To wrap up the end of last year, Serviced Apartment News hosted a webinar on the key trends set to shape the serviced apartment sector in 2024. res:harmonics CEO and Founder, Giles Horwitch-Smith, was invited to participate in this conversation, giving insight into the rise of ‘blended stays’ and how serviced apartment operators can use PropTech to take advantage of this trend in 2024. Here are the highlights from that discussion.
What are ‘blended stays’?
In the serviced apartment sector, an increasing number of operators are offering a mix of uses and lengths of stays in one property, including short-term (1 night - 1 week), mid-term (1 week - 3 months) and long-term (3 months - 1 year) options. These are known as ‘blended stays’.
What are the challenges for serviced apartment operators?
From operations and amenities to communication and payments, serviced apartment operators must provide varying levels of service to accommodate the nuances of ‘blended stays’. We’ve summarised some of these below.
Guest satisfaction is always essential, but not all guests are looking for the same experience. A long-stay guest prefers a homely and community-orientated experience, placing greater value on a personalised touch, responsive maintenance, community events and amenities like storage and workspaces. Short-stay guests prioritise efficiency (i.e. seamless check-in), have higher expectations for cleaning and staff responsiveness, and value gyms, on-site restaurants and laundry facilities. Medium-stay guests, often digital nomads or contractors on work assignments, are seeking a balance between business and leisure.
To garner brand loyalty and repeat custom, operators should consider different guest expectations. For example, long-stay residents are unlikely to welcome staying amongst short-stay neighbours every week. By using a PMS, you can group units by stay length to ensure that long stays are grouped and vice versa for short stays. In addition, leverage your operations hub to balance housekeeping demands, and make your longer-stay guests aware of your resident app. After all, a guest staying for 3 months is more likely to use the portal to sign up for events than a guest who only stays for 3 nights.
Long stays = higher occupancy with a lower nightly rate. Short stays = higher nightly rate with lower occupancy. The key to an effective ‘blended stay’ strategy is striking the right balance, but how do you know what rates to set and when?
First, consider the location of your properties and the time of year. Although there’s massive seasonality in short-stay (i.e. during school holidays), there's also real seasonality in longer stays with finding long-term accommodation at a decent rate particularly difficult in December (but easy from September to March). Second, decide which type of customer you’re targeting and set appropriate rates on channels they will use (i.e. use the likes of Booking.com for short-stay guests and Rightmove for long-stay guests).
What’s more, revenue management tools are integrated into the res:harmonics PMS to prompt a short-stay or long-stay focus at different times based on demand. The PMS sets a sliding price scale (so the longer the stay, the lower the rate) and employs dynamic pricing tools that automatically update your rates depending on location, seasonality, occupancy and local competitor’s pricing.
Short-stay and long-stay guests don’t fish in the same pool nor do they book in the same way. While short-stay guests might reserve their stay through online travel agents with only a few clicks, longer-stay guests will need more time and may require a digital viewing or consultation. On your end, your processes may include having different levels of verification for long-stay guests, such as credit and right-to-rent checks.
In addition, short-stay and long-stay guests require separate billing methods. Short-stay customers tend to pay at booking, on arrival or at the end of their stay, while long-stay residents likely pay on a rolling basis (i.e. monthly). This requires the implementation of deposit protection schemes.
At res:harmonics, we’ve developed a booking journey that suits every guest type and includes various verification checks, financial tools and payment methods integrated into one digital journey, which is available in multiple languages.
Wider 2024 trends
The webinar also explored how operators can attract different guests in 2024. David Wright, portfolio development manager and sustainability officer at Mansley Serviced Apartments, said that Gen Z and Millennials are the most likely to travel for business in 2024 and are looking for a seamless digital journey and greater transparency around operators’ sustainability.
Meanwhile, Phil Stapleton, co-founder and CEO of Situ, called on operators to move beyond paper straws and recycling towards ‘meatier’ sustainability initiatives like carbon counting. He added that the most significant sustainability development over the next few years will be PMS integrations, such as Hive controlling heating from your PMS, that automatically reports on energy consumption.