Serviced apartments: the European picture

A number of new trends and challenges were discussed at the Serviced Apartment Summit held in London this summer. Fiona Murchie reports on the European perspective.

A number of new trends and challenges were discussed at the Serviced Apartment Summit held in London this summer. Fiona Murchie reports on the European perspective.Europe is the second-largest serviced apartment market in the world after the US, and although it is relatively young, having emerged over the last 20 years or so, the volume across the regions means it is a force to be reckoned with and has some influence on definitions for the future.As countries such as Germany and the UK compete for market share in the emerging markets, so their influence is important in the battle of the brands, and in terminology.Corporate business based in Europe has as strong an influence as corporate business based out of the USA, and perhaps the US global brands need to listen to European businesses if they want a share of their global market. The latest Santa Fe global mobility survey shows that the USA is predicted to continue to top of the relocation destinations table for the next 12 months but is followed closely by China, with the UK third, followed by Singapore and Germany.We know from the Global Serviced Apartments Industry Report that the main concentrations of serviced accommodation in Europe fall in London, Paris, Geneva, Dublin, Brussels and Berlin, but the products vary widely, with different standards across countries.Jo Layton, of The Apartment Service, representing Europe at the Around the World discussion session at the summit, commented that the serviced apartment picture in Europe ten years ago had been hugely fragmented, with virtually no distribution across Europe. Today, she said, there is a huge challenge but also a massive opportunity to make the product clearer.Ms Layton partly explained the confusion in the European market by the number of languages spoken and the different tax systems, legislations and currencies that make it difficult for global agencies to know what they are selling. She was clear that the industry needed to clarify its offering in order to move forward, and that the global and US providers needed to listen to the buyers in Europe.For example, although Paris was defined as a mature market in an earlier session given by HVS, with a lot of aparthotels and an existing classification by Residence de Tourism of one to five rooms with kitchenettes, in terms of catering for the relocation market, which requires longer-stay serviced apartments, the market was still immature.Germany has a newly created classification scheme known as Certified Serviced Apartment.The HVS report states that France, Germany and the UK are all creating clearer industry terms and definitions if not certification schemes for serviced apartments, which it sees as imperative if industry-wide understanding, security and transparency are to be fostered.According to the Santa Fe survey, 76 per cent of the clients surveyed offer temporary housing, with 62 per cent providing destination services support. Net assignment activity is expected to grow by 29 per cent over the next 12 months. The biggest growth is expected to be in the professional services and consulting sectors.And who will be moving? Well, it's the managers, at 58 per cent, with specialists and technical experts following at 44 per cent. Engineers and oil and gas experts are most in demand. Senior executives at president, vice-president or director level will also be on the move.With short-term assignments now accounting for 46 per cent of relocations, the message for the serviced apartment sector is therefore clear.Other global mobility surveys, too, show that companies are planning an increase in relocation over the next year, and serviced apartments will be needed, as 76 per cent of companies survey offer temporary housing as part of their benefits package.With 52 per cent of companies surveyed having only one or two staff in their global mobility team, it is also clear that relocation professionals working for relocation management companies and destination service providers should be the serviced apartment industry&#x;s new best friends if they want a share of the corporate relocation market.&#x;&#x; 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.&#x;