The study concerns one form of accommodation, the motel, in the Manawatu, a non-key tourist area in New Zealand. Initially prompted by a claim that Palmerston North, the regional centre, was losing out on important conference custom because of a shortage of accommodation, the study considers this question and proceeds to both describe and analyse motel characteristics in the region. Description includes salient characteristics of moteliers, motels and clients obtained from a questionnaire survey conducted in May 1980. Spatial variations in the characteristics are accounted for in terms of centre types: regional, subregional, market and recreation centres. The theory of hierarchical diffusion and the concept of central places are used in an attempt to explain the location of motels. Findings showed that a large proportion of tourist traffic comprised transient tourists; the shortage of accommodation at Palmerston North appeared to be seasonal rather than absolute; accessibility in terms of visibility did not influence profit and some measure of 'amateurism' was evident in motel management. Time constraints and the limited area of study, however, could have influenced these general findings. It is suggested that transit tourism may be important in other non-key tourist areas, most obviously in the Waikato because of its similarity to the Manawatu, and that further study of this overlooked aspect of tourism seems worthwhile.