'Serviced Apartments' or 'Corporate Housing'?

What’s in a name? Fiona Murchie reports on a terminology debate that could confuse the European marketplace.

What’s in a name? Fiona Murchie reports on a terminology debate that could confuse the European marketplace.The Serviced Apartment Summit held in London this summer highlighted some of the trends and challenges facing this fast-growing sector.There is no doubt that serviced apartments perfectly match the relocation need. They are ideal for relocating employees to use in a new destination ahead of finding long-term rented accommodation. Equally, at a time when assignment lengths vary, they are the flexible solution for anything up to a year, and even longer if necessary.Increasingly, providers are showing their willingness to adapt to corporate requirements and respond to project needs.For the business traveller too, serviced apartments are ideal as a home away from home, with amenities on tap and the privacy for business entertaining or simply blitzing a piece of work ready for the next day’s meeting, with a kitchen to hand to rustle up a quick meal when you feel like eating, at any time of the evening or into the small hours.More and more providers are realising the benefits of courting the corporates for their relocation business, often initiated by HR or their appointed relocation service provider (see Re:locate magazine Spring 2014).A show of hands by the majority of the audience at the procurement session of the summit endorsed this view. But there are potential problems ahead.After years of putting forward the serviced apartment industry case and educating corporates about the benefits of this accommodation solution, I was perturbed to hear of a collaborative initiative looking to redefine the market terminology in Europe as ‘corporate housing’.Length of stay currently determines the product. It is all about the distinction between aparthotels, which accommodate shorter stays of a few nights and operate on the hotel model, and serviced apartments, which are typically looking for a stays of four to six weeks or longer.The introduction of the alien US term corporate housing to the UK and European markets would surely set the clock back and add more confusion to this young property sector. It already struggles to educate its marketplace, but recognises the need for clarity and is making great strides as it strives to keep place with the growth agenda and satisfy the need for consistent quality, compliance and trackability.After the sterling work members of the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP) have done in the UK to educate the corporate marketplace, promote quality standards and introduce an accreditation scheme, changing the vocabulary to corporate housing would surely be a retrograde step.In the UK and Europe, the corporate world of relocation HR and their relocation service providers understand the terminology. There is always more work to be done on clarification of offering, but progress has been made.In the long term, an international accreditation scheme may be the answer, but as this hasn’t been achieved in the hotel industry, it would seem to be an unrealistic goal in the short term, when providers are naturally focusing on chasing growth in both existing and new and emerging markets.There is strong demand for the right product, and the leading global brands are striving to clarify their levels of offering. BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, Oakwood and The Ascott Limited are just some of those that have made huge strides over recent years.SACO Apartments has a clear and respected brand and is managing to move into international markets, bringing its loyal corporate clients with it. New initiatives such as the TAS Alliance represent a network of independent providers and the potential framework for tiers and consistency.So if the corporate relocation buyer is the prize, perhaps a little more consultation with both the corporate global mobility professionals and the relocation service industry providers would be wise.Let us have your views: does the terminology matter? © 2014 Re:locate magazine, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein.

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