INTERVIEW WITH TOBY GUEST, YOUR APARTMENT
It’s getting harder and harder to pin down what truly defines a hotel. On day two of the Independent Hotel Show (5 October), Boutique Hotel News editor Eloise Hanson will be hosting a session entitled Blurred Lines: Changing the Hotel Framework where a group of industry experts discuss the fluctuating nature of hotel businesses.
We met with panellist Toby Guest of Your Apartment, a provider of contactless, tech-driven aparthotels and serviced apartments, to discuss how the hotel model might evolve in years to come.WHAT’S A TYPICAL GUEST FOR YOUR APARTMENT?
The ‘Your Apartment’ guest is very much centred around wanting to be in central neighbourhoods and very much include those individuals who love the opportunity to ‘live like a local’.
Most of our guests stay for more than two nights. They are usually on assignment in the city and require a place to call home. Alternatively, they are travelling with loved ones, and they wish to soak up some of local areas experiences.
At present, having a strong and competitive foothold in Bristol, we can see that many of our guests have travelled to the city more than once in the past; be this for business or for leisure. Most importantly, they love the cities culture. We see them returning to stay with us in a more homely environment so that they can experience more of what the city has to offer.
A new wave of guest has arisen from the pandemic. These are individuals who want to be able to stay in self-contained apartments to cut down their number of contacts. Being in an apartment as opposed to a hotel gives these guests the opportunity to do this.
In the past, hotels in sought-after city centre locations were deemed by investors as safe investments. The pandemic has therefore proven otherwise. With many hotels being forced to close, serviced apartments have been able to remain open for those with essential means to travel without the huge overheads.
Taking this into account, we have recently acquired the lease on three existing hotels. One in Clifton, Bristol, and another in London which we are currently in the process of installing kitchenettes and turning into self-contained studio apartments.HOW DO YOU THINK THE PAST 18 MONTHS HAVE INFLUENCED THE PRIORITIES OF YOUR CUSTOMERS?
Cleanliness has certainly been a huge factor. As we have come in and out of lockdown, guests staying on a more short-term basis have certainly been more concerned about the level of cleanliness of our apartments. We’ve had to review many of our practices to try and make each of the apartments as Covid-secure as possible.
Many have wanted to resume domestic travel within the UK, however they have been keen to stay somewhere where they have the ability to cook a meal should they choose not to leave their apartment during their stay. Again, this mainly being to manage their number of contacts with others where possible.
Suitable workspaces and super-fast broadband in our apartments have also been a frequent demand as more people on assignment and staying with us have been required to work from home as well as attend site visits/meetings.HOW DO YOU THINK THE TRADITIONAL HOTEL MODEL MIGHT CONTINUE TO EVOLVE IN THE YEARS TO COME?
It wouldn’t come as any surprise to me if the likes of Holiday Inn, Premier Inn and Travelodge decide to start incorporating kitchenettes into their next gen hotels.
Guests are also looking for a greater sense of authenticity from the places they stay. Many of these ‘out of the box’ short stay hotels very much struggle to connect with their guests on a more meaningful and emotive left from a brand perspective.
And finally, just on this point – one other thing which I think will become more popular will be the integration of tech into the guests stay. We have a series of automated processes which happen via email which allow us to try and improve their stay as much as possible to avoid complaints and increase guest satisfaction. For example, asking for during guest feedback the day after their arrival.