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Monday 30 December 2013

Why some "hospitality" businesses are their own worst enemy

What really annoys Australians when they travel? Seat kickers, loud talkers and naughty children top the list according to a recent survey by

I'd add dismal airline food, rude airport security staff, incompetent car hire companies - but I'm rather grumpy when I travel. 

Screaming children was by far the most common complaint among Australian aircraft passengers, with just under half of all respondents saying it had affected a journey. Other top complaints included: being stuck on a delayed aircraft on the tarmac, stinky fellow passengers, broken entertainment systems and snoring seatmates. 

While the gripes from the 1,000+ respondents ranged from seat kicking to seat reclining, only 30 percent of those surveyed said they had actually confronted their fellow passengers. The rest suffer in silence. I am not one of them.

Asked "What is the most annoying thing a nearby traveller can do on your flight?" the responses were: Kick your seat - 22.72%, Let children misbehave - 16.22%, Talk loudly or incessantly - 15.02%, Recline their seat - 10.51%, Yank on your seat back - 6.3%, put feet on your arm rest or into your leg room - 5.81%, Bring smelly food aboard - 4.3%, Not waiting for those in rows ahead to exit first - 4%, Carry excessive hand luggage - 3.7%. 

My pet travel gripe, however, has nothing to do with flying. What makes me the angriest is travelling in Tasmania during any peak holiday period and finding so many "hospitality" businesses, dependent on tourism for much of their income - closed.

Read the Hobart Mercury and virtually every day there is a local small business person complaining how tough the business environment is. How hard it is to make a honest buck.

Maybe they blame kids in the mall for scaring away shoppers, or the lack of Christmas decorations, or the way council organizes car parking. You'd be convinced there is a statewide vendetta against small business. 

In fact, many of the problems that Tasmanian small businesses complain about are easily solved. For a start, they could open when they have customers ready and waiting to spend money.

Some examples. Very recently, when thousands of cruise ship passengers were wanting to explore the best of Hobart, many of the shops and cafes were closed. The reason: it was a public holiday.

Just today, a Monday, my small village was inundated with tourists. Yet three of the four eateries in town were closed. The one that was open made a killing - and turned dozens of people away. 

Of the other three eateries, one is closed until January 9 for annual holidays. the other for three days until after New Year's Day, the fourth, usually open on a Monday, who knows? They are just closed. 

Come a wet and windy Thursday in mid winter, all four will be open, competing for the business of a handful of customers. 

Now I know that small business people need a life, need to spend quality time with family and friends and often cannot afford to pay penalty rates. But to turn away business is plain crazy. Here's an idea. Why not open over the peak season, make some money (charging a Sunday or public holiday surcharge if necessary), and then close for a few weeks during the quiet winter months. Or quit complaining about how tough it is. 

It is a Tasmania-wide problem - and perhaps it extends to other states. When I flagged it on Twitter, I had responses from South Australians expressing amazement that so many cellar doors were closed; and from someone attending the sales in Hobart who could not find anywhere to buy a coffee - at the same time as The Taste of Tasmania festival was on down the road, the Sydney-Hobart yachts were arriving and every hotel room in town was full. 

Tasmanians have been told the tourism is the future for their beautiful state, but if they don't look after those tourists they will head elsewhere pretty damn smart. And then we'll be back to debating a pulp mill again. Oh, wait, we already are!



  1. Before we moved to tassie we visited 6 times at various times of the year over a 5 year period, it was so frustrating to see so many business closed, especially cafes and wineries when you are trying to find somewhere to have lunch.
    Ive lived here 3 years now and it is still the same .... will they ever learn

  2. A fairly brutally frank assessment of the issues facing Tasmania...
    "Ultimately, Tasmania doesn’t change because its people don’t really want to. They don’t need to change because their way of life is mainly financed by the mainland."

    In January this year, Jonathan West took aim at the the Apple Isle's ongoing failure to perform - both socially and economically. What's really holding Tassie back?

  3. Just back from a drive out to the Barossa today. Likewise CLOSED. Kudos to the Jacob's Creek Visitors Centre who cleaned up.

  4. I like this article a lot Winsor. Hard to believe when there's the Sydney to Hobart & Tatste of Tasmania that businesses would be going out of their way to bolster their bank balances.

    We just spent a week in Canberra over Christmas and it was the same. The galleries & museums were open but everything else was closed. I had the Canberra Times 'Top 20 Restaurants' list and only 1 out of 20 was open! Some had closed a week leading up to Dec 25th and most are closed until Jan 13th. I live in Brisbane and whilst in itself it's not much of tourist mecca, I just couldn't possibly imagine the place shutting down over the busiest time of year. We were thinking of going to Tassie for Christmas 2013 but ended up house sitting in Our Nation's Capital. Tasmania is on the cards for Christmas 2014 so I'll really have to do my research to see what's on offer/open before we spend the $$ on plane tickets.

    On other matters - as a frequent traveller, seat kicking is a major pet peeve. These dasy though it's not so much seat kicking as an extra row being crammed in and everyone having their knees up around their chins. Even the most minor shift in position in your seat can end up pressing into the seat in front. My NY resolution will be to win lotto so I can travel 1st or business!