Talking Business: Jussi Saarinen, Forenom

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• Can you give us a brief career history and tell us how you came to work in the serviced apartment sector?
 
"I have a background in professional sports, playing ice hockey for 10 years, so my background can be seen a bit extraordinary. While still playing, I finished my business studies and before Forenom I worked for the biggest brewery in Finland. I started at Forenom 2009 - at the time company was a group of 25 people, with around 600 apartments and focusing on business in Finland. I am now in my eighth year at Forenom and in the serviced apartment industry. I can´t imagine a better journey thus far. On a personal level this has been an amazing opportunity to be part of a great growth story, and especially to understand what it really takes to always get to the next level. Ultimately, this is seasonal business, but if you are relentless enough and interested in developing the company and its service again and again, you will finally succeed. Forenom is a dynamic company and its way of thinking, great team spirit and overall growing demand for serviced apartments are the biggest reasons for its strong growth." 
 
• How well known are serviced apartments in the Nordic countries, and which are the development hot spots for the sector?
 
"Awareness of the serviced apartment product is growing all the time. Year after year it takes more living space between two main markets, the traditional hotel industry and normal rental apartments. In the Nordics we have 292,000 hotel rooms and 4,500,000 rental apartments, thus we think there is still a big market gap and the serviced apartment industry has its role bridging it. Forenom is clearly the biggest provider at the moment in the area. We operate in all the Nordic countries excluding Iceland. The second biggest is Swedish provider Företagsbostader, which operates only in Sweden.
 
• When was Forenom launched, and how many properties does the company have to date?
 
"Forenom was founded in Finland in 2001. The company now employs 270 people and has offices in Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Forenom has units in three different categories; aparthotels (nine locations and 1000 rooms), hostels (seven locations and 600 rooms) and 2000 individual apartments in different locations, so in total around 3,600 units. As a serviced apartment provider Forenom has a slightly different approach to the market, having a strong track record especially in individual apartments and corporate housing."
 
• Who is your typical customer, and is the balance of business v leisure guest changing?
 
"Forenom focuses mainly on corporate clients, with a split of around 70/30. We see that companies are more often familiar with the serviced apartment product, compared to earlier years.They are increasingly aware of how and when to use them, thus we believe that use on the corporate side is increasing. Awareness of serviced apartments among leisure guests is increasing as well, and that´s mainly because of Airbnb making this product familiar."
 
• What are your growth plans for the next five years?
 
"We aim to be the strongest corporate accommodation provider in Northern Europe by 2020, meaning around 10,000 units in different categories. We already have around 1,000 units in our pipeline and lot of opportunities to execute more in our long list."
 
• Has the Airbnb phenomenon taken a grip in the Nordic countries, and if so, how has it affected the serviced apartment sector?
 
"Airbnb´s effect on this market has been mainly positive. Its huge marketing efforts and brand visibility generates demand for professional serviced apartment providers as well. We see Airbnb more as a platform. A corporate client needs a stable and secure service, and that is what a professional provider can offer more consistently than a peer-to-peer platform. Forenom is willing to be part of the development of the peer-to-peer side as well, and launched our own platform FridayFlats. It offers the same features as Airbnb, but with the added feature of a premium landlord service - we take care of host responsibilities such as moving in service, cleaning, maintenance and so on.
 
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