Home to tourist apartments across some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, Habitat Apartments is ideally placed to capture an increasing share of the growing long-stay hospitality market.
Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole sits down with company director Olga Rodellar to discuss the company’s offering, its plans for the MICE market and her confidence for the future of the brand.
Breaking Travel News: Can we begin with a brief overview of Habitat Apartments. What do you bring to the European hospitality scene?
Olga Rodellar: Habitat Apartments started offering tourist apartments in Barcelona in 2001, with few apartments in the city centre, and has expanded since then to include a wide selection of apartments of all sizes for couples up to larger families in key areas of the city and in other European cities.
The tourist apartment industry is increasingly a relevant market among tourist accommodation, but in contrast with hotels we see that there is still some way to go in terms of quality, guarantee and customer service.
In this sense Habitat Apartments intends to differentiate itself and so works hard each year to constantly improve its processes targeted towards customer service; taking care to ensure guests are comfortable during their stay, offering services for extra convenience (like food packs on arrival, airport transfer services, and special celebratory gifts), taking notice of guest reviews and suggestions, staff available 24 hours a day, and personalised welcomes in different languages.
In this way we aim at being a precedent at European level.
BTN: Habitat Apartments are already in some of the leading cities across Europe – Madrid, Amsterdam and Rome for example. Do you have any further destinations in mind as you continue grow the company?
OR: At the moment we are mostly focused on expanding and improving our existing selection of apartments.
Our objective is to offer apartments in other cities which meet a series of quality standards and can guarantee a high level of customer service.
As previously mentioned we want to differentiate ourselves in that sense putting emphasis on quality as opposed to concentrating on offering apartments in the most cities possible.
We have also learned over the last years that as well as quality being important it is also fundamental to have a professional management of the apartments as a base.
We are currently working on offering apartments in Paris, Berlin and Prague, as well as further in the future to include London also.
Evidently our main interest is to offer apartments in many popular European city destinations but at the same time keeping quality, service and good management as high priority.
BTN: Are you a purely leisure-traveller focused company, or do you also cater to the MICE trade?
OR: At present we are mostly focused on leisure travellers which is our main target market and from where we receive most demand.
However, in the MICE trade we are increasingly assisting businesses requiring short- to mid-term accommodation for their business needs, and prefer apartment accommodation as opposed to a hotel, especially for longer stays.
We are experiencing more demand from companies for accommodation services during events particularly in Barcelona and Madrid.
Furthermore, we have fostered good working relationships with several businesses who we regularly assist to cover their accommodation needs throughout the year.
We predict that over the next years companies will start to use apartments more as an alternative to hotel accommodation.
The main advantages for a company include the extra room which apartments can offer as well as the benefit of using the apartment as a working space, and are particularly good for longer stays given the fact that an apartment offers a complete living space with kitchen for added flexibility.
Furthermore, two to three bedroom apartments are a convenient option for stays for a group of business colleagues who are travelling for work events or congresses, basically as a more economic option than separate hotel rooms.
BTN: Do you feel consumers are waking up to the advantages of serviced apartments when compared to more conventional hotels?
OR: Today the growth of apartments is three time more than the rest of accommodation types and now makes for almost 40 per cent of total tourist accommodation.
Over recent years we have seen the creation of many reservation platforms specialising in apartments, especially peer to peer renting which are almost a required option when choosing an apartment, both urban and vacation villas/apartments alike.
So certainly serviced apartments are becoming more fashionable and popular, and in a sense consumers are indeed ‘waking up’ to more accommodation options, including tourist apartments, as an alternative to hotels.
The market which is increasingly using apartments is families with children.
Before apartments became an option for accommodation, this market usually leant towards hotel family rooms.
However, apartment accommodation can offer families various benefits from more space with separate rooms meaning that younger children can sleep earlier and the parents can still use the living room space, and kitchen for self-catering.
Equally apartments are becoming a more popular option for couples who prefer a more authentic and real experience in a city rather than a hotel setting.
These are just some of the reasons contributing to the growth in popularity of apartment accommodation.
OR: Parts of the European economy are now back at full steam after a period in the doldrums. Are you well placed to capitalise on the returning optimism?
BTN: Indeed we are positive about the future.
We believe that overall the European region will experience growth in both domestic travel and external visitors.
We put high emphasis on online marketing campaigns and collaborating with fellow holiday travel websites in order to maximise our visibility.
We also have many regular consumers and in turn receive exposure through word of mouth.
Overall we feel that serviced apartments will receive increased demand from two main markets, one from corporate clients for mid-term rentals and the other from family short breaks.