Vote for the Rising Star and Industry Inspiration categories in the Serviced Apartment Awards

George Sell By George Sell
22 February 2016 | Updated 24 February 2016

Now it's time for you, the readers, to decide the winners of two exciting categories - Rising Star and Industry Inspiration.

The awards are being held at The Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London on March 21st. Click here to buy tickets for what will be a great night in the industry calendar.

To vote in the Rising Star and Industry Inspiration awards, read the entry submissions from the candidates below, and then click here to vote. Voting closes at midday on Monday March 7th.

Rising Star

Rishi Bansal. FlexiStay
Rishi Bansal, formerly a software engineer, stayed at a FlexiStay apartment and found the idea of serviced apartments so fascinating he decided to join the company as a manager. Through hard work determination and dedication, he was promoted to business development manager and later he was appointed as CEO. He is responsible for daily business operations, including the development and execution of the company's growth and initiatives, as well as marketing, sales, operations and customer relationship. Within four years the business grew from a few staggered apartments to a company with 250 rooms and apartments across six geographic areas. In November 2013, company founder Pankaj Patel had a stroke. Flexistay was in good hands and was managed by Rishi who has maintained and grown of the business in Pankaj's absence. Rishi is the main person driving the business and is taking our vision and aspirations for the business forward. Rishi plays a central role in the dramatic growth of Flexistay, establishing a robust company structure with a global client base and recognition with regular growth and performance awards. Not only has Flexistay grown over these years but also it has maintained high level of service and customers satisfaction, which is purely down to Rishi's leadership skills.

Eleanor Foxwell, Riverbank Penthouse and Apartments
Eleanor Foxwell has developed the Riverbank Penthouse and Apartments to high standards of customer service providing extra for free that the rest of the Cardiff market is now starting to include, such as free Sky TV, free wifi, free parking, milk, tea, coffee and a meet and greet service for all customers. Because of Eleanor the property has achieved awards from Trivago, Laterooms and

Keith Freeman, Staycity
Keith Freeman joined Staycity in May 2014 from Whitbread, where he had been an operations manager for the company's Premier Inn budget brand. He joined at a time Staycity was about to embark on a period of rapid growth in the UK and Europe, with a brief to help develop a structure within Staycity that ensured it had consistent standards across its estate, that standards were high and maintained, and that the team running the operations side of the business had goals to achieve, the training they needed to achieve them, and were highly motivated to do that. ms, adding and enhancing to the company culture. Keith's hands-on, professional and thorough approach has enabled Staycity to grow into being one of Europe's leading aparthotel providers, with the infrastructure it needs to enable the company to successfully grow further. His commitment has been absolute and his attention to detail impressive. Keith is a hospitality professional who knows what needs to be done and gets on with it.

Tom Walsh, CEO and founder of Staycity, says: "Keith's input into the development of the Staycity business has been immense. He has proved to be both an evangelist for the guest and an evangelist for the team. Keith has huge amounts of energy and a can-do attitude. He has helped me define and distill a culture and value into the company the means the team across the estate knows what we are setting out to achieve, and more importantly, how best to achieve that."

James Fry, Base Nyon
James Fry and his business partner Frederic Mydske spent five years researching, designing and developing their first project - Base Nyon - which opened on 1st October 2015. Base is a new breed of hybrid hotel and serviced apartment that incorporates the best facilities and flexibility of a hotel along with the space and conveniences of a serviced apartment. James doesn't have a hotel background and came at the problem with a completely fresh perspective and undertook a huge amount of research to understand the needs of their target market. This included interviewing 40 companies and operating 12 short-let apartments prior to opening their first Base. Base aims to be a leading serviced apartment operator across Switzerland over the next five years with the aim to open in Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, Zurich, Bern and Basel. Some of the things Base does differently include functional, comfortable and modern suite design;  check-in and out kiosks; sustainable construction and operational techniques; and Base branded products and services.

Peter Heule, Yays/Shortstay Group
Peter Heule is managing director of Yays by Short Stay Group and has over 16 years of management experience in the hospitality industry. In 2014 he entered the serviced apartment sector, just before Yays started operating with its first building in Amsterdam. Within two years Yays successfully expanded to three buildings, covering a total of 100 apartments, a stylish houseboat, and a crane apartment that will have its doors open in summer 2016. The success story of Yays is a reflection of Peter's excellent management skills and the way he executed a socially responsible, meaningful brand that stands for being able to offer a truly local experience to guests rather than a touristic one. Moreover, at Yays it is not just about offering apartments to corporate and leisure guests, but also about creating a community that benefits local entrepreneurs, governments, staff and real estate owners. By putting the spotlight on local entrepreneurs and getting the neighbourhood involved with Yays, Peter ensures that there is synergy between employees, guests, and neighbours.

Caroline Lewis, Cheval Residences
Since joining Cheval Residences, senior sales manager Caroline Lewis has established herself as a key asset to the company and has consistently demonstrated the four Cheval Residences values; Excellence, Respect, Positivity and Balance. She joined the company ahead of the launch of Cheval Three Quays in March 2014 and has since worked unremittingly to grow sales, brand and industry awareness. Caroline is also senior sales manager at Cheval Calico House, a collection of 45 extended stay serviced apartments in The City, demonstrating her excellence and understanding of both the short stay and extended stay markets. During a relatively short period of time, Caroline has worked above and beyond in her role, to establish herself as a vital member of the Cheval Residences team by actively contributing at all levels of the business. She is engaged and optimistic and regularly puts forward new ideas to assist with sales at both properties. A team player, Caroline creates a positive atmosphere amongst her colleagues. She has signed up approximately 45 corporate accounts to Cheval Three Quays during 2015 alone.

Giovanni Valentini, Cycas Hospitality
Giovanni is hotel manager at  Staybridge Suites London - Vauxhall. As a hands on manager, he has worked tirelessly to achieve staggering results. The property beat the full year budgeted revenue by 2% before the end of the first year, and made over 60% gross operating profit for the whole year, by managing costs and achieving more top line revenue than budgeted for. Wayne Androliakos, director of operations at Cycas. Says: "As Giovanni's line manager, I can wholeheartedly say that what he has achieved this year at Staybridge Suites London - Vauxhall has been nothing short of extraordinary. Just look at the facts - he beat his first year budget by 6% even though the property opened a month and a half late due to building delays, his employee satisfaction survey showed an employment engagement score of 96% and his property section consistently achieved the position of number one property for Guest Satisfaction within the IHG European portfolio. Giovanni is an industry great and propels the extended stay sector into the public eye." Giovanni is a proponent of using emotional intelligence, or the ability to identify, use, understand and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. For Giovanni, hospitality is not a job. It is a way of life; it is a part of who he is. His love and passion for the business and for the people involved is contagious.

Industry Inspiration

Anett Gregorius, Apartmentservice Germany/So! Apart
Anett is managing director of Boardinghouse Consulting and Apartmentservice, and is without doubt one of the most prominent faces of the German serviced apartment sector. She started her career in 1999 and has since become one of the most renowned figures in the industry. She discovered a previously unknown segment for herself, revived it and made it popular in Germany in the first place. With competence, quality and entrepreneurial acumen as well as inventiveness and heart, she managed to drive an enormous boost in professionalisation in Germany.

Due to her passionate interest in the topic she dedicated her diploma thesis to the development trends and significance of serviced apartments in the German accommodation market and then managed an apartment house. She founded her company Boardinghouse Consulting in 1999 in order to advise investors and project developers and subsequently launched Apartmentservice, the first German agency to provide serviced apartments via an internet platform. At that time the segment in Germany was still in its infancy. Nowadays, the Apartmentservice presents a diverse and high-quality offer of more than 13,000 apartments in over 120 destinations. Anett is one of the few that serves both perspectives and thus, possesses a unique overview of the different needs of operators on the one side and developers on the other. In 2013 she and her team initiated SO!APART, a yearly industry meeting which brings together operators, developers and investors and furthermore awards the best serviced apartments with the coveted SO!APART-Award in different categories. The participants of last year's event increased by 60 per cent, showing the growing interest and quality of the conference.

Kimberly Smith, CHBO
Kimberly Smith is an accomplished entrepreneur and published author with more than 20 years experience as an entrepreneur in the areas of real estate, property management, corporate housing, website development and franchising. In 1999 she Smith co-founded AvenueWest Corporate Housing, Inc. which provides real estate property management of furnished residential properties offering full service corporate housing services to upscale executive travellers in need of a monthly lodging solution.

AvenueWest was recognised by the DMCC as the 2003 Emerging Business of the Year, and was ranked for three consecutive years on Inc. Magazines Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Businesses list and in 2010 was recognized by the Corporate Housing Providers Association as awarded Provider Company of the Year. Inspired to help people find corporate housing and real estate solutions on a national basis, Mrs. Smith co-founded Corporate Housing by Owner, LLC in 2005 a national resource dedicated to connecting furnished rental properties with executive renters. In 2006 (CHBO) was launched, the first-of-its-kind online portal connecting furnished rentals and the traveling public. In 2013 CHBO was recognized by CHPA as the Associate Company of the Year. In 2009, Mrs. Smith co-founded a new franchise company, AvenueWest Global Franchise, LLC allowing for the national expansion of the AvenueWest Managed Corporate Housing product where she currently leads as the company's CEO. Current offices are located in Phoenix, Atlanta, Fort Collins, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Denver and Colorado Springs. Kimberly is a recognized leader in the corporate housing industry and served for five years on the Corporate Housing Providers Association Board of Directors, and as the 2011 elected Chairman of the Board. Kimberly has been nationally recognized for her business success and her philanthropic endeavors and has been featured in media sources like the NYTimes, LA Times, Denver Post, US News & World Report,, CNBC and

Filippo Sona, Colliers International
In the last five years Filippo has proactively encouraged and promoted the development of the serviced apartment industry in the Middle East and North Africa region. He frequently speaks at regional and international conferences to promote the strength of the sector. His continuous support and dedication to the sector has resulted in additional 3,000 rooms being added (signed by operators through operator selection processes) to the current and future supply of the MENA region. Amongst the many deals, of particular relevance is the signing of a multiple site agreement between Adagio and Ghassam Al Sulaiman, a Saudi company developing four serviced apartment assets. The client understood the strength of the industry as a result of Filippo's participation at the Serviced Apartment summit in London, in July 2014, where he presented on the characteristics and strengths of the Middle East serviced apartment market. Other brand signed are Millennium Executive Apartments and Fraser Suites. His commitment and dedication to the industry led Filippo to convince Piers Brown to bring the Serviced Apartment Summit to Dubai, launching the first edition of this event in 2015, which resulted in much interest among operators and local developers. Filippo has contributed to the Global Serviced Apartments industry report 2015-16 and many other Colliers publications promoting the serviced apartment industry. He is a true ambassador for the serviced apartment industry who proactively promotes the sector.

Max Thorne, MRP Advisory
Max has been in the property industry for over 30 years, 22 of which have been spent dedicated to the serviced apartment sector. He has not only watched the growth and changes to the sector but has played an integral part in it. 
He started at London Life (now BridgeStreet) in 1994. The business was founded upon capitalising on the Middle Eastern summer letting market in London. Turn over from 1994 to 1999 moved from £1m, to £10m and then at point of sale £20m. The key objective of Max's role was to bring long term stable income to what was at the time a seasonable driven business and change the business model from a leisure reliant model; balancing the corporate, leisure mix. 
Max subsequently went on to work at Bridge Street from 1999 to 2012, where he introduced and led a strategic move into management, manchise and franchise operations, delivering numerous sites in the UK, UAE and South Asia.

Max's most recent role, from December 2012 to November 2015, was CEO at Oaktree-backed Central London Serviced Apartments, which subsequently acquired SACO. During this period Max delivered on a five-year Remit in three years, overseeing the launch of the beyonder brand, raising an initial £110m in development funding for the first three sites. Acquiring 11 development sites in the UK and Europe, for development as future Beyonder or Saco operations.
Max also chairs The British Hospitality Association serviced apartment committee, and has recently launched MRP Group, a small trading consultancy practice, specialising in the hospitality sector.

Tom Walsh, Staycity
The Staycity business was founded in 2004 with an apartment owned by Tom Walsh in Dublin's Temple Bar. In 2003 Walsh, an engineer, working as plant manager of Henkel Loctite Ireland, a high-tech chemical and biomedical manufacturer, decided to move from the city centre but made the decision to offer the apartment for short-lettings. With the help of his brother Ger, they put up a website offering the apartment and bookings flooded in. Tom and Ger knew they were on to something. This was the start of Staycity, which now operates over 1,000 apartments across eight European cities, has one of the most active development pipelines in this growing business, and has plans to run some 10,000 apartments by 2020.
From that one apartment in Dublin, strong bookings for short let stays prompted the addition of further outlets in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and London Heathrow. Tom has been a pioneer in the serviced apartment sector both in the UK and Ireland. His vision has been to create and grow a recognizable brand into a profitable, scaleable business.

With Walsh at the helm and an experienced team around him Staycity is not destined to stand still. With a modest, unassuming style, he has become well-known in the sector by attending and speaking at industry conferences and through attracting press interest with news of the company's progress, all helping to raise the profile of the serviced apartment sector both here and abroad. Over the next 24 months Staycity will grow from 1,000 apartments to 3,500. Openings this year include York, where 190 apartments will open in June; and Marseille, where 108 units will open in the summer. London Covent Garden with 106 apartments, and Lyon with 144 are also expected to open during 2016.

Tom Walsh has made sure Staycity is well placed to grow further. He has put the finance, the team and the infrastructure in place that will ensure the company remains one of the leaders in the business for a long time to come and has demonstrated that the hospitality business still has space for entrepreneurs with a great idea and the drive to succeed.

George Westwell, Cheval Residences
George has been a key driving force behind the success of Cheval Residences of today, as well instrumental in reshaping UK perceptions of the serviced apartment industry and setting new standards for luxury serviced apartments in London. He joined Cheval Residences in 2004 and completely embraced the serviced apartment sector. Previous roles included 12 years as GM of the Hilton London Metropole Hotel, one of Europe's largest conference hotels with a capacity of up to 3,000 people. Upon joining Cheval Residences, George was innovative in the growth of the portfolio from six to eight residences, including the launch of the multi-award winning Cheval Three Quays which opened in March 2014. Championing a more strategic and long-term vision as a business style, George identified the opportunity and benefit of adopting shorter stay licences within the company and worked diligently until this objective was achieved. This change helped to transform the business and has propelled Cheval Residences in to an emerging global brand with extensive aspirations in terms of future development internationally.

George has positioned Cheval Residences as a forward thinking leader and innovator within the serviced apartment industry, and also sits on the board of the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP). He has shown an exceptional level of engagement with his senior team leaders in a manner that has allowed both inspiration of product development and successful delivery to market. George is passionate in "leading the revolution"; to drive the Cheval brand from a quality London based provider of luxury serviced apartments to an internationally known and respected brand providing an extensive product range with exceptional service at every step of the client relationship, as well as maintaining the highest standard of accommodation.

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