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UK: SilverDoor shares serviced apartment trends at key ITM webinar

Felicity Cousins May 9, 2022 Pauline Houston, VP of global business development at SilverDoor, shared key trends at the Institute of Travel Management’s webinar The Rise of Serviced Apartments in Travel Programmes.

Key Trends

Key trends noted by SilverDoor during the pandemic showed how people changed the way they managed business travel, how long they travelled for and where they stayed. Travellers were tending to zone their travel if they needed to be away for an excess of five days, which meant serviced apartments were the preferred choice over hotels.  

Pauline Houston VP of global business development at SilverDoor said: ‘Serviced Apartments started to bend more to the needs of business travellers – they have the ability to make changes to the configuration of the apartments – to lend themselves to have better workspaces or for meetings.”

When travel resumed, more business travellers had been introduced to the serviced apartment offering so there was a disparity between what travel used to be like and what it could be like now – post lockdowns.  

Houston explained SilverDoor noticed their corporate travellers changed the way they worked and where they worked: “The “work anywhere” phenomenon isn’t going away.”

“Business travellers were thinking ‘I want to be somewhere nice in the open countryside and get exercise and fresh air and still work’ – a large number of corporate travellers are taking the opportunity to do that. In some cases offices were closed so serviced apartments were also doubling as their office.”

Since travel has opened back up, instead of all travellers returning to hotels, some have continued to use serviced apartments.

“We are seeing fewer trips over longer durations –  where [business travellers] may have routinely travelled a couple of days a week to the same location, now they are taking one trip a month and make it four or five days. This changes the demands on accommodation – so serviced apartments definitely fulfil that requirement. As such there’s been a lot of repeat business travellers who used us through the pandemic and have introduced us to others in their business.”

She added: “Serviced apartments were seen as long stay, but now it seems to be changing to one or two nights.”

Hot Spots

“We have seen demand levels peak and trough in various cities, and the rise of interest in serviced apartments and consolidation of the supply chain. We have seen spikes at the same level as hotels with an increase of 15 per cent over a one bed – but two beds are up to 24 per cent or 30 per cent for London. 

“Three bed accommodation has seen the biggest boom – we’ve seen an increase in people taking their family, or pet, or if they are going to be in a location for a longer period they just want to have the space.”

Problem Child

Houston acknowledged that serviced apartments have long been the “problem child’ of the travel programme as they don’t fit in the neat accommodation box – (traditionally only a few serviced apartment brands have been on the GDS, tax implications for stays over 28 days, difficult to track and trace because of different booking platforms) but as time progresses and the booking process and technology becomes more sophisticated it’s easier to incorporate serviced apartments into a travel programme.

How to Add Serviced Apartments to Travel Programmes…

According to SilverDoor there has been a big increase in moving from ‘hotel programmes’ to ‘accommodation’ or ‘Sleep programmes’, which encompasses multiple forms of accommodation.

During ITM’s Webinar, Houston gave tips to buyers who were reviewing or incorporating serviced apartments into their programme for the first time. 

“Communication and trying to drive change can be painful at times, so we always work with new travel managers to help them find ambassadors and select some key travellers who can experience serviced apartments as alternatives to hotels. You need people who can eloquently demonstrate that to fellow travellers as a good example – it’s very hard to push it if you haven’t experienced it.”

Houston explained that for travellers who have never stayed in a serviced apartment, the anxiety of not knowing how it all works can be an unwanted part of the process so someone in your company who has stayed in a serviced apartment and can explain how it works to reduce any anxiety around that trip really helps.

“First hand experience really plays a big part. It is very much about the traveller experience and how they feel, and how it impacts their time in that location.”

Green Goals

For those keeping an eye on their sustainability goals for their travel programme, SilverDoor’s Houston said serviced apartments offered a reduction in carbon footprint, citing that an apartment has almost half the Co2 emissions of a hotel. When asked to explain further she said: “Based on the size of the apartment and length of stay there can be a 50 per cent reduction in emissions compared with a hotel, but it’s not always the case. At its worst it can be a third – taking into account in a hotel there are many areas that are heated and lit up even when unused – plus kitchens on 24/7, whereas serviced apartments are run more like a home. So [serviced apartments] fall somewhere between the Co2 emissions of a hotel and a private home.”

Supply and Demand

Houston said: “We saw a dip because we lost some providers during the pandemic, but we have starting to see that go back up. You have a lot of hotels repurposing hotel bedrooms into extended stay-type products, because they’ve seen that demand of extended stay during pandemic do well, and hotels not so well.”

Another way serviced apartments are coming into the pipeline are because of the ‘work anywhere’ trend. Houston explained: “For example, in Canary Wharf, developers were throwing up residential apartments to sell to the corporates who were working in offices, but now developers and real estate agents are saying what are we doing with these? So we are seeing them repurposed as serviced apartments. So we are seeing supply come through new channels as well as in the more traditional ways.”

SilverDoor recently opened its first office in Spain.

The Institute of Travel Management (ITM) is dedicated to supporting and developing all those involved in corporate travel. Established in 1956, ITM represents more than 5,000 business travel buyers and suppliers across the UK and Ireland.

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ALASTAIR MULLENS, MD, Canary Wharf Group