Our 2016 serviced apartment industry predictions: How did we do?

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1. Step up from insularity
Brown quoted a major travel buyer who said the sector is "very good at talking to each other, but not so good at talking to the people who want to use its services" and predicted "a more transparent, broad - minded and unbiased approach from sector stalwarts (at risk of being left behind) to drive the industry forward".
 
What has happened in 2016?
From a brand operator / developer perspective,  there are certainly signs that the bigger operators are branching out - Frasers has bought the Malmaison/JDV chain of boutique hotels, as well as investing in commercial development companies and mixed-use JV projects. Indeed serviced apartments have been appearing more and more often in mixed-use developments among a range of accommodation offers, and there is a growing trend for dual branded hotel and serviced apartment projects.
 
Other companies have introduced initiatives that make life easier for their guests, such as Ascott's partnership with car hire giant Avis, and several London operators teaming up with luggage transfer service AirPortr. Cheval Residences' partnership with Debenhams, which saw well known designers giving units at Cheval Three Quays a makeover, was a great example of an operator thinking outside the box and connecting with a new audience.

Brown also predicted a rise in M&A activity - could the SilverDoor acquisition of Citybase be the start? - and in accreditation schemes, borne out when the AA made its entry in to the serviced apartment sector with an accreditation scheme and sponsorship of the Serviced Apartment Awards 2017.

Prediction score: 8/10
 
2. Airbnb becomes a news publisher
Piers wrote: "We think Airbnb could enter the hospitality news services sector, something close to our heart here at Serviced Apartment News. This could threaten a broader range of media/services such as hospitality review websites. Hotels and serviced apartments have distributed magazines to their guests for a long time now - print is certainly not a key part of Airbnb's media future."
 
What happened in 2016?
Airbnb's main initiative this year has been its Trips "curated experiences" offer but at the same time it also launched a ….print magazine. It has teamed up with US media giant Hearst to produce a 32-page bi-annual magazine featuring content written by hosts.
 
Airbnb Magazine is the result of a partnership with Hearst's chief content officer Joanna Coles, who has been working on the venture for the past 18 months. Coles said: "What it does, unlike any other magazine out there, is that it taps into the expertise of you guys. Everything in it is sourced from hosts and regular travellers."
Prediction score: 3/10 (but we wouldn't rule out a digital offer in 2017).
 
 
3. Serviced apartments 'blur' into the office
Piers wrote: "Could serviced apartments soon become a staple part of the serviced office package? It's possible - and we've seen new, innovative concepts recently enter the market, with the efficient use of space, commuting phobia coupled with urban living trends being key some of the drivers."
 
What happened in 2016?
In the UK serviced apartment agent Select Apartments has teamed up with Office Space in Town (OSIT), which operates bespoke serviced offices and meeting places in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Northampton. Clients booking through Select Apartments get free access to three of OSIT's six London business lounges, including its newest venue in Monument, as well as its office buildings in Waterloo and Liverpool Street, for up to five hours per week. Clients will also be offered a 20 per cent discount on meeting room hire.
 
Other examples have been the successful opening of the first Zoku property in Amsterdam, with a strong live/work emphasis; and SACO's new Locke brand also features live/work spaces.
Not to be outdone, boutique hoteliers are exploring the concept with The Zetter reducing their food and beverage offering in place of co-working space managed by Central Working. See Grant Powell at Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel Summit 2017
Prediction score: 7/10
 
 
4. Premiumisation
Piers quoted Sophie Maxwell of Pearlfisher who said that premiumisation "has created the bridge between the desirability of the luxury world, and the function and necessity of the mass market", and forecast more of it in 2016.
 
What happened in 2016?
Frasers' partnership with Mercedes-Benz launched into Singapore earlier this year and is a great example of this phenomenon. Elsewhere in the sector, Ascott launched its Crest Collection - described as "a prized selection of some of its most prestigious and unique luxury serviced residences". Ascott's Alfred Ong said the properties offer "a memorable experience through the art of luxury living".
 
In the UK, Apple Apartments was thinking along similar lines, launching its Exclusive brand - offering a higher service level - and price point - than the rest of its portfolio.
 
And in the UAE and Asia, luxury hotel brands became further entrenched in the serviced residence space, with the likes of Jumeirah, Kempinski and Lanson Place all opening new properties.
Prediction score: 6/10
 
 
5. Data dissemination
"The hospitality sector, particularly serviced apartments, is light years away in terms of extracting the full capability of data towards a personalised guest experience, and enhanced profitability," said Brown, predicting that "the simple and effective dissemination of data and 'all in one place' time saving technology solutions to make more speedy, informed decisions will be a game changer in hospitality".
 
What happened in 2016?
There has certainly been a raft of new tools and services available to the sector, although perhaps none can yet be called a game changer. Expedia launched a revenue management tool for operators and hoteliers, JLL teamed up with ReviewPro to allow the property services giant to use guest reviews when evaluating a property's worth, and a number of different companies and reports drilled down in to available data on Airbnbto reveal the extent that listings in some areas are dominated by professional landlords competing with hotels and serviced apartments without the burden of regulation.
 
Look out for our Digital Personalisation in Hospitality white paper in 2017
Prediction score 6/10
 
6. Distribution everywhere
"The distribution landscape offers the possibility of radical change through a new, marked - and following the example set by the OTA sector - continual disruption of category. We are witnessing the emergence of truly revolutionary distribution languages that bring new energy, excitement and impact - breaking established norms - to set radically new and different standards," wrote Brown, citing BridgeStreet's partnership with Airbnb as "the start of the clamour to offer clients increased access and choice".
 
What happened in 2016?
There has certainly been a raft of initiatives to allow serviced apartment operators to cast their distribution net wider. RentalsCombined teamed up with SiteMinder to "enable hoteliers and serviced apartment providers to take on the sharing economy"; Accor - which is JV partner in Aparthotels Adagio - has been on a massive spending spree, acquiring distribution platforms (such as onefinestay and taking a stake in Oasis Collections) as well as operators; and Ascott has not only teamed up with Tujia - China's equivalent of Airbnb - it has developed an apartment brand specifically for the platform.
 
Operators have also got smarter in the way they use OTAs and Airbnb to distribute short-term inventory.
Prediction score: 7/10
 
Summary: It's always something of a gamble staking your colours to the mast when making a prediction, but apart from Airbnb's unexpected diversion in to print publishing, his forecasts have been pretty accurate.
Overall score 7/10

Look out for Brown's industry predictions for 2017, which will be publihsed on December 12th.

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