At your service – apartments are on trend for conference delegates

The serviced apartment trend is following the serviced office phenomenon and becoming increasingly popular with conference delegates

MWB and Regus have long been in the market for supply of temporary ‘plug and play’ serviced meetings and work spaces, even rolling the model out to service stations on the motorways and at train stations.

Now, with hotel prices taking a chunk out of any delegate’s budget, particularly in London, organisers are being tempted by the offers coming from serviced apartment providers as a more economical delegate stay option.

Aparthotel operator Staycity is one company that is growing the model, and recently appointed former Whitbread and Marriott MD Patrick Dempsey as a director.
The brand has a 1,000-strong estate of apartments and aparthotels across eight European cities. An active development pipeline will see this number rise to 1,800 by the end of 2016, with a further 1,500 underway.

Staycity says it intends to expand to some 10,000 apartments across Europe by 2020 and with Dempsey credited with doubling the size of the Premier Inn brand to some 60,000 rooms and turning it into Britain’s largest hotel company, not many would bet against it.

Epic Apart Hotel & Serviced Apartments in Liverpool is one bright new boutique brand in the heart of the city centre, offering high quality facilities. Three business people sharing can get a bedroom each for the price of a single room at London four-star prices.

The Liverpool apartments offer complimentary Wi-Fi, discounted secure parking, 24-hour reception and apartments with between one and three bedrooms.
“On a multi-day stay the need to cater for down-time or off venue side meetings has placed the spotlight firmly on the quality and flexibility of accommodation offered,” says James Foice, managing director of ASAP (The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers).

Foice points to key benefits of the serviced apartment over traditional hotel stays. “Delegates and organisers alike can truly unwind in the peace of their own ‘home from home’ after a pressured day. What’s more, delegates can organise side meetings or get-togethers in their serviced apartment, thanks to the additional space offered, with many apartments offering a dedicated work space.

“Delegates can escape to the privacy of their apartment to pick up on work rather than attempt to conduct business in a busy laptop park or hotel foyer,” Foice adds.
A good example of how serviced apartments can work well for delegates is ASAP’s own annual convention, to be held this year at etc.venues, St Paul’s in the heart of the City of London, 3 December. Many of the 400 delegates from across the UK, together with international visitors, will unsurprisingly choose to stay in a serviced apartment.
Etc.venues expects to host 700,000 delegates in 2015 in its non-residential London and Birmingham venues, and its managing director says he is seeing an increased use of serviced apartments.

“Our insight is that delegates looking to stay more than one night prefer apartments,” says Alastair Stewart, etc.venues MD.
“Two- and three- bedroom apartments are particularly favoured by longer stay graduate programmes where there is some communal space for delegates to mix with each other.
“We’ve been delighted to work with several leading ASAP members who provide the accommodation for programmes housed in our venues. I see this as a growth market and a good opportunity to offer our clients a far better proposition than hotels can offer.”

Farther afield, serviced apartments are also capturing a slice of the delegate market. Top European convention destinations like Frankfurt and Barcelona are a case in point, where global serviced apartment operator Frasers Hospitality has chosen to launch its new ‘Capri by Fraser’ brand in Europe. This urban-inspired design-led brand is specifically targeting the ‘always-on’ lifestyle needs of e-generation travellers.

The 97-unit Capri by Frasers, Barcelona, can also offer delegates sought-after meeting space on site, where customers are asked to select a meeting room based on their group size. They can plug and play their presentations.

One of ASAP’s largest serviced apartment operator members in London – Marlin Apartments – with 700 apartments in the capital –introduced a new meeting space booking service this autumn, with prices starting from £25 per hour.

Foice adds that, in the US, international serviced apartment provider BridgeStreet Global Hospitality recently teamed up with Airbnb to roll out the business product suite to BridgeStreet corporate clients worldwide.

“The Airbnb business model with payment and communication functionality in both the mobile app and website works well for many users who don’t have to use corporate booking agencies,” he says.

Foice adds that although the global serviced apartment market is an exciting one, standards need to be maintained and welcomes a new quality marque, the International Serviced Apartment Accreditation Programme (ISAAP). It is based on the UK programme and will provide business travellers worldwide with the assurance that they are getting a quality product.

The introduction of the ASAP/ISAAP Quality programme has also been welcomed by the wider corporate travel community with a number of leading organisations prioritising quality accredited operators in their global travel programmes.
Foice says that is further evidence of the serviced apartment product focussing on offering choices and a flexible product that meets the differing needs of the business traveller.

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Conference News resides at the heart of the conference industry examining the issues affecting organisers, venues, destinations and suppliers. Published monthly, Conference News features the latest news, interviews and industry analysis from market influencers.

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