As the small businesses and residents of Austin, Texas gear up for the crowds brought in by the upcoming South By Southwest (SXSW) festival, the chance to make overnight accommodations has already rolled on down the highway like a tumbleweed in the breeze.
For the historic, family-owned and operated Austin Motel, reservations for the week of SXSW were filled up before many of this year’s artists and musicians even knew they would be a part of the happenings.
“We take reservations three months in advance,” Manager Michelle McCormick says, “so reservations for SXSW are taken starting on the 1st of December at 9am central time. We sold out within half an hour or so.”
The Austin Motel opened in 1938; a time in American history when the popularity of the automobile and family vacations began to really take off, making roadside motels a popular business. Over the past seven decades, the business has changed with times, adding the classic kidney-shaped pool during the 1950s, constructing additional rooming in the 1960s, and embracing “green” practices in recent years.
However, in an industry increasingly overtaken by automated computer voices and online reservation websites, human interaction is one aspect of doing business that the Austin Motel is just not willing to make a compromise on.
“I think folks like to stay with us for our personality and of course our location,” McCormick says. “We are not much like any other place in the city, and we have history (73 years of it). We still answer our phones with a person, we still take all of our reservations by hand — no computer at the desk — and we are still very people friendly.”
Unlike the big hotel chains, lumped together at every interstate exit with few characteristics to distinguish one from the next, returning guests to the Austin Motel rarely have the same experience as their last visit.
“All of our rooms are decorated differently, and each time you visit you may find something new on the property.” McCormick says. “We currently have two cats living with us here at the motel, and they both seem to be quite popular with our guests.”
As the motel’s slogan goes: It really is “So Close Yet So Far Out.”
Photo via librarygroover, Flickr Creative Commons.