Swapping hotels for serviced apartments
Corporate travel spending may be on the rebound, but executives are still under pressure to optimise their budgets and find savings. In turn, many are choosing to stay at serviced apartments as a more affordable alternative to short-term hotel stays and a more convenient option than long-term rentals.
Cost-conscious tourists, particularly those with families have also been capitalising on serviced apartments in North America and Europe, primarily, but increasingly around the world,, helping to buoy the sector in the economic downturn.
Compared to hotels, serviced apartments include more space and keen prices. Rates can be up to 30% cheaper than a comparable hotel if you commit to longer periods of time. But they’re also flexible. Serviced apartments are already a maturing market in many cities across the globe with a huge supply of apartments at all price points, including studios with kitchenettes and four-bedroom penthouses. You can also book for one night or for one month.
The common areas in apart-hotels may be smaller than at hotels and there is not much in the way of food and beverage services, but many have free wi-fi, direct-dial telephones, conferencing facilities, 24-hour concierge, housekeeping and laundry services, as well as satellite TV and loyalty points – something you won’t necessarily find in a long-term rental.
They differentiate themselves from hotels by having washing machines and separate living and sleeping areas. Some have multiple bedrooms, allowing groups of executives to share units and save even more money on the road. They also have fully-fitted kitchen and dining facilities so you have the option to eat in rather than indulge at expensive restaurants.
Different apartments suit different clients. Intermediary companies or global aggregators such as the Apartment Service or the Serviced Apartment Company can advise on suitability. It’s important to note that not all serviced apartments, or “aparthotels” as they are referred to in the industry, are created equally. The star-rating system that applies to hotels is not globally applied to serviced apartments, so it’s crucial to check if the apartment you are booking has all the facilities you need for your stay.
But the fact that international hotel chains like Marriott (with its Executive Apartments), InterContinental (with Staybridge Suites) and Accor (with Adagio) have stepped into this market is a sign that there is anticipated demand from business travellers looking for something beyond the usual hotel option. In the US, serviced apartments have been branded as an “extended stay”, and the concept is already well established with hotel brands such as Hilton, Hyatt and Westin.
Yet awareness among corporate travellers of serviced apartments as a viable alternative to hotels still has a long way to go. Independent brands in this sector still don’t have the clout of international hotel brands, many of which are household names.
It is also hard to change entrenched hotel booking habits. Not all business travel agents or travel management companies are able to book serviced apartments for long periods of time through their traditional computer systems. Although if you ask them, they will book directly with various serviced apartment companies.