The extended stay segment is experiencing healthy growth, with design- and community-focused brands leading the trend, alongside those championing sustainability.
Earlier this year I attended the International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, a three-day event for industry speakers in the hospitality world. There was a noticeable buzz around the extended stay segment, from serviced apartments to aparthotels and co-living properties.
This segment has grown in recent years, with a rise in demand prompted by hybrid and remote work lifestyles. Since the pandemic particularly, there’s a growing number of employees no longer tied to a fixed location who have joined the hunt for accommodation that suits long stays.
Hotel groups are understandably keen to get in on the action, launching their own extended-stay brands, while long-standing operators are expanding their footprint. There are also plenty of new entrants keen to push the boundaries of what an extended stay should encompass. Here we look at some up-and-coming brands and discuss the latest trends in the industry.
Serviced apartments and aparthotels are increasingly drawing inspiration from the lifestyle segment, steering away from the corporate tag and introducing playful design into their properties.
Dutch brand Zoku, which has properties in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna and Paris (see our Tried and Tested review), certainly adds a fun element to the mix. For co-founder and managing director Hans Meyer, the long-stay accommodation market was missing a sense of adventure, character and creature comforts. “What I found was that a serviced apartment was a double-sized hotel room with a microwave, and a public space with a vending machine and that’s about it,” he says.
Zoku aims to break that mould, with apartments, known as lofts, featuring gym rings hanging from the ceiling, while public spaces teeming with greenery include swings and board games. You can also borrow framed prints from the Hallway Art Swap station to hang in your loft.
The focus on business amenities, however, is still front of mind. Meyer says that around 1,500 business travellers were consulted when designing Zoku, with six loft prototypes tested. The result is an aparthotel that differs from its competitors. For starters, the living space is dominated by the work desk/dining table, while the bed is hidden away, so as not to blur the boundaries between work and play. Desk-side is a roll of paper for creative ideas or presentations, while the loft is also equipped with all the office supplies necessary for a productive day’s work.
This focus on the workspace also makes the property versatile, with the lofts appealing to businesses as standalone offices, meeting rooms or event venues. Indeed, Swedish tech company Mentimeter closed its offices in Stockholm for a month and made Zoku Vienna its pop-up office last year, with a full takeover of the property for its 300 employees. “It’s fantastic how the models from the hotel industry and corporate world are merging,” says Meyer.
Integrating with the neighbourhood can also provide a sense of place and stop frequent trips blurring into one. “I’m not sure why business hotels need to look boring,” agrees Stephen McCall, chief executive of Edyn, which owns the serviced apartment brands Cove, Saco and aparthotel brand Locke. “I’ve never believed travel should just be functional. You want to come home with tales to tell. You don’t get that from some of the big blockbuster brands,” McCall says. “I think that explains the growth of lifestyle hotels, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon.”
Edyn’s lifestyle brand, Locke, excels in locally inspired design and programming. Prior to designing a property, the team builds a mood board, which comprises a composite of local artists, musicians and restaurateurs. Each property nods to its surroundings, with keycards designed by local artists or events hosted in partnership with local creatives.
A sense of belonging
While design can certainly boost productivity and make stays more memorable, serviced apartments and aparthotels are also tackling the loneliness epidemic, which is often synonymous with business travel.
“The entire feeling of disconnectedness and loneliness around business travel was a key feature I wanted to solve,” Meyer explains, elaborating that the brand Zoku was named after the Japanese word for ‘tribe’. “Previously, the only thing that solved [those feelings] was hostels, but at some point you don’t want to sleep in a bunk bed or grab a shower in the corridor,” he says.
While our days of hostel-hopping are behind us, the desire to connect with like-minded individuals remains. For this reason, many properties in the segment now feature open-plan public spaces, designed to facilitate effortless interactions.
Often there will be co-working areas, informal dining spaces with communal tables and a programme of events that might include live music, art workshops or weekly happy hours. Many properties also employ community managers or staff tasked with introducing guests to their neighbours.
The nascent concept of co-living takes the idea of community one step further. Eva White Bachmann, CEO of Ariv Coliving, which launched its first property in the Swiss city of Basel says: “There are hundreds of definitions of co-living out there. [It] can be anything from a somewhat professionally managed flat share to what Ariv does, which is closer to a hotel and serviced apartment, where you have private accommodation but hotel services on top of that.”
Co-living certainly won’t appeal to everyone – some of us aren’t willing to give up our kitchen privileges – but it can make some guests feel more at home in an unfamiliar area. At Ariv, guests have their own en-suite apartment with a fully equipped kitchen or kitchenette, while 1,500 sqm of shared space comprises areas such as a library, book exchange and community kitchen with multiple cooking stations. “People really crave this social interaction, they crave connection,” adds White Bachmann.
Accor’s Adagio Aparthotels brand, which celebrated its 15th anniversary last year and is the largest provider of aparthotel accommodation in Europe, has also entered the co-living space. The brand launched its first co-living concept last year at its Paris Bercy property, featuring a large apartment with four en-suite studios surrounding a common living and dining area. Since its launch, the property has welcomed groups in town for a concert – it’s conveniently located within walking distance of the Accor Arena – and corporates across industries including fashion and media.
“The test in Paris Bercy is very exciting,” says CEO Xavier Desaulles. “The key takeaway is that it’s popular and there is high demand. But having only one co-living space like this within the site doesn’t work as we are not able to service the demand properly. We need to have more of these.”
Following the success of the Paris trial, the brand is set to open a second co-living concept in London’s Whitechapel next year, featuring a co-living space with four studios on each floor.
Co-living is not just a European trend. Singaporean-based company The Ascott Limited is growing the footprint of lyf, its co-living brand that launched in Singapore in 2019 and is aimed at digital nomads, creatives and self-starters.
The brand has 22 properties in 18 cities across Asia Pacific and Australia, with 13 properties planned in locations including Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo, as well as a European debut in Paris in 2024. Ultimately, Ascott hopes to grow the portfolio to 150 properties by 2030.
Striving for sustainability
Extended stay concepts are, by nature, on the right side of the sustainability argument. Guests tend to stay for longer periods of time, which requires less housekeeping and a lower carbon footprint, but properties are also eco-proofing their operations or supporting sustainability efforts through sensitive renovations and conversions.
Singaporean-based Frasers Hospitality, which this year commemorates 25 years in the world of serviced apartments, is modernising its operations to face the challenge of sustainability. One example is the ongoing renovation of Fraser Suites Edinburgh, a 75-key property housed in a 1750s sandstone building, with works set to finish in early 2024. The certified Silver Green Tourism property, powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, features energy efficiency improvements such as new double-glazed windows and the installation of a HVAC system to provide heating and air conditioning. The property has also replaced its bedding with an eco-friendly alternative, made from recycled plastic bottles, and donated the old bedding to Fresh Start, an Edinburgh-based charity helping people who have been homeless get established in their new homes.
A growing trend to further eco-proof the sector is the conversion of existing hotel stock or offices. “Building hotels is a high-impact activity,” says McCall. “If you look at the carbon footprint of the newest, most sustainable hotel, it’s still substantially more than the conversion of an existing one because the embodied carbon [the amount emitted during the construction of a building] is already there.” Edyn’s latest property, Ember Locke in Kensington, is testament to the power of conversions. Housed within the former NH Kensington hotel situated on Cromwell Road, the eight-storey aparthotel includes 121 apartments and facilities such as a coffee shop, restaurant, co-working space and small stage for live performances.
That’s not to say that new builds are a no-go, particularly as these can be designed from ground-up to be more energy efficient. Zoku Paris occupies three floors of a gleaming new structure in the 17th arrondissement that has taken sustainability seriously. The Stream Building used low-carbon construction methods and has a focus on green operations. The rooftop features nearly 400 sqm of solar panels and a year-round garden, which provides ingredients for the restaurant’s seasonally changing menu and hops for the microbrewery in the basement, ensuring a short, efficient food supply chain. The moss sedum rooftop also acts as insulation material, cooling down the building, absorbing air pollution and catching rainwater, while a composting unit recycles organic waste from the restaurants and provides crops with nutrients.
Extended stay properties are approaching their golden era, promising a sense of place with eco credentials and the opportunity to forge connections with fellow travellers. With a growing number of options springing up, all that’s left is to choose your new home away from home.
NEW BRANDS FROM BIG GROUPS
In the past year, hotel groups have launched brands for long-stay guests, with plans to open properties in the future.
Hilton announced this lower-midscale brand under the working title of Project H3 in May, targeting long-stay travellers looking for apartment-style accommodation for 20 nights or more. Project H3 is set to launch in the US, with the group engaged in more than 100 active development conversations in multiple locations. Suites will include four areas for guests to rest, work, cook and refresh, as well as ample storage space, movable, multi-purpose furniture and a fully equipped kitchen. Public facilities, meanwhile, will include a fitness centre, outdoor patio with grills and a communal fire pit, and The Hive lobby area.
Hyatt unveiled this upper midscale brand in April, with letters of interest signed for more than 100 Hyatt Studios in the Americas. Construction is set to begin this year, with the first property expected to open in 2024. The brand is set to accommodate both extended-stay and shorter length bleisure guests. The design is still under development, but there will be guest room kitchens, a grab-and-go breakfast offering and a 24-hour market.
Project MidX Studios
Marriott International’s lower-midscale concept was unveiled in June under the working title of Project MidX Studios and is designed for guests seeking longer-stay accommodation for 20 nights or more at around US$80 per night, depending on the market and demand.
Suites will include in-room kitchens while public facilities at MidX will comprise an on-site laundry and a fitness centre. The brand’s first three properties are expected to open in undisclosed locations in late 2024 or early 2025.