Thought Leadership – Launching a new apart’hotel in a global pandemic

Following the launch of the latest Citadines Apart’hotel property in Europe, Citadines Islington London, The Ascott Limited’s Area General Manager UK, Billy Hughes, discusses the challenges of launching a new property in a global pandemic and how it has adapted its offering to suit its guests’ needs.


Planning is key

At Ascott, we open new properties across the globe every month and are confident in the structure and processes we have in place to ensure they launch efficiently, effectively and safely. Each opening is supported by a specialist in-house ‘Pre-Opening Champion’, who is responsible for areas including marketing, facilities management, IT, operations and sales.Citadines Islington London is our fifth property under the Citadines Apart’hotel brand to be launched in the UK and is located in the new Islington Square development. Of course, COVID-19 has bought its challenges and some of them have been out of our control, with some of our developers and suppliers also facing obstacles including staff reduction and supply chain issues.When there are lots of external factors that could affect a launch, it is crucial to build strong communication channels with developers, suppliers and third-party contractors. We talked with our partners daily to ensure there was little to no negative impact on the opening of the property or the quality of the product and offering.Ahead of opening we had to make some changes and additions to our public spaces to ensure the safety of our guests and staff. This included the implementation of physical distancing and one-way routes around the property, additional hand sanitising stations and the creation of QR codes to reduce the amount of printed and disposable material on site.

Adapting to the new normal

In June we launched our Ascott Cares commitment, to reassure guests that we will deliver stringent hygiene and cleanliness and continue to provide safe homes for our guests, and a safe working environment for our staff.To strengthen our commitment to cleanliness, Ascott is working with Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspection and certification, which will independently audit and attest the implementation of the hygiene and safety standards of Ascott properties around the world.The "Ascott Cares Hygiene Excellence and Safety Label" is a holistic program developed in collaboration with Ascott using Bureau Veritas' more than 190 years of experience in the areas of health, hygiene and safety in the provision of tests, inspections and certifications.The auditors from Bureau Veritas checked that the properties were using the appropriate procedures and processes for health, hygiene and safety and that they were in accordance with the worldwide best practices for preventive measures in order to be labelled with the "Ascott Cares Hygiene Excellence and Safety Label".Travellers can be confident in our apartment offering, with each of the rooms fitted with a fully equipped kitchen to allow for self-catering, separate sleeping corner or room, private bathroom and TV. Many of our apartments also benefit from a separate living area and working space with desk and free unlimited WiFi. All of our Resident Managers are COVID-19 aware and will ensure that the property continues to meet the high cleanliness and safety standards.
With the current economic outlook, we have been very mindful of how we allocate our budget and have been very conscious as to who we market the property to. The customer base for Citadines Apart’hotels is very varied, from business to leisure and domestic to UK inbound. UK domestic travellers will be our initial target, with staycations becoming even more popular as people look for a short city break after a few difficult months.In addition to this we have been looking at expanding our offering to those looking for office space in the city. We recently launched our ‘Work in Residence’ initiative, where guests can hire an apartment as a private workspace, whilst benefitting from all of the room amenities and offerings at the property.

Looking ahead

With wellbeing on the rise, we have provided yoga mats to guests staying in our deluxe studio and apartments at Citadines Islington London. We are in discussions with a local wellbeing restaurant and yoga studio to provide our guests with discounted yoga and meditation classes, which will be booked through a QR code, as well as a discount on food and beverage.As we expand our footprint in the UK, we will continue to focus our efforts on providing a more sustainable product to our guests. We aim to go cashless, roll out QR codes and be as paperless as possible across our London properties and we are also looking to partner with an online food supplier to promote good eating for the conscious budget traveller.Ascott is always listening to new ideas on how it can improve and evolve its offering, so with every opening we are providing an even better experience for our guests.Our next UK property, Citadines Wembley London, is scheduled to open in 2021. We are working closely with the developer to avoid some of the short delays we experienced at Islington and the Pre-Opening Champions have refined their activities to achieve the many milestones required.Wembley will be the biggest Citadines in Europe with 300 bedrooms and its interior will be reflective of some of the fantastic events that are hosted at the iconic Wembley Stadium.

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