IN­TRO­DUC­TION

Providers across the sec­tor are work­ing hard to speak with one voice and high­light stan­dards

The 2018 Guide to Serviced Apartments - - CONTENTS -

ASAP is work­ing hard to push the ser­viced apart­ment sec­tor's cause

"We need a stamp of ap­proval be­cause com­pe­ti­tion is com­ing in quickly. If sup­pli­ers have not got some­thing to prove their cre­den­tials they will lose business"

Ser­viced apart­ments are the ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor’s ris­ing star, grow­ing in num­ber and pres­ence world­wide, while more busi­nesses are dis­cov­er­ing the ben­e­fits they bring their or­gan­i­sa­tions and em­ploy­ees.

The num­ber of apart­ments world­wide is near­ing one mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Global Ser­viced Apart­ments In­dus­try Re­port 2016/17, and nearly 50% of cor­po­rate buy­ers polled have in­creased their use of apart­ments since the pre­vi­ous sur­vey.

With 190 mem­bers in 18 coun­tries, ASAP – the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ser­viced Apart­ment Providers – is grow­ing in line with the in­dus­try and is also ex­tend­ing its in­flu­ence, first in Europe, with the in­tro­duc­tion of its first over­seas chap­ter ASAP Nether­lands in Oc­to­ber, chaired by Peter Heule, CEO of Short Stay Group; and in De­cem­ber with the launch of the In­ter­na­tional Ser­viced Apart­ment Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Pro­gramme (ISAAP) at the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence.

“We still be­lieve that ac­cred­i­ta­tion of ser­viced apart­ments to en­sure cer­tain stan­dards is fu­elling in­ter­est among busi­nesses and pro­mot­ing growth of the sec­tor. The chal­lenge we have now is to scale it up,” says ASAP’s chief ex­ec­u­tive James Foice.

“We need that stamp of ap­proval be­cause com­pe­ti­tion is com­ing in quickly, es­pe­cially with big brands like Res­i­dence Inn. If sup­pli­ers have not got some­thing to prove their cre­den­tials, they will lose business,” he says.

Cy­cas Hos­pi­tal­ity, an op­er­a­tor of var­i­ous ex­tended stay prop­er­ties in Europe, is a case in point.

“Cy­cas it­self does not need ac­cred­i­ta­tion be­cause the brands it runs are so well fran­chised and con­trolled, but the brands see the value of the in­dus­try be­ing rep­re­sented un­der one ban­ner,” says Foice.

Global ac­com­mo­da­tion man­ager for in­sur­ance com­pany AIG, Jan Ja­cob­sen, adds: “The ac­cred­i­ta­tion is in­tended to give buy­ers con­fi­dence. All prop­er­ties have to be vet­ted by ASAP or by an in­dus­try equiv­a­lent. There are prob­lems with ap­proval world­wide, although ISAAP is a step in the right di­rec­tion.”

Qual­ity street

Fur­ther as­sur­ance for buy­ers comes in the form of the new di­rec­tive that all mem­bers have to be ac­cred­ited. “It was vol­un­tary at first but now that we have 190 mem­bers, they will all be ac­cred­ited by De­cem­ber 2018,” says James Foice.

De­spite this progress, there is still a lack of un­der­stand­ing among cor­po­rate buy­ers of the ad­van­tages of ser­viced apart­ments for trav­ellers, which in­clude the free­dom to cater for them­selves, more space, a qui­eter en­vi­ron­ment and the abil­ity to live as they do at home. Dual-branded prop­er­ties add the op­tion of eat­ing on site.

And the mes­sage is not get­ting through to all TMCs ei­ther. “A lot of cor­po­rate users want to book apart­ments but the larger firms need to go through their TMCs,” says se­nior part­ner ac­count man­ager for Sil­verDoor Apart­ments, Kurtis Mur­phy. “If it’s a short stay, it is eas­ier for a TMC to book what is on their GDS than try some­thing new. That can be a chal­lenge.”

Sil­verDoor takes ac­cred­i­ta­tion se­ri­ously. “ASAP has an im­por­tant role in try­ing to in­tro­duce and drive in­dus­try stan­dards and what it has al­ready done with their ac­cred­i­ta­tion pro­gramme has made huge strides,” he says.

“It also means that we make ev­ery ef­fort to view all our lead­ing prop­er­ties reg­u­larly so we can rec­om­mend apart­ments with to­tal cer­tainty; and we do stay in them – a lot.”

ASAP’s next move is to work with or­gan­i­sa­tions that cap­ture guest opin­ion pro­fes­sion­ally.

“El­e­ments of our ac­cred­i­ta­tion pro­gramme have al­ways had an in­ter­net re­view bias. An as­ses­sor can ex­pe­ri­ence one thing but if cus­tomers are say­ing some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent, that rings alarm bells,” says James Foice.

“We are now look­ing to en­dorse that el­e­ment of the guest ex­pe­ri­ence sci­en­tif­i­cally. There are many or­gan­i­sa­tions that ag­gre­gate con­sumer opin­ion through TripAd­vi­sor, book­ing. com, in­ter­net re­views and Google, to pro­vide an im­par­tial opin­ion and con­sumers will value that.”

Lead­ing the pack

The as­so­ci­a­tion also takes se­ri­ously its role as ed­u­ca­tor and re­cently ran a course to help op­er­a­tors make Chi­nese guests feel wel­come, with sug­gested ac­tions such as a few words of Chi­nese on a web­site, chop­sticks and a rice cooker in kitchens or an app in Man­darin Chi­nese, like the one of­fered by The Knight Res­i­dence. And the newly formed Ac­tion Group is fo­cus­ing on core ar­eas such as HR and the ASAP Lead­er­ship Academy, which is run­ning two lead­er­ship pro­grammes in con­junc­tion with For­ward Learn­ing. “We want to po­si­tion our­selves as a sec­tor of­fer­ing at­trac­tive ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple,” says Foice.

ASAP works closely with the BHA and col­lab­o­rates with other or­gan­i­sa­tions to sup­port a sin­gle mes­sage from the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try con­cern­ing Brexit and fur­ther is­sues. “We need to en­sure the sec­tor is greater than the sum of its parts,” he says.

But ac­cord­ing to many sup­pli­ers, to achieve ma­tu­rity the sec­tor needs a higher pro­file. “The in­dus­try first needs to raise aware­ness. It is still small com­pared to the ho­tel in­dus­try and doesn’t pop up as one of the first op­tions one might use when trav­el­ling; more com­mu­ni­ca­tion is re­quired,” says deputy CEO for Ada­gio, Karim Malak.

Global reach and co­he­sion are also an is­sue. “There is a gap – like a 500lb go­rilla strad­dling aparthotels and ser­viced apart­ments across Europe; there is no Mar­riott in our world,” says CEO of SACO, Stephen Han­ton.

“The apartho­tel op­er­a­tors do not link into other business mod­els such as cor­po­rate hous­ing, ser­viced apart­ments or flexi stock, where TAS, SACO, BridgeStreet, Oak­wood will all do that. No one does ev­ery­thing from a onenight stay to two years, nor spans all con­ti­nents. There is still op­por­tu­nity.”

ASAP and its mem­bers have grasped the net­tle and man­aged not only to raise stan­dards in the in­dus­try but en­sured that all par­ties aspire to main­tain and con­tinue those into 2018 and be­yond. Push­ing out its in­flu­ence into the wider world is the next job.

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