On July 4th, the most hotly-anticipated post-lockdown match kicks off: serviced apartments vs hotels. Pre-coronavirus, serviced apartments were already outperforming hotels according to Savills’ latest industry report. In London, for example, revenue per available room grew 5.2% p.a over the last three years compared to London hotels’ average of 3.3%.
During those years, hotels have tried to copy serviced apartments’ style of play by establishing aparthotels and accommodating guests' preference for greater privacy and home-from-home comforts.
However, this is home turf for serviced apartments and the industry should press home the advantage post-lockdown. Here’s how.
In the post-Covid world, personal safety boils down to social distancing and cleanliness. With less communal areas and quieter lobbies, serviced apartments and co-living spaces are well set-up for the social distancing age. Self-catering reduces deliveries. Online check-in minimises staff interaction. The lack of restaurants, bars and leisure areas limits footfall to staying guests rather than day visitors, while innovative living guests also tend to stay longer than the transfer merry-go-round at hotels (averaging 26.8 nights).
This increased footfall makes it impossible for hotel cleaners to rigorously sanitise the surfaces on a regular basis as light switches, TV remotes and cushions are touched by more people, more frequently. On the other hand, serviced apartment blocks have fewer public areas enabling housekeepers to focus solely on apartments ensuring a more thorough clean.
To further highlight safety benefits, operators should consider rearranging furniture in communal areas to aid the ‘one metre plus’ rule, including the removal of items that can’t easily be cleaned and reducing seating options, while also offering keyless entry and online check-in. In addition, operators should sign up to post-Covid industry hygiene standards, such as Quality in Tourism’s cleanliness protocols or ASAP’s ‘Stay with Confidence’ accreditation scheme.
As lockdown eases, guests will have greater anxieties about travelling and will prefer renting a space that they can control. Whether buying and cooking their own meals or doing their own laundry, guests can choose as little interaction as they want in serviced apartments. When it comes to housekeeping, for example, guests can devise a cleaning rota that suits their needs or even buy disinfectants and cleaning supplies themselves.
Operators can also increase their advantage by providing guests with real-time control through apps and digital updates. From informing guests about communal area cleaning times to allowing guests to schedule maintenance when they’re out, digital apps allow guests to control their day-to-day environment like they would at home.
Better work set-up
Notepads, narrow desks and no room to move your chair. Hotel bedrooms and efficient working are not a natural pairing, but with working from home on the rise, a substitution is needed.
Serviced apartments and co-living spaces have up to 30% more space than a hotel room with a separate kitchen, bathroom, living room and work area. Instead of crammed afterthoughts, these designated workstations are ‘home offices’ that capture the home-from-home aesthetic and boost productivity. To attract business travellers post-Covid, operators should ensure their work spaces are match fit.
Hotel’s higher prices account for the available amenities: the swimming pool, the bar, the gym and the breakfast buffet; amenities that are currently out of action. At a time when most companies are looking to cut unnecessary costs, it’s a golden opportunity for operators to offer value to clients. According to SilverDoor Apartments, a typical week stay in a serviced apartment is 15% cheaper than a hotel increasing to 40% for stays of 90 days or more. What’s more, the ability to eat in and clean your own clothes without incurring large minibar or laundry bills further enhances the saving.
To further highlight the price divide, operators should embrace automation to reduce their costs, passing on these savings to guests.
A one-sided contest
On paper, serviced apartments and co-living companies are better-prepared and better-suited to score guests post-lockdown. The team is rightly confident, with nine in ten respondents to a recent ASAP/Savills survey believing serviced apartments are in a better position to recover than the wider hotel industry, but nothing is for certain. Operators need to champion their credentials, streamline their services and take advantage of the conditions to run out winners of the post-Covid game.