The evolving needs of the corporate traveller mean serviced apartment providers must adapt to changing trends in order to capitalise on the huge opprtunities offered by the sector, according to Quest.
In an interview with The Nibbler, executive chairman Paul Constantinou explained that the 25-year old firm is “refocusing” on its core target market of extended stay corporate travellers in order to ensure it is meeting their needs.
“What was a great looking room in 1988 with floral bedspreads and cushioned couches, that was great then but times have changed and things have moved on,” he said.
“What corporates are demanding is quality – that doesn’t have to be gold and marble, it just has to be quality, clean and comfortable.”
Motels “just don’t cut it” anymore, creating significant opportunities for the serviced apartment sector in regional areas which are experiencing economic growth, accoding to Constantinou.
But he underlined the need for franchisees to continually invest in their product and to not leave refurbishments until properties are “falling apart”.
“The issue that we are confronting is the quality of accommodation in Australia – it was poor and now it’s worse,” he said. “Properties in markets that people travel to that are now very close are putting a lot of ours to shame.”
As a result, the company is working closely with its franchisees to ensure the product being delivered is up to scratch.
“It’s always the bottom 10% of your properties that aren’t performing that are going to hurt the rest of the group,” Constantinou revealed.
Although he described the corporate sector an “easy market to service” because of the lack of discretion in the purpose-driven travel plans, he highlighted value as another major consideration.
“Corporates are now very cost conscious – they’re spending other people’s money so they want to be seen to not be overspending,” he continued.
Although he added that sometimes it is more the perception of expense than the actual price which is being shied away from.
Meanwhile, younger corporate travellers that are increasingly dependent on technology require connectivity, although primarily to access their own content carried on mobile devices.
But Constantinou warned against overproviding technology to the point that it becomes a hindrance for guests, or that it requires extra resources in the form of onsite tech staff.
“Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that you have to be careful of change just for change’s sake,” he said. “Guests just want to use things that are workable.”
Although disruptions this year as a result of the election process meant an erratic 2013 that didn’t necessarily confirm to the usual trends experienced by Quest, Constantinou is confident of the outlook for the serviced apartment sector.
He welcomed growing competition in regional areas from companies such as Far East, Toga and Oaks, which he said is helping serviced apartments become “respected” rather than seen as a “cottage industry”.
Travel managers and corporates have developed an understanding of the sector and now recognise when it offers a suitable solution for their accommodation needs.
“Serviced apartments are not a fad, they are something that is needed and while they haven’t really been acknowledged before, now they are starting to be acknowledged,” Constantinou said.
The company is targeting 11 new properties over the course of the year.