A home away from home

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Many frequent travellers will agree that going from one hotel to the next is not as glamorous as it may sound. Sometimes travellers just want to feel more at home. Chana Boucher looks at whether this is possible in corporate executive apartments, as well as the other advantages of this alternative.

While hotel rooms offer convenience, full service and often luxurious accommodation, corporate executive apartments offer a slightly different option. But, are corporates opting for apartments over hotels, and what exactly do these apartments offer?

According to Kobus Botha, Managing Director of Urban Hip Hotels, there is no doubt that business travellers are converting to the apartment hotels. “At Urban Hip Hotels we have noticed a very pleasing trend with the biggest growth from our corporate business clients, including those from our most prestigious blue-chip companies from both here and abroad,” he explains.

Grant Kirchman, Managing Member of Westpoint Executive Suites says the number of corporate travellers using corporate apartments is increasing due to travellers looking for more home comforts and value for money.

Izelle Behr of Court Classique believes the higher numbers of corporate travellers using this alternative accommodation is due to the increased availability of the accommodation type and not necessarily due to the market demanding it. She says: “A business traveller is interested in three things: a good bed, a great breakfast, and efficient Internet access.”

Botha says the reason is because it is a value proposition, there is more space, typically a better standard of furnishing and at less costs. “It is difficult for the full service hotels to compete and, secondly, it offers the business traveller more privacy and consistency in service standards that one could expect to find in the B&B world,” he adds.

“I think all accommodation has its merits. However, in corporate apartments, travellers have the option of sitting in the lounge, dining room or bedroom to work as opposed to just the bedroom. The spaciousness of the apartment is also attractive, enabling guests to entertain in the apartment which is not just a bedroom, and costs are generally very competitive, particularly when there is a two-bedroom apartment where travellers can share. Then accommodation cost is halved,” says Kirchman.

Why choose apartments?

According to Behr, apartments are usually engineered for business comfort. She explains: “Accommodation providers are looking at room layout with ‘fresh’ eyes in terms of power points, work areas and layout to provide a traveller an easy/efficient stay.”

Kirchman says there are many advantages to staying in an executive apartment, including having most DStv channels to watch in the privacy of your own lounge area, as well as the cost aspect. He says the cost should always be taken into account, particularly when you are a corporate looking to stay for longer periods of time. Westpoint Executive Suites, he adds, operates on a sliding scale where corporate are offered discounted rates upfront and further discounts are offered dependent on the length of stay.

“A home away from home is often an abused term, but I can say that our apartment hotels offer just that and more, including top quality designer furnishing, Plasma TV screens, super de luxe beds, duckdown duvets, and highest standard cotton linen, plus fully fitted spacious kitchens,” says Botha. He says that as the group operates in business hubs, security is of the utmost importance and the Urban Hip Hotels’ Three Rings Security concept offers guests peace of mind.

Behr claims: “Now that more of this accommodation type is available as an option to the corporate traveller, the range of services at said establishments is increasing to offer a more specialised experience for their needs, thus making their travel experience more efficient.”

Keep in mind

Since this type of accommodation may be a new option for corporate travellers, you may not always know what to keep in mind when booking an apartment. Merle Chevreau of the Premiere Classe Suite Hotel advises to look at how and who administers the apartment. “Is it one within a pool of apartments, is it owner controlled or booked through letting agents? Also, is the quality and maintenance controlled: it must be serviced regularly and should be within a well-controlled secure complex,” she adds.

Kirchman says always make sure it is a reputable company with a duty of care aspect ensuring that guests are safe while staying in the apartment. He adds that it is important to make sure maintenance is on hand to assist and avoid any unnecessary inconveniences. He also suggests checking to see that Internet is an option, a gym is available and that there is administration on site to assist with any queries.

“I would say a referral or a well-known, branded operation would be my first ‘tick’. Also, have a look at the company website – do they operate ‘five’ apartments, or do they manage multiple hotels in various locations. Can you check availability and book online, or can you only engage the company via an electronic enquiry form and/or by phone,” says Botha.

Behr says that when booking an apartment look at things like space, efficient layout, access to the Internet, availability of international business channels and value-added services such as free Wi-Fi and free transfer within the city of business.

 pull quotes:

“The number of corporate travellers using corporate apartments is increasing due to travellers looking for more home comforts and value for money”

“The accommodation cost is halved”

 Reasons to choose apartments:

*More space

*Lower accommodation costs

*More privacy

*Home comforts

*Value for money

*Possibility to entertain in apartment

*Apartments can be shared

*Freedom and flexibility