Voting is open for the Industry Inspiration and Rising Star categories at the 2021 Serviced Apartment Awards

George Sell George Sell Uploaded 13 May 2021


UK: Two of the prizes in the 2021 Serviced Apartment Awards will once again be decided by you, the Serviced Apartment News readers.

The shortlist for the Industry Inspiration category is below. Scroll further down the page to see the Rising Star shortlist.

Industry Inspiration

A. Robert Alley, Roomzzz Aparthotels
With 30 years' experience in the hospitality industry, Roomzzz COO Robert Alley has previously worked with both new and developing brands, including some of the biggest hotel groups in the world. These include Hilton, IHG and Hallmark Hotels. Robert has been leading Roomzzz through an exciting period of growth. With several new projects opened in the last two years Roomzzz has doubled revenues and is set to double again with an ambitious pipeline of expansion beyond the UK. The company is well established in the aparthotel sector, providing stylish apartments with high guest satisfaction and strong sentiment for business and leisure guests. Robert drives the business with a successful team focus on customer experience, brand development, commercial strength and leadership to take the group through the next few years of growth as an innovator and market leader. He says the best part of his job is to share success with his team.

B. Vivi Cahyadi Himmel, AltoVita
Vivi Cahyadi Himmel is the CEO and co-founder of Altovita. She pioneered AltoVita’s proprietary technologies including theGlobal Distribution System (GDS) and Business to Employee (B2E) enterprise software. She orchestrates AltoVita’s R&D and agile product development process to drive the serviced apartment smart distribution technology adoption with high-profile accounts including the US Federal Agency, leading consumer brands and relocation companies. Vivi has lived and worked in 11 cities across Europe, Asia, Australia and the US. These experiences have over the years shaped her outstanding cultural awareness, linguistic skills and acumen in international business. All these qualities collectively make her a pillar of the company’s foundation and a driving force in the development of AltoVita’s unique approach to push innovation in the opaque corporate housing sector.

C. Lee Curtis, RESIDE Worldwide
Lee Curtis, CCHP, CEO and co-founder of RESIDE Worldwide, has been an industry member since his time as a United States Army Reserve Captain. His pedigree and overall industry legacy precede him and he has gained valuable knowledge and skills from growing up within the space. Curtis has been a member and involved with the Corporate Housing Providers Association (CHPA) since its inception as AIHP (Association of Interim Housing Providers) in 1999. Since that time, he has served on the Board of Directors three times. Since 1997 he has led three global companies and has kept the interest of his companies, the industry and the associations balanced, complementary and forward thinking. His companies, to include BridgeStreet, ABODA and RESIDE have won countless industry and client awards during his tenure with each. As the Chair of CHPA and the CEO of BridgeStreet, Lee successfully led a coalition of corporate housing providers in an effort to change the City of New York’s bid to limit our sector's right to operate as a 30 plus day industry. As the Co-Founder of RESIDE Worldwide, Lee is at the helm of the first global accommodations company to embrace the growth of the alternative accommodations sector while still remaining true to the values of the corporate housing industry that is its roots.

D. Kevin Goh, Ascott
Kevin Goh is the CEO, Lodging of CapitaLand Group, responsible for the growth of CapitaLand’s lodging business. He is concurrently the CEO of The Ascott Limited (Ascott). Under Kevin's leadership, Ascott continued its global expansion in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, adding over 14,200 new units across 71 properties and opening of over 3,900 units in 25 properties. He also played an instrumental role in the combination of Ascott Residence Trust (ART) and Ascendas Hospitality Trust in December 2019, which has resulted in the creation of the largest hospitality trust in Asia-Pacific. Kevin was awarded the prestigious Medal of Commendation at the NTUC Singapore May Day Awards 2020 in recognition of his strong advocate work for productivity improvement and upgrading of employees’ capabilities to ensure a dynamic and digitally savvy workforce.

E. Stephen Hanton, Synergy Global Housing
Stephen keeps promising his wife he will one day have more time for the garden and holidays — not sure that he is ready for that just yet! Perhaps that is because it will be hard for him to leave behind what he is so passionate about, which is the serviced apartment industry. As Stephen arrived at each of the businesses he has led — BridgeStreet, SACO and now Synergy — he has inspired each to be more than just a business offering serviced apartments. For over 25 years, he has led the development and growth of the sector — spurring on businesses he has led, inspiring people he has worked with and generally pushing the industry forward to be recognised as an equal alongside hotels and other established accommodation offerings. Stephen also genuinely cares. He cares about people, customers, properties, companies and the industry. Despite his grand titles (currently President International) he has no airs and graces, and is quick to stand back and let others take the recognition for often what he has set them up to achieve. All of this is laced with warm humour, endless sporting analogies and a healthy dose of realism and hard work.

F. Giles Horwitch-Smith, res:harmonics
Under Giles’ stewardship, res:harmonics has grown rapidly since 2016 doubling the number of units managed year-on-year. In that time, res:harmonics has averaged over 100+ improvements to the system each year and continuously updated the software with new features and integrations. Even during the pandemic, there has been no slow down in growth with four completely new modules set to be completed in the rst half of 2021 and the number of units managed set to double again by the end of 2021.What really underpins this success, though, is how it has been achieved. Unlike investor-backed companies that can operate at a loss, res:harmonics has grown organically. The business is fully-funded through income from clients who appreciate the great tech, the responsiveness and the pricing. As a bootstrapped company, the focus has to be on performing for clients andGiles has spotted the areas where res:harmonics has needed and could afford to grow, while also building a lean and agile team. The result? Res:harmonics is now in operations across four continents with the other two (not Antarctica unfortunately) firmly in sight.

G. Eric Jafari, edyn
Eric Jafari leads edyn’s pan-European real estate development platform and the broad creative direction of our brands, and was one of the original co-founders of the Locke aparthotel brand. Despite the pandemic, Brookfield-backed edyn is embarking on an ambitious pipeline for Locke. New properties include two in London, two in Dublin, two in Munich and one in Cambridge. Openings in 2021 will include a further two locations in London, a new property in Cambridge and the European expansion of the brand into Germany and Ireland. Across the edyn portfolio – which also includes SACO, The Moorgate and Wittenberg – occupancy for 2020 averaged 65 per cent. Eric's multi-disciplinary team comprises acquisitions, asset management, construction, design, investment finance & planning. Eric previously served as managing director of Union Hanover Securities where he founded Urban Villa and oversaw a £500 million aparthotel development platform. Born in Los Angeles, raised in Paris but living in London, Eric would tell you that his nomadic nature and insatiable curiosity explain his passions which range from travel to food and wine, to wellness, learning and of course his family.

H. Asli Kutlucan, Cycas Hospitality
Asli is a hotel development professional who has worked in the global hospitality for over 25 years. Specialising in full and limited service and extended stay hotels acquisition, negotiation and execution of deals, focusing on the UK and continental Europe. Since joining Cycas Hospitality in 2011, she has been responsible for the acquisition, negotiation and execution of deals across the UK and continental Europe, including overseeing the hotel openings and technical services team. Previously Asli had a long career in hospitality across four continents, managing luxury hotels and developing hotel businesses. As well as being a key player in growing the Cycas portfolio, she is an inspiration in other fields. She established the joined the inspirational Akilah Institute team in Rwanda in 2010 and worked there for a while as a lecturer providing higher education for the country's future female leaders - young women who were part of the generation that has suffered the consequences of the 1994 genocide whilst supporting the Rwandan government tourism initiatives. She was also Trustee and Treasurer of Frontier Imaginaries, an arts charity based in Holland, and is a board member of the Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation, an arts organisation with the wider goal of promoting the arts and culture and championing their role in social capital building.

I. Steve Lowy, Lowy Group and The Residence Apartments
Steve is passionate about marketing and training within the hospitality and tourism industry and inspiring young people to join the trade. He loves empowering the underdogs to fight above their weight especially as the hospitality space gets cluttered with big brands. Alongside a student accommodation and education business, he setup up The Residence, a collection of luxury serviced apartments in London. He also created the umi hotels brand in May 2007, and grew it to three sites, then launched Umi Digital in the winter of 2010 to provide the independents in hospitality a one-stop shop for their digital needs. Steve has also lectured across the UK and Europe, to both business and hospitality students, as well as employing more than 180 students in the last last eight years in a variety of roles. He also serves as chairman of the Board of BETA (British Educational Travel Association) and on the Committee of the Hotel Marketing Association in the UK, which promotes best practice in hotel marketing.

J. Claire Parry, Week2Week Serviced Apartments
When Claire took over from her mother Janet, she could quite easily have rested on her laurels. Instead, she has made it her goal to grow the company. Claire’s ambition, great leadership, mentoring and passion for the North East influence every member of the Week2Week team. Even as a director Claire has often gone out of her way to help with the day-to-day maintenance of the apartments, proving her dedication to not only customer service, but ensuring a happy, harmonious team, from top to bottom. Claire encourages staff involvement including decisions making, so everyone feels vital. Claire is well known in the industry and is a go-to person for advice and information. Week2Week would not be where it is today if it wasn't for Claire's passion, drive and business leadership.

K. Dean Schreiber, Oakwood
Dean Schreiber, CEO of Oakwood, is a veteran in the hospitality industry with nearly 30 years of experience. A visionary leader, Dean has over the past year grown Oakwood’s global footprint and implemented ground-breaking initiatives that elevated the company’s leadership position. At the height of the pandemic, he made the bold yet strategic move to shift the company’s focus exclusively on hospitality management with a goal to double its portfolio of managed properties by 2025. While pursuing an aggressive expansion strategy, Schreiber maintained his relentless determination to achieve hospitality excellence by introducing a series of trailblazing initiatives. Despite the industry’s worst crisis, Oakwood launched Oakwood Clean360, a hygiene and sanitation programme in the early days of the pandemic; created a new brand “Oakwood Beluxs” to cater to China’s new generation of travellers; launched the serviced industry’s first soft brand “The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood” to serve the interests of property owners and guests alike; implemented service innovations and re-engineered his global leadership team in response to Oakwood’s growing global operations. His strategic leadership in business development, corporate governance, financial planning and investor relations has reinforced Oakwood’s elevated position in the industry.

Rising Star shortlist

A. Christine Anderson, Urban Creation
Starting a new job can be daunting at the best of times, but joining a new organisation two weeks into a global pandemic meant Chrissie had just four days of zoom training before she was responsible for our whole serviced apartment portfolio comprising of 30 serviced apartments and seven members of staff. Meeting all of her new colleagues for the first time via Zoom, Chrissie got stuck in straight away. Firstly, her main priority was to ensure all of our apartments and properties were Covid safe for all of our key worker guests. By introducing new remote booking and key allocation systems, she enabled us to remove the need for face-to-face check in and departures so that all bookings could be done remotely. Chrissie also enabled us to streamline all of our systems to ensure that we were utilising each of them to their maximum ability and thus enabled us to remove some of them and integrate our needs into a smaller core amount of systems. Chrissie worked through and created a number of offers for the past year and completed a strategy to reduce costs across all of our apartments. This included smart rota-ing and clearing and managing supply lines. All of this was completed without reducing the service or standard of the apartments. Because of all of Chrissie’s hard work, not only now have the restrictions eased have we seen over a 90% occupancy for May, but throughout the pandemic we secured an overall average 75% occupancy through ensuring that our apartments were fit for purpose, safe and provided our guests with what they needed. She successfully adapted our services and what we offered through an extremely unprecedented time and her hard work and work ethic is fantastic.

B. Sarah Buck, Week2Week Serviced Apartments
Sarah Buck started her working career in Oxford, then spent many years living in France with her husband and son. She is a steadfast member of the serviced apartment industry who relentlessly serves her customers and clients with her tenacious approach and passion for first class customer service. During her time at Week2Week she has provided much support to the diverse business approach and ever-evolving industry. She embraces change while always striving for continuous improvement in her role. Sarah single-handedly set up our new PMS system, mapping it into our operation recently to enhance our existing service. She spent numerous hours during lockdowns, often in her own time, auditing OTAs to maximize their efficiency when the restrictions ease. The fruits of her work are now very evident as more business is converting via this method and combined with the new PMS it is a huge success. During lockdowns Sarah formed relationships with peers overseas and has been involved in industry-led panels using her vast knowledge and experience. Through her national and international networks, she regularly receives calls, emails and messages asking her advice on certain topics. She has also worked tirelessly to expand our national support presence with our corporate clients. This allowed our company to support further essential travel during the pandemic whilst providing additional revenue when occupancy was challenged. Sarah always shares best practice with integrity at core of everything she does, and she always does the right thing!

C. Nayton Craig,
At only 32 years of age, Nayton is promising to be one of the key figures and ‘voice’ of the serviced apartment industry in The Netherlands and abroad! Coming from another serviced apartment provider, he already had his fair share of hospitality experience and it quickly became evident that the serviced apartment industry and especially our company’s identity/vision fits Nayton like a glove. Internationally he is always looking for new possibilities and so we always see him around the office making international calls and chasing international accounts, together with our network of partners abroad. His approach has proven to work by closing deals with some major multinationals and the first international bookings. He also makes a significant contribution to the organisation by representing us during most of the international business travel shows or other industry-related events, employing the utmost professionalism and flair that even comes across via online events. He is a real team player; always taking his time to explain things to colleagues, no matter if it’s with our newest intern from another department or if it concerns a direct colleague. Nayton’s successes can’t be traced back to tactics and playbooks. In fact, he just spends most of his time building relations, genially, and going that extra mile for our clients, corporate accounts and partners – which has definitely contributed to why we are still very much alive and kicking despite the COVID-19 setback of the past year.

D. Robert Godwin, Lamington Group, room2
Robert is the managing director of Lamington Group, a old privately held real estate investment and development group, designing, building, and operating quality, design-focused residential and commercial real estate. Under his leadership, the company has tripled in size, and was awarded in the top 1500 fastest growing companies in Europe in 2016. The group operates the fast-growing room2 hometels brand, which combines the very best of hotels and Airbnb. room2 is focused on becoming a nationally recognised hospitality brand, with a rollout target of 5000 units open by 2030. Other brands within the group include room2 lite, a budget hometel brand; and Missionworks, a holistic co-working offer. Robert's vision for room2 is to create "a community-on-the-go, with creative spaces that encourage new thinking but are also fun to be in and connect in". It currently has two sites open are now open in Hammersmith and Southampton, with further sites due to open in Chiswick and Manchester by 2021, and a planning application lodged for a further outlet in Kennington.

E. Niko Karstikko, Bob W
Niko Karstikko is a seasoned tech entrepreneur reinventing the hospitality industry as Co-Founder & CEO of Bob W. Backed by NREP, byFounders VC, Kaamos and other leading real estate and venture capital investors, Bob W offers a fresh and sustainable alternative to hotels and hosted homes driven by technology, data and human connection. Bob W currently operates multiple properties in Helsinki and Tallinn with plans to expand to Nordic and baltic capitals, the UK and DACH region. In his own words, Niko is a "globe trotter, tech entrepreneur, recovering founder, occasional investor, experience junkie and optimist". Business partners have described him as "an indefatigable hustler with an uncanny ability come up with resources and rally the troops around an energising vision". His energy and infectious enthusiasm run parallel with a strong commitment to the environment.

F. Aaron Lee, Dash Living
Aaron is the Founder of Dash Living - the new generation of rental solution in Hong Kong for urban professionals. Through Dash Suites, Coliving, Hotels, and Dashare, Dash Living's mission is to create a global accommodation community through sharing economies and tech, empowering today's hyper-mobile, tech-savvy millennials to live in the most expensive cities in the world. Aaron is a serial entrepreneur redefining how millennials rent premium and all-inclusive yet affordable serviced accommodation. Starting his first business at age 17, Aaron is a Forbes 30Under30 Entrepreneur, Investor & Philanthropist with a string of successful startups in his track record such as uBuyiBuy (acquired by Groupon in 2010),, Snapask and Time Auction. At a personal level, Aaron is a white collar boxer, a regular mentor for next generation entrepreneurs at Time Auction and is a supporter of a more sustainable future by practicing “Green Mondays.”

G. Karen Mills, AKA
Karen represents our industry and the AKA brand with the polish and professionalism of a seasoned hospitality leader. This driven millennial possesses and practices the skills of a true hands on, lead by example innovator. Karen currently serves as managing director at AKA Marylebone, with nine years experience in hospitality and customer excellence. Starting her career at Oakwood Worldwide has been advantageous in building partnerships and extensive knowledge with the UK corporate clients before growing and joining AKA in 2016. Her roles at AKA Marylebone have included guest services, resident manager and at present, managing director. Karen is fantastic at customer engagement, client services and operations. Karen embraces the hospitality mentality and exudes a true passion for the AKA brand. She is always thinking and actioning on next best practices. Her ability to weave her sales, marketing and operations acumen into her everyday life is a rare talent. 

H. Kishen Patel, The Residence Apartments
Kishen Patel joined The Residence at the start and has helped to establish and build the brand from the ground up. He has achieved beyond expectations which has resulted in constant promotions across three years, the latest being brand manager of the four Residence locations. Kishen began by managing one apartment building and has helped to grow the Residence brand to four locations, with the view to acquire two more in the next year. He has onboarded new corporate clients which has resulted in new business sales for the company. Kishen has had a positive impact on the business, as he has maintained the company’s clientele and key bookers and has encouraged repeat business with his reliable presence. He is a warm person and brings a personable approach to any working scenario. Kishen attends regular industry events to learn more about the industry and engage with his peers. Kishen works closely with SITU, SilverDoor, Synergy, and an extensive list of agents to push the serviced apartment sector to the wider public. He feels his future lies in the serviced apartment industry and will continue to use his experience and knowledge where applicable.

I. Karolina Saviova, AltoVita
Karolina Saviova is the co-founder and COO of AltoVita. She is responsible for operations, marketing, and business development, and oversees all aspects of the company’s global supply strategy and guest experience. Under Karolina's co-leadership, AltoVita has demonstrated fast growth globally, reaching a network of 1 million properties this year. She has also established partnerships with more than 800 top serviced apartments operators and property management companies of alternative accommodations globally. As a frequent business traveller and an expat, Karolina is well versed in corporate relocations. Through this first-hand experience as a guest in many serviced apartments, Karolina is successfully building a community ecosystem that brings together serviced apartment operators and property managers of short-term rentals globally. Karolina has demonstrated tremendous tenacity as an entrepreneur, combining creativity and her masterful skill in execution. Over the past year, Karolina was vital in leading our global expansion across Europe, APAC, and the Americas, which has resulted in the wins of many leading hospitality brands, including serviced apartments, corporate housing providers, and short-term rental property management companies. These wins skyrocketed our integrated portfolio from 400 properties in 2018 to a network of 1 million properties now available across 165 countries (including 35 US states) and more than 800 cities.

J. Katie Sharples, edyn
Katie joined edyn as pr and marketing manager in January 2020 to help scale the group's aparthotel brand Locke. Three months into the role and following her first opening – Locke at Broken Wharf – the pandemic hit. Katie oversaw the communications for the business during this period of crisis: navigating the changeable landscape and in the wake of the pandemic, positioning edyn and Locke as a resilient hospitality brand. In September 2020, Bermonds Locke opened, supported by the brand's most ambitious multichannel PR and marketing campaign to date. The new property opened with a 75 per cent average occupancy from September to December. In February this year Katie became Head of PR and Marketing for edyn, overseeing the communications across the group, which also the SACO, Moorgate and Wittenberg brands. She will oversee the PR and marketing strategies for seven Locke openings across Europe in 2021 as well as the repositioning of other brands in the edyn portfolio.

The winners will be revealed at the 2021 Serviced Apartment Awards ceremony in London on September 16. Click here to secure your tickets.



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