Business travellers on extended stays need to find the right welcome

John Wagner John Wagner Uploaded




There may be a glimpse of green shoots to boost the economy, but for many, times are still tight and travel budgets are squeezed.  Apartment rental prices are astronomic in big, globally attractive cities such as London.  So where does the business traveller who needs to stay in town for longer than a few nights, find a friendly, affordable welcome these days?

The answer is in one of the newest hotel ideas to come to Europe, extended stay, or to use its North American name, "all-suite hotels" .

Above all however, what appears to set the extended-stay sector apart from traditional hotel accommodation is the clear determination to create a "home away from home" for guests.  
Indeed, among the forerunners of the extended-stay model in Europe and the UK is the IHG brand Staybridge Suites. With existing properties in Liverpool, Newcastle and London - Stratford City and several more soon to be announced in other UK locations, the brand prides itself on the home-like environment it creates for its guests.

For instance, the hotel's "Den" (a communal room with a television, small library and board games, where weekly movies are hosted), and tri-weekly "after-work receptions" when complimentary wine, beer, soft drinks and nibbles are served, both aim to encourage guests to relax and settle in to their new surroundings, as if at home.

Similarly, extended-stay accommodation staff are consciously encouraged to behave differently than more traditional hotel employees. Friendliness and approachability are the name of the game and starchy formality is banished as the whole team is encouraged to be more proactive and intuitive about how best to help guests during their stay. As guests stay longer, and are often in the hotel for months at a time, guests and employees get to know each other as neighbours and even friends.

And it certainly seems to be doing the trick; claims surrounding the growing demand for extended-stay accommodation in the UK and Europe appear to be confirmed by the recent success of the Staybridge Suites brand hotels. Staybridge Suites London - Stratford City for instance has seen occupancy of more than 90 per cent since its opening before last year's Olympic Games, putting it a good two years ahead of the expected business cycle for a new hotel. Nearly 70 per cent of its guests stay longer than a week and more than 40 per cent stay longer than a month.

There are clear signs that corporate and extended length travellers within the UK increasingly prefer the consistency and stability offered by an extended-stay hotel. Understandably, travellers seek to minimise the feeling of upheaval and displacement that can often accompany long stays away from home. For many, the most effective way to do so appears to be by setting up a semi-permanent base, with all the comforts of home, where families can also easily visit for weekend get-togethers.

The pattern of business travellers switching towards extended-stay hotels seems  set to continue and despite the challenges and concerns, there is optimism for the future of the extended-stay sector in the UK specifically and Europe in general.

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