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Providing Roomzzz To Key Workers

Prior to the current Covid-19 crisis, the aparthotel and serviced apartments sector was the fastest growing accommodation segment in the UK, making up 13% of total active pipeline as of the end of 2019.

Representing just 3% of total hospitality accommodation in the UK, and only 5% for Europe, it is a segment that still offers great potential post-crisis.

In recent times, disruptors such as Airbnb have only heightened awareness of this accommodation niche, which is now benefiting from Airbnb’s marketing efforts and capitalising on the traveller’s desire for a more ‘native’ experience.

We caught up with Robert Alley, Chief Operating Officer at Roomzzz Aparthotels, at one of the company’s newest locations, the Coin Exchange in Manchester. Robert talked to us about what the company is doing to provide accommodation to doctors, nurses and key workers during this challenging time, as well as explaining his future goals for Roomzzz and why teaming up with Duetto is one of the best moves the company has made so far.

Robert_Alley_MGL7701-2Q: What are your properties currently doing to assist the NHS in the fight against Covid-19?

A: It's been an extraordinary few weeks as the Covid-19 situation has evolved. Apart from the obvious dramatic change in customer behaviour and all the cancelled bookings from travel restrictions, the human story has taken over. We saw a change in requirements for key workers and NHS utilising 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. We have offered apartment stays in the past to charities to help their cause, so it was clearly the best way to contribute to the relief effort by opening up apartments on a complimentary basis to NHS workers fighting the Covid-19 virus. We’ve offered 2,000 room nights across our apartments for the NHS up to the end of April. We hope it helps them as they are helping all of us!

Q: What’s your elevator pitch for describing the Roomzzz offering?

A: I like to think of Roomzzz as the perfect halfway point between serviced apartments and traditional hotels. With us, you get a 24-hour reception desk, daily housekeeping, the highly-trained staff and the recognised brand of a hotel, but with the space and flexibility of a long-term serviced apartment. Aparthotels offer the best of both worlds, which is probably why it’s the fastest-growing category of hotels in the world right now.

Q: So how do you sell Roomzzz as a concept to hotel owners?

A: As we lease the property and operate the brand within it, it’s about trying to show the developers or owners that our concept can bring something of value to the site as a whole. And that is about credibility. It’s about having the full operational team and commercial structure to deliver a first-class guest experience. For example, here at the Coin Exchange in Manchester, we share the space with all the great restaurants downstairs. The restaurants brought the building back to life and now Roomzzz has taken over the upper floors, resulting in a reincarnation of sorts in an amazing location. It’s now a real attraction for visitors to the City.

Q: How do you compare with a company such as Airbnb?

A: We offer just a little bit more than Airbnb. Credit where credit is due, Airbnb has been great for the aparthotels category. They came along and showed people that there are alternatives to the conventional hotel room. But then we showed that there’s an even better way - you can get everything you get from Airbnb, but with the faith and confidence you get from a brand, within a larger and professionally-operated building and with the 24-hour service and daily housekeeping you expect from a hotel.

Q: How do you see the serviced apartment sector growing in the future?  

A: 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, including York, Edinburgh, Harrogate and Liverpool, and then beyond that, there are some European gateway cities in which we’d like to get Roomzzz established.

It’s an exciting time for us as a brand and we are thrilled to have Duetto on board for the journey as we look ahead to all the exciting projects we have in store for Roomzzz.

Q: How did you first hear about Duetto and what made you feel that we were the best fit for you?

A: I initially came across it around six or seven years ago. I was employed by another hotel group and Duetto was suggested as an alternative to a service that we’d been using at the time. And then when I started to work at Roomzzz I was delighted to be able to work alongside Duetto; it’s been steadfastly by our side throughout our journey of growth.

Duetto gives us a real wide angle view on what’s going on in the market and shares a lot of data with us really quickly. It’s helped us evolve and has influenced the way we sell the brand from a pricing, inventory and strategic perspective. Duetto has really held our hand as we’ve moved forward, which has been invaluable.

Q: How important is operating an integrated technology stack?

A: It’s absolutely fundamental. A business cannot grow unless all pieces of the puzzle work together, and Duetto’s capability to integrate with the other technical elements we needed in place has been instrumental. There’s always a need to refresh what you’re doing and test that what we’re using continues to solve the challenges we face as the market evolves, but I definitely feel that Duetto and the technology stack is essential to commercial growth. Furthermore, it helps in selling the brand to other owners, because if you have that operational and commercial structure in place, you can bring a much more capable and agile model to new buildings.

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