The lie of the land: Serviced Apartment News operator survey

George Sell George Sell Uploaded 06 April 2020

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Global: Serviced Apartment News polled 36 operators of varying size from around the world to see how they were coping with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on business, as well as asking them for any ideas, tips or strategies which are helping them in the current situation.

Among the survey's key findings are:
• 58 per cent of operators have not laid off staff
• Only 30 per cent of operators have closed buildings
• More than 70 per cent of operators have had discussions with landlords about rent reductions or rent holidays
• 36 per cent of operators have suspended contracts with suppliers of goods and services
• 68 per cent of operators expect business travel to bounce back before leisure travel
• Estimates of how long it will take for levels of business to return to pre-pandemic levels vary from a month to more than 18 months

When asked to name strategies which have helped their companies, responses included:

• "We created much shorter notice to vacate terms - from 30-days to three days to allow for maximum flexibility on work travel assignments."

• "Share positive news as we navigate through these times, support staff in any way we can, stay focused on today's task to take it one day at a time but look forward to gaining our footing again in the market six to eight weeks from now."

• "Regular contact with staff, owners, investors, talking to people one on one, plus emails."

• "Remote working, utilising down time to roll out new cleaning procedures, testing new cleaning products, trying new marketing ideas."

When asked how COVID-19 has affected attitudes to growing their businesses in the future, operators' replies included:

• "All openings are still expected to materialise as planned, although delayed."

• "Need to find a model with less risk = the traditional long term lease with fixed rent is not possible."

• "It's made us resilient and forced us to think out of the box, and appreciate the extended stay model."

• "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and diversify."

And looking to the industry's future, comments included:

• "Smaller companies will go bust, I think a deep dive will be done in costs and I think companies will trial different strategies, it's all about what we do now for our industry which will impact our future. Don't be competitors, let's help each other now so as many of us can survive as possible."

• "It will change for the better, particularly with regards how properties are cleaned to make sure certain standards are in place. It will change how properties are certified. It will improve brand reliability and credibility. I see how it could also help bring together an effective scoring or star rating system across the serviced apartment/corporate housing sectors."

• "Small operators like me who were doing rental arbitrage were pushed out/had to permanently close. Those who stay will enjoy less competition. I am curious to see how Sonder and Lyric do. And if it tempers their willingness to expand. And if they are paying their rents this month (April)."

Our thanks goes to all those who participated in the survey. To read the full report, click here.

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