Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
I have spent the past year and a half looking at the serviced apartments sector for our travellers, and I’ve discovered a large number of challenges on the way, with faults on the part of buyers and suppliers.
When our people are on the road for say, three weeks, they’re not necessarily in one destination during that period. But if we moved them from hotel to hotel, that could make the experience very stressful.
The aparthotel and serviced apartments industry has not done itself any favours, because they have focused on the relocation element, which is far removed from global transient travel.
I put this down to fear of the unknown, lack of resources and treating serviced apartments primarily as an HR function for relocation, rather than bringing transient and long stay under one umbrella. The final figures go on the same P&L, so why not take advantage of leveraging it from a buyer perspective?
Another issue for me is the huge lack of transparency as to what inventory is owned by suppliers and what is sourced from third parties. This is my pet hate with this sector – when I speak to Hilton about a destination where they don’t have supply, I wouldn’t expect them to subcontract from another supplier without telling me and sell it as a Hilton.
That’s the way the serviced apartments industry has been allowed to evolve. I’m all for partnerships and alliances, and together we achieve more, but be true to who you are.
I had travellers in apartments supplied by an American company and I didn’t understand why the response to the severe issue we had was so slow. It turned out there were so many layers that I wasn’t dealing with the person who was fixing the problem. I went back to them and said I’m only interested in the ones where you will deal with problems directly – suddenly their portfolio was much slimmer. It is such a dishonest way of positioning the product.
Suppliers do not seem to understand how corporate buyers work and are not flexible. I have two travellers going into Chicago in April 2016 and one supplier told me, it was too far out and they would discuss it early next year. It is because they want to balance long and short-term stuff so that they are never empty. The initial enquiry was for only 52 nights: if it had been for six months they said they would have taken it.
And finally, distribution. We have been told for years that serviced apartments have to be booked by email or fax and that technology was not possible. I am not pro GDS, but it has been the only common distribution platform until recently – and now there are other opportunities to be creative. For example, Airbnb is an online travel agent and I think it is fantastic. If individuals can rent out a room over their garage and make money out of it, how can serviced apartment operators not distribute inventory through a technology platform. What a lot of rubbish!
The industry needs technology that duplicates what we are doing as transient buyers. someone should bring to market something that can support any long stay over seven nights. Look at your distribution model and bring everything on to one platform and one portal. If you want corporates to know who you are and to use your apartments, you need to be visible. If you are not there, they are not going to know about you.