com.au/news/Scams-and-Frauds.aspx

Fraudulent Invoices
Hosted Accommodation Australia Ltd
“…invoices are again being sent to members throughout Australia seeking payment for the amount of $99 for listing on websites which are registered to a company named Special Days Pty Ltd…if you have not authorised a listing for your business then the charge is fraudulent…”
http://www.hostedaccommodationaustralia.com.au/news/Fraudulent-Invoices.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/originalopenmarket/posts/906162669405971

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 Notification to NSW Tourism Operators
Randwick City Tourism
“…several complaints from tourism operators in relation to tax invoices requesting payment for product listings featured on www.sydneytourism.com.au…these websites have no affiliation with Destination NSW nor do their parent companies Accommodation Find Pty Ltd, Internet Find Pty Ltd and Special Days Pty Ltd…if you have received an invoice from any of these websites, please do not pay it…”
https://www.facebook.com/randwickcitytourism/posts/1181937995174938

Complaints from tourism operators
Goulburn River Valley Tourism
“…complaints from tourism operators in relation to emails from Victoria Tourism asking to review business details on their website – www.victoriatourism.com.au…this website has no affiliation with Visit Victoria nor do their parent companies Accommodation Find Pty Ltd, Internet Find Pty Ltd and Special Days Pty Ltd…if you have received an invoice or an email from any of these websites, please disregard it…”
https://www.facebook.com/goulburnrivervalleytourism/posts/1402717523085659

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
“…some Gold Coast Tourism members have received an invoice from an organisation calling themselves Qld Tourism (www.qldtourism.com) for $95…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/

Accommodation Find – 1800 199 863
Reverse Australia

“…us and many other businesses received bills for advertising we simply did not sign up or agree to…it’s not fair billing people for stuff they didn’t ask for…”
http://www.reverseaustralia.com/lookup/1800199863/

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

Categories
Accommodation Dogs Pets Travel

Dog-friendly holiday accommodation

Did you know that in Australia, there are more pets than people?

Pets are very important to people in today’s society. Among other things, they provide companionship and positively influence the lives of their owners and families.

When it comes to dogs, Australians love their canine friends. In fact, 39% of households across the nation own a dog.

Dog on beachAbout 20% of dog owners take their pets with them on holidays, and this percentage is on the rise. If people take their dogs to parks, the beach, or on day trips, why not for overnight stays away from home? It also means there is no need to use pet-minding services or expensive boarding facilities when pet owners want to go away.

One of the issues when going on holidays with a pet is finding suitable dog-friendly accommodation. Properties that advertise themselves as being dog-friendly can actually be quite varied in the facilities provided and the rules that apply to pets staying with their owners.

It is important to keep in mind that accommodation that is specified as being dog-friendly doesn’t automatically permit dog to come inside and snuggle up in bed with their owners. Not everyone sleeps with their pets, and some don’t even let their pets inside the family home, so accommodation that has strict conditions may actually be perfectly suitable for some holidaymakers.

OUTSIDE ONLY DOGS

Outside dogAround 24% of pet dogs are exclusively kept outside the family home. Therefore accommodation which permits dogs, but only if they are kept outside, can offer a very suitable place to stay for a significant number of dog owners. These properties may provide pets with a kennel in a sheltered outdoor area and a securely fenced area for dogs to run around within.

INSIDE & OUTSIDE DOGS

65% of pet dogs spend time both inside and outside the family home. Some of those dogs may be permitted inside the home only under supervision and may actually still sleep outside. There are a significant number of holiday properties that welcome pets inside, but only in designated areas, such as within rooms that have hard floors. They may also have restrictions with regards to dogs sleeping on soft furnishings or on beds. For a dog that spends time both inside and outside, these restrictions may be quite suitable.

INSIDE ONLY DOGS

Inside dogAbout 11% of pet dogs are always kept indoors. In such cases, it is important to find dog-friendly accommodation that not only allows pets to come inside, but also to sleep inside. Such accommodation may either provide a designated area inside where the dog can sleep, a dog bed, or even allow dogs to sleep on human beds with their owners.

CARAVAN PARKS

Caravan ParksA number of caravan parks or holiday parks are dog-friendly. However, restrictions can vary significantly. Managers need to balance the needs and comfort of those guests with pets and those without, particularly due to the size of some of those parks and the large number of guests. Some parks may only permit dogs with site bookings, so guests would need to keep their pet on a leash within the area around their caravan or tent. A few parks have dedicated dog-friendly cabins which not only permit pets inside, but also provide a private fenced area around the cabin for dogs to run around in.

HOTELS & MOTELS

Hotels & motelsIt can be challenging to find a  hotel or motel that allows you to bring your dog inside with you, however some managers have set aside rooms which are dedicated for those with pets. If you are happy for your canine companion to stay outside, a number of motels can cater for pets, with sheltered and secure outdoor areas, although owners may need to bring their own pet bedding.

BED & BREAKFASTS

Bed & breakfastsBed & breakfasts can be quite welcoming of people travelling with dogs as often their managers have pets of their own living on the property with them. As most dogs are fairly social, it might be quite a treat for your pet to have a new companion to interact with during their stay. While you may develop a friendship with your B&B host, your pet may end up bonding closely with the resident canines.

HOLIDAY HOUSES, UNITS & COTTAGES

Holiday houses & cottagesSelf-contained accommodation, such as holiday homes and cottages, usually have plenty of room inside and outside, making them an ideal choice for those travelling with dogs. Many holiday homes are welcoming of those with pets, and usually they have a securely fenced yard so your pet can wander around the garden safely. Some properties also allow pets inside, however you should always confirm if there are any out of bounds areas or rules that need to be adhered to.

WHAT DOG-FRIENDLY MEANS

Keep in mind that dog-friendly doesn’t always mean dogs can come inside, sleep on furniture, or be provided with complimentary bedding and treats. There may be a number of conditions that a property owner puts in place for the comfort and benefit of current and future guests, as well as other people in the vicinity.

Different dogs and their owners have different needs, so not every property listed as being dog-friendly is suitable for you and your pet. That’s why it is important to contact accommodation managers prior to booking to discuss you and your pet’s specific requirements.

Statistics related to pets in this posting are relevant to Australia only, and have been taken from the Animal Health Alliance (Australia) report which uses a number of resources, including Galaxy Research and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Categories
Advertising Business Facebook Social media Web promotion

Increasing business exposure through Facebook

With the high proliferation of social media usage these days, any business that wishes to increase their market share needs a visible social media presence.

Facebook is currently the world’s largest social network, having been first launched in 2004. For most businesses, Facebook should be at the top of the list when looking to increase exposure through social media.

A business page on Facebook prominently displays the number of “likes” by people visiting the actual page or its embedded feed on other websites.

Some business owners treat the number of Facebook likes as a status symbol whereby a large figure is a clear statement that not only is the business well-known, but that it is also much loved by the public. They also believe that an increasingly large number of likes will create snow-ball effect in terms of popularity, as visitors to the Facebook page will be impressed by the significant number of likes and feel that they too must join the masses and also like the page.

In order to increase the number of like on a business Facebook page, business owners may employ a number of methods. In terms of gaining popularity through use of the internet, owners can:

  1. Include links to their Facebook page on their own website, thus providing an easy way for website visitors to also add to the tally of Facebook likes. This method is particularly effective for websites that receive a good number and diverse range of visitors.
  2. Highlight their Facebook page through email postings, blog postings, or comments by their Facebook page on other Facebook pages.
  3. Promote their Facebook page through Facebook’s promotional services. If provided with a daily advertising budget, Facebook can target Facebook users whom it thinks might find a business page interesting, as well as allowing the business owner to restrict the promotion to a certain demographic. A “suggested page” box promoting the page will appear on Facebook for designated people, encouraging them to view and/or like that page.
  4. Buy Facebook likes. There is a whole industry that is devoted to selling businesses Facebook “likes” in bulk for an insanely small amount of money. For example, one such service we came across promises to deliver 10,000 page likes for just $200. Using Facebook’s official promotional services could typically cost 20 times that amount, or $4,000.

While buying Facebook likes from third parties may seem to be a great cost-effective solution to build up a business profile, it can either be a waste of money or cause a business credibility issues. This is because those bulk bought likes usually come from a massive pool of fake Facebook profiles that promoters have at their disposal. The actions of these fake Facebook accounts look even more dodgy when many are of a completely different demographic that would typically like a particular page. Would you really expect that a 70 year old grandmother from Iceland is going to like the Facebook page of a skateboard shop in Mildura?

The consequences for businesses buying artificial likes are:

  • It can put genuine people off liking that page. Since all these profiles are fake, there will be no further interaction on that business’s page other than the initial like. Interested people visiting a Facebook page may be very suspicious of liking it if they see it has something like a staggering 50,000 likes with virtually no one liking or interacting with specific posts.
  • It does nothing for brand exposure. After all, exposing a business to tens of thousands of people who don’t exist is pointless. They can’t even tell their Facebook friends about it as they are fake too!
  • It won’t generate any engagement with a target audience. A business may have some amazing photos or information to share on Facebook, but with no genuine people listening, what’s the point?
  • No generation of leads or sales. Fake people don’t buy things nor do they visit websites linked within Facebook postings. So if the ultimate aim of the business is to generate income, then marketing to fake people is not going to generate any return.
  • Many likes that were paid for may disappear overnight. Facebook regularly runs checks to weed out and remove likes by what it deems to be fake people. Businesses may be wasting money buying what ends up being very short term likes.

You can easily identify a business Facebook page that has built up most of its likes by purchasing likes in bulk from people that don’t really exist.

Compare these two examples of Australian travel Facebook pages, illustrated below. They are business pages with a similar number of likes and regular daily postings. The big difference between those pages is the “people talking about this” figure which refers to the number of people actually engaged with that page and its postings.

In general, a page with a good level of engagement gets a figure of between 5% to 10% of the total number of likes. Anything beyond 10% is outstanding. In this first example, the engagement figure is 9.5% which is quite good. It appears to be a Facebook page which has been built up from a genuine and real user base with an ongoing interest, so the number of likes is a good representation of its popularity. In the second example, the ratio of engagements to likes is an appalling 0.2%.  You can be almost guaranteed that most of those likes are generated from fake profiles which have no interaction with the page other than the initial like.

Facebook business page
A Facebook business page with likes by real people that interact with the page.

 

Facebook business page
A Facebook business page which appears to have most of its likes bought in bulk using fake Facebook profiles that obviously don’t interact with the page.

 

For businesses who want to increase their exposure on Facebook, don’t bother with fake people and likes – after all, they cannot buy anything, they won’t interact, nor can they spread the word to their friends. Facebook pages that are mainly made up with fake likes can be easily identified and may create a negative impression of that business. Businesses who want to build up a good Facebook profile should therefore only seek real likes by real people.

Categories
Driving Melbourne Public transport Transport Travel

How to get to Melbourne’s city centre from Melbourne Airport

Melbourne Airport
Melbourne Airport

Melbourne Airport, also known as Tullamarine Airport, is located 19 kilometres north-west of Melbourne‘s central business district.  Once your flight lands at the airport, there are a number of transport options for getting to the city centre.

By bus:

SkyBus
SkyBus

SkyBus operates a fleet of clean and comfortable airport buses which travel express from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station in the city centre.

The SkyBus service operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Departures are every 10 minutes from 6am to midnight. Between midnight and 6am, departures are either every 15 or 20 minutes.

On average, the journey on SkyBus takes 20 minutes. During morning and afternoon peak times, the average journey time is 30 minutes due to the extra traffic.

Reservations are not required on SkyBus. Simply buy your tickets online or at the SkyBus ticket booth located at Melbourne Airport or Southern Cross Station. Tickets are valid for 3 months from the date of purchase. The Myki smart card cannot be used on SkyBus.

SkyBus also operates a fleet of mini buses which can transport ticket holders from Southern Cross Station to a number of hotels in the city, free of charge.

Star Bus
Star Bus

Alternatively, Star Bus operates a door to door service from Melbourne Airport to the city centre and its immediately surrounding inner suburbs from 6am to 6pm, 7 days a week. Unlike SkyBus, you won’t need to change buses if you need to be dropped off somewhere specific.

By train:

There is currently no direct train or tram line between Melbourne Airport at the city centre. As such, SkyBus is the quickest and easiest way to travel between the airport and city by public transport.

If you really do want to use the train, catch the Craigieburn line train from Melbourne and get off at Broadmeadows station. Transfer to bus number 901 which is a SmartBus service that operates frequently between Broadmeadows Station and Melbourne Airport. Allow least one hour for this entire journey, keeping in mind that there are no train or bus services between Melbourne and Broadmeadows from just after midnight to about 5am during weekdays.

By taxi:

Designated taxi ranks are located at Melbourne Airport, on the ground floor in front of each terminal. The taxi fare from the airport to Melbourne’s city centre is approximately $60.

You can pre-book a taxi to pick you up from the airport. The driver will park in the short term car park and will meet you at the baggage carousel, where you will be then escorted to the waiting taxi.

By chauffeur:

Travel in style between Melbourne AiAirport chauffeurrport and the city, with the option of being dropped off directly at your city hotel.

Let Royale Limousines take the hassle out of getting to and from Melbourne Airport in one of their chauffeur driven standard or luxury vehicles.

Once you experience a chauffeur service, you’ll never want to drive yourself to the airport again!

Airport chauffeur - standard car Airport chauffeur - luxury car

By hire car:

Six major car rental companies operate at Melbourne Airport. Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Thrifty and Redspot have information desks at the domestic terminals with car pick-ups available from their offices located in the short term car park at the front of the airport.

Melbourne Airport is located 20 kilometres by road from the heart of Melbourne.

The most direct route, which avoids toll roads, will take 25 minutes if there are minimal traffic delays. Travel via the Tullamarine Freeway (M2), exit at Bulla Road (metro route 37) which then becomes Mt Alexander Road and Flemington Road as it heads into the city centre.

Alternatively, take the Tullamarine Freeway (M2) and travel along the western section of the CityLink toll road. This will take less than 20 minutes assuming there is no significant congestion. Hire car companies have procedures in place whereby you can be automatically billed for using the vehicle on any toll roads.

Map of driving routes from Melbourne Airport to Melbourne CBD
Map of driving routes from Melbourne Airport to Melbourne CBD

By air:

Heli-Express
Heli-Express

Heli-Express offers a helicopter service from Melbourne Airport to the city.

Passengers are greeted at Melbourne Airport and are chauffeur-driven for 2 minutes to the nearby heliport where they board a luxury twin-engine Agusta helicopter. The flight time is just 4 minutes, with passengers being dropped off at a Yarra River heliport. Complimentary refreshments are served in the passenger lounge, where connecting transport can be arranged.

The helicopter service operates during daylight hours with between 2 and 6 passengers per flight.

Categories
Accommodation campervan Caravanning Transport Travel

Caravan parks close to Spirit of Tasmania

Caravan park
Caravan park

When travelling within Australia with your caravan, you need not let the waters of Bass Strait constrain your journey.

Spirit of Tasmania, a passenger and vehicular ferry which traverses Bass Strait and links mainland Victoria with Tasmania, welcomes aboard those travelling with caravans, campervans and motorhomes.

Between late September and Easter, Spirit of Tasmania operates a number of day sailing services which depart from both Melbourne (Station Pier at Port Melbourne) and Devonport at 9am. Check-in for those services is between 6:30am and 8:15am.  Due to the early morning check-in, those with caravans or motorhomes may find it convenient to stay in a caravan park close to the ferry terminal the night before, so that first thing in the morning they only have a short drive to board the boat.

Caravan Parks close to Port Melbourne

1. Discovery Parks Melbourne

Ashley Gardens BIG4 Holiday Village
Discovery Park Melbourne (formerly Ashley Gardens Holiday Village)
  • 13 kilometres by road north-west of ferry terminal entrance
  • The quickest driving route does not use any toll roads
  • Ensuite sites, powered sites (paved and grassed)
  • Recreation room, playground, pool, tennis court, indoor spa & sauna, camp kitchen
  • Caravan storage available
  • Woolworths supermarket is next door
  • Official website – www.discoveryholidayparks.com.au/caravan-parks/victoria/melbourne-melbourne
  • Location – 129 Ashley Street, Braybrook
  • Phone – (03) 9318 6866

2. Melbourne BIG4 Holiday Park

Melbourne BIG4 Holiday Park
Melbourne BIG4 Holiday Park
  • 16 kilometres by road north of ferry terminal entrance
  • Ensuite sites, powered sites, unpowered camp sites
  • Solar heated pool, adventure playground, games room, movie room, camp kitchen
  • Caravan storage and secure luggage storage available
  • Official website – www.melbournebig4.com.au
  • Location – 265 Elizabeth Street, Coburg
  • Phone – (03) 9353 8222

3. Honey Hush Caravan Park

Honey Hush Caravan Park
Honey Hush Caravan Park
  • 17 kilometres by road west of ferry terminal entrance
  • The quickest driving route does not use any toll roads
  • Powered sites, unpowered tent sites
  • Official website – www.honeyhush.com.au
  • Location – 6 Leakes Road, Laverton North
  • Phone – (03) 9369 2253

Caravan parks close to East Devonport

1. Abel Tasman Caravan Park

Abel Tasman Caravan Park
Abel Tasman Caravan Park
  • 900 metres by road from  ferry terminal entrance
  • Cabins, powered sites, unpowered sites
  • BBQ area, childrens playground, newly renovated amenities
  • Official website – www.abeltasmancaravanpark.com.au
  • Location – 6 Wright Street, East Devonport
  • Phone – (03) 6427 8794

2. Discovery Holiday Parks Devonport

Discovery Holiday Parks Devonport
Discovery Holiday Parks Devonport
    • 1.3 kilometres by road from ferry terminal entrance
    • Cottages, cabins, ensuite sites, powered sites
    • BBQs, kiosk, playground, movie room, waterfront location
    • Official website – www.discoveryholidayparks.com.au
    • Location – 13 Tarleton Street, East Devonport
    • Phone – (03) 6427 8418

 3. Devonport Holiday Village

Devonport Holiday Village
Devonport Holiday Village
    • 1.8 kilometres by road from ferry terminal entrance
    • Cabins, ensuite sites, powered sites, unpowered sites
    • BBQs, mini-supermarket, 3 hectares of gardens and trees
    • Official website – www.devonportholidayvillage.com.au
    • Location – 20 North Caroline Street, East Devonport
    • Phone – (03) 6427 8886

4. Bay View Holiday Village

Bay View Holiday Village
Bay View Holiday Village
    • 2.1 kilometres by road from ferry terminal entrance
    • Cabins, powered ensuite sites
    • BBQ area, waterfront location
    • Official website – bookings.goldenchain.com.au
    • Location – 2 North Caroline Street, East Devonport
    • Phone – (03) 6427 0499
Tasmania
Caravan parks close to the Spirit of Tasmania ferry terminal in East Devonport
Categories
Activities Attractions Holidays Tourism

The 12 Days of Christmas in Victoria

With Christmas just around the corner, here is our version of the timeless carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas“.

On the 12th day of Christmas, Victoria gave to me…

…12 famous apostles

12 Apostles
12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road

The 12 Apostles are Victoria’s most famous coastal attraction consisting of towering limestone stacks near Port Campbell on the Great Ocean Road. However, they are the 12 Apostles in name only.  Just 8 remain standing today due to relentless wind and ocean erosion over the years.

…11 public holidays

Horse racing
Racing at the Melbourne Cup

There are 11 days of celebration in Victoria that are declared non-working days. Unique to Victoria is a public holiday to mark the running of Australia’s richest horse race, the Melbourne Cup, which is held on the first Tuesday of November. Due to the good weather that time of year, some people also take the Monday off work (sometimes illegitimately!) and turn the Melbourne Cup holiday into a mega 4 day long weekend.

…10 winter snowfields

Snowfields
Mt Buller snowfields

Victoria has 10 designated snowfields, all located in the east and north-east. They include large commercial resorts such as Falls Creek, Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and Mount Baw Baw. For sightseeing snow and tobogganing that is very close to Melbourne, head to Mount Donna Buang, just over 90 kilometres east of Melbourne via Warburton.

…9 big things

Murray cod
The giant Murray cod at Swan Hill

Australia is home to many novelty structures that are vastly over-sized monuments to something of local significance. 9 of Victoria’s most iconic big things include a cigar, earthworm, koala, fish, a statute of Ned Kelly, pheasant, potatoes with forks, wine bottle and wool bales.

…8 diverse islands

A number of Victoria’s islands are uninhabited or inaccessible, however there are 8 islands which the general public are permitted access to and can reach fairly easily. The most visited is Phillip Island – within easy reach of Melbourne and internationally recognised for its penguin parade and grand prix. Also in Western Port is the heritage farm of Churchill Island and French Island with its significant koala population. Raymond Island, accessible by car ferry from Paynesville, is renowned for its native wildlife, while Griffiths Island at Port Fairy is linked by a pedestrian causeway to the mainland and is home to a large colony of mutton birds. Snake Island is Victoria’s largest sand island, located off the coast of Port Welshpool, noted for great fishing on its beaches. Gabo Island, located off the coast of Mallacoota, is home to large colonies of sea birds and features a pink granite lighthouse. And the final island is Swan Island, located off the coast of Queenscliff. Visitors are welcome to play at the local golf course which boasts being an all weather course given it resides on an island made up of drifting sand.

…7 historic paddlesteamers

Emmylou paddlesteamer
P.S. Emmylou, Port of Echuca

Echuca, once Australia’s busiest inland port, is home to 7 paddlesteamers that operate from the historic Port of Echuca precinct on the Murray River. Enjoy a short day cruise, a dining experience, special occasion or overnight cruise on one of the paddlesteamers Adelaide, Alexander Arbuthnot, Canberra, Emmylou, Hero, Pevensey or Pride Of The Murray. The paddlsteamer Adelaide is the oldest wooden-hull paddlesteamer that is still operating anywhere in the world.

…6 wine zones

Wineries
Montalto Vineyard, Red Hill

Victorians love their wine, and the state is divided up into 6 flourishing cool and warm climate wine zones. There are hundreds of wineries ranging from boutique family-owned establishments to large scale operations that export world-wide. Many wineries provide a complete destination experience with their own cellar doors, sales of local produce, restaurants and beautiful gardens.

…5 enthralling zoos

Lion
Lion, Melbourne Zoo

Zoos Victoria manages 3 zoos in Melbourne and its surroundings – Melbourne Zoo,  Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. There are two other zoos in Victoria which are well worth visiting. The Halls Gap Zoo, located in the scenic Grampians between Halls Gap and Pomonal, is home to over 160 species of animals, with a strong emphasis on native fauna. The Mansfield Zoo, located within picturesque parkland to the south of Mansfield, with particular emphasis on allowing visitors to feed many of the animals.

…4 mineral springs

Mineral spring
Sulphur spring, Mineral Springs Reserve

Victoria’s Macedon Ranges are home to Australia’s largest concentration of natural mineral springs, and one of the best places to see this is at Hepburn Springs. Head to the Mineral Springs Reserve where you will find the iconic Hepburn Bathhouse health complex, parkland and bush tracks. There are 4 mineral springs within the park that you can sample and fill up at – Locarno, Soda, Sulphur and Wyuna.

…3 gold mines

Gold mine
Central Deborah Gold Mine, Bendigo

Victoria’s gold rush period of the 1850s has left the state with a lasting legacy of history, wealth and prosperity. Get a taste for what life was like for miners in those days, as they toiled for riches without the equipment and technology of today, by visiting 3 of Victoria’s gold mines that are open for public underground tours. Descend 61 metres below the surface and walk in the foot steps of past miners at Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo. Visit Sovereign Hill at Ballarat and take a fully guided tour in a mine tram for a unique themed underground experience. Or head to the quaint village of Walhalla, where time has stood still, and take a guided tour of the original workings of the Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine.

…2 folklore legends

Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly statue, Glenrowan

There are 2 Australian folklore legends which Victoria is synonymous with. The Man from Snowy River, portrayed in Banjo Paterson’s poem, was written in 1890 and is believed to have been inspired by Corryong stockman Jack Riley. Ned Kelly, the infamous, daring and charismatic bushranger, who spent years defying the law, was eventually captured in the small town of Glenrowan where a large monument dedicated to him stands there today.

…and 1 award-winning city

Melbourne
Tram at Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Melbourne was named by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the world’s most liveable city in 2014, scoring very well in areas of health, education, safety, stability and infrastructure. Visit Melbourne today and experience its multicultural heritage, great shopping, abundance of parks and iconic sporting events.

Categories
Driving Holidays Public transport Road trips Tourism Transport Travel

How to get to Phillip Island from Melbourne

Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island
Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

Phillip Island is one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations. It is well-known for its famous penguin parade, large fur seal colony,  native wildlife, exciting racing at the island’s Grand Prix circuit, its scenic coastline, quaint fishing villages, beautiful beaches, outdoor dining, and so much more.

The island’s reasonably close proximity to Melbourne makes it a popular choice for visitors, be it a day trip or longer stay.

As the crow flies, Phillip Island is only 75 kilometres from Melbourne.  There are a number of ways to get there.

By car

Phillip Island map
Driving from Melbourne to Phillip Island

Phillip Island is linked to the Victorian mainland by a bridge at San Remo. The distance to drive from the heart of Melbourne to the bridge is just over 120 kilometres.

Head south-east along the Monash Freeway (M1), taking either the South Gippsland Freeway (M420), Clyde Road (C407) or Koo Wee Rup Road (C422) exit.  Follow the M420 and B420 signs as you travel along the South Gippsland Highway, Bass Highway and Phillip Island Road.

The journey time is usually around 90 minutes.

Note that there is no car ferry to Phillip Island, so if you wish to bring your vehicle onto the island, you must use the bridge at San Remo.

Driving directions from Melbourne to Phillip Island

By bus

A number of V/Line bus services run between Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and several towns on Phillip Island including Newhaven, Cape Woolamai, Surf Beach, Sunderland Bay and Cowes.  The journey from Melbourne requires a change of bus at Koo Wee Rup and takes around 2 hours to get to the bridge and a further 20 to 25 minutes to Cowes.

Refer to the V/Line timetable for Melbourne to Cowes.

By train and bus

Another option is to catch a suburban train service to Dandenong. From there, catch a V/Line bus that travels direct to Phillip Island. The train journey to Dandenong takes between 40 to 50 minutes, depending from which station in Melbourne’s city centre is used. The bus journey from Dandenong to the Phillip Island bridge takes around one hour and 45 minutes, and a further 20 to 25 minutes to Cowes.

Refer to timetable for Melbourne to Cowes which also includes details of the train service to Dandenong.

By train and ferry

Passenger ferry service from Stony Point to Cowes
Passenger ferry service from Stony Point to Cowes

For something a little different, you can catch a suburban train from Melbourne to Frankston (1 hour), then switch onto a diesel service which runs from Frankston to Stony Point (35 minutes).

From Stony Point Jetty, board the Inter Island Ferries passenger catamaran which docks at the Cowes Jetty.  The boat trip takes around 45 minutes, usually with a stop at French Island.

By car and ferry

Driving from Melbourne to Stony Point
Driving from Melbourne to Stony Point

If you have a vehicle but don’t want to drive all the way around the eastern side of Western Port to the Phillip Island bridge at San Remo, you can instead drive to Stony Point and catch a passenger ferry from there.

Head south-east along the Monash Freeway (M1), take the South Gippsland Freeway (M420) exit and continue along that road which becomes the Western Port Highway (M780/A780) and ends up at Hastings.  Alternatively, take the EastLink (M3) exit off the Monash Freeway, then the Peninsula Link (M11) exit and follow that freeway to the Frankston-Flinders Road (C777) exit which takes you to Hastings.

Once in Hastings, follow the Frankston-Flinders Road (C777) to Bittern where there is a turn-off to Stony Point Road (C786) which ends up at the Stony Point railway station and jetty.

There is a public car park in the vicinity of the railway station and jetty. Alternatively, secure parking is available for a nominal daily fee at the Stony Point Caravan Park.

From Stony Point Jetty, board the Inter Island Ferries passenger catamaran which docks at the Cowes Jetty.  The boat trip takes around 45 minutes, usually with a stop at French Island.

By air

Phillip Island Helicopters
Phillip Island Helicopters

Did you know that Phillip Island has its own airfield?  So you can get to the island by air!

Fronting Phillip Island Road at Newhaven are Phillip Island Helicopters who not only conduct scenic flights, but also offer charter services.  In just 30 minutes, you can be flown from suitable landing locations in Melbourne, such as Essendon Airport or Moorabbin Airport, directly to Phillip Island. Avoid the traffic and save time! See  www.phillipislandhelicopters.com.au for further details.

Join a tour

Take the hassle out of getting to Phillip Island and finding your way around by joining one of the many guided day tours that departs from Melbourne.

Day tours include a range of activities such as a visit to the famous Penguin Parade and eco-tours that explore the island’s diverse flora and fauna. Tours may also include visits to Churchill Island, the Koala Conservation Centre, The Nobbies and the island’s beautiful coastline and beaches.

Phillip Island tours from Melbourne

Coming from Melbourne Airport?

If you are coming to Melbourne by air, see our guide to transport between Melbourne Airport and the city centre.  Once in Melbourne’s city centre, choose from the above options to get to Phillip Island.

Categories
Activities Holidays Shopping Tourism Travel

Queensland Vs. Victoria for shopping hours

As highlighted in our post from last year, Queensland Vs. Victoria for Summer Holidays in the Sun, visitors enjoy several hours of extra daylight in the evening when choosing to holiday in Victoria during summer rather than in Queensland.

Extra daylight is not the only thing visitors to Victoria enjoy more of. Queensland has some of Australia’s most restricted trading hours. This means that when in Queensland, you do have to plan your holiday around shopping hours. In Victoria, you are set free from those restrictions.

Pelican Waters Shopping Village
Shopping in Queensland – restricted trading hours apply.

To illustrate the differences, let us consider the trading hours for the Woolworths chain of supermarkets in various locations across Queensland and Victoria.

First, let’s look at the major population centres in Queensland.

Area of Queensland Day Opening hours
  • Brisbane suburbs
  • Gold Coast (*)
  • Sunshine Coast
  • Major regional cities
Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm
Saturday 8am to 5 or 5:30pm
Sunday 9am to 6pm
(*) Extended trading hours apply to a small number of highly popular tourist areas along the Gold Coast which permits some supermarkets to open later on weekends.

 

Once you start going to smaller cities and towns in Queensland, both along the coast and inland, you will struggle to even find a supermarket open on a Sunday.

Area of Queensland Day Opening hours
  • Bowen
  • Charters Towers
  • Dalby
  • Roma
  • Mt Isa
  • Warwick
Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm
Saturday 8am to 5pm
Sunday closed

 

In Victoria, Woolworths trading hours are much simpler and longer than those in Queensland, particularly on weekends.  This is of great benefit for those who are enjoying a weekend getaway and are trying to fit as much into their schedule as possible.  Importantly, these longer trading hours not only apply just to Melbourne’s suburbs and regional cities, but also to smaller country towns throughout Victoria.

Trading hours in Victoria
Monday to Friday 6-7am to 10-midnight
Saturday 6-7am to 10-midnight
Sunday 6-7am to 10-midnight

 

Woolworths
A Woolworths supermaket in Victoria, open 7 days a week and long hours, for the convenience of locals and visitors.

Visiting Queensland on a Saturday? Chances are major supermarkets only open after breakfast and close before dinner time.  Needing to shop on a Sunday? Good luck in finding a major supermarket that is actually open in smaller regional areas of Queensland.

Visiting Victoria?  Enjoy our unrestricted trading hours and shop virtually whenever you want, every day of the week.