October 1, 2022
 

Ticking all the boxes

Serviced apartments are meeting the new demands of corporate travellers as business travel resumes, says Catherine Chetwynd in the 2022 Serviced Apartment Guide

Additional space, fewer communal areas, keyless entry, online check-in, minimal guest and staff interaction and productive work spaces are just some of the aspects of serviced apartments which have taken on new significance in the Covid era.

As business travel resumes, the continued demand for social distancing, flexibility, independence and control is broadening the appeal of serviced apartments among both corporate travellers and managers.

Tasked with the challenge of ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of their travelling workforce as they adapt to new ways of working and travelling – while also managing reduced budgets – travel managers and buyers are increasingly turning to serviced apartments to meet their accommodation requirements.

Strength in numbers

The figures, during and since pandemic lockdowns, speak for themselves. According to global research house STR, demand for serviced apartments was relatively strong during the Covid lockdowns and occupancy levels remain high.

“As business is starting to come to life with the return of corporate travel and some conferences, we are starting to see that premium close a bit but people are appreciating the ability to have their own space,” says STR Director Thomas Emanuel. “Occupancy levels in serviced apartments have been quite impressive, with London, Manchester and Edinburgh showing over 80% in September,” he says.

“As business travel resumes, the continued demand for social distancing, flexibility, independence and control is broadening the appeal of serviced apartments”

Staying Cool figures at the end of 2021 reflected this trend. “Sales are incredibly buoyant, better than 2019 even without the VAT benefit – but they are being fuelled by domestic leisure rather than a sizeable return of the business traveller,” says co-founder and Joint Managing Director Tracy Stephenson, with most bookings coming from the creative industries.

Meanwhile, pipelines are astonishing. “Cambridge and Glasgow have more than 50% of their existing supply in the pipeline, and Birmingham and Leeds have roughly 40%; the sector is attractive to investors,” says STR’s Emanuel.

Strong collaboration

Industry body ASAP continues to cement relationships with buyers and promote the need to recognise accreditation through its monthly Travel Buyer Forum, working closely with key industry bodies such as the BTA, GBTA, and the Tourism Alliance.

“In the past two or three years, we have got closer to the corporate traveller and as our relationship with buyers is evolving, we are aligning our work to their needs. Collaboration is essential, we need each other,” says ASAP CEO James Foice.

“Serviced apartments provide a great deal more flexibility for travellers in terms of the potential space, less restricted operating times, such a restaurant and bars and having to fit into a protocol, so we think the apartment world is going to fare better over the next few years.”

The new world

The serviced apartment sector is fast responding to changes in guest behaviour, underpinned by wellbeing and duty of care. “As the world emerges from the pandemic, we are beginning to see less frequent but longer stays, which means apartments are evolving from ‘simply an apartment’ to one that creates a superior home-from-home experience – one that encourages and promotes productivity and wellness,” says Clare Barrie, Vice President, Sales EMEA & APAC for Synergy Housing.

Check In Apartments (formerly Check In London) notes that during the pandemic apartments have invested in super-fast fibre broadband to support uninterrupted remote working and have also invested in content, creating high quality 3D virtual tours and photography to reduce the need for in-person viewings.

“And properties once hesitant to allow pets have now introduced pet-friendly amenities to attract the growing number of The sector is responding to changes in guest behaviour, underpinned by wellbeing and duty of care” pet parents on the move for work,” says Tanielle Pereira, Marketing Director.

“The serviced apartment sector is fast responding to changes in guest behaviour, underpinned by wellbeing and duty of care”

The sector is also reacting to the stronger focus on guest wellbeing. To that end, Premier Suites across Europe has launched ‘A Friendly Face in a New Space’, which will see employees inviting long-stay guests to have coffee “so they can meet and chat with a friendly face; we all need a human connection”, says CEO of PREM Group Jim Murphy.

And Ascott provides free 24-hour medical and travel security advice, plus mental health and emotional support via International SOS. Like the rest of the travel industry, sustainability is also high on the agenda.

Frasers Suites in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Queens Gate and Park International Hotel are now powered by 100% renewable energy, reading matter is digital and employees will soon benefit from uniforms made from 100% recycled plastic.

“We have also given our corporate guests and partners information about the environmental impact of their stays and provided practical suggestions on how to reduce their carbon footprint and live an eco-friendly lifestyle during their stay,” says Frasers Hospitality COO EMEA Rebecca Hollants van Loocke.

Green credentials are being demanded from buyers, although Situ Managing Director Phil Stapleton notes: “We have yet to see this as a mandatory requirement in an RFP or even an enquiry about accommodation.”

But he says this does not reduce Situ’s or any other provider’s commitment to sustainable stays.

The 2022 Serviced Apartment Guide, from The Business Travel Magazine and ASAP, is out now.