Security and quality assurance are making aparthotels a genuine option for travel managers
Unravelling who offers what
The rise and rise of aparthotels is exceeded only by the increasing diversity of the model. Although the public areas have always lent themselves to activities – traditionally evening get-togethers hosted by the general manager – fun events nowadays range from Game of Thrones nights to jewellery making.
As consumer demand increases, corporates have followed. “Travel managers are being asked for relevant alternative accommodation and aparthotels can often be the answer, as they offer something different along with the standardisation, security and distribution benefits that corporations need,” says sales director for SACO, Jo Redman. “In short, aparthotels are reducing the barriers that have traditionally slowed corporate adoption in the past.”
In addition, supply has increased significantly as investors recognise the opportunity to take on new asset classes such as aparthotels and co-working spaces.
Deputy CEO of Adagio, Karim Malak, says proof of the pudding is in the strong returns: “It [aparthotels] regularly gives 60% gross operating profit above hotels. From an economic standpoint, it works beautifully.”
Although much has been written about their appeal to millennials – Ascott’s Lyf is designed and run by them – aparthotels are increasingly leaning towards lifestyle properties, taking in anyone who enjoys rubbing shoulders with fellow guests and wants to join a community while on the road.
Aparthotels often also reflect their immediate environment and local culture. A recent refurbishment of Staybridge Suites Liverpool, for example, featured The Beatles and maritime references, underlining a close relationship with the city.
The result is immersive. As an Ascott customer said to area manager Marc Sandfort: “When I stay in a hotel, I stay in the city; when I stay in an aparthotel, I live in that city.” Personalisation is increasingly the name of the game: “Guests can bring items that make life comfortable, even a pet,” he says; or in the case of Staybridge Suites Vauxhall, borrow resident labradoodle Waggers for a friendly walk.
And Adagio is refashioning properties to include an object library of eclectica inspired by guest requests or items they travel with, such as an oyster knife, rice cooker, vase, guitar, toy piano, seesaw and loud speakers.
Adagio’s reinvention is centred around its BMG (Be My Guest) initiative, which emphasises guests’ desire for interaction with staff, something that came out of research among customers. An invitation to enjoy a French apéritif also allows guests to meet each other. “The design has been implemented in Adagio Edinburgh and is getting very good feedback. Occupancy is running at 30% above the initial forecast,”
says Malak. Adagio Paris Bercy will be the first to emerge in the new concept in December.
A warm welcome and a neighbourhood feel is the ethic in Cycas’s new South Point Suites – London Bridge, which opened in October 2017 with 101 units and reflects its Bermondsey location throughout. “We want to encourage people to live like a local. From the moment they step into reception they are treated more like a member of the family than a guest,” says John Wagner. In August, the company opened the UK’s first Residence Inn at London Bridge with 87 units and will be launching Residence Inn Kensington in 2018, Europe’s largest Residence Inn with 315 suites.
Q Skyline is also jumping on the aparthotel bandwagon, with a first property in Copenhagen (2018) and two more in London; BridgeStreet’s Mode opens in Edinburgh and Paris next year; and Cotels’ first aparthotel opened in Milton Keynes in November, with Swiss balls, weights and yoga mats in each apartment and a relationship with local gym The Fitness Space. And Supercity has completed on a building in Manchester, its first outside London.
Marlin’s first aparthotel near Waterloo is testimony to the wide variety of guests the properties attract, ranging from families to individuals of all ages on business and on holiday, and the bar adds a lively dynamic by attracting locals. Occupancies have been close to 90%. “We have been blown away – for a launch that is unbelievable,” says managing director, Susan Cully.
Style and substance
SACO’s Locke is a lifestyle brand that targets the modern, rather than millennial, traveller. “We are sacrificing the apartment size to focus on the communal areas. Events will become more prominent within aparthotels but the apartment will still be comfortable for stays of up to 30 nights,” says CEO Stephen Hanton. Eden Locke in Edinburgh hosted a DJ in the communal area in October, and in Cannon Street, London, a guest ran a cocktail-making session. Locke continues to evolve and Locke Manchester will have two restaurants and probably two bars.
Further SACO brands are also on the cards, possibly embracing under one banner The Cannon and The Wittenberg in Amsterdam, which Hanton describes as, “an urban retreat; slightly more exclusive and less noisy with a much more high-touch customer experience because people are staying longer”. Average stay for The Cannon is 25 nights; 10 for Leman Locke. Public space is still important and in The Wittenberg, philosophy lectures, talks from people at the local business
school and a lunch club for spouses are potential options.
Go Native’s recent acquisition of an aparthotel in Maida Vale, London, highlighted demand for a three-star property. “We will close it next year for redevelopment but, meanwhile, we are running it as a three-star apartment block. We got high occupancy by pushing it out through OTAs but it also got corporate interest,” says marketing and customer experience director, Amanda Metcalfe. “This suggests there is scope for us to have a two-tier brand.” A low-cost option is attractive to organisations that have quoted for a project and are then bound by that budget.
Go Native launches its larger aparthotels with the opening of Empire Warehouse Bankside in 2018, where emphasis on the neighbourhood is reflected in the name, a gift in the fridge from a local brewery and coffee from Monmouth Coffee Shop in Borough Market. The Manchester property (Q4, 2018) follows this model with barber, florist, destination bar and possibly local F&B operator; and similarly, The Anchorline, Glasgow (Q3). “Each property will be true to the nature of the brand,” says Metcalfe.
The UK and the rest of Europe is starting to wave the aparthotel flag and while international hotel groups such as IHG and Hyatt are following a model well established in the US, players such as Adagio, Lyf and Go Native are putting a creative spin on extended stay.
Micro-apartments squeeze footage still further, taking out kitchens in apartments and providing a communal alternative. And there is more to come; aparthotels are not standing still.
"We want to encourage people to live like a local. From the moment they step into reception they are treated more like a member of the family than a guest"