Home to tourist apartments across some of Europe’s, Habitat Apartments last year took the title of Spain’s Leading Serviced Apartment Brand for the third consecutive time at the World Travel Awards.
Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole sits down with company director Olga Rodellar to discuss the win, how the Spanish tourism market is developing, and the brand’s ambitions for 2017.
Breaking Travel News: Habitat Apartments successfully defended its title at the World Travel Awards last year, recognised as Spain’s Leading Serviced Apartment Brand for the third consecutive time. What is the secret of this enduring success?
Olga Rodellar: We’ve always put emphasis on differentiation which we feel is the secret to our success.
We differentiate ourselves through always ensuring high quality of the apartments and service we offer.
This is the main principle and pillar of our company.
We always aim for quality above quantity and prefer to offer less selection with high quality rather than offering a large number of apartments of lower quality.
We also work at differentiating ourselves through the services we offer in comparison with other companies.
It is very important for us that the guest feels welcome and at home.
Our representatives from Habitat Apartments always welcome guests at the apartment as opposed to the office as to ensure they see how everything works or if they might have any particular questions about the apartment.
This personal customer service sets us apart.
We offer accommodation suitable for couples, up to larger family and groups of friends, with apartments and buildings located in different areas of the city to suit all tastes.
Overall our success is thanks to our diverse and quality selection of apartments and good personalised service.
BTN: How does winning accolades such as these benefit the brand?
OR: The World Travel Awards are a great value for us at Habitat Apartments as they distinguish us in what we have always aimed for: quality and differentiation.
They endorse our image and add value to our brand, something which is very important for us and our clients.
These awards are a stamp of guarantee for our guests, help strengthen our image and motivate us to continue working to improve.
They are certainly a great honour for us and our business philosophy!
BTN: Habitat Apartments is seeking its fourth World Travel Award this year, in the running for the title of Spain’s Leading Serviced Apartment Brand at the Europe Gala Ceremony in St Petersburg. How are you encouraging voters to show their support for the organisation?
OR: We want to transmit to the WTA voters that by voting for us they will be supporting a company which in my opinion is one of the highest quality tourist apartment brands in Spain which offers first rate apartments in a large variety of key locations.
To summarise, a great selection of apartments and buildings for different needs and always high quality.
I believe that this combination differentiates us from the rest.
We work hard at differentiating ourselves through our personalised service, as I commented before, to ensure that our guests feel comfortable during their stay.
We offer a range of services to add to our guests’ experience including airport transfers, help with luggage storage, special welcome food packs, birthday and anniversary gifts, customer service in various languages.
We take care to listen to our guests’ comments and suggestions in order to continuously improve and we are on hand 24 hours a day for any unexpected urgent queries.
All of this helps set us apart and I think inevitably helps our guests to trust and vote for us.
BTN: Officials in Barcelona, a key market for Habitat Apartments, have recently placed restrictions on the number of rental properties in the city. Has this impacted on your business? Will be re-focusing elsewhere?
OR: Yes, indeed it has.
Growth possibilities in Barcelona have been closed for us due to the restrictive legislation.
This is a big shame because we had a very good project in process which we have had to put on hold.
The sector we operate in, is trying to negotiate with the council to reduce the restrictions and allow the tourism sector to operate within the law of supply and demand which should regulate the market, obviously as long as normatives are set and followed.
For the moment it looks like this will not happen.
However, in the rest of Spain this is not the case and we are focusing on growing in another Spanish city as well as one abroad completely new for Habitat Apartments and on which we are currently working.
BTN: With the Spanish economy approaching full health, how has Habitat Apartments benefitted from the change in conditions in the country?
OR: Although the majority of our clients are not from Spain it is true that our Spanish clientele has grown notably and we’ve seen that the situation is definitely improving.
We are very pleased with this and of course hope it continues this way not only for us but for the benefit of Spain on the whole in all economic areas.
Tourism in Spain is growing each year and is certainly contributing positively to an improved situation in Spain.
In companies like ours we benefit from increased numbers of Spanish guests and at the same time more employment is generated creating a positive cycle.
Also MICE tourism is on the rise in Spain, actually Barcelona and Madrid are both within the top five ranking in Europe.
For this reason we are also focusing and investing in MICE and business tourism which are sectors in continuous expansion here.
BTN: Has the fall in the value of the British pound impacted on your business, with fewer UK visitors to you properties?
OR: Fortunately for the moment in Habitat Apartments we are not noticing an impact on our business due to the fall in the value of the British pound.
British clients are still number one in our internal ranking of clients by nationality.
Actually in this last year and 2017 the number of reservations from British clients has grown even more than we have ever experienced.
We hope it continues like this and that British visitors’ capacity to travel does not change.
We’ll see what happens.
On another note we shall also see how the situation develops due to the Brexit.
By the end of 2018 and 2019 which is when, in theory, Britain will have abandoned the European Union completely we shall how this affects us and the sector.
BTN: What does Habitat Apartments have on the agenda for 2017 to make sure it remains ahead of the chasing pack?
Our focus for 2017, in line with our company policy as mentioned before, is to keep growing with our two new projects which are already in progress, and strive to maintain our position as market leaders in the sector, for which both focus on quality and differentiation as always.
One of the projects is further advanced than the other and this one in particular is a new concept for Habitat Apartments for which we are counting on.
And also we hope we shall continue being part of the World Travel Awards!