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‘The Calling’ Explores India and Competition in Reality TV Show

Netflix’ reality game show “The Calling” pits three Indians against each other in a test of skills and personal knowledge of each other as they travel India checking items off their bucket list and earning miles toward the Grand Experience and a scholarship. Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are the lucky contestants who are traveling together and, at least up through episode seven, nominally competing against each other.

Each almost-30-minute show begins with a challenge related to the area they have traveled to. One show, they tied ribbons on Yak horns. Another show, they tried to steal pineapples while dodging arrows shot by local hunters. The winner of the challenge gets 1,000 points and the grand experience for that show.

The losers of the challenge must curate an experience for the winner based on two choices given them. Once the two experiences are over, the winner chooses who made the better experience. That person gets to go to the grand experience with the winner and 900 miles. The person, who’s experience isn’t chosen, gets 800 miles. At the end of the season, the person with the most miles will get a scholarship.

This show works as a quick showcase of India and the possibilities of tourist travel. It also exposes parts of Indian culture that people may not be aware of. It doesn’t work as much of a competition because the dynamics of the three travelers tends to make them friends first and competitors second. It would be difficult for three people who competed in a cutthroat manner to travel together, Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are aware of this.

However, through the course of their travels, each of them faces very personal challenges, and they need the support of their traveling companions to overcome the problem. In one episode, the support actually led to the person having the problem winning the challenge. It’s inspiring and nice, and it challenges what Americans know from their own reality shows. “The Calling” shows that people can compete and do so with integrity, respect, joy, and compassion. Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are enjoying each other’s company and the experience while having fun.

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‘Instant Hotel’: The Strategy

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What makes “Instant Hotel” a little different from other reality game shows is that it pits a group of entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry and share economy against each other. Each couple owns an instant hotel, which means they rent out their homes to vacationers. The other couples visit the hotel and rank it based on the home itself, local amenities and attractions, a good night’s sleep and value for the money. These scores, all on a scale of 1 to 10, are combined with the interior design professional’s score. In addition, the group of 8 are given a score from the hosts based on how the home was left and if all the rules were followed. The winner of the game gets a trip to California to stay at an exclusive instant hotel rumored to be run by a Hollywood celebrity.

So, how do you win this game? Since it’s the first season, episode two, it doesn’t appear that many of the participants are looking to win in the traditional sense – getting the prize. Instead, they’re looking to enjoy themselves, see what other instant hotels are doing and just go along for a good time. The mother/daughter team tried to plant the seeds of some sort of alliance against the two gay men, but it was more of a “let’s not let them win because we don’t like them” kind of thing.

If someone wanted to win, they could rate every experience they were on with a zero. The scores are anonymous, and it would probably be too late before anyone did the math to figure out what was going on. That same team could then rate their guests as a zero, and it would still put them ahead but reveal the strategy. This would work best with a team that is later in the series. No one knows when they will be the hosting hotel, but even the first hotel could rate its guests with a six without giving anything away.

However, that’s not actually the point of this competition. The point is for every hotel to get more guests after the episodes air. How do we get more people to come to our hotel rather than the other hotels featured and the other hotels in our area? The first step is to have a great hotel. The second step is to treat your guests well. The third step is to hope the guest at your hotel on this show say good things about your hotel. Whatever happens, the hotel experience needs to be memorable so that no one forgets what your hotel was like.

These steps should help the team connect with the viewing audience in some way and improve booking rates. More needs to happen though. People need to feel like the team is made of people they want to hang out with. They need to feel like the team is something they can support. Most importantly, team members need to find a way to create a story that will last and motivate people to book.

The longer-term gain from “Instant Hotel” is increased tourism for Australia from both nationals and foreigners. So, there needs to be a minimum of bad-mouthing of places and hotels and a maximum of showing off the best the country has to offer. Could a team employ a zero-sum strategy? Sure, and while it might win that team the trip to California, it would undermine the meta game goals of improved bookings at their own hotel and improved tourism for Australia. Because who would want to stay with a team that lied to win?

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2 Episodes In: ‘Instant Hotel’

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When someone does something with passion and the do it well, it’s a joy to watch them be rewarded. In the second episode, Jannine and Mark have a ‘50s-inspired Instant Hotel that’s amazing. The other guests love it, too. When they tell the couple how they feel, Jannine and Mark tear up. It’s a beautiful moment that’ll touch your heart strings, too.

As a series, “Instant Hotel” is fun. Because the participants are Australian, I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Sure, they speak English, but the cultures are different enough to catch an American off guard. So far, they tend to stick with their stereotypes: The two gay guys, the spoiled little girl who can’t get out of bed and her enabling mother, and the young couple with the wife who is spoiled but “in a different way.” But most of them seem to be enjoying themselves. The competition is bound to ratchet up as the mother-daughter team look to bring down the gay-team, but for the moment, there are only seeds for this future conflict.

I don’t normally watch reality television shows, but “Instant Hotel” is a good time that has a different cultural element to it. If you want to diversify your viewing habits and watch something that you don’t normally watch, this show is a good choice. Improve your creativity by replenishing your well and learning about instant hotels in Australia.

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