The ones to watch in 2018

George Sell By George Sell
Uploaded 15 December 2017

Serviced Apartment News editor George Sell picks 10 industry players who will be making the sector headlines in 2018.

• Andrea Coscelli, UK Competition and Markets Authority
There has been a lot of grumbling about OTAs across the sector for several years now, but in the last 12 months there seems to have been something of a realisation that, managed well, they are an effective tool for serviced apartment operators, and are certainly not 'the enemy'. But complaints from across the wider hospitality industry have not fallen on deaf ears in the UK, where the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced an investigation in to OTA selling practices. Chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: "Around 70 per cent of people who shopped around for hotels last year used these sites and they should all be confident they have chosen the best accommodation for their needs and are getting a good deal. In today's increasingly busy world, sites like this offer real potential to help holiday-makers save time and money searching for their ideal get-away. To do this, sites need to give their customers information that is clear, accurate and presented in a way that enables people to choose the best deal for them. But we are concerned that this is not happening and that the information on sites may in fact be making it difficult for people to make the right choice." The investigation is already under way. Watch out for further updates in Serviced Apartment News during 2018.

• Lee Curtis, Reside Worldwide
Seattle-based corporate housing provider Aboda received a huge boost earlier this month when private equity management outfit Westbridge Capital acquired an indirect controlling stake in the company. The investment will allow Aboda, which was formed in 1988, to significantly speed up its expansion plans. Former Aboda president Curtis will now become CEO of Reside Worldwide, a new brand formed by Westbridge to spearhead its mission "to acquire and roll up the best performing companies in and outside of our industry. In addition to the roll-up, Reside Worldwide will pursue targeted real estate acquisitions and building management opportunities." Curtis says: "We see Reside's core mission as that of an innovator, bridging the gap between the housing and hospitality markets. Reside will be able to satisfy growing consumer demand for alternative housing by offering clients and guests a broader range of choice and flexibility for global accommodations, while still offering high quality, flexible, vetted options coupled with outstanding customer service."

• Gary DeLapp, WoodSpring Hotels
WoodSpring Hotels is one of the fastest growing extended stay operators in the US. Having opened 21 hotels in 2017, bringing it to a total of 235 properties, it has a further 45 planned in 2018. 35 of the new properties will be franchised, with the other 10 owned and operated by the company. Driving this doubling of the development pipeline is president and CEO Gary DeLapp, who says: "Hotel real estate development remains an attractive investment opportunity, and the WoodSpring product provides ownership groups with an easy-to-operate model with low overhead and higher ROIs that attracts long-term guests. As strong as 2017 has been, 2018 looks even more promising. We expect to grow our portfolio by approximately 25 percent in the coming year, a testament to the brand's durability through all phases of the economic cycle."

• Erik Eccles, Urbandoor
2017 was a big year for serviced apartment booking platform Urbandoor, and the signs are that 2018 will continue in the same ambitious vein. Under CEO Erik Eccles' guidance, the company has teamed up with major travel management companies Castro and ATG, while Eccles, a former ski racer, has been appointed to the board of the Worldwide ERC. Perhaps the company's most significant move in 2017 was the establishment of what it calls the first corporate and extended stay rental booking and management platform for the multifamily industry. The platform allows owners of multifamily buildings to "sustainably increase NOI by listing their unoccupied inventory direct to higher demand bookings such as travelling executives, relocating employees, as well as corporate housing providers booking for their own clients". By teaming up with multifamily giant Greystar, Urbandoor has got the initiative off to a an impressive start, allowing Urbandoor customers to instantly book select Greystar properties in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Austin areas. "Our vision is a world where booking corporate and extended stay rentals is easy and this is a major milestone in our journey," says Eccles.

• Erasmus, CryptoCribs
It's almost impossible to avoid the hype surrounding cryptocurrencies in the media at the moment, and the buzz is even spilling over in to the apartment rental space. Erasmus - first names only here in the virtual world! - and his co-founder Serge have created CryptoCribs, a service aimed at allowing renters and hosts to interact without the services of a middleman such as Airbnb, conducting transactions in cryptocurrencies. Erasmus says: "We specifically target techies, crypto enthusiasts and digital nomads. We offer the same basic functionalities as Airbnb, but the preferred payment methods are cryptocurrencies. This makes sense from an ideological perspective, as a genuine peer-to-peer rental marketplace should operate on a peer-to-peer currency. It also makes sense from a transaction costs standpoint, as cryptocurrency transaction fees are typically lower than Airbnb's fiat payment processing fees. However, we also have a Stripe and PayPal payment option for users who don't have a crypto wallet yet and want to use CryptoCribs as a way to learn more about blockchain and cryptocurrencies."

• Stephen Hanton, SACO
As 2018 draws to a close, the much touted acquisition of SACO by US asset management giant Brookfield has yet to happen, but it is widely considered to be a case of when rather than if. The deal, at a reported £430 million, will be comfortably the biggest transaction in the UK serviced apartment sector, underlining the institutional interest in the industry and most likely signalling the start of a wave of M&A activity. SACO CEO Stephen Hanton will be in an enviable position with a Brookfield warchest available to speed up the company's expansion. It has already opened its first property outside the UK, in Amsterdam, and Hanton recently stated a desire to bring the Locke aparthotel brand to the Asian market and to the US tech centres of San Francisco, Boston and New York. He also hinted at further brand launches, stating that there could eventually be as many as four separate brands under the SACO umbrella.

• Camille Lorigo, Cycas Hospitality
With a few honourable exceptions, the serviced apartment sector - and particularly the extended stay hotel element of it - has never been, well, …cool. But Cycas Hospitality is on a mission to change all that by hiring the undeniably cool Camille Lorigo as marketing director. Fresh from a multimillion euro investment by Thai family office Hua Kee, Cycas has brought Lorigo on board to "help expand and strengthen the profile and portfolio of Cycas as it enters a new phase in its brand journey". During her career, Lorigo founded fashion showroom Che Camille, best known for its otherworldly fashion events and tailoring for Pete Doherty and Anne Robinson. Most recently, she helped relaunch the Athenaeum Hotel, unveiling a partnership with Michelin-starred chefs, The Galvin Brothers. She also worked for D&D London creating and establishing the brand footprint for South Place Hotel. "Cycas' expertise in work/live hotels puts them at the forefront of the market trend. I see massive potential to take the brand to new heights as they expand across the UK and Europe," says Lorigo.

• Samantha Muna, Trianum Hospitality
Samantha Muna is one of the pioneers of the serviced apartment sector in Kenya. After studying at Les Roches Hotel School and Cornell, she has worked for various hotel and consulting companies including Hilton and HVS. Teaming up with her two sisters to form Trianum Hospitality in 2010, Muna has an invaluable set of skills and knowledge which have led to her evolving from a consultant/asset manager, then a third-party operator and lately a franchisee in the Kenyan market. Her company has set up and operated more than 20 complexes in Nairobi and Mombasa, and is operating a franchised Best Western Executive Residency in Nairobi, and 2018 will see Muna continue to develop her plans for creating a strong homegrown brand whose flag will fly above developments of 100+ units which Trianum will lease from developers. Mina's aim is for Trianum to "to raise the standards of servicing and to become the preeminent provider of the largest network of high quality, fully furnished serviced apartments in the region". She is already well on the way.

• Kathryn Petralia, Rented.com
Rented.com has launched Rented Capital, a $125 million fund "dedicated to accelerating the growth of the rental property market". The fund is designed to "close the financial gap between homeowners who want to rent their properties and earn guaranteed income, and property managers who want to be paid on commission". Rented Capital provides property owners with a guaranteed income based on proprietary data collected over several years, Rented.com's proprietary algorithm and Valuation Tool, and third-party data via partners such as AirDNA and Everbooked. According to Statistica, in the U.S. alone 9.26 million people state they live in households that own a second home in 2017. Petralia, co-founder of small business loan platform Kabbage, and one of the Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women, has joined rented.com's board of directors and as an investor. She will help scale the Rented Capital product and platform. Described by Forbes as "one of the few female founders in the decidedly male-centric fintech world" Petralia will use her wealth of experience to reduce the more than $20 billion in rental transactions that Rented.com estimates fail to occur each year due to the differing financial needs of homeowners and property managers.

• Mark Stott, Select Property Group
Select Property Group has been making a name for itself for a while now in the student housing and PRS sectors via its Vita and Affinity Living brands respectively. But the property development and management company's relatively recent entry in to the serviced apartment space, with its City Suites brand, has created something of a splash. Its first property, in Manchester, sits atop the TripAdvisor rankings for the city's speciality lodging category, with 92 per cent of guests giving it an excellent rating. It has managed to capture a significant proportion of leisure business, as well as luring some of Manchester's biggest football names in from their traditional leafy Cheshire strongholds - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and players David Silva and Gabriel Jesus are all living in the two floors of private apartments in the building. Under CEO Stott's guidance launched a retail bond to facilitate further growth and recently received planning consent for a second CitySuites property in Salford.

Do you agree with our choices? Who have I missed? Email george@servicedapartmentnews.com with your suggestions.

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