The ones to watch in 2017

George Sell By George Sell
Uploaded 09 December 2016

Serviced Apartment News editor George Sell looks at 10 industry players he thinks will be making the serviced apartment sector headlines in 2017.

Farhad Azizi, Azizi Developments
The new Dubai neighbourhood of Al Furjan, which is being masterplanned by Nakheel, is seeing the influx of a serious number of serviced apartments and branded residences, the majority of them developed by Farhad Azizi and his company Azizi Developments. The company recently launched its Azizi Farishta serviced apartment development, the 15th project located in Al Furjan, and the latest in a regular stream of new launches for the company. Azizi Farishta will feature 137 studio apartments, 124 one-bedroom apartments, and 23 two-bedroom apartments. It is scheduled for completion by the completion in 2018. Azizi says: "In the past five months, Azizi Developments has launched eight new projects and Azizi Farishta is the latest addition. It shows our continuous dedication in delivering affordable luxury and community living to mid-income professionals, business owners and families. Al Furjan is fast-growing due to the unparalleled quality of our residences, its affordable pricing and our after sales services. People have a great incentive to invest in this flourishing district."

Suzie Barber, Hotel Bonanza
Suzie Barber is the founder and CEO of a company that looks poised to make serious waves in the hospitality distribution space. Hotel Bonanza is a new OTA, which pledges to charge a fixed rate of eight per cent commission for all bookings, compared to an average of 15 per cent and sometimes more for the major OTAs. The company says it undertook two years of research before launching its model. "We explored all aspects of the travel industry including commission models and their benefits and flaws, the current market, and the changing buying habits of consumers. Motivated by positive feedback from the industry, and driven by a clear opportunity for change, we launched Hotel Bonanza in 2016," it says. Barber adds: "We understand the frustrations of accommodation providers currently being squeezed by large OTAs and that's where we saw a gap in the market for a more logical way to do business which doesn't cut so deep into profits. We have had an amazing response from the trade so far. There's a genuine appetite for what we are doing."

Filippo Cavandoli, Brera
Former Staycity property acquisitions director Cavandoli is charged with heading German serviced apartment provider Brera's move in to overseas markets. He is tasked with sourcing properties in major European markets, looking for buildings of around 2000 square metres to accommodate 80 units of 25 to 40 square metres. Locations must be central and within walking distance of transport connections. Cavandoli says: " I am thrilled and honoured to be joining Brera Serviced Apartments, where each property is rich in style, design and personality, tailored around the needs of the modern business traveller. I am confident that in five years time we will become the best long-stay serviced apartment player in Europe. I look forward to working with the extremely talented Brera team and moving the business forward within the serviced apartment market."

James Fry, Base Nyon
James Fry is co-founder of new Swiss apartment operator Base Nyon. Fry moved to Switzerland from England seven years ago and developed the concept with his business partner Frederic Mydske. After extensive research and planning, the company launched its first property in Nyon, a town of 20,000 inhabitants situated on Lake Geneve, which just happens to be home to the offices of 14 multi-billion dollar companies, including GSK, Beckman Coulter, General Mills, Regus, UEFA, Edwards Life Sciences, Autonomy Capital, and Tupperware. With the Nyon property trading well, Fry is looking to expand. He says: "We have now established our template and had some great feedback and comments from guests, including 5 out of 5 on Tripadvisor where we are ranked the top hotel in Nyon. We are looking to roll out the base brand across Swiss Romande (the French speaking part of Switzerland) to Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey; and Swiss Allemande (the German part) to Zurich, Zug and Basel. We aim to grow to at least five sites open or under development in the next three years, and to establish a firm base to grow to multiple destinations across Europe."

Prashant Maharaja, 14Square
There has been a rush of new developments opening in India over the last year, mist of them operated by one of the big international brands. But it's good to see some homegrown players getting in on the action. Prashant Maharaja is one of the co-founders of Pune-based 14 Square. Along with fellow co-founder Gaurang Chandarana, Maharaja has successfully completed two recent funding rounds to help expand its business, including US$300,000 from Sambhav Learning Private Limited. The company provides serviced apartments in 20 cities across India, and its offer includes a centralised concierge service, free wi-fi, breakfast, home cooked food and wellness programs. It claims to be India's first standardised, national chain of serviced apartments and currently operates properties in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Gurgaon, Goa, Hyderabad, Nashik, Jaipur, Agra, Shimla, Coimbatore and Visakhapatnam. "We work with small local players and use a collaborative approach to organise and standardise apartments and services, reach out to customers and yet keep the idea of a branded offering in this space. In short, we seek to be the equivalent of an average person's Marriott, Westin or Novotel," says  Maharaja.

Lisa Neubueser, Zoku
Lisa Neubueser has moved from the rather formal world of investment management at Invesco to one of the freshest, funkiest brands around - Zoku, the apartment/workspace hybrid which is the latest project from Citizen M co-founder Hans Meyer. Neubueser has also worked at CBRE, Marriott and HVS. At Zoku, in the role of senior real estate developer, she will seek investment to roll out one of the most anticipated and closely watched brands in hospitality, adding to its first property which opened in Amsterdam this year. She says: "Zoku's innovative hotel concept offers global nomads a refreshing alternative to a standard hotel room or serviced apartment, while fostering a community space so far unrivalled in the sector. I'm very excited to join the Zoku rollout team and help real estate investors take part in Zoku's growth story as we expand our portfolio with leases and management contracts." Watch out for new Zoku properties appearing in their target locations - European and American hubs of creativity.

Tatsushi Nishimura, Daiwa House
Japanese construction giant Daiwa House has got the south-east Asian serviced apartment market firmly in its sights. Daiwa House Industry will open extended stay properties across the region, initially in response to the growing number of Japanese workers in the area. The company is in discussions with local developers for serviced-apartment developments in in major metropolitan areas across Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. As senior managing executive officer, Nishimura will help form the serviced apartment strategy which will see the Japanese homebuilder increasing the number of serviced apartments it manages from around 300 units at present to some 10,000 units by 2022. Much of that growth will come in south-east Asia, with plans to open five or six developments annually. The full furnished and equipped apartments will offer hotel services such as housekeeping, for an additional fee. The units will be targeted at guests staying for several weeks to several months. Complexes with 200 to 300 units will feature communal areas with large baths and Japanese restaurants. Daiwa House initially plans to cater to demand from Japanese business travellers, before targeting business travellers from Europe and the US.

Jussi Saarinen, Forenom
Jussi Saarinen is ‎director of international operations at Forenom, the Nordic countries' largest provider of serviced accommodation. Based in Finland, the company has a wide selection of serviced apartments, aparthotels and, interestingly, hostels, in its home country, but is also embarking on some ambitious expansion plans, beginning with properties in Olso and Stockholm which will add 369 units to its portfolio. In summer 2018 it will open a 163-room aparthotel 200 metres from Oslo's main railway station. In Oslo it is partnering with Swedish construction giant Skanska - the aparthotel will form part of a major mixed-use project by Skanska. Saarinen says: "Our Nordic capitals, Stockholm and Oslo, definitely need a new type of capacity alongside the traditional hotel options. Now it is also possible in Oslo to choose accommodation with a sense of home away from home instead of a hotel, and be twice as satisfied."

Neil Taylor, Cheval Residences
Neil Taylor is the new operations director at London serviced apartment owner/operator Cheval Residences. In his new role, Taylor is dedicated to offering outstanding service to guests across the Cheval portfolio of five star residences. Prior to joining Cheval, Taylor, who has more than 30 years' experience in the hospitality industry, held several senior positions at Redefine BDL Hotels, before continuing as chief operating officer. In this role, he was instrumental in key growth for Redefine BDL Hotels, which saw its portfolio increase from 10 hotels to more than 60 through acquisition and management contracts. He joins Cheval as the company prepares to step up its expansion plans, both in the UK and overseas. Taylor says: "I am very excited to be joining Cheval Residences, where each property has its own individual character and a level of service rarely enjoyed outside the world's finest hotels. I look forward to working with the Cheval team and moving the business forward within the five-star market."

Aaron Turner, BridgeStreet
Aaron Turner is the newly installed chief technology officer at BridgeStreet Global Hospitality. He was formerly COO/CTO of BrandShop - a provider of digital commerce solution to Fortune 100 companies. While there he was accountable for delivering $100 million in revenue through their commerce operations. Before that he led marketing operations and technology for the enterprise marketing division of eBay. His appointment is a canny and proactive one in a sector which is becoming ever more reliant on technology, particularly in the distribution space. BridgeStreet CEO Sean Work describes Turner as "an exceptional talent and the right leader to leverage BridgeStreet's IP to the industry". "We are driving immediate and positive changes for serviced apartment and extended stay experiences by backing our resources up with technology advantages. We are fortunate to have Mr. Turner's proven abilities on board which are a perfect match for new and exciting upgrades coming to the industry," he added.

Who have we missed? We'd be interested to hear your thoughts on who will be the industry's leading movers and shakers in 2017. Please email your thoughts to george@servicedapartmentnews.com

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