Quick Q&A: Mathias Saleborn, BridgeStreet

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SAN talks to BridgeStreet’s new managing director for EMEA and APAC Mathias Saleborn.

• You’ve joined BridgeStreet from the hotel sector - what do you think will be the main differences between your previous roles and working in the serviced apartment sector?

“First and foremost, I think it will be very exciting to move into the serviced apartment sector as it has been developing quite quickly over the past several years, and I look forward to taking part in the evolution of this industry. In my new role as managing director, I will be responsible for the strategic oversight, implementation, and execution of BridgeStreet’s EMEA and APAC operations, sales, and supply partner relationships. While this is similar to past roles I have been in, I think the main difference will be the velocity at which the serviced apartment industry is changing and growing. It’s an exciting time to enter into this sector of business travel, and keeping up with the dynamic trends and implementing them into our own system will be an invigorating challenge.”

• After the last couple of years reinventing itself as an OTA for business travel, does your appointment signal a push to increase leisure business for BridgeStreet?

“While BridgeStreet has been benefiting from growth in the transient workforce and leisure business, our main growth continues to come from partnerships with corporate customers who consider using serviced apartments for their extended stay needs as well as from adoption of our award-winning booking technology (real-time booking). Our technology allows corporate travellers to use serviced apartments for extended stay travel or relocation or as a hotel alternative for short term stays. It also enables corporate traveller compliance with their travel policies.”

• Against a backdrop of a big surge in aparthotel openings across Europe, what are the plans for the Mode brand?

“We continue to use our brands for properties where we take principal positions and we franchise our brands to property owners who want to benefit from our longstanding reputation in the industry. In the past year, we launched Mode Paris, Mode Edinburgh and Studyo Circus, expanding our branded portfolio. Our Mode business model, for example, allows developers to create a spacious and comfortable apartment living in any city centre preserving the special characteristics of a building’s history.”

“We’ve also made it a priority to expand our growing network of properties provided by third parties, both online and offline. The expansion of our third-party sourced business makes our branding of properties less important and our branding of BridgeStreet as a trusted source or supply more important.”

• BridgeStreet has made major efforts to forge relationships with numerous distribution channels as part of the Six Ways to Stay initiative - what are the next steps on this path?

“Over the last year, BridgeStreet has been adding third party inventory to be accessible via our award-winning innovative product line, Six Ways to Stay. In January 2019, for example, we added curated urban rental properties bookable now on BridgeStreet.com. We continue the expansion of the serviced apartment inventory through our strategic partnerships as the sector continues to evolve.”

“More accommodation choices available on BridgeStreet.com are simply a response to the evolving demand of today’s modern business traveller. In July of 2019, BridgeStreet released its Business Travel Industry Report outlining the results of BridgeStreet’s survey of business travellers’ accommodation preferences. The report points to changes in traveller preferences and growing interest in alternative accommodation choices as extended travel grows.”

• What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for BridgeStreet and the serviced apartment sector generally over the next two to three years?

“The serviced apartment industry is evolving rapidly and with rapid evolution comes a plethora of opportunities. Some examples of this evolution include the introduction of new technologies like BridgeStreet’s platform, which in line with industry trends, has deployed technologies that allow companies to book serviced apartments in real time from a broad range of suppliers. We believe that many more opportunities to advance this technology will arise, and the use of technology will be an ongoing trend in the industry.”

“Additionally, we see great opportunities to create more of a presence among corporations, business travellers, and travel managers, relocation specialists as well as the transient workforce whose growth is on the rise. Some corporations and transient workers may not fully understand that serviced apartments can be used for forms of extended stay beyond relocation, and we see an opportunity here to educate them. Serviced apartments can be used from anything to transient travel, to a hotel alternative, and even for shorter stays. As the serviced apartment industry catches up with the hotel space from a booking technology standpoint, we see accessibility becoming more streamlined for a new generation of business travellers, and travel managers, and relocation specialists.”

“When examining the challenges, the industry and BridgeStreet may face, I would argue that they are aligned with the opportunities. While there is a target market in the corporate sector, our next challenge will be to educate them while simultaneously converting them to use serviced apartments. The same can be said for the development of new technologies.”

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