The right platform
New tools are making it easier to incorporate serviced apartments into corporate programmes
One positive from the Covid crisis is the astonishing rate at which technology has been developed to support hands-free check-in and check-out, payment, communication and more. In addition, booking tools for serviced apartments – long the thorn in the booker’s side – are beginning to shape up.
New kid on the virtual block is SITU Live Global Network, giving live online booking for travel buyers through a tool that can be integrated into corporate accommodation programmes. Suppliers can connect inventory, availability and pricing to SITU via platforms such as SiteMinder.
“In addition to our intuitive technology, our customers are also very keen on the vetting and quality process we have put in place across our supply chain to ensure we are supporting and meeting their duty of care obligations when it comes to booking accommodation for their employees,” says Managing Director Phil Stapleton.
Also operating in real time is Suite Hub, a booking platform that gives access to serviced apartment accommodation worldwide, using Microsoft technology. Suppliers can see live market intelligence applicable to each quote before it is closed and submitted to the booker. This might include existing options on the quote from competitors, lowest cost option, the type of accommodation, location, etc. Email notifications are triggered when key updates come in, such as new options added or reduced price offers that come in below their own.
“We also show data such as what previous bookings were – type, length, price, etc. – to assist providers; and we will give a snapshot of the logged-in provider’s history, all with a view to assisting them and giving them the advantage in competing for the business,” says Managing Director Gary Moore.
The uncertainty of the current climate means guests now want more reassurance and this has prompted operators to reduce reliance on OTAs. “They are focusing on direct booking, which gives more control over pricing, discounts and guest communication,” says CEO of res:harmonics Giles Horwitch-Smith. “Where they are using OTAs, they have been highlighting important elements such as cleanliness, space to work and high speed internet.
“Blending lengths of stay is a great way to deal with the ups and downs of markets and challenges like Covid-19 but it can be difficult to implement without a tech focus. We have updated our software and enhanced our platform integrations; for example, adding real estate connections to channel management and pricing partners, to make length of stay diversification easier for suppliers.”
Res:harmonics’ channel management returns bookings from all channels in real time and suppliers can vary rates by length of stay and booking terms, choose which properties can be booked online and take payments online.
“The uncertainty of the current climate means guests now want more reassurance and this has prompted operators to reduce reliance on OTAs”
MYSA connects buyers direct with sellers. “Crucially, travel managers gain 100% transparency of each step to mitigate any risk associated with Covid-19 and use that information to decide which properties are suitable for their programme,” says founder Gary Hurst. “Each corporate client can fine-tune the technology to meet their internal processes and efficiently manage their programme.” Hurst highlights the advantage of directly procured, non-commissionable rates from operators, who pay a small booking fee to MYSA.
New to the serviced apartment market and providing another way to attract bookings at a time when they can be scarce is Occupyd, an online marketplace that connects businesses and individuals “searching for work space with companies that are looking to monetise their extra capacity”. For serviced apartments seeking business to fill some gaps, this could be a good way to get it.
The site is designed for ease of use and providers load details of the property, images and price. For larger organisations, Occupyd will take care of that for them.
“The average price is £100 a day, which is revenue they would not have otherwise earned, and spaces range from commercial kitchens or hairdressers’ chairs and to event space,” says founder Callum McPherson. At present there are no listing fees and the company takes commission on bookings.
Operators’ booking engines are also becoming more sophisticated and it is now possible to book up to four months’ stay directly on the Adagio website, an option the brand notes is becoming increasingly popular with buyers.
Keeping it simple
From June to November 2020, Cheval’s average booking lead time fell by 50% to an average of 28 days and reservations made via mobile devices were up by 23% to 32%.
“With many agencies and TMCs no longer operating at full capacity, added to a significant drop in demand, competition for business in the marketplace is fierce and Cheval has had to maintain a strict and consistent approach to rate parity and commission levels, particularly as multiple approaches are often made for the same enquiry,” says Cheval Collection CEO George Westwell.
National Corporate Housing’s bookings tool can be personalised for corporates, with customised reporting and data to help manage travellers and support traveller tracking. The edyn Corporate Travel Portal provides a one-stop shop to book and modify business travel arrangements with live booking, easy modifications and group requests. Frasers is looking at offering pre-check-in confirmations to reduce time spent in reception.
SilverDoor’s Orbi now hosts live inventory through integration with seven channel managers, bringing greater distribution capability and making available tens of thousands of apartments worldwide. Also new to Orbi and OrbiRelo are visibility of apartment spend and the creation of bespoke reports from existing and past bookings, quotes and billing. The tools can also highlight preferred properties and locations, spend caps against pre-set nightly rates and allow traveller tracking.
“SilverDoor integrations with Conferma Pay and SAP Concur also make booking accommodation and paying online quicker and less time-consuming to administrate,” says Pauline Houston, Vice President of Business Development.
For more on long-stay accommodation, see our 2021 Guide to Serviced Apartments