One size certainly doesn't fit all – in the world of serviced apartments all requirements are catered for
Getting to grips with the multitude of apartment styles
Serviced apartments, aparthotels, micro apartments, lifestyle apartments, corporate housing… the industry now has numerous models of accommodation, each with its own target market.
These days, Wifi is a given, cleaning is generally weekly, and a welcome pack providing tea, coffee, snacks, cleaning items and bath products typical.
To unmuddy the waters, GSAIR gave definitions in the 2015/16 report. It stated 'serviced apartments' was a generic term to embrace the sector. However, outside the US, corporate housing is generally referred to as serviced apartments, creating some confusion. Either way, they are residential properties with larger living spaces than aparthotels and have been upgraded to include services such as cleaning. They are fully furnished with entertainment services and broadband. “While serviced apartments can be useful for short-term trips and leisure stays, they are often the best option for long-term business trips or for relocating families,” says managing director EMEA for Oakwood Worldwide, Tom Meertens.
Aparthotels have smaller apartments with a kitchen. There is typically a laundry and/or gym for public use and a large communal seating and dining area, with breakfast supplied and activities that range from hosted drinks through to quizzes, talks and more.
Latest to arrive on the scene are micro apartments, with small sleeping spaces and a bathroom. This model has a large public area with communal kitchen to compensate – although there are those who would argue that apartments without kitchens are just hotel rooms.
BridgeStreet’s Stüdyo in Paddington, London, falls into this bracket, with 9m2 bedrooms that will measure from 16m2 in further Stüdyos. BridgeStreet will also be running Stow-Away for Ciel Capital and Stow Projects, starting with a property in Lower Marsh, London, in 2018, constructed from shipping containers, with small bedrooms (21m2) and a restaurant in the public area. Another Stow-Away will appear in Birmingham Central Hall in 2019, with bedrooms from 18m2.
Other brands are going this way and a refurbishment of Citadines Barbican London introduced bedrooms without kitchens to complement those with, plus a lively public area that combines fresh seasonal food and drink from Sourced Market and a café that serves breakfast, lunch and a light evening meal. Citadines Islington (2019) will go the same way. A trial of communal kitchen for Adagio Access in Frankfurt this year has also proved to be a success.
Ascott’s Lyf brand has studios without kitchens, two-bedroom apartments with, plus a communal area that hosts activities such as jewellery making and a scented candle workshop. Where other brands are targeting modern travellers, Lyf is unashamedly 'millennial'. Two are opening in China (2018) and one in Singapore (2021).
Keyless entry and shared spaces are main features of the model and the
hosts and landlords share revenues.
This proliferation of apartment models is partly down to the blurring of boundaries between B2B and B2C consumers. “The B2B, corporately procured, mandated policy is completely unwound because Airbnb creates demand for something that isn’t a hotel, and because B2C has started penetrating B2B lines,” says CEO of SACO, Stephen Hanton.
“Modern travellers are starting to emerge that are not in either camp. They might book through corporate channels but not behave in the same way. And although length of stay is shortening, there is still a lot of 30-night business but three-month stays are shifting into Airbnb-type offers,” he says. Organisations that used to relocate someone with their family now place employees on short-term projects and these travellers book as individuals.
“There is no rule for what constitutes a serviced apartment today,” says director of Cycas, John Wagner. “Just like hotels, we see all kinds of variation, depending on building, operator and location, but there is now something for everyone up and down the spectrum. The general rule of thumb is that you ‘stay at a hotel overnight’ but you ‘make yourself at home’ in a serviced apartment.”
Location may also inform design, so a property near Silicon Roundabout in London might be very different to one close to a pharma hub in Cambridge.
“Added value extras and different styles and levels of products are defined by the brand – but if a kitchen is featured inside, then this is a serviced apartment,” says managing director group commercial sales for The Apartment Service, Jo Layton.