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The desire to stay within your social bubble, and to take advantage of self-catering facilities and minimal contact with staff, have meant that many travelers have looked for alternative accommodation options to hotels this year.
The aparthotel and serviced apartments sector has long been one with huge potential, you only have to look at Airbnb and its planned IPO to see how consumers have been won over by the true ‘home away from home’ experience.
According to research by Savills, while serviced apartments have, on the whole, been successful at capturing a greater degree of short-term leisure demand over recent years, its core guest segment continues to be corporates on longer length stays. It has been these longer length guests that provide the sector with higher average occupancy levels, something that was witnessed on the entry to and during lockdown. For example, Savills states that in London serviced apartment occupancy stood at 61.8% for Q1 2020, down 21.5% on the same period in 2019 as COVID-19 started to take hold in March. Hotels reported a larger decline of 23.0% over the same period with average occupancy at 59.4%.
In its recent report, Spotlight: European Serviced Apartment Market, Savills stated that “The enhanced appeal of serviced apartments over the short term could also have positive read through for medium- to longer-term performance. The sector, pre-Covid-19, was already benefiting from enhanced leisure demand on the back of the rising appeal of Airbnb. Post-COVID-19, greater cleanliness concerns from guests alongside social distancing preferences, and the fact that many Airbnb hosts have removed properties from the listing site, could see the sector capture a greater share of this leisure demand going forward.”
Here, we take a look at five Duetto clients who offer alternative accommodation options and discover how they have pivoted on their offer in the wake of the current crisis.
AutoCamp offers design-forward accommodation in Airstream trailers in camps located in Sonoma, Yosemite and Cape Cod.
Located in remote and rural locations and offering self-contained units has helped the brand to a steady stream of guests checking in, with bookings for Labor Day 2020 actually seeing an increase of 37% over 2019.
"We’re so grateful to provide an option for those looking to get away in these unprecedented times,” said Vinny Cuneo, Head of Sales and Revenue of AutoCamp. “Each of our Airstream Suites is perfectly set up for self-isolation complete with custom-designed fire pits, and private decks.”
The pan-European serviced apartments provider continues on a path of expansion, as it looks for key locations in the UK and Europe via leases, site development and purchase of existing assets. The brand appointed a new managing director, Steven Haag, in mid 2020, to lead its expansion plans.
“Whereas much of the industry is currently taking stock, SACO will look at the opportunity presented to expand its portfolio with new properties across Europe. We are in a unique position given our resilient business model, world-class development team and financial backing in Brookfield to reposition assets, as well as acquire new sites,” Haag said.
Germany was one of the first markets to allow hotels to reopen following lockdown. Our client, The Flag, offers serviced hotel apartments in Munich, Frankfurt and Zurich. As a serviced apartments operator, The Flag was able to remain open when other hospitality providers had to close, although its gyms and breakfast areas did have to remain shut.
According to Florian Kuch, Revenue Manager at The Flag, occupancy did not fall below 50%. “We did fairly well compared to others. I think the main reason for this was our long-term guests. Because they have a long-term contract with us, and it is home for a lot of them, they were entitled to stay. Plus, they were able to self-isolate because those units are very much self-contained with kitchen facilities and living space,” he explained.
Part of The Flag’s success was down to it targeting new markets, including young professionals and students.
“We decided to target young professionals who are starting new jobs during these strange times and need apartments, but they don’t want to be committed,” Kuch explained.
The Flag advertised on housing platforms, offering attractive rates for those looking to stay for more than a month but with full flexibility to leave at any time after that minimum length of stay.
“We got a fair number of students but many more young professionals. It was a good move and it certainly helped carry us through the uncertainty.”
Roomzzz operates 10 aparthotels in city center locations across the UK, with expansion plans to add more key locations across the country.
When the pandemic hit, the brand was quick to react, offering rooms to key workers and hospital staff.
“We saw a change in requirements for key workers and NHS utilizing apartments for self-isolation or protection from families. With the focus on this we felt it was natural to want to help in some way,” said Robert Alley, Chief Operating Officer at Roomzzz Aparthotels.
According to Alley, the Roomzzz product is the perfect halfway point between serviced apartments and traditional hotels. “Aparthotels offer the best of both worlds, which is probably why it’s the fastest-growing category of hotels in the world right now,” he said.
“The aparthotel category has been growing rapidly, but it still only accounts for quite a small percentage of the overall market share, less than 5% in Europe. In terms of our future plans, expansion into other UK cities will be first, then there are some European gateway cities in which we’d like to get Roomzzz established.”
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