A few years ago I was working for a company that employed a large number of consultants, all of whom stayed in London during the week while the business footed the bill. At first the consultants picked their own hotels and put the cost through their expenses and as you can imagine their choice of hotels varied wildly and so did the price. Once the recession really hit home my Director’s budget was cut quite drastically and she asked all of us to think of ways to cut back on costs. As a team we looked at the department’s out goings and realised we were spending a fortune paying the expenses associated with the consultants staying in London, such as accommodation and meals. My director gave me the task of reducing this spend by 20%.

I conducted a short project, where I surveyed all of the consultants to find out what they needed from their accommodation. I also met with all of the Sales Managers at the hotels local to my office and discussed their corporate rates. In addition I met with a number of serviced apartment suppliers and from the outset it was clear that the apartments were considerably cheaper than the best corporate rate  I was offered at a hotel. We decided to make all of the consultants stay at the serviced apartments as it was considerably cheaper and still provided them with the amenities they wanted. Using this tactic reduced the department’s spend by over 40%.

I spent a long time managing the relationship with the serviced apartment supplier and also dealt with all of the positive and negative feedback from the consultants. Looking back on this it was easy to see that their were definite benefits to using serviced accommodation but also a few shortcomings. Here are a few…

Positives

  1. Serviced apartments do tend to be considerably cheaper than hotels on a per night charge
  2. The apartments are generally a good size, consisting of a separate bedroom, bathroom, living space and kitchen. In comparison hotel rooms at a similar price in London are very small.
  3. It is easy to negotiate on the price per night with a serviced apartment as they do tend to discount on block bookings. I was booking 20 nights a month with one serviced apartment and got a fantastic rate because we were booking in advance and block booking weeks at a time.
  4. Most serviced apartments come with a kitchen and with a little encouragement you can reduce the amount guests spend on dining and meals out. The consultants I worked with often cooked their own dinner and cooked for each other.
  5. The living space in the apartment can also be used to hold meetings particularly as Wi-Fi is often included in the price

Negatives:

  1. It can be difficult to get good service while you are staying at an apartment. Some places do not have a reception or night porter and in these cases if there is a problem you are normally asked to phone a central number located away from the apartment.
  2. In some instances there can be a lack of cleanliness in the apartments. I did receive feedback on a number of occasions from consultants that the apartments were not cleaned every day and the standard of hygiene varied quite drastically from floor to floor.
  3. If you have negotiated a deal whereby you make advanced block bookings there is the possibility that you will miss out on those last-minute deals with other hotels and serviced apartment providers.
  4. Generally the apartments do not provide additional facilities such as a gym, restaurant or spa. Having a bar in the hotel can be handy when guests are meeting clients or colleagues. It may feel strange inviting people up to your apartment!
  5. Although most serviced apartments have all of the comforts you would find in a hotel there does seem to be something lacking. There are some great hotels in London which offer fantastic service and that real ‘wow’ factor and this is missing in serviced apartments . I must admit I would be happy placing colleagues and consultants in a serviced apartment but would be reluctant booking any clients in.

My final thought on this would be that like hotels the quality of serviced apartments can differ greatly. If are thinking of changing from hotels to apartments make sure you do your research, go and look at the apartments, meet with your account manager and always negotiate on the price.

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