A focus on fresh design is helping the serviced apartment sector to flourish, reports Hannah Brandler.

While there’s no place like home, serviced apartments come close. Comfort, the ability to cook for yourself and flexibility in terms of length of stay – not to mention reasonable prices – make this style of living particularly tempting to regular travellers.

The sector is thriving, somewhat thanks to a shift towards more inviting design-led properties. The UK is a prime market, representing a third of European expansion; more than 7,500 apartments are planned for the next four years, mainly in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cambridge.

The “bleisure” trend continues, with business travellers adding a weekend to their trips or bringing family – options for which serviced apartments are particularly suited. Alongside this is a rise in overseas leisure visitors thanks to the weaker pound. Providers are introducing lifestyle-orientated sub-brands to attract both types of consumer.

Saco’s design-focused Locke aparthotels, for instance, bring chic living to London, Manchester and Edinburgh, while Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity – named after Oscar Wilde and “designed to entice and amuse” – made its debut in Covent Garden in March last year. James Foice, chief executive of the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP), says: “As ours is a young, nimble sector, we can be very design- and technology-led.”

Millennial power

Providers have a keen eye on the millennial market in particular, a wise move given the World Data Lab’s prediction that their global spending power will be greater than any other generation over the next 15 to 20 years. Savills’ 2018 Spotlight: European Extended Stay Market report highlighted that this group would make up 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025.

Co-working spaces, dining options and gyms are being incorporated into many properties. Sophie Perret, senior director of hotel consultancy HVS, says: “It’s an innovative sector, with alternative concepts such as co-living, co-working, student accommodation and home-sharing merging with the serviced apartment model, creating hybrids that respond to changing demands. Guests travelling alone can access the benefits of a shared business environment and a sense of community.”

In London, for example, Bermonds Locke on Tower Bridge Road will feature a coffee shop, cocktail bar, co-working space, two meeting rooms and a gym when it opens in the second quarter of next year.

Personalisation is on the rise, with the Global Serviced Apartments Industry Report 2018-19 finding a desire for open-plan lobby areas rather than traditional reception desks, along with social evenings. Cuckooz Bloomsbury (see overleaf) even provides a guide to the area with recommendations. “We are finding that the consumer’s eyes have been opened to the concept of ‘living like a local’, catering for themselves and enjoying the flexibility of coming and going in their own space,” Foice says.

Likewise, digitalisation is a buzzword in the industry. Foice says that the ASAP has “always had members who started the technology rush in terms of keyless entry, apps that run every element of a room from blinds to entertainment, and environmental advances in construction and energy saving”.

Other examples include touch panels for controlling room functionality, as seen in Wilde Aparthotels, while check-in for Stow-Away Waterloo is via an app. A text informs you that your room is ready and provides access codes; your smartphone then functions as your room key.

 The Airbnb effect

Airbnb continues to create waves in the industry. The platform is a major source of competition to apartment providers, appealing to leisure customers with its private rental homes, and targeting corporates with Airbnb for Work. Not surprisingly, there has been a backlash. Foice says: “Investors snapping up housing stock primarily to let to short-term renters has pushed up prices and forced many locals out of their own area.”

Hotel chains are feeling the pressure, too, and are facing the threat head-on by introducing their own home-stay brands. Accor was early to the table, acquiring London-based luxury serviced home provider Onefinestay in 2016, while its joint-venture partnership with Pierre and Vacances Centre Parcs led to the creation of Adagio Aparthotels in 2007. The latter is set to double its portfolio to 220 properties by 2023. In April last year, Marriott International launched its Tribute Portfolio Homes platform in London with UK-based home rental firm Hostmaker. It has since expanded to Paris, Rome and Lisbon, with more than 340 properties across these cities.

Strength in numbers

So what’s next for serviced apartments? Obstacles remain; big hotel chains have better visibility as they can use their marketing force to spread word of spin-off brands. The Global Serviced Apartments Industry Report notes that while brands such as Saco are well known in the UK, they do not have a huge global presence, leading multinationals to choose bigger names such as Accor or Marriott.

Still, don’t take this to mean that apartment operators are falling behind. HVS’s latest report, The Serviced Apartment Sector in Europe: Poised to Outperform, shows that RevPAR growth (revenue per available room) for serviced apartments has outperformed that of traditional hotels, with a 3.5 per cent growth improvement in the UK last year compared with 1.5 per cent for hotels; London saw 4 per cent growth (with hotels at 3 per cent).

Foice says: “Trends show both revenue and occupancy rising, especially in London but also across gateway cities UK-wide.” In June, Staycity reported that it would recruit 200 additional staff to cope with the number of openings in the latter half of this year. With that in mind, here are some new and forthcoming UK properties to look out for.


Weymouth Mews

These luxury serviced apartments from Living Rooms opened in Marylebone in June. Housed in a Grade II listed industrial building, the seven units start from 57 sqm and are a mixture of one-, two- and three-beds. Offering plenty of natural light, many have outdoor living areas. Interiors feature exposed brickwork, designer furniture and commissioned artworks. Each has an iPad loaded with a neighbourhood guide, and a record player. There’s also a 24-hour phone concierge, bikes to borrow and access to local gyms. living-rooms.co.uk/weymouth-mews

Cuckooz Bloomsbury

London brand Cuckooz launched in 2016 and opened its eighth property in Bloomsbury in March. The six studios and one-bed apartments are set in a converted Georgian townhouse, with plush interiors designed by Kelly Jackson – expect exposed brick walls, sash windows, original beams and bespoke furnishings. All have kitchens or kitchenettes, Netflix and Apple TV, and underfloor heating. Studios start from 14 sqm, while one-beds have a separate living area. There’s a three-night minimum stay, which may be extended during busy periods. Guests get free access to Cuckooz Nest, the brand’s co-working space in Farringdon. cuckooz.co.uk

Stow-Away Waterloo

Eco-friendly newcomer Stow-Away plans to have 600-plus
units across Europe by 2024. This 20-unit aparthotel opened in November last year in Waterloo. Housed in 26 repurposed shipping containers, its roof is covered in solar panels, while Molton Brown toiletries are stocked in refillable bottles. Apartments are about 19 sqm and feature super-king beds, blackout blinds, marble bathrooms with walk-in showers, kitchenettes and smart TVs. Its restaurant, Unwined, has weekly wine tastings and guest chefs, plus an outdoor dining area. stow-away.co.uk

Adagio Brentford

Adagio opened its first London aparthotel in October last year in Brentford, a 20-minute drive from Heathrow airport. Its 100 units start from 36 sqm and are a mixture of studios and one-bed apartments, both with the option of an additional sofa bed. Sleek in design, they all have wooden floors, kitchens and large balconies. The property offers a fitness suite, concierge services, meeting rooms, laundry facilities and private parking. There is also a market area with a complimentary breakfast; drinks can be purchased here in the evening. adagio-city.com



Australia-based Quest Apartment Hotels will open its first European property in Liverpool this month, managed by Cycas Hospitality. The 88-unit property is centrally located and comprises studios, one- and two-bed apartments, each with daily housekeeping (excluding Sundays). From 25 sqm, they feature smart TVs, workdesks and king-size beds. Studios have kitchenettes, while one- and two-beds have separate living/dining areas and washer-dryers. The property also has a gym, conference room and car park. questapartments.co.uk



Native has more than 25 properties across the UK, including in London, Glasgow (reviewed recently here), Birmingham and Leeds. This month it will open a 166-apartment property in Manchester set across six floors of the Grade II listed Ducie Street Warehouse. Industrial-style interiors have been designed by David Archer (of Chiltern Firehouse fame) and include a restored glass atrium, original wrought-iron beams and Conran furniture. Apartments start at 27 sqm, and range from studios with kitchens to two-bed deluxe penthouses with roof terraces. The ground floor will be occupied by the independently operated “Cultureplex”, with a restaurant, a small cinema, a coffee shop and flexible workspaces. nativeplaces.com


Abbey Strand Apartments at Holyrood

Opening on November 1, this collection of nine apartments is the fourth property from Edinburgh’s Lateral City. Located on the doorstep of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the 16th-century buildings once housed Mary Queen of Scots’ courtiers. Overlooking Arthur’s Seat and a new public physic garden, the studio, one- and two-bed units start from 32 sqm and have medieval fireplaces and stone walls. lateralcity.com

Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity, Grassmarket

The second Wilde aparthotel from Dublin-based operator Staycity is due to open in November this year on King’s Stables Road in the city centre. The property will form part of a mixed-use development featuring residential and commercial units as well as student accommodation. A medieval wall will be incorporated into its design, a vestige of the jousting tournaments that once took place here. The 123 apartments (the sizes are yet to be finalised) will feature kitchens, rainshowers, oak flooring and touch-control panels for the lighting, air conditioning, tower rails and blinds. There will also be a lounge, café and gym. staycity.com/wilde


Dream Pods

Belfast-based provider Dream Apartments launched this budget concept in Bank Square in July. The 19 minimalist “pods” start from 16 sqm and come in four categories – standard, superior, bunk bed and quad pod. They each offer housekeeping and concierge services, and custom-made furniture by local company Balmoral Furniture. All have power showers and 42-inch smart TVs. There is also a ground-floor restaurant. dreamapartments.co.uk