Meeting of minds in Manhattan

George Sell George Sell Uploaded 12 April 2018


US: More than 150 industry professionals gathered in New York City this week for the 2018 Serviced Apartment Summit Americas.

The 2018 Serviced Apartment Summit Americas, held in the New York Marriott Downtown this week, attracted more than 150 industry leaders from as far afield as the US, Canada, Europe, Singapore and New Zealand.  Day one kicked off with a tour of the Convene events venue on 7th Avenue followed by a tour and a drinks reception at AKA Central Park, where event organiser, IHM CEO Piers Brown, and AKA CEO Larry Korman welcomed attendees.

Day two opened with a welcome from Brown, who noted some of the main industry developments which have occurred in the year since the previous Summit. These included M&A activity such as Brookfield's acquisition of UK operator SACO and the sale of WoodSpring Hotels to Choice Hotels International.

Patrick Mayock of STR then gave a presentation looking at the performance of US extended stay hotels, along with a snapshot of the UK serviced apartment market. Mayock outlined the company's first steps in compiling serviced apartment performance data in the Uk and stressed his wish to start a similar initiative in the US with corporate housing providers.

A developer panel made up of Jon Wohlfert, co-CEO of RESIDE Worldwide; Larry Korman, president of AKA Hotel Residences, and Gordon Doell, CEO and founder of OBASA Group then debated the parallels and differences between serviced apartments, mixed-use developments, extended stay hotels and more. Korman said the two most important qualities to have in this industry are "passion and compassion - passion for what you do and compassion for the guests who stay with you".

Mark Skinner of The Highland Group then moderated a session on the extended stay sector, exploring why the industry is performing so well and is attracting significant investor interest. In the break out room at the same time, a Dragon's Den style pitch for a notional investment of $50 million was narrowly won by Fulhaus, a design company which fits out apartments and offers "shoppable stays" - allowing guests to buy furniture and furnishings they like for their own homes.

An investment hub session debated what's hot and what's not in the eyes of investors, and featured Michael Meekins, president of Westbridge Capital and Jon Moore, managing director, Brookfield Property Group - both their companies have recently acquired serviced apartment operators - Aboda and SACO respectively.

The audience then saw a video, filmed in the two days before the Summit, which featured vox pop interviews with people on the streets of new York about their awareness of and desire for serviced apartments. The video showed a distinct lack of consumer awareness but lots of enthusiasm for the concept.

A 'beer with the bosses' panel of leaders, featuring Lee Curtis of RESIDE Worldwide, Sean Worker of BridgeStreet, Dean Schreiber of Oakwood Asia Pacific, and George Westwell of Cheval Residences, discussed how their businesses were constantly evolving in the face of economic shifts and the sharing economy.

Anja Graf, founder of Vision Apartments, then presented a case study about here Swiss-based company, while Scott Shatford of AirDNA gave an update on the sharing economy giant. A session on dynamic pricing and distribution was followed by a series of round tables, where delegates split in to groups to talk about a wide range of subjects before offering feedback on the discussion to the room.

Speaker presentations from the Summit can be found here.

Serviced Apartment Summit Americas reaction:
"I've been really happily surprised. I haven't attended before and I've found it to be one of the most well run and comprehensive conferences on a specific subject. The speeches have been dead on - at a lot of conferences the CEOs talk about nothing because they are public companies and they are afraid to say anything that would affect their share price. But here the people said what they had to say - there was no bull."
Steve Renard, CEO, Renard International

"It's a great conference. We are meeting the key decision makers who are exactly the people we want to be having conversations with."
Jesal Sangani, founder, Zenya

"It's great. This is my third year. It's different every year - it feels very real-time. The conversations of last year have turned in to the realities of this year. I would never miss it."
Lee Curtis, co-CEO, Reside Worldwide

"I've found it very useful. It's interesting to see the serviced apartment and extended stay offer beginning to become a little more boutique, it's kind of fun to see it merge."
Kim Bardoul, consultant, The Highland Group

"I'm having a great time. I came last year and I was excited to see how the interest that's being shown in this sector is being demonstrated here in the room. To be able to interact with the CEOs of all the top companies in the sector is helping me learn, it's helped me network and it will help me get a better understanding of the potential this sector has."
Glenn Haussman, CEO, Rouse Media

"I've really enjoyed myself. It's incredible to be around industry people who are passionate about hospitality, who are looking to grow and transcend their industry. There is an openness and a long range view, with the industry debating 'who are we and how do we continue to grow?'"
Ngoc Thach, director of public relations, My Place Hotels of America


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