The Alternative Accommodation Committee held its first educational event last week at the Park Regis, Birmingham. The event was well attended by 30 agents and 10 suppliers.
Erica Livermore, Alternative Accommodation Chair said: “This was an important event for us, it served to highlight the importance of a growing sector in hospitality and hopefully enlighten both agents and venues on the various buying behaviours and requirements by our corporate clients.”
The event took the form of a panel discussion, included in the panel were; Alex Neale, Head Account Manager for SilverDoor, Gavin Bailey, Operations Director for City Suits and Amy Chapman who is a Senior buyer for Siemens.
Chapman began buy detailing the main benefits for choosing this type of accommodation: “It has the comforts of home but with Hotel touches and flexibility on tenancy.” She went to explain that for long projects their teams need a ‘Home from Home’ base; “guests need a freedom to have a normal life while they are away from home, the ability to cook and relax in a home environment but with services available if needed, like a gym or laundry service.”
Neale explained for SilverDoor their typical users are those relocating, theatre workers, construction, IT, with an average stay of 2 months, he said: “Corporates are really starting to think about wellbeing much more and where there is a stay that is deemed too long to be comfortable in a Hotel and where there is a benefit to looking after yourself the Serviced Apartment is a clear choice”.
Bailey also highlighted the mix of clients, from pure leisure to those on very short projects. City Suites consciously put a minimum 4 night stay into their apartments and Bailey said: “The serviced apartment is a good all round product offering flexibility, short lead bookings, ease of use and transparency of billing”.
As a senior buying Chapman explained: “With serviced apartments we see quality and added value with a high level of service and better rates, we have seen up to 50% savings over hotel stays”. The panel inevitably was questioned over the Airbnb effect and what if any competition this brings to the sector, Chapman responded: “Health and Safety aspects and a record of where and how people are is key to us, we are asking ourselves the question about Airbnb but it’s how we make this work with these fundamental issues.”
Neal responded by saying: “You have on one hand the rigid fully-serviced Hotel product, then on the other someone’s house on Airbnb and sitting in the middle you have the Serviced Apartment with all the home comforts, services, quality assured and Health and Safety checked.”
Top Tips from the panellists were:
– Communication across all parties to ensure the briefs and needs are fully understood.
– Flexibility from both suppliers and agents, appreciating that corporates can’t always be tied into onerous contracts and that ‘one solution fits all’ is no longer viable.
– Choice and understanding the client’s needs, they are forever changing and any type of facility needs to be explored and presented back, the agent support in this area is vital.
Livermore concluded the lively discussion by thanking the panel and taking questions from the floor. She said “The HBAA is really delighted to be having these kind of educational discussions that certainly help us all understand our changing market place much better and in the end helps us give a better service to our clients”.