Serviced apartments: raising the bar

The serviced apartment sector is showing continued growth. However, as it is still relatively new, Fiona Murchie looks at how leading organisations are working to improve and challenge the sector.

Serviced Apartments Raising the bar
With the aim of helping to improve the standard of delivery for guests, the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP) – the leading association for serviced apartment providers – has launched an official directory, as it bids to showcase Quality Accredited serviced apartments.James Foice, chief executive of ASAP, said, “Our ethos as an association is centred on staying with confidence. We want serviced apartment guests to be confident that what they book is, essentially, what they get. Our directory is designed not only to point guests in the direction of those operators and agents they can trust, but also to be worn as a badge of honour within the industry, with members proud to bear our marque.”ASAP is also formalising an international advisory panel “to open communication and create a global voice for the industry” with the Corporate Housing Providers Association (CHAP), which primarily represents North America. Foice added: “ASAP represents member organisations in 18 countries worldwide, including New Zealand, Australia, South America and Asia. Given our increasingly broad geographical spread, we're becoming more and more involved with associations that have similar goals to ASAP. We felt it right to try to align ourselves to help further those ambitions.“Our overriding aim is to establish trust around the serviced apartment industry and we're confident that by working with CHPA and other associations we'll be able to clarify that understanding.”Mary Ann Passi, CHPA's CEO, said: “The creation of this new advisory entity will formalise the collaborations our organisations have enjoyed for years. We look forward to working together as a global voice to help address the challenges our industry and member companies face.”

Education and discussion

All this is good news for corporate global mobility buyers. At the Festival of Global People in May, Relocate will bring together a lively cross-section of providers, so that people managing international assignments and those responsible for business travellers can engage with the sector and learn how the fast-paced serviced apartment sector can benefit corporate employers and their employees. This will also be the opportunity for HR global mobility specialists to put forward their views on where they want to see more properties and air concerns around cost, flexibility and risk. This will be the time to find solutions to global accommodation shortages.

Real bleisure for families

This year, Dublin-based Staycity will open one of its most exciting properties to date – a resort-style complex with 284 apartments and 22 holiday villas, as well as a restaurant, café and outdoor swimming pool.Assignees with families or business travellers who want to spend quality time with their families before going home will be able to capitalise on Staycity Aparthotels Paris in Marne la Vallée, which is situated close to Disneyland Paris and has great transport links via air, road and rail. The property is scheduled to open at the beginning of August.Guest facilities include a lounge, children’s play area, gardens and gym, as well as a free shuttle bus to and from Disneyland Paris. The property has parking for 182 cars, three meeting rooms and a break out area for business and conference use.“We are thrilled to be opening in this fantastic location with what will be our first property with extensive leisure facilities alongside holiday villas,” commented Tom Walsh, Staycity’s CEO and co-founder. “Our guest profile is still expected to be around 20-30% corporate business. The average stay is anticipated to be around 3.5 nights, with the majority of guests coming from Europe.”In addition, the fast-expanding Staycity, which has some 7,000 apartments (operational and pipeline) across Europe, will open new properties in Berlin, Venice, Edinburgh and Manchester in 2019.Brands in the serviced apartment sector have, for some years, been developing to satisfy guest experience, which has also led them to introduce workplace options and lifestyle-enhanced interior features, as well as eating and communal areas. Now, employers are catching up in understanding the value of the employee experience and offering travel as a means of supporting recruitment and retention. For more on bleisure, see the article on page 16.

Support for working parents

Catering to the needs of young families, Cuckooz Nest, which opened in 2018, is London’s first fully-flexible Ofsted-registered creche, with integrated workspace for parents and children under age two. It offers flexible and affordable childcare, alongside office space, on a pay-as-you-go basis. The hybrid concept should fly, as many parents are hard-pressed to find affordable childcare for really young children. Flexible working is key to retention, particularly for women who want to maintain their career without compromising parenthood.“We believe we can positively affect productivity, turnover and morale and, in turn, bring huge cost savings to a company,” said Charlie Rosier co-founder of Cuckooz Nest.“Cuckooz Nest enabled me to go back to work knowing that my daughter was being well looked after, not only in a lovely and safe environment, but also just one door away from me. That is an amazing way of working!” said one parent.Understanding the bigger retention picture, Cuckooz Nest has tapped into a market niche whereby employers can support their staff and enable a higher percentage of returners after maternity leave. (Find out more about what helps to support women in international careers in our coverage of International Women’s Day on page 26)

Monetising premium properties

Employers are well aware that serviced accommodation to satisfy families is highly sought after. They also know that those new to the capital at the start of an assignment might like to trial living in an area before they commit to a long-term let. UnderTheDoormat, a premium short-term lettings provider, is challenging both Airbnb and the serviced apartment sector by enabling homeowners to rent out their homes in prime London locations while they are away.The all-inclusive service covers cleaning, hotel linens and in-house maintenance, as well as the peace of mind of detailed blueprints of how your home works, photo inventories before and after every stay, and the best insurance on the market. Its in-house team makes sure that every home looks beautiful prior to a guest’s scheduled arrival and for the owner’s return. All guests receive a personal welcome in the home, a team on hand 24/7 and a dedicated concierge service – the perfect solution for a hotel-quality experience in the comfort of a home.UnderTheDoormat could be a match made in heaven for companies that have a mobile workforce with a taste for living in the most popular postcodes in the city and outbound frequent business travellers who own properties in premium London locations.